Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos is proposing to increase parking rates at metered spaces and city-owned garages downtown, arguing that the city is currently charging below market rates, according to several sources.

Cavazos’ proposal comes as downtown business owners and residents express growing frustration about the parking situation. They aired their complaints Wednesday at a town hall hosted by Councilwoman Michele Martinez at the Frida Cinema and circulated a petition signed by at least 31 business owners or representatives.

Several who attended the town hall meeting complained about rude  enforcers, newly installed digital meters that run out before they should, poor lighting at the garages, and an unfair burden on daytime businesses because the meters stop charging at 8 p.m.

“It’s like downtown Santa Ana is closed for business,” Claudia Arellanes, owner of Mega Furniture on Fourth street, said about the parking enforcers’ affect on potential customers view of the downtown. “They need to be business friendly. That’s [the] number one priority.”

A document obtained by Voice of OC shows the city had been planning to increase rates from $1 per hour to $2 per hour, and from $7 daily to $12. The monthly rate would increase from $40 to $60.

The proposed rates are expected to generate $5.6 million in revenue in the next fiscal year, a $2.6 million increase over the previous year, according to the document.

The document also reveals a number of expenses city leaders are planning for the downtown.

They include: $5.1 million in parking garage improvements; several millions dollars more for marketing; a police substation; additional police officers; security cameras at the garages and around downtown; more wayfinding signage; alleyway improvements; a bike share program and pedestrian safety enhancements, among other costs.

Meanwhile, the petition signed by businesses pays particular attention to wayfinding signs on Fourth street. It essentially says the current signs directs drivers to a parking garage entrance that is blocked at night, and that an “immediate, simple resolution” is needed.

Martinez said she would be meeting with Cavazos about the parking issues on Monday.

Complaints about parking issues are bubbling up because of a spike in the number of downtown visitors, according to the petition and business representatives who attended the town hall.

Downtown Santa Ana has witnessed a food renaissance as new restaurants flood the area. But some longtime Latino residents and businesses view the changes as a gentrification wave that will eventually force them out.

That tension, which has been simmering at different levels of intensity for years, again spilled over at the town hall, with residents debating whether a proposed resolution to create a wellness district in the area amounts to making it exclusively Latino.

The City Council is expected to vote on the wellness district next week.

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