DOWNTOWN — Sarah Rodriguez sat in her Chevy Tahoe on North Brand Boulevard, hazard lights blinking, in front of Porto’s Bakery, waiting. And waiting.
Her patience threshold for a coveted street parking stall is usually five minutes. After that, Rodriguez said, she circles around the block to find a spot farther away.
“Sometimes people honk, but I’d say it works, like, 80% of the time,” she said through her driver’s-side window.
But not this time. A few seconds later, she gave up.
Rodriguez is the type of consumer that the City Council tried to accommodate when it decided Tuesday to delay new parking measures until next year. But with the delay came a warning to motorists that stricter times were coming.
The free-for-all parking on North Brand Boulevard has for years vexed business owners who’d like a higher turnover rate and consumers who want to park a few steps, not a block, from their destination.
The current two-hour limit for the free spots is difficult to enforce, police say, because there are no meters. Compounding the problem, business owners Tuesday said employees often shun orders to use city parking garages and park in street spots.
The city’s Transportation and Parking Commission proposed a plan that would install 50 new parking-meter stations on Brand Boulevard and surrounding lots, extend enforcement hours to seven days a week, raise hourly rates to $1 per hour and create 90-minute free parking in city-owned garages to entice more drivers away from the street spots.
The council agreed with the plan, recognizing the need to unclog Brand Boulevard parking and make better use of the city’s garages on Orange Street and Maryland Avenue, one block on either side of the Brand corridor.
“We want people, if they’re driven by price, to seek out spots in the lower-priced garages instead of trolling along Brand,” Councilman Ara Najarian said.
But council members Tuesday said that they would support a new downtown parking plan only after the holiday shopping season, citing fears that any new changes could disrupt shoppers in a down economy.
“Let’s not forget, times are tough,” Councilman Bob Yousefian said.
Under the revised plan, installation of the new parking-meter stations, which will accept cash or credit cards for any number of assigned spaces as opposed to the traditional per-stall coin meter, would be pushed back until after Jan. 1.
City officials said enforcing the two-hour zone along Brand will be easier for police, who will be equipped with mobile computers that communicate remotely with the meter stations, allowing officers to pinpoint which stalls are overdue.
In the meantime, signs warning motorists of the coming changes would be erected.
Downtown business owners praised the plan as long overdue and sorely needed.
“Hallelujah, we’ve been waiting for them forever,” Betty Porto, owner of Porto’s Bakery, told the council.
She cautioned city officials to engage the public with outreach and an organized rollout of the new plan “so the customers don’t feel like we’re steering them away.”
Harry Hall, president of the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn., also sought to brush off any perception that Brand businesses were raining on the corridor’s free-rate party.
“We’re trying to help the consumer, not punish them,” he said.
Public Works officials assured the City Council that the changes would take place block by block as the new machines are installed, and that parking signs indicating the location of city-owned garages would be enhanced.
More concessions for disabled seniors and zero-emission vehicles will also come back for possible inclusion in the new rules.
The council is scheduled to hear the revised plan for final approval in two weeks. City officials said that, given the new time frame, the parking plan probably wouldn’t be fully implemented until spring.