Council asks for more information on parking fee hike

The City Council largely rejected a proposal Monday that called for variable parking meter rates in San Diego and an extension of the hours of enforcement.

Some in the audience suggested areas like La Jolla and Pacific Beach, where there are no parking meters, should contribute before the fees in downtown and uptown communities are increased.

The City Council voted unanimously to send the plan back to the mayor’s office for retooling and discuss the issue again within 45 days.

The proposal would allow the city to charge an hourly rate for parking meters of between 50 cents and $3, compared to the $1.25-an-hour fixed rate now collected at San Diego meters. The price would vary depending on location, with the highest fees charged in areas with the highest demand.

It would also extend the hours of enforcement at the city’s more than 5,100 meters until 2 am. Meters are now enforced until 6 p.m.

The changes would generate an extra $8.4 million in revenue annually to the city, according to a report by the city’s Independent Budget Analyst.

Councilman Carl DeMaio lambasted the idea as a “money grab.”

“This is not about parking,” DeMaio argued. “This is about the city’s

budget deficit.”

His comments echoed of those of Councilwoman Sherri Lightner.

“I think it’s clear this is about raising revenue and not managing parking,” Lightner said.

Backers of the proposal said it would lead to the better use of parking spaces by creating turnover. It would also create an incentive for drivers by making it cheaper to park in under-utilized areas.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald argued that the plan gives the mayor “unfettered authority” to boost parking meter fees.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer, whose district includes downtown where most of the city’s parking meters are located, said he supports some of the changes, but said they go too far.

He said the proposed $3 an hour rate was too high and should be more like $2. He also said extending the enforcement hours to 2 a.m. was excessive, arguing that parking meters should not operate past 10 p.m.

Community members were also largely opposed to the measure.

Ann Garwood with the Hillcrest Town Council said the proposed parking meter changes would hurt nearby businesses.

“You are putting an extra burden on us that is not necessary,” she said.

Before coming back to the full City Council, the proposal will first be heard by the Budget and Finance Committee.