Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Parking fees may increase in the City of Santa Barbara lots, with hourly rates rising from $2.50 to $3 and the initial free period dropping from 75 minutes to an hour. The Finance Committee discussed alterations to the scheme on May 9 after members of the disabled community protested the loss of a person who “popped out from the booth” to handle the discounted fees for disabled drivers; instead, staff suggested a 30 percent discount on a prepaid parking fee card as automation of the lots mean fewer kiosk attendants. Both were part of 184 pages of fee and permit increases across the city departments, with a new $2,972 airport activity permit raising dust from pilots at Tuesday’s meeting.

City Parking Manager Sarah Clark explained the division was in a $2.9 million hole, which city Finance Director Keith DiMartini said was due to fixed costs like labor, IT contracts, and insurance rising faster than parking rates — even after hourly parking increased from $1.50 to $2.50 last year. Also proposed are a daily maximum to be set at $33, or the equivalent of 12 hours in the lot, and increases of $5 for monthly passes at most lots. New programs were proposed for weekend permits of $100 for six months, special event or festival passes of $75, and cards with business logos on them for offers of subsidized or validated parking.

Clark proposed the discounted parking cards for disabled drivers to eliminate backups in the lines as they spoke with kiosk attendants in person or remotely. But members of the disabled community noted that the lots were not accessible to all, and that requiring a prepaid parking card would be a hardship on disabled visitors from out of town. A pilot, who was there for the airport issue but had worked for Intel, commented that a handicapped license plate should be no problem for an automated system to read. Committee Chair Eric Friedman asked Clark to bring a 50 percent discount to the council with a thought to having the Accessibility Advisory Committee weigh in after six months on whether it worked.

Waterfront parking prices were not tied to downtown’s although they liked to remain the same, said Cesar Barrios, business manager for the waterfront. Slip fees were rising — between 50 cents and $2 per foot — while slip transfer fees were decreasing by $50. Cruise ships now pay $10 per passenger, and that cost would rise to $15, with a minimum fee of $7,500.

As for the airport, it took no funds from the city’s general fund and generated its own revenues. They planned to add 15 minutes to free parking in the short-term lot to decrease congestion and increase rates otherwise for a $300,000 gain annually. But what brought a dozen people to comment publicly on Tuesday was the proposal to add a $2,972 permit per year, or $300 per day, for using the airport. Shawn Sullivan of Above All Aviation was the only one to speak in favor of the fee — saying her flying school paid dearly to hold space at the airport and that $3,000 was not enough for the others to pay. Speaking against the fee, private pilots worried it would lead to a loss of independent mechanics to maintain their aircraft. One occasional flight instructor said the fee was greater than what he charged to teach all year long.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon asked staff to consider a sliding scale for the airport permit, which many present applauded, while Friedman suggested a permit of around $2,000 and to have the Airport Commission examine the program mid-year.

All these issues will go next to the City Council with the suggestions incorporated into a staff report for that future meeting.


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