In the late 1980's there were no parking lots in Soquel as we experience them today. Merchants and others asked for help and one of the first acts of the Redevelopment Agency was to purchase the land for the parking lots. At the time merchants agreed to create a parking district and tax themselves to pay for the upkeep of the lots. Fees were developed based on the size of the business and the type of activity involved at each location and business parking deficits from County requirements.
In the 1990's, voters passed Prop. 218, which required a vote by the merchants to continue charging them for the upkeep of the lots. The election did not receive the necessary two-thirds. Following that failed vote, the County Redevelopment Agency found creative ways to fund the basic maintenance of the lots. In 2011, the legislature eliminated the Redevelopment Agency and by 2015, the County had spent whatever reserves were left to maintain the lots and needed additional revenue to maintain these public parking resources. The County advertised a meeting to talk with merchants and property owners to discuss developing a parking district where they would assess themselves (similar to what has been done in the past), but few showed up. I then worked with a Soquel merchant to hold a breakfast meeting and he contacted many of his colleagues. Again the turnout was low, but we relayed the basics of re-forming the district and for a relatively modest amount of money for each property owner, we could maintain the lots. An election was called, but again the vote failed to receive the two-thirds necessary from the property owners. At the request of constituents and merchants, we held another community meeting with staff to find a way to secure the funding necessary for the lots. Several merchants agreed to take a leadership role to see if they could garner the support from property owners and I asked our Public Works Department to hold off from starting the placement of meters. After several months, those leaders found that there was not enough support and there wasn't interest in having the County assess property owners to maintain the lots. After these failed attempts, we are moving forward with a modest paid parking program.
I hosted a well-attended meeting last week and I shared with everyone what was coming. The lots and Soquel Drive parking spots will cost 50 cents/hr. (that is less than downtown Santa Cruz [$2/hr] or Capitola [$1.50/hr.]); the parking will be enforced weekdays only and then only from 9 am to 6 pm. Having parking meters does generate more expenses through capital purchase and enforcement costs but we have done a parking study and feel confident that this program will generate enough funds to cover the costs of the program and for the maintenance of the lots. Any revenue generated greater than those costs can only be used in the Soquel Village area for neighborhood and business improvements. We will be appointing an advisory board to help designate that funding. While this will be a change of practice, it is common most everywhere that users of the lots, pay for the maintenance of the lots.
The Board will hear a complete plan at our March 7th meeting and I expect that the meters and kiosks will be installed and effective by July 1st.