Downtown Riverside Parking Fee Increases Upset Some, Others Support – Press Enterprise

Parking in downtown Riverside is about to get more expensive, and on many streets people will lose their ability to park for free on weeknights and Saturdays.

These changes, which come into effect on July 1, have generated hundreds of comments on social networks in recent days, many have opposed the increase. Some warn that the fee will scare away customers and hurt downtown merchants.

“Shameful”, “sinful”, “sad” and “scandalous” were among the words used to criticize the plan.

City officials say the increase is necessary to make the Riverside parking program self-sustaining. Program expenses were expected to exceed revenues by $1.3 million, excluding the new rates, in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The city also plans to launch a pilot program assign two police officers to patrol the parking lots weekends for a year, according to a city report. Riverside City Council voted 6-0 on February 15, in the absence of Board member Erin Edwards, to approve the plan.

At the time, council member Steve Hemenway said the increase was necessary to prevent the city’s general fund from subsidizing the program, according to a videotape of the meeting. “We certainly don’t want to deter our residents from coming to events downtown,” he said.

City spokesman Phil Pitchford said in an email Friday, April 22 that the city’s public parking fund is a corporate fund meant to operate like a private company.

  • Bougainvillea plants are in full bloom on the south side of the Riverside Hall of Justice, creating a colorful backdrop for a parking bollard on 12th Street in Riverside on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG )

  • Public parking hours and days for parking in downtown Riverside will change in July in Riverside. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A public parking structure awaits customers in Riverside on Thursday, April 21, 2022. The hours and payment days for parking in downtown Riverside will change in July. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Parking signs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday will change with new hours and new parking days taking effect July 1 in Riverside. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A woman walks into a public parking lot in downtown Riverside on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Parking times and days are expected to change in July. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A parking meter is located in Riverside on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Downtown Riverside parking times and days will change in July. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Bougainvillea plants are in full bloom on the south side of the Riverside Hall of Justice, creating a colorful backdrop for a parking bollard on 12th Street in Riverside on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG )

Some residents were unaware of the plan until more recently when Riverside native and Orangecrest resident Sheryl Brown posted details on social media.

Brooke Flagtwet expressed concern.

“As a 3rd generation Riverside resident and owner of a downtown home, my fiancé and I often frequent downtown restaurants,” Flagtwet wrote in an email Thursday, April 21. “What attracts us is that we can park for free and enjoy places like (Riverside) Food Lab, (Riverside) Game Lab, The Mission Inn and Salted Pig. The majority of the time we will visit more than one of these establishments in one visit.”

Flagtwet said the increases would drive customers away from restaurants, stores and other businesses. The change will cause some to park in neighboring neighborhoods, “which will create problems for residents who just want to park their car in front of their house for the night.”

Ashley Carbonell wrote on Facebook that visitors to downtown will “clog our streets.”

“It’s hard enough dealing with all of this…over the holidays,” Carbonell wrote. “…Now it’s more than likely to be routine.”

Brown said increasing long-term garage parking rates — something that affects people who work downtown — will hurt businesses.

Others said weeknights and weekends should remain free.

Pitchford wrote that the city chose to end its free policy at these times, as spaces and metered parking lots are often at capacity, and the introduction of “demand-based pricing” will improve parking availability over time.

“Once facilities reach capacity, vehicles will be redirected to underutilized facilities, reducing congestion in high-demand areas while capturing potential revenue opportunities,” he wrote.

Several changes are planned for July. Here are the highlights:

  • Visitors used to parking for free on weeknights and weekends will have to pay to park on many downtown streets Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., while enjoying a break on Sundays and holidays, according to a city document. The policy will apply to parts of Market, Main, Orange, Lemon, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th streets, as well as Mission Inn and University avenues. The rate will be $1.25 for 30 minutes, compared to 75 cents on some streets and $1 on others, and a A delay of 4 hours will be introducedthe document shows.
  • Designated parking lots will charge a fee of $1.25 per 30 minutes Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Rates and policies change at parking garages 1, 2 and 6 on Orange Street, and 3 and 7 on Main Street. People are currently paying a daily maximum of $8 and $1 for every 30 minutes, while parking the first 90 minutes for free. While the $1 per half-hour fee will remain, the maximum daily fee will increase to $16 in garages 2 and 6 and $20 in other garages, the document says. At the same time, people will no longer be able to park for free for the first hour and a half. The city also plans to introduce a flat rate of $12 per night between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.
  • Long-term rates for reserved parking in municipal garages are now $135 per month. Fees are set to increase to $400 per month on July 1 for new customers and $205 per month for existing customers. Existing customers will then see the monthly fee increase to $320 in July 2023 and $400 in July 2024.
  • Parking rates during the downtown flagship event, Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, will be set at $30 for garages 1 and 3, $25 for garage 7, $20 for garage $2.15 for the 6 garage and $15 in the parking lots.

Janice Penner, executive director of the Riverside Downtown Partnership, said the group that represents area merchants supports the plan, with the understanding that it will see the city invest in safety and technology to improve the experience in parkings.

“When you want clean, safe parking, it costs money,” she said.

Pitchford said vandalism and other unwanted activity will be reduced by increased security and police patrols.

“The technological infrastructure will also be upgraded to improve parking and circulation,” he wrote.

Penner said the impact of the increase will be partially offset by a 50% discount for parking in municipal garages on Tuesdaysthe least busy day of the week, and offering a discounted long-term parking permit for downtown employees who earn less than $18 an hour.

Still, Brown, who manages a building at 10th and Orange streets with 20 tenants, said the increase in the long-term parking rate to $400 a month “wows you.”

“To me, it’s not business-friendly,” she said in an interview. “It’s too much. It’s way too much.

Brown said the timing was unfortunate.

“COVID has hurt everyone here, and now parking is another big hit for small businesses,” she said.

The city has kept rates “as low as possible since 2010,” Pitchford wrote, making minor changes in 2017, and the new fees are consistent with what is charged elsewhere in the area.

People with valid handicapped signs will be able to park for free in metered parking spaces, he said.

And Pitchford said the city will validate parking tickets for people who park in Garage 6, located at 3901 Orange St. with an entrance on Ninth Street, to attend city council meetings.

David H. Henry