Nevada City parking meter rate increase tabled
Frustration was evident on both sides of the dais Tuesday night during a lengthy meeting in Nevada City’s council chambers.
The point of contention — a parking meter rate increase, initially proposed in May, which was approved by the city council in June. The increase, from 25 cents an hour to $1, was intended to free parking and generate more than $550,000 a year, part of which would be earmarked for fire mitigation programs like as a siren alert system and vegetation clearing.
Few people commented during the council meetings at which the rates were discussed. But the final decision generated a fire storm of protests and sparked a special July 12 board meeting by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, with the board voting to ask the council to rescind the increase.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, a compromise plan hammered out by Mayor Reinette Senum and Vice Mayor Erin Minett was presented that would have lowered the hourly rate to 50 cents an hour in the Spring Street and Commercial Street all-day parking lots. Street parking spots on York and Coyote streets would also be 50 cents an hour, with five more 20-minute parking spots. All other street meters would be $1 an hour, with the potential for pay stations on each block.
“We did go back and look, we did listen,” Minett said. “We have made adjustments.”
But while the Chamber of Commerce board felt that was a reasonable compromise, many in the audience packing the council chambers continued to argue against any increase.
“Downtown Nevada City has been excruciatingly slow,” said Rita Fuenzalida, co-owner of Java John’s.
Fuenzalida, like many of the merchants who spoke out at the hearing, said the rate increase makes no sense and just shoos away potential clients.
“Some swear they will never shop in Nevada City again,” she said. “Tourists don’t come here with intention of leaving here with a ticket.”
Fuenzalida accused the council members of creating apathy, adding, “Do you know the town you govern?”
Several who spoke, including Nourish owner Travis Wood, said a tax increase would be better than higher parking fees and tickets.
Utopian Stone owner Patrick Dyer argued the rate increase would punish residents, not tourists.
“The tourists won’t know, they’ll pay 10 dollars for parking,” he said. “But the local people are going to run away in droves.”
Several merchants — including Kirk Valentine of Nevada City Classic Cafe — advocated removing all the parking meters.
Council Member David Parker said the larger issue, increasing the availability of parking, is what needs to be addressed.
“Meters are missing the point,” he said. “Let’s have the bigger picture conversation.”
Both Parker and Council Member Valerie Moberg supported a suggestion of creating a committee to revisit the meter issue, with the options of permits or monthly passes for residents.
But Moberg and Council Member Duane Strawser both pointed out one big issue — business owners and employees taking up the available parking spaces on the main commercial streets such as Broad Street.
“Everyone complains no parking is available,” Minett said. “This is one way to provide that … I don’t know what else we are supposed to do. If we take the meters out, there will be no places for people to park.”
The council voted three to one to suspend the previously approved rate increase, with Minett voting against. Senum, who arrived late and missed the parking discussion and vote, said Wednesday she had been stranded out of town with a flat tire and no cell phone reception.
City Manager Catrina Olson was tasked with forming a committee, which will include Strawser and Moberg as well as business owners and residents, to investigate possible alternatives and return to the council in September.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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