Fullerton is going to try $5 weekend night parking in its downtown

by in News

Downtown Fullerton visitors will soon have to pay for public parking on weekend nights, a move the area’s business owners fear will drive away patrons.

A 90-day pilot program charging $5 to park from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in public lots on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays was approved 3-2 by the City Council this week.

The revenue collected will be used to maintain and improve the downtown infrastructure and provide more public safety to the area, which is typically swarming with bar patrons on weekend nights.

It is estimated the pilot program will gross $73,800 a month, said Ted White, community development director.

However, the program isn’t designed to create revenue as much as to gather information.

“In order for this to be able to be a successful program, we are going to be collecting data throughout the 90 days,” White said. “We want to be able to be able to have some flexibility to adjust. This is an important step in addressing the needs of downtown.”

Mayor Doug Chaffee and council members Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva supported the parking fees.

“My point has always been that we need to generate income in downtown,” Fitzgerald said.

Charging for parking “serves no effective purpose,” Councilman Bruce Whitaker, who opposed the pilot program with Councilman Greg Seaborn, said. “You have something nice and fairly successful right now. I don’t know why you want to change that.”

The paid parking will be imposed in public lots and structures between Wilshire Avenue and the railroad tracks south of Santa Fe Avenue, and from Pomona Avenue to Malden Avenue.

That includes about 1,907 spaces, roughly half the number of spaces in all of downtown.

“I’m afraid this paid parking program would create a lot of problems for our downtown businesses because our guests will go elsewhere,” said Rob Hallstrom, co-owner of the Matador Cantina restaurant on Harbor Boulevard. “There are just too many options to go elsewhere.”

Others worried paid parking would prompt the weekend bar crowd to park in nearby residential neighborhoods.

The city will hire a parking management company; the pilot could begin in January, White said.

Free parking would likely be provided to employees of downtown businesses and provisions could be made for short-term parking, allowing for dropping off and picking up visitors.

The start time could also be pushed later, to 9 or 10 p.m. for example, White said. Fitzgerald and Silva favored a 10 p.m. start time, which is about when the downtown bars begin to fill up.

Once a parking management company is hired and develops the trial parking program the issue will go before the council for final approval before the pilot begins.