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Fullerton residents will gain a new, at least 200-space, parking structure in the city’s attraction-heavy downtown area, but it might come at a higher price than previously thought – one that could total about $4 million, according to city officials.
The plan to build the structure, which was voted in 3-2 at the Dec. 5 council meeting, is part of a 26-year-old agreement between the city and a nearby restaurant, Angelo and Vinci’s. The agreement requires that a parking structure be added to the area in order to reopen the Fox Theatre, a historic building that has been closed since 1987.
Although the $6.2 million overall cost of the structure is covered by funds from a now-dissolved agency, the new plan includes maintenance of the surrounding area, which City Planner Matt Foulkes estimates could cost an additional $1 million that the city hasn’t yet budgeted for.
Fullerton spent almost $224,000 for parking structure maintenance during the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to the city’s strategic parking plan.
That’s not the only additional cost the new plan could incur – some council members disagreed on whether to add 100 additional spaces to the parking structure, which Foulkes said could cost another $3 million that would potentially be covered by taking out loans.
“We don’t want to commit money that we don’t have,” Foulkes said in a Dec. 8 interview. “But it’s a balancing act that the city council is going to have to perform.”
The city’s 2017-18 adopted budget puts it at a deficit of about $7 million, with its revenue at about $183.1 million and its expenditures at about $190.9 million. About 26 percent of that is allocated for public works.
Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn, one of the dissenting votes, said that while there’s “no way” around building the structure, he disagrees with parts of the voted-in plan, which includes selling two additional parking lots and potentially developing them into office buildings or apartments.
“The residents just don’t want any more business space. They don’t want anymore residential space,” Sebourn said in a Dec. 12 interview. “I think it’s time that we respect the will of the people.”
Sebourn believes that the city should sell the Triangle and Pomona lots “as-is,” rather than designing construction plans and selling the land to private developers with those requirements attached, which is part of the current plan.
“If we raise the value of the land by entitling it with something like apartments, it does raise the value of the land,” Sebourn said. “But is the use of the land for apartments meeting the desire of the public?”
Foulkes said that those who are concerned about the city’s potential use of bonds and loans to fund the additional costs are “absolutely right,” though he believes the plan voted in is the best option for the city.
“There are a number of other hurdles here, one of them is a big one – how do we finance $3 million?” Foulkes said. “But now we know that’s the path we’re moving forward with … up until this point, there were kind of a lot of options on the table.”
And although any new parking structure would help alleviate parking issues, Foulkes said, the city takes issue with a concentration of people parking in one area – not an overall lack of parking.
“I want to believe (the structure will help), but the truth of the matter is that most people don’t want to walk more than a block,” Foulkes said.
The SOCO Structure, which opened in 2012, is the most recent addition to the city’s downtown parking. Foulkes said that this structure, which sits on the south edge of the downtown area, is more than “half empty most nights,” while the other structures closer to the epicenter of downtown are almost always full.
“A parking structure up by the Fox Block is going to help Angelo and Vinci’s, it’s going to help people that are going to the Starbucks, or to the Fox Theatre, but I don’t know how much it’s going to alleviate parking out of the direct vicinity,” Foulkes said.
Foulkes estimates that carrying out the plan will take three to five years.
Rebeccah Glaser is a student journalist at Chapman University participating in the Voice of OC Youth Media program.