By Jane Smith
After more than 10 years of discussion, city leaders are inching their way toward paid street parking in downtown Delray Beach.
In mid-August, the five city commissioners each presented their wishes for downtown parking on Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway. After more than an hour of discussion, here’s what they decided:
• Parking will be free but limited to two hours on Atlantic Avenue, between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal, between 2 a.m. and 6 p.m. The time limit will be enforced.
• Between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., meters will go into effect at the rate of $2 per hour on that stretch of Atlantic and one block north and south of Atlantic.
• Parking in the two city garages will be free during the days. Users will pay $5 to park Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Employees can park for free on the top floor of each garage, using a hanging card from the rearview mirror.
• The city’s five surface lots, with approximately 314 spaces, will be free between 2 a.m. and 6 p.m. and have a two-hour parking limit. Meters will be enforced between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. at the rate of $2 per hour.
• The Gladiola Lot at 51 SE Fifth Ave., with eight-hour time limit, will not have meters. Its 74 spaces will be free for employees and downtown patrons to use. The Railroad Lot at 25 NE Third Ave., which also has eight-hour spaces, will not have meters installed in those spaces. They will be free.
• City staff did not know how many of the Railroad Lot’s 190 spaces had the eight-hour time limit.
• Even with signs, drivers will be confused and enforcement complicated, said interim City Manager Neal de Jesus.
• Residents can purchase an annual parking permit for $100.
• The valet fee will be increased from $7 to $10.
Using that input, city staff will bring back a parking management proposal to the City Commission in September.
Commissioner Shelly Petrolia worried that the city was pushing drivers into the neighborhoods to find free parking spaces. “Downtown businesses are willing to pay an extra $100 annually, if we don’t put in the meters downtown,” she said, suggesting no changes be made until the city replaces the spaces lost to construction at the iPic project and adds more parking with a garage nearby.
“Meters will generate turnover and generate revenue to keep the area clean and safe,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said.
The mayor also wants city staff to explore building a city garage on the Gladiola Lot using the in-lieu parking fees that downtown restaurant owners have paid. When a restaurant opens where the previous building use was retail, the restaurant owner identifies available parking spaces nearby to follow city rules. When adequate parking is not available, the owner pays a fee per space, called in-lieu parking fees. About $2 million exists in the accounts, Glickstein said.
He also is thinking of the long-term needs of the city. “I suspect the city will lose about $1.5 million when voters agree to the extra homestead exemption in 2018,” Glickstein said.
Vice Mayor Jim Chard began the Aug. 15 discussion by touting the results of three days of enforcement by Lanier Parking staff. “Two hundred citations were issued, and 10 percent were paid in one day,” he said. At that rate, he estimated the annual amount the city would generate from fines would be $416,000.
Before Lanier Parking took over parking enforcement in June, enforcement was done inconsistently by volunteers, de Jesus said. The volunteers worked during the daylight hours.
In June, the city and its Downtown Development Authority seemed to be in agreement on the need for parking meters downtown.
But in early August, after a change in leadership on the DDA board, the new mantra for parking became: Start slow and grow. Just a few hours before the City Commission meeting on Aug. 2, the DDA’s executive director took the opportunity to drop off the organization’s unrequested parking management plan. The DDA recommended putting meters on only 245 spaces, instead of the 2,577 the city staff had proposed.
The commission directed its staff to come back with an analysis of the DDA parking plan.
DDA Executive Director Laura Simon said the central core merchants were concerned about employee parking. She requested the eight-hour parking spaces remain free in the Railroad and Gladiola lots.
Employees can park for free in the garages with a card that hangs from the rearview mirror, the mayor said about his new proposed option for staff parking.
He questioned the DDA’s priorities that put parking for workers before patrons. “You’re far more worried about employee parking than spaces for customers,” he said.