WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa council at a loss over parking solutions


After nearly two hours discussing the city’s parking problems Tuesday, the Santa Rosa City Council seemed no closer to zeroing in on just what the problem is, let alone how to solve it.

The study session was supposed to get the council up to speed on the long and often contentious history of parking policies in the city before it considers a controversial proposal to allow the Santa Rosa Plaza mall to charge for parking.

But after a presentation by four staffers, a 700-page report on the subject, and receiving comments from several residents, the council seemed hard pressed to say what its next steps should be.

“What is the big issue right now that we need to address and how do we go about that?” Mayor Ernesto Olivares asked Cheryl Woodward, the city’s deputy director of parking, at the end of the session.

After the meeting, Woodward said she would “reflect on the council’s comments” to figure out what sort of options to offer the council.

Woodward began her presentation by explaining that the city’s parking district was formed in the 1950s to finance the construction of shared parking facilities. Today, The city has 4,700 public spaces in five parking garages and 10 surface lots. Bonds to pay for two garages will be paid off in 2015, after which the district will run solely on revenue from parking fees.

Downtown employees have complained about the likely loss of free parking in the mall. Woodward said they qualify for parking permits as low as $30 a month and for $15 monthly bus passes.

Olivares said for some reason, whenever a parking issue comes up in the community “we hear about, and we hear about it loudly.”

“When you go through the slides it seems to make sense, and yet we have a parking problem, whatever it is,” Olivares said.

Council members’ remarks were all over the map. Susan Gorin asked what prevents the city from implementing “much cheaper parking fees” at the underutilized lots in the city. Woodward warned that some experiments in so-called “progressive parking” policies that change rates according to demand have not gone well.

Such policies introduced in Redwood City “have not been well received by the community,” she said, noting that the city subsidizes that program by $1 million per year.

Councilman Jake Ours liked the idea of building a new parking structure on Third Street and selling the aging garage nearby for development.

Scott Bartley said garage usage seemed down to him, and Woodward said he was right. There used to be waiting lists for garage permits, but no longer, a drop in demand she attributed to higher unemployment.

When the economy picks up again, however, Woodward said she would expect demand to return.

“Should there be any significant development in the downtown … there would have to be some additional parking constructed,” she said.

Gary Wysocky wanted to know how to get his hands on some of the $10 million in parking reserves for other downtown projects (Answer: not without changing city code). John Sawyer wondered whether garage roofs could be used for special events (Answer: They can and are).

And Marsha vas Dupre inquired how the city’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals intersect with the parking debate.

16 Responses to “Santa Rosa council at a loss over parking solutions”

  1. Social Dis-Ease says:

    ‘Gosh, we want to satisfy our ICLEI goals, but the serfs are all over this one.’ More charade. How dare they do this to our Downtown economy. Then have the nerve to patronize us, like there’s a genuine process. Meanwhile we pay them to screw us. Amazing.

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  2. SMC says:

    Golis’s opinion piece mentioning his article is worth a read if only for his mention of Pasadena, where he points out there are actually shops & galleries & more to visit and shop at, and where people pay for parking. There is barely a single business in Downtown SR worth visiting…nothing. How would this ridiculous, endless parking conversation be if Downtown SR was a place people actually felt compelled to visit? It would be like SF, where the parking “problem” is infinitely worse then SR’s, but SF thrives because there are businesses and events and spaces in SF need to visit, and fly across the globe to do so. Generate some interest on the demand side so that this pathetic whinging about parking in Downtown SR can finally be put to rest.

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  3. Jim says:

    So busy trying to figure out how and why to tax us.

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  4. Dogs Rule says:

    Santa Rosa is seriously confused about parking. Between the meters and loading zones and now this mall parking charge fiasco- why don’t you just hang signs around town that say “Welcome to Santa Rosa, cram it.” There is nothing in that mall anyone really needs.

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  5. truth in news says:

    700 pages and hours of wasted time. Here is your answer. If you want to bring people downtown don’t tax them with a parking meter. Let them spend their money supporting local businesses. I have not been downtown in months because I would rather pay shipping than support a greedy local governmnet.

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  6. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Automobiles and small business, the antithesis of Agenda 21.

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  7. Kevin McCallum says:

    The original story did include the phrase “and tickets,” but after publication Cheryl Woodward pointed out to us that parking fines don’t go to the operations, but to the general fund, as you noted. We amended the online version of the story to reflect this.


    Kevin McCallum

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  8. GAJ says:

    “Entitled” business class???

    You must be joking, right?

    Have you EVER run a small business in California?

    Entitled to bend over is pretty much the norm if you are unfortunate enough to own a small business, especially if you have numerous brick and mortar buildings open to the public and hundreds of employees.

    What was personally rewarding and exciting back in the 80′s, (especially watching employees grow and become proficient and sought after by other businesses), slowly became an horrific morass of red tape and liability.

    Selling in 2008, just before the crash, was the smartest thing I could have done.

    “The NFIB estimates that over the lifetime of a business, 39% are profitable, 30% break even, and 30% lose money, with 1% falling in the “unable to determine” category.”


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  9. Jaime Santos says:

    @John Bly Are you under the impression that the Santa Rosa City Council is an employee of the Chamber of Commerce or something? And that you can just tell them to “Do it!” and they will hop to it? I’d like to gently remind you that they are elected to represent ALL in the city, and to respond to the needs of the WHOLE Community, not just to you and your pals in private industry. Business is important but it is only a MEMBER of the community NOT the BOSS of the whole city. That imperious tone of yours (“We told you what to do now DO it”) is inappropriate in a democracy. Unfortunately it is heard all to often from those in the entitled business class like yourself.

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  10. cyclist says:

    @john bly – 700 pages but I think a lot of the pages has this printing “This page is intentionally left blank”.

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  11. Dave Madigan says:

    This may be a minor mistake or it could show a major lack of knowledge within the parking department.

    The original article posted on the front page of the pressdemocrat.com included this sentence: “Bonds to pay for two garages will be paid off in 2015, after which the district will run solely on revenue from parking fees and tickets.”

    Now compare this same sentence as it appears on watchsonomacounty.com: “Bonds to pay for two garages will be paid off in 2015, after which the district will run solely on revenue from parking fees.”

    The revenue from parking tickets has always gone directly into the general fund, NOT into the parking department.

    Did Cheryl Woodward mislead the City Council with this information or was this a minor error in the article?

    I pointed this out to Kevin McCallum. I believe that is why the article was changed. I just can’t figure out if the City made the mistake or if the PD made the mistake.

    Revenue from the meters/kiosks and from the garages goes into the parking department. Revenue from tickets, minus the State’s share, goes into the black hole known as the general fund.

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  12. John bly says:

    Is anybody else concerned about how much staff time it took to generate a 700 page report on parking? Are you kidding me? 700 pages!! Either the council is giving mixed signals to staff (duh), or the report is far more complicated then it needs to be. Time for this council to shape up and give clear direction to staff so we “payees of their salaries and benefits” don’t fire the whole bunch of them. 700 pages! Note to council: you have asked for business input and gotten it. Businesses say 3 hours of free parking downtown. Do it!

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  13. Reality Check says:

    The Plaza may need city approval before they charge for parking. But since the city has violated the agreement that gave them that authority, the Plaza will likely get approval. Otherwise, the city may be forced to undo its violations.

    After 50 years of redevelopment governance of downtown, why isn’t anyone asking whether this, very expensive, arrangement merits continuation?

    Never has free been so expensive.

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  14. Steele says:

    It is obvious that we need a Parking Czar position created. The director of parking, who sent the deputy director of parking to the meeting is far to busy.

    Perhaps we need to create the
    “Supplemental Temporary Urban Parking Investigative Department” or STUPID as it would be called

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  15. Kirstin says:

    Listening to some on the council talking about the Plaza parking controversy yesterday, they tried to distance themselves as much as possible. Councilmember Gorin said it wasn’t up to them how much the Plaza would charge. But she forgot to mention that the Plaza needs the council’s okay to proceed with any parking fee plan.

    Also, the city’s agenda of using parking as a tool for “smart” growth, for SMART train parking, and for so-called “intensification of development” is highly questionable and should be challenged by residents.

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  16. cyclist says:

    “What is the big issue right now that we need to address and how do we go about that?” Mayor Ernesto Olivares asked Cheryl Woodward —- “What we have here is a failure to launch” honorable mayor Olivares!

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