This is sparked by some interesting history and background on parking in Fresno from Jerry Duncan on Mindhub.
Subject: [MindHub] Downtown Parking Reality 101
There has been some discussion going on recently regarding the cost of parking downtown. For those interested in learning the reality of how it really works, I offer these comments.
First a little history. Before the current administration took office in 2001, parking downtown really was a mess. There was a serious shortage in the number of spaces (there were only 5,680 stalls total in downtown) and what little the City had was filthy and unsafe. The structures were covered
in graffiti and none of the elevators or escalators worked. The parking meters on the streets had been removed and replaced with two hour of free parking (supposedly to bring people back to downtown). When I attended then State Senator Jim Costa's Downtown Task Force meetings on Downtown
Revitalization in 2000, we found out that this "free" parking was being used primarily by downtown employees who would park on the street, leave work every two hours and move their cars.
The number one complaint we heard then about downtown was that there was no parking and they were right. In addition, parking rates were so low that no private parking structures could be built because they wouldn't pencil out. When the current administration took office the downtown parking problem became one of our first priorities for downtown. As Chairman of the Fresno Redevelopment Agency, I worked very hard with the Mayor to develop a plan to solve this problem. We knew that without an adequate supply of clean, well maintained and affordable parking, the revitalization of Downtown Fresno would never happen.
The execution of this plan over the previous seven years has resulted in some pretty remarkable results. First, since 2001 the City has added 3,600 additional spaces of parking downtown in parking lots and parking structures. Did you know the new Convention Center parking structure cost
almost as much as the baseball stadium?
Second, because we raised overall parking rates to a still very competitive and reasonable level building private parking structures now made economic sense and 2,900 new stalls have been added by private companies. It is important to note that these private parking structures were the first ones built downtown in over 40 years and didn't cost the taxpayers one cent.
There are currently 12,180 parking spaces available in downtown Fresno (an increase of 115% since 2001). Of the 12,180, 4,280 are privately owned and 7,900 are operated by the City of Fresno.
The parking fund, which operates as a separate cost center, is currently running a $5 million deficit which is currently being subsidized by all the taxpayers in Fresno, even those who don't come downtown. The recent increases are part of a 10 year plan to try to break even. It has been the
City's objective to reasonably pass on as much of the cost of providing parking downtown to the people who actually use it.
Even with the increases, Downtown Fresno is still one of lowest cost places to park in North America. Don't believe me, look here: link.
It was interesting to me that someone suggested we place parking meters in other shopping areas around town to raise money. The reality is that unlike Downtown Fresno merchants, those merchants who are not located in downtown are paying for their customers parking. The cost of providing "free" parking to their customers is passed on by their landlords. If you shop at any shopping center outside of downtown, you are paying for the cost of the parking when you buy something because the business owner is passing on this cost in the price of their goods or services.
If the cost of lower parking is that important to the business owners downtown, they can provide their own parking (it is a requirement of development everywhere except downtown Fresno) or form a parking assessment district to raise funds to lower the cost of parking in city lots. I'm sure
the City would be willing to look at reducing the parking cost by the amount they raise.