Belmont to consider downtown parking fix 

At lunchtime on a Friday, parking spaces along Ralston Avenue and El Camino Real in the heart of Belmont can be hard to come by, especially around hot spots like Safeway and Starbucks.

And with expansion planned for the Firehouse Square, Village Center and Belmont Station areas, Community Development Director Carlos de Melo said more parking is going to be needed to accommodate the influx of residents and visitors.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council will set a calendar for addressing their project list for fiscal year 2007/2008. Creating a master plan for a parking district in downtown districts is at the top of that list of priorities, as the city prepares itself for new development.

A parking district would generate money for improvements and parking structures through the collection of parking fees or fees paid by developers who do not want to create the required number of parking spaces in their projects.

San Mateo similarly charges developers $9,000 per space, and that money is used for improvements in the parking district — including new structures.

De Melo said parking downtown does not generate much revenue for Belmont because there are few metered spaces. Most on-street parking is free, with two- or four-hour time limits.

"This parking study is going to look at potential solutions to create the parking necessary for when we want to have the redevelopment," de Melo said.

With the scarcity of flat, open space in the downtown area, de Melo said underground parking areas or elevated parking lots will be considered, although lots would not likely go any higher than three stories.

But some residents doubt that new parking spaces will be possible, given the cost of underground construction and the stigma of elevated lots.

"I don’t want them down here," said Belmont resident Allan Carlomagno. "They’re ugly."

De Melo said lots of some sort will be necessary in the three development districts, although it will have to be decided if one centralized lot or separate areas in each district will be best.

"The type of development that comes in our door is going to dictate how much parking we’re going to need," de Melo said.

The City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at One Twin Pines Lane.

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