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Riverside should treat parking as a city service

Former Ward 1 councilmember Mike Gardner argues the City should leave Downtown parking rates alone.

For years Riverside has struggled with its downtown parking program. Studies have shown that there is sufficient parking in the downtown, but that it is not conveniently located for many visitors, and as we all know some of the parking garages are old and in need of significant upgrades. The City is now taking another look at downtown parking and how to pay for it.

City Hall regards the Parking Fund as an enterprise fund like our utilities, trash and sewer. These funds are self-supporting with fees sufficient to pay for operation of the service. Other city services like parks and libraries collect some revenue through fees for use of facilities, but are not expected to fully fund themselves with those fees. The remainder of the cost of those city services are paid with General Fund dollars.

Riverside depends on a thriving downtown to help make it the attractive and vibrant city that it is. Our leaders must recognize that while there are people who must come downtown for work or to attend to government and court business, most of us do not need to be downtown on a regular basis.  People already complain about the cost and inconvenience of downtown parking. I am concerned that if parking rates are increased or charged hours extended those who don’t absolutely have to be downtown will choose not to come. This will adversely affect our unique downtown businesses and may drive some out of business.

Riversiders feel strongly about this. So strongly that a perceived indifference to downtown parking concerns by the incumbent was a significant factor in the change of Ward 1 representation in 2007.

Riverside should not treat the Parking Fund as an enterprise fund, but as a city service. Parking rates and hours should be left as they are and costs not recovered through fees and fines should be paid out of the General Fund. Keep our downtown inviting and vibrant. Do not discourage those who do not have to come downtown from doing so.