Frenzied feeding of meters

GLENDALE — Jon Field didn’t like waiting in line to feed the new meter, Carmen Nix feared that non-English-speaking residents wouldn’t understand the new provisions against free parking, and Emily Caballero was concerned that older drivers wouldn’t understand the computerized pay stations unveiled along Brand Boulevard this week.

Such was the tenor of several rankled drivers this week after the meters debuted, essentially ending the era of free parking on one of the city’s main streets.

The City Council approved the metered parking plan for Brand and select lots in October, after merchants along the busy corridor complained that their employees take advantage of the free on-street parking, blocking valuable storefront spots from potential customers.

All existing on-street parking rates have been increased from 60 cents to $1 an hour, while surface parking lots downtown increased to 75 cents an hour.

At the same time, monthly parking garage passes for downtown employees were reduced from $45 to $30, and the first 90 minutes in city garages is free.

The plan also includes an increase for hourly rates at the Exchange and Marketplace parking structures by 50 cents — up to a $6 daily maximum — but the council left the current $1.50 rate intact at the Orange Street garage, where officials said they have already seen an increase in the number of cars.

Hours of parking meter enforcement have also been extended from 6 to 10 p.m. seven days a week along Brand, though all other downtown streets will remain free on Sundays. Of the 10 city-owned surface lots, all but two will remain free on Sundays.

The 37 stations for 50 parking spaces on North Brand accept cash or credit cards and are monitored by computerized pay stations in which drivers input their parking space number.

Officials have said the new meters will significantly increase turnover on Brand while providing a boon for local shops.

But some drivers and business owners wondered if the installation of meters is a ruse by the city to increase its coffers. Officials have said meters will cost the city $45,000, while the increase in hours and the resulting money from new pay stations on Brand could generate as much as $750,000.

“It stinks,” Field said. “This will just make it easier for the police to give tickets and for the city to make money.”

As Field spoke, a group of drivers chimed in to voice their discontent with the new pay stations.

“We’re in a recession,” said Caballero, a 57-year-old Toluca Lake resident. “This is not the time for this.”

Inside the Brand Mini Mart at 327 N. Brand Blvd., store owner Angela Karaoglanyan reflected the many of the worries espoused by nearby businesses.

“It’s a headache,” she said. “I don’t see it [increasing customers]. Porto’s is still taking all the parking. But this is here to stay, so we’ll see what we can do.”

Not all were upset about the pay stations along Brand.

Sunland resident Elvira Reardon, 75, said the computerized pay stations were “self-explanatory,” adding that after years of free parking in downtown Glendale, officials are justified in charging drivers as much as other cities do.

“You have to pay for almost everything else,” she said. “Why not this?”

To ease the transition, the city has employed 10 “parking ambassadors” from Parking Concepts Inc., which runs Glendale’s four public garages, to help drivers understand the new pay stations.

“People are surprised, but everybody’s been cool,” said Gil Turdjman, a supervisor for Parking Concepts. “It’s a change.”

As drivers adjust to the new system, police have said they will issue citations for unpaid meters only after handing out a warning. The provisional period is slated to last until Jan. 12, Glendale Police Lt. Carl Povilaitis said.

“We’re looking at having a soft start,” he said. “This is designed to be an educational process first before we start enforcement.”

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