Sebastopol parking fees to rise 50%
The cost of a parking ticket for overstaying your timed parking at the public park lot at Main Street and Barnett is about to go up.
At the April 19 city council meeting, council members voted to raise parking fines in town by roughly 50%.
The change came in response to a report by Police Chief Kevin Kilgore that the city, which has traditionally had some of the lowest parking ticket fines in the county, was actually losing money on parking tickets.
“After the county and processing fees are deducted, the city was invoiced this past fiscal year for fees and paid $820.42, resulting in a net loss for the city,” Kilgore told the council.
He also noted that the fee schedule for parking tickets hadn’t been updated in 11 years.
Kilgore proposed roughly doubling the fines for parking violations to bring them in line with what other cities are currently charging. In addition, he suggested an automatic cost of living escalator that would raise the fines incrementally each year.
While Mayor Patrick Slayter and Councilmember Sarah Gurney initially endorsed the chief’s proposal, others on the council balked at such a large increase.
“I have to ask myself, at what point are some of these fees so punitive that they really go beyond meeting the need to discourage violations?” asked Councilmember Diana Rich, noting that getting a parking ticket for $425 (the proposed fee for parking in a handicapped zone) “could really cause economic damage to some people.” (She also noted that she is outraged by able-bodied people who do this.)
Councilmember Neysa Hinton agreed. “I think it would be more appropriate to increase it 25% across the board. I mean, we are in the middle of the highest inflation that we've seen, and it's climbing. Now's not the time to double our parking rates across the board and actually make money on it.”
Kilgore acknowledged the council could, of course, increase fees by any amount they wanted, but he also pointed out that people could avoid parking fines simply by obeying the law. “In order to not be subjected to these fines, obey the law and don't park in places you're not supposed to park in, and you won't have to worry about those fines,” he said.
During public comment, Jim Wheaton gave a persuasive back-of-the-napkin estimate about how much money a doubling of fees would generate, something Chief Kilgore had declined to estimate.
“I feel like a doubling of the parking fees is too much,” Wheaton began. “So, the numbers I heard were 300 tickets so far this year. That's 900 tickets a year, but I'm going to round up to 1,000. At $20 minimum for a ticket, that's $20,000 in fines, and we lost $800. So, by doubling everything, they can get $40,000 in fines coming in. Well, that should sure take care of the $800 loss, and it should sure light a fire under people that are abusing our parking regulations. But at that rate, it just seems like a revenue-generating thing to me, regardless of whether it’s in line with other communities. This sounds like revenue generating by writing tickets.”
In the end, the council voted unanimously to raise the fines for parking tickets by 50%, without a yearly cost of living escalator, but with the stipulation that the council review the fine schedule each year. The 50% increase, first suggested by Councilmember Rich, was moved by Councilmember Una Glass, seconded by Councilmember Gurney.
Here’s what the increase looks like for some common parking ticket types.
Category 1: Expired Meter - Currently $20. Increased to $30.
Category 2: Timed Parking - Currently $25. Increased to $40.
Category 3: Loading Zone/Reserved Parking - Currently $30. Increased to $45.
Category 4: Red Zone/Double Parking - Currently $40. Increased to $60.
Category 5: Handicapped Parking - Currently $275. Increased to $350.