By Jane Smith
Free parking in downtown Delray Beach is coming to an end.
In late May, the city started installing 32 smart parking kiosks on Atlantic Avenue from Fifth Avenue west to Swinton Avenue. One block north and south of Atlantic also will have metered parking.
The changes were in anticipation of the City Commission’s second vote set for June 5 on paid parking along Atlantic Avenue. The times and rates were still to be determined.
Paid parking in downtown Delray Beach has been discussed for more than a decade.
On May 28, Dede Tanzer, 66, wondered why the change was being made. “They overbuilt this small town by allowing a movie theater, hotels and large restaurants to come in,” said Tanzer, a retired choreographer and theater critic.
“Why can’t the city be content with the extra property tax dollars from those projects?” she asked.
Tanzer sat outside Starbucks at 205 E. Atlantic Ave. with her companion, Steve, who would not give his last name. “It’s a way to get more money for the town,” said Steve, 68, a retired architect.
Both have lived in Delray Beach for five years.
Steve suggested the city use Lanier Parking employees to monitor the parking spots to keep the vehicles from staying more than two hours and not install the paid parking system.
At the May 15 commission meeting, new Public Works Director Susan Goebel-Canning suggested a parking fee of $2 an hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The maximum parking time would be two hours.
Warnings would be given for the first 30 days of the program, Goebel-Canning said. She also estimated revenue from paid parking would be $1.36 million in 2019.
Mark Denkler, a past chairman of the city’s Downtown Development Authority and a shoe store retailer on Atlantic, said he would like to see the meters operating between noon and midnight at an initial rate of $1 per hour. He also wants to see a grace period for people who want to run into a store for a quick purchase. The city’s former chief financial officer is in favor of paid parking as a way to diversify the city’s revenue from property taxes.
“It will not deter visitors,” Jack Warner said. “Once passed, I support the city manager having the authority to raise the rates to $3 an hour and change the hours without returning to the commission.”
Delray Beach has two public parking garages. Under the proposed parking plan, they would be free on Sundays and a flat rate of $5 would be charged 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday.
Overnight parking will not be allowed in the garages and city-owned parking lots.
But commercial real estate broker Christina Morrison said parking overnight should be allowed for those who “imbibe too much and want to take a taxi or Uber home.”
She also recommended cameras be installed in the garages to improve safety.
“You need at least three hours to have dinner on Atlantic Avenue,” said Vice Mayor Adam Frankel.
At Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen Restaurant in late May, Angelita Nicolas, 37, was enjoying a late breakfast. Nicolas agreed with Frankel about extra time needed to eat at the city’s downtown restaurants. “You need at least four hours to include wait times for The Office, City Oyster and Max’s Harvest,” she said. She owns a medical supply business and used to have a boutique in Pineapple Grove.
Frankel also wants the city to meter its surface lots and have parking in the garages be free, as Boca Raton does in its Mizner Park shopping district.
The city parking lots are scattered throughout downtown with a variety of time limits, from two hours at the East Railroad and Village lots to nine hours at the West Railroad lot.
Commissioner Bill Bathurst said signs directing people to the city-owned parking garages and lots will be important. He also wants to see the city charge the same rate on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway. On the barrier island, the hourly parking rate is $1.75.
“We’ve been working on this forever,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia.
She also wants to see passes available for city homeowners to park anywhere because they already pay property taxes, along with monthly employee passes for parking in garages.
Petrolia said she was worried the paid parking plan may push visitors’ parking into the neighborhoods north and south of the downtown, creating problems there.