Downtown parking fixes weighed 

Tish Busselle was 10 minutes late to lunch with her friend Joy Addison on Friday because she had to circle in downtown San Mateo looking for parking, a common occurrence as the city works to create a more vibrant area.

Addison said she was "floored" by the lines of cars waiting for parking during lunch, but pleased because it means people are coming to the area for lunch.

"It’s great to have a vibrant downtown," Busselle said. "It’s just a challenge to park, but I’ll just remember to give myself more time."

Parking has long been a hot point for residents, visitors and business owners, and the city is working on a plan to bring 1,000 new spaces downtown over the next 50 years to serve the area’s expansion, said Larry Patterson, the city’s director of public works.

In coming years, Patterson said, San Mateo wants to create up to 450 new spaces downtown, at a cost of up to $20 million. Those parking spaces will likely be located around three spots; the existing tennis court garage, at Fifth and Railroad avenues and North B Street.

The plan for new parking — and ways to fund it — has been in the works since January 2003, when the Long Range Parking Committee recommended it to the City Council in a study session.

That plan calls for the identification of downtown funding sources — primarily businesses and parking — to pay for it. After the item is discussed by the council on Tuesday in a study session, city staff will begin surveying downtown property owners to discuss possibilities.

Right now, parking rates downtown — roughly a penny per minute along most core streets — brings the city $1.6 million annually. There is also an "in lieu" fees of $9,000 per space paid by owners who can’t or won’t produce enough parking for their business.

"This would be a revenue source to provide the money for the capital costs of the new parking structure," Patterson said.

Another frequently mentioned avenue is the formation of a Property and Business Improvement District, which could be created to allow downtown owners to levy their own tax rates to raise funding.

Sam Shank, who leases an office on West Fourth Avenue, said a fee to business owners would be worth the improved parking situation.

"If the downtown can achieve the vision that so many of us have, it’s going to pay dividends time and again," he said.

The City Council’s study session is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Conference Room C, 330 W. 20th Ave.

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