Burlingame residents will soon pay more in parking fees when visiting downtown Burlingame, as decided after lengthy discussion and debate by the City Council Tuesday night.
Increased fees address two issues in Burlingame—the parking occupancy needs downtown and funding for the Burlingame Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project.
The council approved moving forward with Option A, which increases parking rates by 25 cents per hour and calls for smart meter installation along Burlingame Avenue. Option A provides $450,000 per year, enough to cover its share of streetscape improvement costs.
In making this decision, council members went against the recommendation of the Traffic Safety and Parking Commission who called for Option C, which increased metered hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. among other things, and paid for smart meters throughout the downtown core and parking lot improvements. Paying for streetscape, signage, smart meters and parking lot maintenance costs around $805,000 per year.
While noting the convenience of additional smart meters—electronic meters that can be paid by credit card—some council members had a difficult time justifying the two hour increase of metered parking.
“The goal here is to pay for the streetscape, and that’s what I want to make sure happens,” said Councilmember Cathy Baylock, noting that although Option A won’t fund parking lot improvements, it supports streetscape. “I want to make sure we don’t push the public too far.”
Vice Mayor Ann Keighran agreed, noting the increases in water rates, garbage rates and other recent expenses to residents.
Councilmember Terry Nagel was the lone dissenting voice, supporting extending metered hours to 8 p.m. if it meant providing smart meters throughout the downtown.
“I think there’s a lot of unknown here as to what the true cost is going to be,” she said. “I just can’t see sticking with this antiquated technology when we’re beautifying the entire downtown.”
However, council members agreed that the parking situation would be closely monitored moving forward, with flexibility for adjusting rates and hours as necessary and the possibility for more smart meters in the future.
Burlingame officials have spent 10 months working with property owners, merchants and the community to develop a design for a revamped Burlingame Avenue, including a streetscape renovation and utilities upgrades. The streetscape improvement calls for wider sidewalks, better landscaping and lighting and signs pointing towards parking. However, the improvements come at a cost of about $16 million.
While revenues from the likes of the gas tax and Measure A provide $7 million, a $9 million shortfall remains. To combat this, council has suggested an increase in parking rates paired with a downtown property assessment district, each paying 50 percent. City staff had also hoped parking revenue would pay for smart meters in the downtown core and parking lot maintenance.
The next step will be developing an assessment district to account for the other 50 percent of the streetscape revenue shortfall.