By Larry Barszewski
On-street parking rates are about to double along the beach and on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach, and almost triple on Atlantic Avenue east of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The good news for beachgoers is that the City Commission backed off charging an even higher rate for the beach parking spots on State Road A1A.
Beginning May 15, Delray Beach is increasing parking charges to $4 an hour on Atlantic Avenue from Swinton Avenue to the ocean, and to $3 an hour on State Road A1A. The rates have been $1.50 an hour on A1A and on Atlantic east of the Intracoastal Waterway, and $2 an hour on Atlantic from Swinton to the Intracoastal.
City-owned beach parking lots will see their rates increase from $1.50 an hour to $2 an hour, a 33% jump, as will parking off Atlantic on Gleason and Venetian drives. The $2 an hour rate will not change for street parking a block north and south of Atlantic Avenue on streets between Swinton and southbound Federal Highway.
The city’s decision to increase the rates came at the commission’s April 18 meeting, at Deputy Vice Mayor Rob Long’s request, an action he said had previously been recommended by a city advisory board.
“It could yield up to $2 million in revenue for the city,” Long said. “A great portion of that would come from nonresidents.”
The estimated parking revenues would actually increase $3.2 million with the higher rates, City Manager Terrence Moore told commissioners at their May 2 meeting, before commissioners decided to scale back the increase on A1A.
The A1A rate authorized April 18 was $4 an hour, but commissioners on May 2 decided that might be too much of a shock for beach-goers, including residents. Vice Mayor Ryan
Boylston said he couldn’t support that higher rate if there wasn’t some discount for residents. Moore said the city’s current parking app doesn’t provide for residential discounts.
“For $4 to park on Atlantic, I can be comfortable with, it’s Atlantic Avenue and it’s only so many spots, but I think the beach should be $3,” Boylston said of the hourly rates. “If I can’t make it $3 just for residents, then I think it should be $3 across the board.”
Boylston said the goal of the increased rates isn’t for the city to make more money, but to better manage parking downtown and on the beach.
“I know that’s going to negatively affect revenue, but that’s not the main reason we’re doing this,” he said. “We’re doing it to manage parking, to move people to the other lots, to move people to the garages.”
That was Long’s original point. He said the city’s Parking Management Advisory Board previously determined that “public parking downtown is underpriced and fine-tuning turnover and improving circulation were identified as overall strategies to optimize existing parking.”
But Mavis Benson, a member of the Downtown Development Authority’s governing board, said her board met with the parking management board in January 2022 and the two groups jointly supported an increase to $2.50 an hour along Atlantic Avenue and A1A because of the potential harm higher rates might cause to businesses.
“Difficult decisions don’t happen overnight and three years of research should not be dismissed in just one night,” Benson said. “If we could push it off to the fall; let the merchants get through season and then look at doing whatever we need to do.”
The parking rates apply from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week on the barrier island. On Atlantic Avenue between Swinton and the Intracoastal, motorists have to pay to park from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia said she was concerned the new rates may still be too high and will negatively affect businesses. She said she preferred to charge $3 an hour on Atlantic and $2 an hour on the beach.
Commissioners also directed Moore to remove the parking time limits on residential parking permits, available for $12 a year. The permits can be used at a number of downtown garages and city parking lots, but aren’t valid on Atlantic Avenue or the beach.
Moore plans to have the city’s parking policies scheduled for a June 6 commission workshop so they can be discussed in more detail.
CRA board to change
The City Commission is also looking to change the makeup of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s governing board, but not in the way two newly elected commissioners had been proposing. Long and Commissioner Angela Burns campaigned on making the board an independent board again made up of seven commission appointees.
That’s what existed prior to April 2018, when the five-member City Commission voted to put itself in place of the independent board, then decided to add two appointed positions to the governing board a week later.
City Attorney Lynn Gelin told current commissioners that there’s no going back now to a completely independent board. The city would risk losing its CRA if it did such a change because of rules in place for redevelopment agencies, she said.
Instead, commissioners plan to create a separate citizens advisory board that would make recommendations to the commission acting as the CRA governing board. The commission would also eliminate the two appointed positions on the current governing board — positions that Gelin said may be legally questionable.
Long and Burns said given Gelin’s comments, they support the proposals so that the city conforms to state statutes.
“I think the next-best thing would be this structure,” Long said.
The commission would then make up the entire CRA governing board. A similar two-board system is in place in Boynton Beach.
City resident Joy Howell wasn’t convinced.
“You’re discussing taking away two seats at the table with full voting rights held by Black representatives,” Howell said. “Will this not be a step backward for the Black community, to lose two minority seats with full voting rights in exchange for perhaps non-voting advisory board positions? I just don’t understand it.”
But Chuck Ridley, who lives in the CRA district and served on the previous independent CRA board — and did not support the switch to the commission in 2018 — said he understood the city’s predicament.
“I would like to suggest that this commission moves from a five-member board with two alternates to a five-member board, and that you set up an advisory committee,” Ridley said.
“My rationale is that, by doing it that way, you allow yourself to have more voices that can talk about a variety of different and important issues in our community.”
Boylston said he doesn’t want the advisory board to just comment on agenda items that will be coming before the governing board, but “for them to be tasked with the big picture” and “really empowering them.”
Petrolia was the lone dissenter, not persuaded by Gelin’s contention that the city might be on shaky legal ground having the two alternates on the governing board.
In other news:
• Commissioners approved moving their 4 p.m. twice-a-month meetings to 5 p.m. beginning in October.
• Internal Auditor Julia Davidyan submitted a 30-day notice of her intent to resign on April 4, saying she was leaving for personal reasons. Her work was in a consultant role through her firm, JMD Premier Group Inc.
• The commission will hold its annual goal-setting workshop at 8 a.m. May 12 at the Delray Beach Golf Club, 2200 Highland Ave.
• Commissioners requested the city manager develop suggestions on how to handle all the extra seaweed, called sargassum, expected to wash ashore this summer. Scientists are anticipating a record year based on the amount of sargassum now floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Moore said he will present some recommendations at the commission’s May 16 meeting.
• Petrolia announced the city’s public beach has officially received the Blue Flag designation, an international honor that officials hope will attract more eco-tourism from Europe, where the designation is well known. Delray Beach is one of the first two beaches to receive the Blue Flag in the continental United States.