Salt Lake City may charge to park until 10 p.m.
Dinner and a movie downtown? If you park curbside Monday through Friday evening, you may have to start paying.
But on Saturday night, it won't cost you a dime.
The plan to extend weeknight parking enforcement until 10 p.m. is part of Mayor Ralph Becker's proposed $204.2 million budget for the coming fiscal year. The administration also wants to raise metered parking from $1.50 an hour to $2.00.
For the City Council, which must sign off on the budget, the changes represent a familiar quandary: How to keep curbside parking accessible and reasonable, while at the same time providing a revenue stream.
"I haven't come to terms with this yet," freshman Councilman Kyle LaMalfa said Monday.
The city wants turnover to keep on-street parking available, LaMalfa explained. At the same time, it wants to ensure that patrons of restaurants, theaters and clubs have "a great experience in Salt Lake City" that includes convenient parking.
But the meters' two-hour limit could complicate the evening for patrons catching a movie and grabbing dinner. They would have to extend their parking time or risk a ticket.
On the other hand, many restaurateurs complain that downtown employees take up curbside parking all night because, right now, the stalls are free after 6 p.m.
Becker's plan calls for Saturday parking to remain the same with two-hour limits at metered parking citywide until 6 p.m. and gratis after that.
The administration expects the hourly rate increase to bring in an additional $480,000 a year. And it obviously expects to snag more violators as well, because the budget calls for collecting an extra half-million dollars in parking tickets jumping from $4.1 million this fiscal year to $4.6 million in the new plan.
The budget proposal comes after the city plunked down $4.5 million for new debit-card-reading parking meters. The new meters will make enforcement more efficient because the computerized system can guide officers to areas where time has expired, explained David Everitt, Becker's chief of staff.
"They will be more surgical in their approach," he said.
Although $980,000 is a relatively small amount in a $204 million budget, every nickel counts in a post-recession atmosphere in which revenues remain wobbly, while expenses keep rising.
In coming weeks, the council will grind through the proposal along with the rest of the newly released budget to find the right balance, said Councilman Carlton Christensen.
"You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot," he said. "It's always been an interesting question: creating turnover and balancing that with not pricing someone out of that market."
The parking proposal represents a "policy shift" that the council will begin considering Tuesday, said Chairman Soren Simonsen. It will look at parking on a comprehensive level throughout downtown, including public parking at privately owned lots.
"We will have to vet this with the council and with the community," he said. "The spaces on the street are convenient. But use of them on a four- to five-hour basis [in the evenings] runs counter to that convenience."
According to a recent survey by the Downtown Alliance, there are about 25,000 public spaces in private lots and about 2,500 curbside spaces downtown, said Jason Mathis, the organization's executive director.
"Parking is always an interesting issue," he said. "There are business people on both sides."
But, Mathis said, strong support exists among restaurant and cafe owners for a two-hour curbside limit until 10 p.m.
Although the mayor's budget proposal would help raise funds in a tight budget year, the driving force behind the parking shift, Everitt noted, is ensuring street stalls are available by enforcing the two-hour limit into the evening.
Budget review set
P The Salt Lake City Council is scheduled to review Mayor Ralph Becker's proposed $204.2 million budget Tuesday at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 451 S. State St.
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