Say No to Downtown Parking Meters; City of Sarasota obsession with installing paid parking meters on Main Street, Palm Avenue and other streets downtown

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No Downtown Parking Meters

Monday, October 16 at 2:30 pm
Sarasota City Hall, 1565 1st Street

If you get this in time, you have an opportunity to help prevent the City of Sarasota from installing paid parking meters on Main Street, Palm Avenue and other streets downtown.  Business owners, residents and others will gather at City Hall at 2:30 on Monday, October 16.  Shortly after that time, public comment will be open on a motion by City Commissioner Hagen Brody to pull the plug on parking meters.

City Parking Manager Mark Lyons and other City staff have been slowly and steadily moving Sarasota toward paid parking, without ever getting an up or down vote on the concept by this City Commission.

On October 10, Mr. Lyons gave a presentation to a meeting organized by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, making a direct and one-sided pitch for paid parking downtown.  He cited a 2008 study in upper west Manhattan which estimated that drivers cruised for parking 3.1 minutes. He then showed a slide stating, without citing any local study to back it up, that drivers cruise for 3.3 minutes to find curb parking in downtown Sarasota and that all of the spaces are always full.

If there is “right priced curb parking” (a euphemism for meters) however, Mr. Lyons’ graphic alleged, there will be zero time cruising for parking and one out of every eight curb spaces will be empty.

When I raised my hand during the question period that followed to ask Mr. Lyons to what extent that would result from shoppers being chased away from downtown by the meters, the Chamber leader refused to allow me to speak.

In the controversy that followed, Chamber President Kevin Cooper disingenously alleged that he had no idea that Mark Lyons advocated parking meters (despite extensive publicity to that effect) and that the Chamber is “not now, nor am I aware that we would in the near future, taking a position on paid parking.” Neither, apparently, are they supporting downtown merchants who strongly oppose parking meters, or shoppers and residents who also oppose that burden.

The funds that meters would produce for expanded parking garages could easily be produced by including them in the Mobility Fees which the City charges developers, as is perfectly legal under the applicable law, as well as by more rigorous enforcement of parking fines and actions to limit curb parking by downtown employees.  City staff has reviewed my proposal for using Mobility Fees for parking and have found no legal impediment to that proposal, but have declined to move forward on it, preferring parking meters instead.

The City would also have less of a need for funds to build parking garages if it stopped granting our spaces to developers.  The City has for example given the developer of a hotel being built adjacent to the City’s Palm Avenue Parking Garage the right to push the public out of 40% of the spaces for its use instead. A similar problem is being created in the public State Street Parking Garage for a developer there.  This is part of a longstanding problem of City staff, and some City Commissioners, favoring the interests of developers over the interests of the public.

In 2012, the Sarasota City Commission removed the 400 parking meters it installed downtown and sold them back at a loss to the vendor, after a year of outrage by businesses and the public.  This repeated the action decades before when the City installed and then removed meters in the face of public opposition (but that time only after a long delay to pay back the bonds with which the meters were purchased).

When will the lesson be learned by City leaders?  People do not want parking meters downtown.

Again, if you can make it, and if you have the time, please attend Monday and let the City Commission hear that parking meters on downtown streets were never a good idea and certainly are not today.

Or you can email the City Commissioners at: Email Sarasota City Commissioners

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