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NEWPORT BEACH : Additional Parking Meters Considered

April 12, 1993|BOB ELSTON

Faced with a $6-million budget shortfall and cuts in municipal services, officials may attempt to make some of it up--a nickel, dime and quarter at a time.

The City Council today will study a plan to install several hundred parking meters along streets near the beach, extend meter operating hours and increase rates.

The proposals could go into effect by summer and raise up to $500,000 per year.

The council is likely to favor much of the plan because it would mostly affect those who come to the city for recreation, said Councilman John Hedges, chairman of the two-member Off-Street Parking Committee, which drafted the proposals.

There are 2,359 parking meters in the city, Jim Brahler, assistant traffic engineer, said.

The meters generated about $1 million in fiscal 1991-92 and the money is used for beach maintenance, street sweeping and other chores.

Under the plan, the city could add up to 420 meters, raising an additional $260,000 per year, according to a traffic department study.

"We need to raise revenue somewhere to pay for services," Hedges said. "Should we sweep the streets less? Clean the beach less? Cut lifeguards? The best way to pay for all this is to have the people who visit the city pay for them."

Parking meter rates vary from street to street. Meters near storefronts costing from 25 cents to 75 cents for up to an hour of parking would remain unchanged.

But meters used by beach-goers, which have limits of six hours to 12 hours and cost from 25 cents to 75 cents per hour, would increase to $1 per hour.

"We tried to find some way (to tax) the beach-goer who comes down for the day and sits on the beach and then leaves. . . . How can we get him to pay?" said Councilwoman Jan Debay, also a member of the parking committee.

The rate changes would generate $200,000 in annual revenue and it would cost $40,000 to modify the meters, according to the study.

This is one of several revenue-generating measures under study. A paramedics user fee was passed last month, and an increased hotel bed tax will be considered.

Three weeks ago, the council approved installing 180 meters along Balboa Boulevard.

Other streets that are under consideration for meters include Seashore Drive, Coast Highway through Corona del Mar, Marine Avenue and many of the numbered streets in the vicinity of Newport Pier.

On Seashore Drive, which runs parallel to the beach, 180 additional meters could generate up to $80,000 per year, with $40,000 installation costs, according to the study.

About 200 meters could be installed along Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, generating $60,000 in revenue per year at a cost of $60,000.

Lastly, 60 spaces along Marine Avenue could be metered at a cost of $15,000 and generate $30,000.

In 1990, the city briefly tried increasing the hours, but restaurant owners near the beach complained that customers had to get up from meals to feed the meter.

Officials will consider extending meter hours into the evening, which could generate $100,000 annually. Most meters are not enforced after 6 p.m.

"That is a tough call," Hedges said of the extended hours. The committee "went round and round on that. We don't want to discourage people from patronizing restaurants."

The city might also hire an additional one or two additional parking officers to monitor the growing number of meters, Hedges said.

The council will discuss the issue at 2 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

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