The Santa Ana City Council Tuesday night approved rate hikes for parking downtown, with the extra revenue planned for more police officers, signage, and infrastructure improvements.

City staffers say Santa Ana hasn’t increased rates at its parking structures downtown in over 20 years, and that metered parking rates haven’t been hiked in at least 12 years. The approved rates would take parking structure rates from $1 hourly to $1.50, and metered rates would go up from between $0.75 and $1 to per hour to $1.50, according to figures in a staff report.

The city will also be reducing its parking meter fine from $56 to $40, but extend the evening hours of enforcement from 8 pm to 10 pm.

For months, City Manager David Cavazos has been saying increasing parking rates is key to making improvements necessary for maintaining the momentum of the downtown’s renaissance.

Proposed improvements include the hiring of four police officers dedicated to the downtown beat; installation of security cameras; more waste bins; a “downtown clean team” and recycling program; wi-fi and way-finding signage; a downtown circulator; and improvements to various infrastructure, including the parking garages, sidewalks, alleyways and street lights.

The rate hikes won’t take affect until the enhancements are done, which is expected to occur by July 1, 2016, the report states.

Council members approved the rate hike and downtown modernization plan in a 5-1 vote, with Councilwoman Michele Martinez voting no and Mayor Miguel Pulido absent.

Ryan Chase, a major property owner on Fourth Street, said the rate hikes and modernization plan were needed to improve the downtown’s aging infrastructure. He said infrastructure hasn’t been improved since the 1990s because of the stagnant parking rates.

“The results, and the quality of infrastructure downtown speak for themselves,” Chase said.

Nancy Mejia, program coordinator at Latino Health Access (LHA), said her organization opposes the plan because it does not include way-finding signage for the group’s wellness corridor initiative, which encourages residents to use walk and bike downtown. Mejia said that originally city officials assured her there would be such signage.

Mejia said she and others at LHA were “a little traumatized” when she found out that was not the case. “We’re not ready to support this plan in its current form,” she said during the public comment period.

Martinez said she opposed the rate hikes and modernization plan because it doesn’t envision modern transportation modes. She said the plan needed to include zones for ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, needs to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists and provide charging stations for electric vehicles.

Martinez also bemoaned the city’s inability to rise to its full potential and blamed that on a lack of vision from past administrations.

“When I look at the city of Santa Ana and where it’s at we could be so much further, but because of a lack of vision and doing things, excuse my language, half-assed, we have not been able to move to the next page,” Martinez said. “When we continue to just push the car the char the car, we’re not changing that culture.”

Also during the public comment period, local artist Victor Payan talked about a video he had uploaded on Youtube that shows a parking attendant issuing a parking citation to a car parked in a metered space even while the meter was still green.

Cavazos said the parking enforcer was a little too committed to his job, and acknowledged that it was important for enforcers not to be “overzealous” in their duties.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

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