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Downtown Parking Settled, For Now

Time limits on one parking lot drop while parking on a portion of Main Street increases.

There are a lot of issues with parking in downtown Watsonville.

A few were sorted out during the Watsonville City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

Seems simple enough, but the topic mushroomed into discussion about downtown safety, private parking lots and the future needs of the community.

Ninety minutes and three failed motions into the debate, the five city councilors at the meeting were able to find middle ground and decided to reduce time limit in Lot 14 from two hours to 90 minutes to promote rotation of vehicles. They also increased the parking time allowed on the west side of Main Street from an hour to 90 minutes to benefit nearby restaurants.

It wasn’t just disagreement that caused the council so much heartache on the way to their decisions. Council members Emilio Martinez and Oscar Rios were absent Tuesday, making it harder to reach the required “prevailing vote” of four "yays."

“This isn’t going to get settled at this particular time, it seems,” Mayor Daniel Dodge said when the third of four motions fell flat.

The city council was prepared to table the parking lot issue and request more studies by city staff, until City Councilor Lowell Hurst urged his fellow elected officials to compromise.

“I do believe, as a community, the parking isn't adequate,” City Councilor Nancy Bilicich said. “We don't have enough parking for the businesses we have now.”

The city operates a chain of free parking lots throughout downtown, as well as two parking garages. One, part of the Civic Plaza, is free for two hours of $5 for a day. But the $10 million structure is under-utilized.

"I don't want to park in the parking garage in the evening,” said , an instructor at the Adult School that fronts Lot 14 and is less than a block from the parking garage.

He owns downtown property and is buying $36K in parking permits annually while people park for free on his lots. "I can't take it anymore"

Businessman Bill Henson says people are parking his adjacent lot instead of city lots. Henson said he owns downtown property and is buying $36,000 in parking permits for his tenants annually while downtown visitors park for free on his lots.

"I can't take it anymore,” he said.

Henson and Katie Mahan, of the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, both asked for a comprehensive parking plan from the city.

"Postpone this decision until you have more information about that," Mahan said.

The city council will revisit parking issues, including how to make the parking garages feel safer, in the future.

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