By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa’s downtown parking district has seen a surge in new permit revenue since the downtown mall announced plans to eliminate the last significant supply of free parking in the city center.
Permits for the city lots and garages closest to the Santa Rosa Plaza have seen the sharpest increase, a sign that downtown employees who parked in the mall for free have begrudgingly gravitated to city parking facilities.
“We did a big push to let people know it’s affordable, it’s reasonable and it’s the best alternative,” said Raissa de la Rosa, the city’s economic development specialist.
Two weeks ago, the downtown mall started charging for parking in what it said was an effort to free up parking spaces that are often occupied all day by downtown workers instead of shoppers.
The mall estimated that about 400 of its 3,000 parking spaces were taken up by non-shoppers.
Under the new policy, the first 90 minutes of parking is free. Thereafter, rates rise: $2 for the first three hours; $4 for three to four hours; $8 for six to eight hours; and $9 for up to 24 hours.
Instead of paying those rates, people who parked at the mall daily because they work downtown appear to have turned to city-owned facilities.
Since May 1, when people started to realize the mall’s parking policy was changing, the city has sold 117 additional permits for parking garages, an 8 percent increase. The increase in permits, which range from $62 to $140 per month, equates to $8,146 in additional monthly revenue for the city.
Less expensive surface lot permits saw a far higher surge, with 175 additional permits, or a 196 percent increase. Those permits, which range from $30 to $140, result in a monthly revenue increase of $10,169.
If those permit levels are sustained, the city will pull in an additional $220,000in annual parking revenue for the district.
The garages closest to the mall, on 7th Street and 1st Street, had increases of 35 percent and 27 percent respectively. But the lots closest to the mall saw permits skyrocket.
“We saw the largest increase by far in Lot 2, which is the lot directly across from Macy’s,” de la Rosa said. There were only 4 permits for that lot on May 1, but by Aug. 1 there were 54, a 1,200-percent increase, she said.
The lot beneath Highway 101 also saw a huge boost, with 108 new permits, a 400 percent jump.
Most lots still have permits available, de la Rosa said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)