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Council Accepts New Residential Parking Permit Program

In order to make the program self-sustaining, a minimum of 1,500 residences must participate.

The San Rafael City Council unanimously voted to try a new residential permit program to help residents who have trouble finding parking in their neighborhoods.

The program will allow for on-street parking without a time restriction within a specific neighborhood, or parking district, and would limit other cars to two or four hours during peak times. In order to make the program self-sustaining, a minimum of 1,500 residences must participate. A start-up fee of $150 and then $85 per year would cover the cost of the program, according to the staff report.

To participate, residents in a specific parking district will have to distribute, collect and submit a city-created and approved petition that represents at least 67 percent of those within that parking permit district. Neighborhoods that were targeted in the report due to limited parking availability were Montecito, Gerstle Park and Latham Street.

Although all the council members accepted the report, many questioned if this program would solve problems in under-parked neighborhoods. Councilwoman Barbara Heller said that she received many emails against the program from neighbors who said the people with several vehicles per household were more problematic than non-residents parking on their streets.

"I think [the report] could use some tweaking," she said.

Parking enforcement is currently focused on downtown San Rafael, and the council debated whether a permit program would solve the problem for limited parking in the surrounding neighborhoods or just move the problem to another area.

In neighborhoods like Gerstle Park and Montecito, both located near a shopping area, employees from nearby businesses often park in the residential areas to avoid paying fees. "I'm a bum and I would walk an extra mile to avoid paying a dollar," said Hugo Landecker, member of the Gerstle Park Neighborhood Association.

San Rafael resident Kristen Haviland lives in a house near Latham and F streets. She moved to San Rafael from San Franicisco and said she has more problems finding parking now than she did when she lived in the city.

"If I park in front of my home, I have to move every two hours or get ticketed," she said.

Palo Alto launched a similar permit program in a neighborhood with 900 residents clustered in a 0.3-square-mile area. Stanford University funded the start-up costs, but first-year revenues were lower than the city estimated. So the permit went from $15 to $40 per year.  In Marin County, Mill Valley and Sausalito both have parking permit programs, according to Michael Iswalt, a senior engineer at San Francisco-based consulting firm Arup.

Despite the concerns, the council accepted the report, saying that it was more important to start a program and make changes if any issues arise then have nothing in place at all.

"This is not an ordinance," City Manager Nancy Mackle said. "It's not in stone, so I think we have a lot of flexibility."

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