Riverside council member calls changes to downtown parking-fee hours ‘mistake’ – San Bernardino Sun

As Riverside City Council prepares to relax a new policy that recently raised rates for parking in downtown Riverside, one council member has concluded the governing body of the Inland Empire’s largest city made a “mistake.”

At the same time, the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce is urging members to voice concerns they have about the policy during the Tuesday, July 19, council meeting.

The council is scheduled to discuss the topic during the 6:15 p.m. session Tuesday at the Art Pick Council Chamber, 3900 Main St., Riverside.

“I’ll be straight with you — earlier this year we made a mistake,” Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro wrote on Twitter on Monday, July 18.

The new policy went into effect July 1. The city raised rates for both daily and long-term parking. The city did away with most of a popular practice to not charge for parking on nights and weekends, in shifting to having visitors pay between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, while giving them a break only on Sundays.

Caleb Ragan, Fierro’s field representative, said Fierro supports leaving the city’s new hourly parking rates in place, but wants to return to the former, narrower window of time for enforcing parking charges. Ragan said Fierro wants parking to again be free on both Saturdays and Sundays, and before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. on weekdays.

In his tweets, Fierro said the council made changes a few months ago to fund “long overdue infrastructure upgrades” in city-operated parking garages and avoid subsidizing parking costs with general taxpayer dollars.

“With small businesses still struggling to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and residents feeling a tightened pocketbook due to rising costs, I no longer believe that this was a prudent decision,” he wrote in aTwitter thread, saying he knows well the “gravity of this situation as I own two restaurants downtown that have seriously struggled to make it out of the pandemic.”

Fierro wrote that downtown foot traffic has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, and businesses are struggling with labor shortages.

“I fear that this new parking program will only serve to exacerbate these problems,” he wrote.

Fierro went on to inform followers that the council is scheduled to discuss providing discounted rates for downtown employees and waiving parking fees for special events. “While this is a step in the right direction, we can do more to roll back this program,” he said.

The Riverside chamber emailed members Monday, emphasizing that the business group was engaged in the issue and urging members to testify at the meeting. The chamber wrote that members have said the new regulations have created problems with deliveries, driven up employee costs and discouraged customers from patronizing shops.

According to a meeting agenda report, the council will be asked to consider increasing the discount validation booklets and tokens downtown businesses may purchase, waiving fees for metered parking spaces that are affected by special events, increasing the wage limit for participation in a downtown-employee parking discount program from $18 an hour to $21 an hour, and other changes.

Fierro, mentioning Riverside’s tight finances, tweeted that he believes the city can balance its books “without overburdening our local small businesses, employees and residents.”

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