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Parking In Martinez: The Big Issue At Tonight's Council Meeting

What do you think? Do changes need to be made?

Parking in Martinez, especially in the downtown area, will be the chief topic of discussion when the City Council meets tonight.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the council chambers in City Hall, 525 Henrietta St. It's the first full meeting of the new council that was sworn in two weeks ago.

City Manager Philip Vince is asking the council to discuss four issues related to parking.

One of them is allocating $85,000 of parking district reserve funds to purchase as many as 165 credit card enabled electronic meters.

There are currently 75 electronic meters downtown that were installed in the spring as a test to see if the system was economically feasible. That would make 240 of the city's 930 meters the new electronic version.

Vince said the older meters can get jammed or fog up so people can't read the time or instructions. The new meters allow people to use coins or credit/debit cards to pay.

It also allows the city to gather information on when certain meters are busy and if someone, say a downtown employee, is using a space all day long that is meant for customers. Police can also check on meters that have just expired.

"The new meters do provide choices, but with that choice comes a cost," said Vince.

That brings up the second issue at tonight's meeting -- whether to increase the city's meter rates. Right now, Martinez charges 50 cents an hour while other cities such as Walnut Creek charge a dollar an hour.

Added into that is whether people serving on jury duty should continue to be given free parking. That does cost the city revenue and there are day-long spaces jurors can use along Marina Vista.

Finally, the council will discuss whether to institute free parking at meters from Dec. 20 to Jan. 1 to encourage holiday shopping.

Vince said there are arguments on both sides of that issue. Some people feel free parking encourages customers while others say it simply allows people to park all day in one space and limits the parking for people who are running in and out of stores.

What do you think? What changes, if any, should the city make in its parking meters? Tell us what you think and why in our comments section.

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Cindy December 19, 2012 at 08:29 PM
My first thought is that we should leave the parking free for jury duty. Remember the same folks eat lunch at the local restaurants. Once Martinez has retailers such as Walnut Creek that draw a variety of customers we can consider raising the rate otherwise it seems like we would be chasing away what few people do come downtown.
Chris J Kapsalis December 19, 2012 at 08:52 PM
We need a parking garage to make space for us to actually have more commerce. The one thing all the cities had in common they went on field trip to see, successful cities in this recession, is they all had parking garages. We do not. also we have empty lots that could possibly be used, a few of them. 2 hour parking is not enough time to eat and shop and bank, though I am not sure how long the new meters go for. And finally if we had parking vouchers so if you shopped or spent money in Martinez you could get out of a parking ticket for over staying your welcome, that would be nice. Nothing like a fine for shopping too long and spending money in a city to make someone say forget you, I aint coming back. We have to stand in line sometimes, wait for our meal etc. Get your hair done, So we ticket them? For coming to Martinez to do business? Nice.
Captain Bebops December 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Yes, float a bond and build a parking garage for the jurors. Take out metered parking completely. Do they even check for expired meters anymore? I haven't see a meter person in months. Free parking means thriving businesses.
Matthew Segura December 20, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Parking garages = thriving shopping? That simply does not make sense. I know it's a chicken vs egg problem, what came first, the need for extra parking driven by communities with more disposable income and more attractive shopping, or the parking garages, built well before any kind of demand warranted it? I do not think Martinez' lack of commerce is because people can't find parking. Even with parking garages we all know how difficult it is to find parking on a weekend, which is way more difficult than Martinez, especially on the weekends. Peoe are willing to put up with it in walnut creek because that is where the good shopping is because that is where people with money live. Why? Relative to Martinez it's easier to get to work (Bart) and there are no refineries in sight.
Chris J Kapsalis December 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Sun valley has over 7,500 parking spaces, and about 160 specialty stores and restaurants. Downtown Martinez has the capability to have the same number of speciality stores and restaurants. How many spaces do we have? I would guess 2,000, and with 4,000 more, would more empty stores on and off Main actually have a business in them if we did have more parking. I think in this case the parking has to come first, because the shops will not, we cannot handle any more shops opening. You would be crazy and not survive. A 1985 study said there was a need for 400 more parking spaces downtown, then in 1996 another study said we need 600 more parking spaces, just to meet our current needs. And room for growth? Build it they will come, don't build it , even if they want to come, they will not because there will be no where for them to park.
Lawrence Risner December 20, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Why is there always a last ditch comparison of Martinez to Walnut Creek to raise parking fees? For one Walnut Creek has multiple public parking garages and for two, they aren't the county seat with it's busy public offices and court houses confined to a very small area - there is no comparison.... Seems to me that we have a unique parking situation that needs a unique solution - not more problems. Sorry, but I avoid downtown Martinez mainly because there is no parking and if there were available parking raising the fees in these difficult economic times would further discourage me and I am sure most others as well. Forget the costly studies and DO something sensible to fix the obvious problem! I'd bet the downtown merchants would applaud a sensible fix also! If the county offices were to have a dedicated parking garage it would open up the downtown parking for the local businesses and the jurors that are required to serve would also have parking provided by the county in a garage - seems to simple!!!!
Lisa Gorrell December 20, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I have always been able to find a parking space in downtown Martinez--not always right in front. Castro Street between Main and Green has plenty of parking. And the meter reader is out there. Got a parking ticket while at my guitar class a month ago. She out writing until 6 pm!
Jed December 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Maybe not having JURY DUTY parking on the streets would help. There should be a special parking place for all those who are called to serve on jury duty. Me, I avoid ANY city that has parking meters. It sends the message that I am not welcome. Apparently they think that their city is SO NICE that I have to pay for the privilege to be there. WRONG! I'll take my business elsewhere.
Dean L. McLeod December 20, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Charging for parking and ticketing people serving jury duty is the most bas-akward way to approach retail development I can imagine. They're forced by law to be here and punished if they're confused or rushed for parking. It is unimaginably bad policy for attracting good will and potential customers.
Captain Bebops December 20, 2012 at 10:38 PM
I think you half understood what I said. I've been called in for jury duty in Walnut Creek. If you have you'd know parking is really bad there and little parking at the court house. One time a judge addressing the parking situation said they tried to float bond issue to build a garage for jurors but it was rejected by the voters. Even the last time I still had to feed the meter and they do not use a card to put on the dashboard as Martinez does for free juror parking. I have always argued that there would be no meters in downtown Martinez if it weren't for juror (and court house) parking. There would be no need for it as you will find that true in other communities. That is how business would thrive since as you see by other posts people find parking in downtown difficult. No meters, no worry. Need more business parking then build an extra garage for that. If things like this aren't addressed properly downtown could well wind up being a ghost downtown.
Captain Bebops December 20, 2012 at 10:43 PM
At least the last time I got a jury summons it included a card you could put on the dashboard to alert the meter person that you are a juror and no need to pay the meter. Jury parking is free (or at least it was a couple years ago). But using the streets for juror parking is obviously not a good idea and would be surprised if the county would like to build a garage for jurors and court business. But we know how property issues are in this 21st century.

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