City of Los Altos economic development coordinator Anthony Carnesecca is overseeing two major changes to the city’s downtown employee parking permit program: a shift in the permit cycle to reflect the calendar year and a more than $60 increase in the annual renewal rate.
A mailer distributed to all permit holders Sept. 10 explained that the city contracted with a new vendor for parking permit and citation software. The city selected Turbo Data, Carnesecca said in the letter, because of its user-friendly system that “best serves the needs of (the) community.”
Additionally, Carnesecca alerted permit holders that the permit cycle would shift from October through September to January through December, enabling the permitting process to align with the business-license cycle on top of adhering to the calendar year.
To make the new cycle possible, 2018-2019 downtown parking permits and 2019 fourth-quarter permits will be valid through Dec. 31. The letter told permit holders, in bold text, to “not discard your current valid permits.”
Carnesecca told the Town Crier that the city “tried to send the (notice) out as late as possible so that they were not thrown away.”
However, no indication of a fee increase was mentioned in the letter. Carnesecca recently visited downtown businesses personally to advise them of the changes and also sat down with the Town Crier to discuss the financial details.
Time for an update
Carnesecca listed the years the city has conducted fee schedule studies off the top of his head: 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2019. The studies, which review not just the parking permit fee, but all such fees across the city, resulted in recommended increases in certain areas, he said. The downtown parking permit fee just happens to be one of them.
In January, the parking permit that allows merchants, management and employees to park in extended-time spots with white dots across several plazas will increase in price from $37 to $100.
Other than a $1 increase from $36 to $37 per year in 2018, the city has not raised the fee since 2006.
All funds generated by the permit fees will be directed to a fund dedicated to improving the parking plazas, Carnesecca said. Business owners skeptical about paying more can be assured the money is going to be “reinvested into the downtown, and returned through parking for their own benefit,” he added.
Carnesecca acknowledged receiving complaints from small-business owners concerned about paying more to cover their employees’ parking.
“It’s important to note that the city has studied the parking fees for several years,” said city spokeswoman Erica Ray. “This will go (directly) into improvements, like repaving the downtown plazas and repainting (the lines and dots).”
Even with the fee increase, Los Altos still will have the lowest parking fee among cities in the area similar in size and characteristics. Palo Alto’s permit is the most expensive ($750 per year), while Los Gatos has the second-lowest fee ($248).
“We are still the lowest by a margin,” Carnesecca said. “The most important thing is that we are not charging (patrons) to pay for parking.”
Parking in the downtown plazas is free for three hours; plazas are patrolled regularly.
For more information on the city’s parking program and a map of available spaces, visit losaltosca.gov/ed/page/downtown-parking-information.