Consultant says $3 parking might solve garage dilemma |

Consultant says $3 parking might solve garage dilemma

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / South Lake Tahoe resident Penny Burroughs uses the parking garage for the first time Monday afternoon.

The South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency may throw out the first free hour of parking at the Heavenly Village garage today in exchange for a flat $3-an-hour rate.

The agency board – composed of all five City Council members – will make its fifth try in 17 months at nailing down parking rates to attract visitors but also bring in enough revenue to pay the bills. The complex topic makes the agenda today at 9 a.m.

Almost a month ago the agency allocated $17,500 to Reno-based Fehr & Peers to help the city solve a revenue shortfall. The city owes lump sums of more than $300,000 each by next June and December to pay bond debt owed for the garage construction. The agency must legally pay the debt with revenues taken in at the garage.

Flat-rate parking is one recommendation from the consultant.

The firm will also suggest the city sell $50-plus block passes to construction workers assigned to the next phase of the Marriott Timber Lodge time-share resort. Another recommendation includes valet parking for village patrons.

Motorists now get the first hour free and pay $5 for every hour thereafter. The maximum daily rate is $15 on the weekdays and $20 on the weekends, with a $3 evening rate and $10 early-bird special for those who get into the garage before 10 a.m.

From restaurants to retailers, merchants say their patrons have clamored for validation – a system once offered with a free half-hour.

“People ask for validation (for parking at the garage), and we try to tell them we don’t offer it. It was just another thing we had to deal with,” said Kimmie Chandler, manager for High Chaparral. “Most people have found a way around it by parking at the casinos.”

Chandler said she’s noticed no change in customer traffic since the parking garage rates have evolved.

About 60 percent of their customers are identified as visitors.

Chandler believes the $3 rate may “be a little easier” for the motorist to bear.

Wolfgang Puck Express Manager Luis Ubaldo said he’s been aware of a slight increase in foot traffic since the first free hour became effective.

“I’ve seen a little improvement – maybe 20 percent. But they still ask for validation,” he said.

Consultant Don Hubbard said there could be confusion since merchants once validated the first half-hour before the city began offering the full hour at no cost.

As far as a maximum daily rate, Hubbard said the city would have the best gauge at whether to offer specials or not.

“If they just wanted to maximize the revenue, they wouldn’t put a maximize rate on,” he said. “When it looks like they have a comfortable (revenue) margin, then they may put on a maximize daily rate.”

The analysis may have spurred more questions.

“From what I heard, the council looked at this, and it appeared they might want to explore other options. The impression they left with me is they haven’t made a decision with what is being done about the cinema,” he said.

The city initially planned to offer three free hours of parking for cinema patrons.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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