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The consolidation of surface parking lots into one structure enables better uses for the existing surface lots, including housing. 

There are several surface lots downtown currently used for parking. Most of the lots have been identified for potential future projects, primarily housing. The purposed new Downtown Library Mixed-use Project will include parking to serve the mixed uses for the building itself, as well as proposed parking to replace the surface parking lots that will be replaced with downtown development projects. Because of the high cost of land in Santa Cruz, the cost to include required parking within each housing development is a major deterrent to the development of affordable housing. The ability to provide off-site parking for downtown residents in a central garage will encourage more affordable housing. 

Shared Parking Model

In the Downtown, public parking is provided by the City of Santa Cruz through the Downtown parking district. The District was formed in 1956 to provide shared parking for Downtown users: customers, employees, owners, and residents. The District operates on a shared parking concept. A great example of the shared model is how a single parking space downtown can be used by someone going to a breakfast restaurant in the morning, a second person coming downtown for a doctors appointment in the afternoon, a third person coming to shop in the evening, and fourth person going to a music venue in the evening. By not having each of these different businesses provide their own parking, the single parking space in the shared supply can be much more efficiently utilized - and valuable land downtown can be used for higher and better uses than car storage. 

Because of this shared parking model, the parking requirements in the District are less than other areas within the City because each space serves multiples trips to multiple businessesThe graphic below shows the reduced number of parking spaces required in a shared parking model versus an unshared model where each business needs to provide their own parking.

Shared Parking

Parking Supply and Demand

In Downtown Santa Cruz, we currently have a total supply of 2,950 public parking spaces. Of these, 815 are on street parking spaces and 2,135 are off-street spaces in lots and garages. With this existing supply, the demand for existing uses downtown regularly exceeds the available supply. This results in folks circling as they look for parking. 

Demand for parking comes from people who live, work, shop, and visit downtown. Supporting downtown residents, businesses, cultural institutions, and vibrancy means providing an appropriate number of parking spaces while also promoting alternatives to the automobile (learn more about the City's GoSantaCruz TDM Program).

In looking to maintain a healthy, vibrant downtown we must look to what our future needs will be, plan for those needs, and execute policy and changes based on shared vision and goals. In the coming years, the city expects new development to occur downtown. Much of this new development will be adding badly needed new housing units to help address the housing crisis. Other uses will be new and expanded businesses, retail uses, and restaurants. These new uses will increase the demand for parking downtown. 

At the same time, many existing surface lots will go away to provide the land needed for redevelopment to occur. With this projected development, the City stands to lose between 260-370 existing surface parking spaces.


2019 Parking Rates

Staff has developed a Parking Rates Strategy that balances user fees and phases out deficiency fees to support the goals of the Parking District. The parking rates strategy was developed to address three main downtown parking issues:

  1.  Eliminating the business parking subsidy known as the Parking Deficiency Fee so that parking users pay for the parking they are consuming;
  2. adding regular, predictable, annual TDM funding to enhance current TDM efforts; and
  3. funding a new parking replacement and supply project (replace 341 surface parking spaces, add 259 net new parking spaces to help serve anticipated new demand). 

The proposed Parking Rates Strategy approaches a modest new parking rate structure in the following ways:

  1. sunsets the deficiency fee;
  2. brings the cost of a monthly parking permit in line with that of a monthly transit pass;
  3. incrementally raises on- and off-street hourly parking fees to reflect the true cost of parking; and
  4. establishes an annual, reliable funding source to expand TDM programs and projects.

Parking rates at the meters, lots, and parking garages will be  incrementally increase over two years, with the first increase in January of 2019 & then again in January of 2020. As seen below, rates will be increased between 25¢ - 50¢ per hour. 

The monthly parking permit rates will be increased incrementally over the next 5 years with a $6-$10 increase in the monthly rate each year.

Summary of Parking Rate Increases:

Parking Rates

Sunset schedule for Parking Deficiency Fees:

As of January 1, 2019, this will reduce to $340 per space per year

As of January 1, 2020, this will reduce to $255 per space per year

As of January 1, 2021, this will reduce to $170 per space per year

As of January 1, 2022, this will reduce to $85 per space per year

As of January 1, 2023, the Deficiency Fee will be eliminated. 

Questions? Contact the City Parking Office (831) 420-6100

Learn more about the future of downtown parking from City Transportation Planner, Claire Fliesler, in this Santa Cruz County Business Council episode of Clear the Fog.