Ten downtown Raleigh business leaders took turns explaining how a new $5 public parking deck fee might hurt them.
They’d gathered around a conference table in City Hall Thursday to make their cases.
Bu Ku wouldn’t be able to offer valet services anymore because it uses public decks, said Sean Degnan, a co-owner of the Davie Street restaurant.
Marbles Kids Museum would no longer be “one of the most affordable, accessible children’s museums in the entire country,” said Sally Edwards, museum president and CEO.
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Employees, often young adults, who drive downtown to work at one of seven Ashley Christensen restaurants will essentially “take a pay cut,” said Derek Ryoti, director of operations for Christensen.
City staff held its first meeting with downtown business leaders as part of an effort to compromise on a parking deck fee that the Raleigh City Council approved in June when it passed its annual budget.
Access to public parking decks in downtown Raleigh is free on nights and weekends. Starting Dec. 31, night and weekend access to the decks will be $5 after 6 p.m.
The council introduced the fee to help pay for maintenance and cleanup efforts at parking decks. Night and weekend visitors have been littering the decks more and more, council and city staff members have said.
But the council agreed at a meeting in July to revisit their decision after several business owners spoke out, saying the fee would discourage potential customers from coming downtown and significantly hurt the businesses’ bottom lines.
Thursday’s meeting was introductory, so city staff didn’t present any alternatives fee plans.
By the end of October, staff hope to propose a new parking deck fee structure that hurts businesses less but also funds improved cleanup efforts, said Tansy Hayward, an assistant city manager.
“When we’re trying to build a best in class (parking) program, to bring the decks up to that level of expectations where it smells nice, it’s clean … it takes a commitment every single night of the week,” said Gordon Dash, the city’s parking administrator.
More than 20 elevators in city parking decks have suffered harsh use, graffiti and vandalism, Dash said earlier this year.
“People coming to (the parking decks for) work on Mondays are just so upset,” he said.
The group of business leaders is asking the city to consider starting the fee at 9 p.m. on nights and weekends rather than 6. They say it would protect restaurants and retail shops while better targeting the crowd that city leaders believes is responsible for parking deck messes.
“How can we say we’re encouraging retail if we’re charging folks to come down to shop?” said David Meeker, co-owner of Busy Bee Cafe, Trophy Brewing and State of Beer.
The city could change the fee or fee hours after a six-month trial period based on parking deck cleanliness and business feedback, Meeker said.
“It may not be the Cadillac of maintenance plans, but it’s something,” he said.
Hayward and Dash said they weren’t sure whether the 9 p.m. fee start time would generate enough revenue to fund sufficient cleanup efforts. City staff hopes to research several options to present to the group when it reconvenes in August, Hayward said.