Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parking costs increase in Downtown Pomona

On Monday the Pomona City Council will be considering charging for nighttime parking in Downtown Pomona, and for expanding the hours and increasing the prices of parking in the downtown. Currently parking is charged during business hours weekdays only - the new fee structure would increase the rate from $2 to $3, while creating free parking for three hours between 7 am and 7 pm, seven days a week.

After 7 pm, most lots downtown will now charge a flat $1 rate. Although city staff did not do a comprehensive parking study, most cities in the Inland Empire do not charge for parking in their traditional downtowns in the evening hours. Even downtown Riverside, arguably one of the more vibrant downtowns in the Inland Empire, has free parking at parking structures on weekends and evenings. The comparison is being made to Pasadena, but Pomona is not Pasadena, and Pasadena is the only city in the San Gabriel Valley that imposes night and weekend parking fees for visitors to their traditional downtown.

While Pomona draws a lot of people during the evening to the Fox Theater, Glass House, and clubs on Thomas, as well as people from throughout the region on Art Walk nights, the level of activity in Downtown Pomona is nowhere near cities such as Pasadena, Santa Ana, or Los Angeles which charge for parking seven days a week and on nights in their downtowns. Places like Monrovia, Riverside, San Bernardino, Claremont, and Redlands which have evening attractions do not charge for parking.

The funding is supposed to be going for a parking structure, however until serious infill begins the need for the structure is minimal. Western University has already accommodated much of its parking needs through construction of the parking structure on Towne Avenue. In addition, there are opportunities to build a parking structure using Proposition A Local Return transit dollars, which would serve Metrolink parking needs during the day and commercial needs at night.

After the parking fee is imposed there will still be a handful of lots downtown that will not charge for parking, as well as parking spaces on the street (unless parking meters are planned to be placed there as well) and all private property lots (subject to enforcement by the private property owner). I've taken the staff report and highlighted in green the lots that will remain free. The average visitor, however, is not likely to find these lots. There will also be spillover parking impacts to Mission Promenade and residential neighborhoods surrounding the downtown. Especially in this economy we need to encourage as much visitation as possible, while managing the legitimate traffic concerns during concert nights. One dollar will not necessary break the bank of someone spending over $100 per car on drinks and a show, but it could discourage casual visitors from coming back.

The City Council will be hearing this public hearing item Monday evening. The meeting begins some time after 7 p.m. If approved nighttime parking charges could begin as soon as April 1.