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Parking budget goes into reverse as Santa Barbara looks for new funding

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – There's an urgent need to slam on the brakes when it come to funding losses in the Santa Barbara parking department.

A special city council meeting looked at alternatives to generate new funding including possibly adding parking meters for the first time in the core of downtown. That was met with a strong push back as it has in some other Central Coast cities recently, such as Paso Robles.

The parking department has what's estimated to be less than two years of funding left before it will have to get help from the overall general fund.  Right now the parking district is an enterprise fund and operates within it own means.

The city parking department has already presented its plan to the Finance Committee. It was discussed and sent up to the full city council for a review because, in part, it may need help from the main city budget to create a financial solution going forward. It could also use Measure C tax funds which voters approved for such projects such as street paving and the new police station.

The Public Works Department said hours of research and financial analysis has gone into the review. There were also many forms of outreach an surveys. One of the biggest responses came from employees who are paying about $150. a month for a parking permit and the latest plan brings that down to $70. a month.

The city says it is trying to get cars into the parking lots and reduce the number of cars using the street parking. The staff says the city has long range goals to discourage employees from driving and encourages them to find alternate options.

The council debate also broadened out to include the future of plans to revitalize downtown overall while it is suffering from a slump.

The favored plan for the staff to review includes no parking meters on the streets, a 90 minute free parking g period in the parking lots and a 75 minute free parking period on the streets before fees are charged.

The council even floated the idea of no fees for three months to see if it would jump start the public's return to the area. Also a more robust shuttle system to bring people in from all areas of the city and offer them a convenient way to get to businesses. The ideas were endless and the frustrations were high across the board.

The parking issue and the overall budget plan going forward will be discussed with deadline decisions in June before the fiscal year July 1.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Santa Barbara

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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