For the first time since 2008, City Council decided Tuesday to allow free holiday parking in downtown Manhattan Beach for an entire month, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26.
With a 4-1 vote with Mayor Pro Tem David Lesser casting the dissenting vote, the majority of the council agreed that the extension from last year’s two-week period would make a great gift to the community in light of the centennial year.
Councilmember Nick Tell, who pushed the motion to add two more weeks to the original request in the staff report, said now is the time to restore the long-standing tradition.
“We eliminated it during our tough times,” Tell said, alluding to 2009 and 2010 when council voted against free public parking in downtown due to financial constraints. “Now that we have better economic straits, I think this would be a nice gift to the community.”
The city incurs an estimated $44,000 revenue loss for each week of bagging meters in downtown—a total of $176,000 revenue loss for an entire month.
The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Manhattan Beach Downtown Business Association brought the issue before council, asking that all on-street and off-street parking meters in downtown—with the exception of the lots on 26th Street and in El Porto—be bagged for at least two weeks during the holidays, as it would provide a positive incentive to promote shopping in the area.
Councilmember Amy Howorth expressed her support for extending the two-week period, noting that the city would benefit from the increase of sales in downtown businesses.
“Our businesses need the help and they need to incentivize people to shop local,” Howorth said. “I think anything we can do to encourage more traffic and more people in and out of the stores downtown creates sales tax, which comes back to us as well.”
However, Lesser expressed concern that free parking in downtown would primarily attract residents and lead to a lack of turnover, which in turn would generate less economic activity.
“First of all, this is really a gift to the residents; it’s a way of saying thank you and acknowledging their coming downtown and we want to encourage that,” Lesser explained. “[But] it’s not to be misconstrued as a revenue generator, per se … [Parking meters are] an important revenue stream for the city, and I hesitate giving up a second $88,000.”
In response, Howorth reminded Lesser that the two-hour limit is still enforced when the meters are bagged, to which city manager Dave Carmany spoke on behalf of the police department.
“It’s difficult when the meter is bagged and someone gets a ticket,” Carmany said. “So our goal is to have the parking be priced at zero and be free; it’s a little difficult to have the officers enforce [the time limits], so I don’t want to overpromise that.”