Prioritize People Over Parking Garage

Our world is changing.  Our town is changing.  And we need to make decisions in how our town changes that reflect our many values and societal needs.  These decisions need to take into consideration things like climate change, cost of living, population fluctuations, and community health - as well as our accessible funding for addressing the costly improvements needed to provide physical solutions to these changing needs.

On the table for change is the question of whether building a massive concrete parking structure that would require a 30 year City debt - fits with the values and needs of our community.  

The City wants to build this parking garage, as part of its mixed-use project.  To pay for the debt building the garage would create, the City has initiated an increase in rates of paid parking throughout the City for currently existing meters and garages.  The City's parking study (explained below) shows that we do not need more than we already have, but instead should optimize parking management - like helping people find the parking that is already available.  

Instead of building a parking garage that experts say we don't need, let’s allocate that parking revenue to things we need:

  • Construction of affordable housing - with the City's first regular annual revenue dedicated to this purpose
  • Supplement Measure S Funds for Downtown Library Renovation
  • Making improvements to a permanent location of Lot 4 for the Farmers Market and community space
  • Continue current transportation benefits program, p. Eg bus passes

The Status Of Downtown Parking

In May, 2016, the City entered a $100,000 contract with Nelson\Nygaard, to produce a strategic plan for parking Downtown. Their report, The Economics of Parking, Santa Cruz Strategic Parking Plan, concluded unequivocally that here was no compelling reason to build new parking. Rather, the report stated, “The most fiscally prudent approach to accommodating additional demand: Modernize parking management and better align parking prices to the cost of building and maintaining the system.”  City staff never presented this report to the City Council.
Economics of Parking.png

Parking demand had declined in 2008 and future demand would remain stable. The City had hoped that this study would support their request for a new 400-space structure and, in spite of some pressure to change and scale down the report.

Parking Graph.png
Parking demand Downtown peaked in 2008 and has declined since then, following national trends in central district parking mainly attributed to ride services (Uber; Lyft).

Patrick Siegman, co-author of the Nelson/Nygaard report said:  


“Currently, downtown has a parking management problem, not a parking supply problem,”

and “Almost 30% of off-street parking in the Downtown remains empty

even at the peak of the peak times.”

Locust/Cedar Garage
Locust_Cedar Garage.png
6:51pm, Sat, June 16, 2018 - Graduation Weekend

And What About The Cost?


“The most fiscally prudent approach to accommodating additional demand: 
Modernize parking management and better align parking prices
to the cost of building and maintaining the system.”  


There are substantial financial risks and especially burden in building a new parking structure. The City plans to finance this through a 30-year bond debt that will be repaid with parking revenue, in spite of the conclusions by three separate consultants that new parking should be built only as a last resort. According to J.R. Parking Associates’ Janis Rhodes, “No agency will make enough on user fees to pay for that space.”  

Should We House People Or Cars?

“The space required to park two cars (including circulation space) is equivalent to the space required for a two-bedroom housing unit.” 
 - Urban Planning Partners, reporting to the Santa Cruz City Planning Commission on January 7, 2021


In an article published in Patch Magazine last year, Rick Longinotti outlined the identifiable community damage of the mixed-use project.  He pointed out that a new six story garage structure – which was initially a 640-space garage with NO affordable housing, then a 400-space structure with a token number of 50 affordable units, currently increased to 95 units - not only deprived the city of many more affordable units but also syphons funds that should be used for building that housing.


"Compare a bond debt estimated at $2.9 million per year with the $3 million the City currently has

in its Affordable Housing Trust Fund and imagine using parking revenue for affordable housing instead. And then the choice is really whether we should house people or cars."

- Rick Longinotti

Have questions about the parking garage component of this initiative?  
Jump to Parking Garage FAQ