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The Region

Seal Beach's Downtown Will Retain Free Parking

City Council reverses its decision to install meters at about 300 spaces near the beach.

March 26, 2004|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Save those quarters for the jukebox.

The Seal Beach City Council isn't going to install parking meters on Main Street after all, preserving its distinction as one of the last of Orange County's coastal cities to offer free downtown parking.

"It was a very emotional issue for the city," said City Manager John B. Bahorski. "I just think the community wanted to keep what it had. We don't want to change the town."

The meter issue had been simmering in Seal Beach for years. Advocates said the meters would help keep beachgoers from parking on Main Street and snagging prime spots better suited to shoppers and diners.

And, in the last couple of years, as the state budget crisis squeezed cities, Seal Beach officials saw the meters as a source of an estimated $500,000 a year in extra revenue.

In September, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to install the meters, but unanimously overturned that decision Monday.

The turnaround was inspired by a recent election, which will shift the vote against the meters when a new councilman, Ray Ybaben, takes office in November. Ybaben said during his campaign that he was against the parking meters.

"Do you really want to buy them and install them, just to have them taken out?" Councilman Charles Antos said.

The City Council had already ordered about 300 parking meters that would have been installed along a three-block stretch of Main Street and on parts of Ocean, Central and Electric avenues.

The restocking fee is $22,000. But Bahorski said, "If we would have put them in, we would have then thrown away probably $150,000 or more."

That $22,000 is a small price to pay for a decision that would have sent residents and visitors scrambling for quarters every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., said longtime Seal Beach resident Jim Caviola, who helped organize a campaign against the meters.

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