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"Last week, after city council members rejected a proposal to raise rates and extend operational hours of parking meters, it was believed that time had run out on the initiative. Not so. Members of the Uptown Partnership, the Community Parking District which began managing the area’s parking needs in 1997, and representatives from the city’s parking division believe more time should be taken to review the proposal."

On April 7 they approached the community planning group and volunteers with a presentation to install new high-tech meters capable of adjusting rates and generating more money for the city and Uptown area.

At the meeting, Michael Vogl, head of the San Diego parking meter collection division, and Carol Schultz, director of Uptown Partnership, initiated the dialogue over updating Uptown’s parking meters.

Uptown Planners chairman Leo Wilson says those efforts appear dubious.

Case in point, five days before the presentation to the Uptown Planning Committee, members of the Uptown Partnership had already accounted for the increase in rates in their newly adopted budget — essentially doubling the revenue of their 2009–2010 budget from over $445,000 to $980,000.

“Uptown Partnership appears to have already substantially incorporated a 110 percent increase in parking-meter rates and hours of service into its budget for its next fiscal year,” wrote Wilson in an email to this correspondent.

Wilson says the 110 percent increase is the same amount proposed by mayor Jerry Sanders and subsequently rejected by the city council.

“I am not aware of any community review process that took place prior to the April 2 adoption of this dramatically increased budget by Uptown Partnership. Requesting community input after the fact, on April 7, seems dubious.”

Another red flag pointed out by Wilson: Instead of Uptown Partnership’s mission of “investing and managing public parking resources” by generating more parking for Hillcrest and surrounding communities with a parking garage funded by the nearly $3 million the organization has in its reserves, the leadership is considering spending over $2.6 million upgrading the existing meters and putting in the new programmable parking meters that accept credit cards and which are capable of adjusting rates during different hours of the day.

In addition to the $2.6 million, Uptown Partnership plans to dole out another $96,000 for installing solar lighting to parking signs throughout Hillcrest.

“Together, these items consume about 90 percent of the amount of the reserve,” writes Wilson. “Rather than adhere to its original mission of increasing parking supply, it appears Uptown Partnership’s new role is generate more revenue from Uptown for the city.”

For Uptown Partnership’s Shultz, the parking garage would cost somewhere around $14 million and, considering the city’s financial position, the plan is no longer a viable option. Plus, it doesn’t address the areas around Hillcrest. “So, we looked at alternatives. It’s a crowded area and the shortfall in the money was too great to overcome,” she said in a phone interview.

Shultz added that Uptown Partnership’s board is aware of the economic concerns associated with raising rates and says there are no plans to raise rates. Instead, the meters allow for more flexibility to adjust rates according to usage, as outlined in the mayor’s recent parking utilization plan.

As for the increase in Uptown Partnership’s budget, Schultz says, “There’s typically an additional $255,000 revenue adjustment every year. The higher revenues reflected in the budget more accurately reflect annual revenues.”

For more on efforts to raise parking rates in Hillcrest, the item will be on the agenda at the next Uptown Planners meeting on May 5 at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest.

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