Parking Wars

Some things won’t change: Free parking between 90 minutes and two hours will remain in many Oldtown spots.

Nothing like the promise of success to bring a community together. And nothing like the higher costs that success promises to bring to tick that community off.

That was the case Feb. 19, when Salinas City Council approved increases for downtown parking garage fees.

At city-owned garages – one on Monterey Street adjacent to Maya Cinemas and another on Salinas Street – rates will increase over several years. By 2021, the Monterey Street garage will go from $20 a month to $50. At Salinas Street, the rate for the lower level will drop slightly for two years, but remain at $40 a month in 2021. The upper level will increase from $20 to $40. Hourly parking will increase from $0.50 at the Monterey Street garage to $1.25.

Rates haven’t increased in 10 years, and the city has been subsidizing parking costs to the tune of about $350,000 to $450,000 a year.

The backdrop is the city’s downtown vibrancy plan, which seeks to create more apartments, to fill empty storefronts and attract more people to shop, dine and play. “If the community is going to be successful in accomplishing a vibrant downtown then the community needs to plan for future parking demand,” says James Serrano, the city’s transportation manager. “We need to have a sustainable parking district.”

Business leaders lined up to decry the increases. Maya Cinemas’ cost for parking validation will double, to $1. And Steve Ish, a vice president at Taylor Farms, pointed out that Taylor buys monthly passes for about 160 employees. “I think everyone in this room understands what Taylor Farms has done for downtown,” Ish said.

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(2) comments

Terri Larson

I absolutely agree with you, Trish. Having been a business owner in Oldtown for 15 years and experiencing total frustration at the parking problem, I can’t believe this is STILL going on. Parking is one of the biggest problems in Oldtown Salinas and urgently needs to be addressed. Along with panhandling after dark makes Salinas a scary place to be and does not encourage more tourists traffic. It is the number one reason we and MANY friends don’t frequent Oldtown after dark. Now is NOT the time to raise fees but instead, find MORE SAFE parking In Oldtown for patrons and employees! It was also be great if you could get better cooperation and support between the City Council/building owners and merchants/customers. Downtown has the potential to be a world class historic destination making EVERYONE lots of money. But there needs to be a coming together partnership where EVERYONE has a voice! Thank you!

Trish Sullivan

The biggest problem with the parking increase is that 50% of the downtown parking is taken by City and County staff. City of Salinas employees do not pay for parking and the deficit the City of Salinas is experiencing is partly because of this. The City employees should have to pay to park just like everyone else.

On top of this, the City has not enforced the time limits on parking (tickets are a great revenue stream) and therefore enabled people to take up customer parking all day. The "back drop" behind all of this is the property owners who want to get higher rents and (City staff included) imagine that somehow ripping out the current streetscape for a generic, suburban, strip mall look will do this. They are all SO wrong.

What needs to be fixed in downtown is the maintenance: Oldtown is dirty. Trash blows around on the sidewalks. Flowers are dead or dying. Illegal dumping is out of control. Other "dumping" is, too. Until the City of Salinas and the SCCIA can figure out how to properly take care of the downtown: enforce parking limits, keep it clean, and LUSHLY landscaped (I'm talking Barnyard or Crossroads in Carmel), then they have no business increasing parking fees and "revitalizing" the current streetscape created by world renowned [and local] architect Will Shaw in 1980.

Hey - it's almost historic - perhaps we can get it "protected"!

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