Parking rates won’t change |

Parking rates won’t change

Susan Wood

Fearing that changing them again may create confusion, the South Lake Tahoe City Council decided Tuesday to stay put on the rates at the city-run parking garage in Heavenly Village.

Although the garage is failing to generate enough money to meet its monthly bond payment obligations, motorists will continue to 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.

The city had considered changing the rates to make up for its bond expense, despite the garage making enough revenue to pay for operations.

“We need to be consistent. If we save $10,000 but at the same time lose shoppers, we’ve defeated our purpose of getting people to use the structure,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said.

Councilman Hal Cole agreed.

“The problem here is not going to be solved by tweaking the rates,” he said. “It’s just confusing.”

Overall, the council wants business there to help pick up the expense.

The 3-2 vote keeps the rates as is, with Mayor Tom Davis and Councilwoman Judy Brown objecting.

“Our first obligation is to the bond holders,” Davis stressed.

Brown said she’s taking garage operator Standard Parking’s warning to heart. It cautions that at these rates with current traffic patterns, maintenance and operations, the costs may not be paid after May 2005.

“I suggest we go back to our original structure. We can’t afford to lose our good bond rating,” Brown said of the rates that once granted one free half-hour and $1.75 for the second half hour.

She was referring to Standard & Poor’s upgraded bond rating for the South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency, which financed $9 million for the garage. The rating allows for saving $15,000 annually during bond refinancing, and for the agency to insure its investment.

The change in parking rates that doubled the free time became effective June 23, as a gesture to promote the garage to users and goodwill to Tahoe residents who are unaccustomed to paying for parking.

But that goodwill only goes so far when meeting its financial obligations.

The parking garage rates could go up by December when the city’s next bond repayment is due for $306,156. Another one for $381,156 comes up in June 2005.

Redevelopment Manager Gene Palazzo figured the city Parking Authority – operating under the auspices of the City Council – is running below budget to the tune of about $1 million.

Councilman John Upton has heard of motorists pulling out after the free hour only to pull in again and get another. Some have avoided paying for it by clogging the lot across Park Avenue at the Raley’s-anchored Village Center. The practice may have led to a glut of parking citations issued by High Sierra Patrol. There, the city reports 2,006 parking citations for a variety of offenses were written in fiscal year 2003-04. About half of those tickets contested were dismissed.

“That tells me there has to be some kind of education on the enforcement side,” Davis said.

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

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