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Funk Zone Parking Stall

Paid Parking Plan Awaits Public Comment

Scarce parking in the funk zone. | Credit: Paul Wellman

Chalk one up for Anna Marie Gott, the most ubiquitous and effusively critical watchdog who birddogs the Santa Barbara City Council. Because of objections raised by Gott about lack of adequate public notice, the City Council opted to delay taking action on a proposal to initiate paid parking in three blocks of the downtown’s fabled Funk Zone. Gott had objected that nobody reading the council agenda could reasonably be expected to understand that paid parking was on the menu for possible council action. That, Gott argued via email, violated California’s open government laws. Even City Attorney Ariel Calonne, under whose skin Gott has frequently gotten, conceded hers was a reasonable objection.

Even so, the council heard a staff report and some comment from the public. The report concluded there’s more than enough parking to meet the demand in the Funk Zone, but just where people want to be — on the street in front of their favorite watering holes. By installing paid parking on three blocks — either by devices that read license plates or via smartphone apps — the thinking is that motorists would be induced to move their cars more and seek more broadly distributed spaces.

Much attention was spent on the public parking lot located by Cabrillo Boulevard and Garden Streets, which even on a busy night is only half full. Unlike most city lots, the first 75 minutes there are not free. That lot is governed by the Waterfront Department, an empire unto itself, and not subject to easy manipulation by the council. Any changes to control of that lot would likely have to pass muster with the Coastal Commission, always a daunting and time-consuming challenge.

The report also itemized 50 to 60 new spaces that could be built on an undeveloped parcel of land and various ways by which shuttle service, Uber, Lyft, and bicycle ride-sharing might facilitate entrance to downtown’s busiest spot without requiring parking. Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez wondered whether parking or shuttle service could be made free for locals; as a practical matter, he was told it would be impossible to determine locals from visitors.

It turns out the Funk Zone has 1,047 parking spaces, half of which are on the street and the rest in lots. That number is misleading because the Hotel Californian — which manages a lot that’s partially public and partially private — is not sharing parking data with City Hall for reasons not made clear. Ironically, it was Gott, the perennial firebrand, who initially raised a ruckus over that lot about a year ago, charging that hotel management was denying the public access to the public lot spaces in the facility. Representatives for the hotel denied the charge, but City Administrator Paul Casey said City Hall initiated an enforcement action in response to multiple complaints and that the matter has since been resolved.

Gott was uncharacteristically not present at Tuesday’s hearing. The council will hear the matter again next Tuesday and might take action. Mayor Cathy Murillo invited members of the public to show up and share their thoughts.

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