Free hour of parking nixed at garage, hourly rates reduced |

Free hour of parking nixed at garage, hourly rates reduced

Susan Wood

Beginning Friday, motorists won’t get a free ride for parking at the Heavenly Village garage. But by the same token, the hourly rates will be cheaper.

The South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency eliminated Tuesday the first free hour of parking, but fees will drop from $5 to $3 an hour with no maximum daily rate for now. The $3-an-hour rate will be charged in half-hour increments.

Maximum rates, monthly passes, discounts and specials for cinema patrons should be determined at a special City Council meeting on Nov. 30.

“We have the holidays coming and need to set these rates,” agency board member and Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said. The City Council also acts as the redevelopment agency.

It’s the agency board’s fifth attempt at establishing parking fees that don’t gouge customers but ensure the bond debt borrowed to build the $6 million garage located just off Highway 50 will be paid. Lump sums of more than $300,000 are due June and December 1995.

Next month, merchants are expected to be bustling for the winter season, and the theater is due to open Dec. 17 – a volatile aspect to the parking situation that appears to be in flux.

Two days of meetings have ensued between the city and cinema operators over parking for moviegoers.

“We’re still in negotiations. The council is very committed to how we’re going to achieve some amount of free parking (for the cinema patrons),” agency board member and Councilman Hal Cole said during a break. He serves on a parking garage subcommittee with Lovell.

The city initially agreed to providing three free hours of parking, which Heavenly Village Managing Partner Jerry Herra said is in writing on the lease through TransSierra Investments. Phone calls to TSI owner Gary Casteel went unreturned Tuesday.

John Upton, agency board member and councilman, referred to the $10 million cinema as a critical element for getting locals on board the pedestrian friendly village. And residents have expressed their eagerness over having more movie options in town.

A Reno-based transportation consultant providing rate assistance made no appearance at the meeting. But in its report, Fehr & Peers analysts surmised that three free hours of parking for cinema patrons would reduce revenues by approximately 8 percent. With “most cinema patrons expected to arrive by foot from nearby hotels,” the loss was considered small.

“Those that drive are likely to be local residents that are more price sensitive than tourists and would avoid using the garage if they were charged for its use,” the report reads.

For now, the city agency board adopted the first recommendation submitted by the consultant, which was hired Oct. 19 for up to $17,500 to come up with solid ideas to keep the city in the black. The agency has a legal mandate to bring in a third party to make these suggestions when the city experiences a revenue shortfall.

With monthly revenues sometimes falling about half the amount needed to make ends meet, the task of keeping the garage out of default has turned out to be challenging. The agency is also required by law to pay its bond debt with revenue generated through parking fees.

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

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