Parking Permit Fees Change for 2012

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New year, new parking permit rates.

The changes in the parking permit program that Newport Beach City Council approved at the Nov. 22 meeting are now being implemented in the 2012 annual, master and overnight parking permits, on sale now.

The annual and overnight rates have increased, while the master permit has decreased. The 50 percent senior discount has stayed the same and a 25 percent veterans discount has been added.

The annual parking permit is up $50 from past years to $150, the master permit price decreased $225 from before and now costs $450, and the overnight is now $225, an increase of $75.

The parking permit program hadn’t been looked at in almost 20 years, said city Finance Director and Treasurer Tracy McCraner. There was a serious disconnect to the current market, she added.

“It was just time…. It’d been way to long,” she said.

While the master parking permit fees have been adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index, the annual and overnight permit fees have not been studied or updated since April 1993.

“In looking at the whole parking permit program, we were trying to bring it up to date and comparable to other cities,” McCraner said.

The staff looked at Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and the state systems.

The study identified how far “out of sync” the Newport Beach program was with the current market rate and similar programs in comparable cities.

The modifications also included a cost of living automatic adjustment, so the program won’t go another 20 years without being looked at, Mcraner said. From now on, the price should rise and fall with the cost of living index.

The permits previously were on a quarterly prorated program. Some residents would buy a permit just before the busy summer season.

Now, parking permits are prorated once a year, after the busy season, on October 1 at 75 percent off the regular price.

The quarterly prorated program that Newport Beach was previously utilizing was administratively burdensome and wasn’t in line with the comparable cities, McCraner said. Most of the cities surveyed don’t offer a prorated program at all and those that do offer a semi-annual rate, except for Santa Barbara, which has a monthly option.

“It’s what the market calls for,” McCraner said. “It’s more effective and efficient… [The change is] keeping it at market value… and keeping it in line with the comparable cities.”

One Indy reader commented in an email that residents should have the ability to purchase the permits.

“We are the ones that are putting up with the trash, noise, and traffic daily throughout the summer,” she wrote.

Resident versus non-resident rates are not out of the picture, McCraner said.

“We just don’t have the financial system to track it like that,” right now, she said. “Not right now, but it’s not off the table.”

And administratively it would be difficult, she added.

If the city gets an improved data system or the service gets outsourced, McCraner said she could definitely see a resident and non-resident rate program happening.

It could easily be outsourced to a vendor, she added, and the city has already talked to a few providers about what they could do.

If an outside company handled the permit program it could be a lot more technical and detailed, she said. There would be a lot more options, she added.

The veteran’s discount is unique to Newport Beach, McCraner said. None of the comparable cities studied had any kind of veteran rate, although the state program does offer a veteran discount, it’s a complicated and has very specific requirements. McCraner even called San Diego and Oceanside and a few other cities with strong a military presence and found no other discounted parking permits for veterans.

“We didn’t have anything to compare to… So we had to come with our own,“ McCraner said. “We wanted to offer something (to veterans).”

If someone is a senior and a veteran they would get the higher of the two discounts, the 50 percent senior discount, McCraner noted.

The changes were approved during the Nov. 22 meeting in a 5-2 vote, with council members Rush Hill and Leslie Daigle dissenting.

Hill suggested during the council meeting that there should be an increased service or value of some sort, like more blue meters or a new parking lot, if the rates are increased.

“Show me where you’re adding value because you’re raising the fee,” Hill said in November.

“To raise a fee for the purpose of raising a fee violates, in my sense, the principle, that this city is doing so well right now, is teaching it’s public that we’re learning to live within our budget,” Hill added.

Councilman Steve Rosansky said he agreed with Hill to an extent, but noted that the cost to provide these services have all gone up too.

“Everything cost more today than it did 20 years ago,” Rosansky said. “It’s our bad, I think, that we’re not more on top of this.”

Rosansky added that he thought it was fair to reassess the fess from time to time and determine what’s appropriate.

“We were trying to be fair but also bring it up to market (value),” McCraner said. And with the master permit decrease and the new veterans discount, they were trying “to offset [the increases] with some positive aspects.”

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