Our View: Nevada City brings community parking meter sticker shock
Pretty soon you’re going to need a roll of quarters to park your car in downtown Nevada City.
The Nevada City Council voted last week to raise the hourly parking rate to $1, from 25 cents. Officials said that increase, along with more parking meters, is expected to draw over $550,000 a year in revenue. Twenty percent of that will got toward fire mitigation, money that could fund a siren and vegetation management.
What’s not to like? Unless you regularly park in downtown Nevada City, or live nearby, or run a business and fear losing customers to Grass Valley.
This increase could very well be a smart move that will generate the expected cash. Conversely, it could be the nail in the beating heart of downtown Nevada City.
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Thing is, we don’t know that because we’ve seen no studies on this issue.
It’s almost like the council flipped a coin when making this decision. Then they flipped another, and another, and another. Now take all four coins and stick them in a parking meter. You’re going to need them.
That is, if you haven’t already hunted out a free spot in front of somebody’s house.
There are two glaring problems with the council’s move to raise the parking rate. One: It failed to garner support from the business community before taking this action. Two: There’s no guarantee this increase will actually raise the anticipated funds.
This move by the Nevada City Council will generate some money, though arguing it’ll be $550,000 annually seems specious. Again, where are the studies and comparisons to other cities showing this?
The increase likely will send drivers farther into nearby neighborhoods, where they can park for free. That will further complicate navigating small streets, leading some folks to Grass Valley out of frustration.
Add to all this the installation of two solar-powered pay stations that will take credit cards. They’ll cost $8,000 each and come with a $55 monthly fee per station.
These additional meters and pay stations beg a question — the council opposes a cell tower in downtown but is fine with parking meters sprawled across its city? Maybe the impact could be lessened by including a rustic wooden frame with each meter. Very Nevada City.
The council needs to move this decision out of park, drive it around a bit and see if improvement can be found.
Start with a town hall and make sure the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses are there. Listen to them, and the public, before quadrupling the price to park.
Once getting that feedback, the council should consider some options.
What about doubling it to 50 cents, seeing how that works for several months and then reassessing? People likely wouldn’t flinch at 50 cents. A dollar to park causes whiplash.
The council also could tweak the rates depending on the day, providing some help to locals who use these spots daily. Rates could be 25 cents Monday through Thursday, increasing for Fridays and the weekend.
Think about additional parking lots. Look at developing the city’s Clark Street property and parking lot and land behind the National Hotel. No one likes vehicles filling asphalt-covered land, but it’s better than watching those vehicles drive elsewhere to shop.
Also, consider permit parking for business owners and employees at some distance from downtown, opening up closer spots for visitors and shoppers.
Finally, develop objectives for this project. Does the council only want more money from parking fees, or do they want more people shopping downtown? How do you measure the number of folks frequenting local shops? Is sales tax revenue from open storefronts greater than the increased parking fee? Will the higher fee chase away business, leading to store closings and tax losses the parking fees won’t recover?
The council should answer those questions before anyone starts digging around for loose change.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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