CLEARWATER — The results of a two-year study by city staff to address parking issues on Clearwater Beach suggests converting 220 street parking spots from free to pay, increasing rates and hours of meter enforcement, and reducing hourly limits.
“We struggle to meet the parking demand on Clearwater Beach, especially during peak season. The solution is more parking opportunities,” said Eric Wilson of the Engineering Department — Parking System during a Tuesday work session of the city council.
If the board gives City Manager Bill Horne its blessing tonight, the changes could take effect after spring break. Horne has the authority to make the final decisions about beach parking rates.
Currently, there are 1,170 metered spaces. The study suggests the 220 free parking spots that dot the island along North Mandalay and Poinsettia avenues; Rockaway, Avalon, Kendall and Fifth streets; Hamden Drive; and Bayway Boulevard be converted to metered spaces. The hourly rate will be $1.25.
Many of the free street spaces are used by workers at restaurants and hotels and by beach residents. Some spots also are used by guests at small motels that have no parking of their own.
Wilson noted that eliminating the free spots will prevent motorists from parking in one place for eight to 16 hours at a time. “We need to turn over parking,” he added.
While the expected revenue gain from the increased rates and additional metered parking spots hasn’t been determined, Wilson inferred that the loss of 65 spaces at city lot 32, at 332 S. Gulfview Blvd., might offset any gains.
Lot 32 is adjacent to a property under construction. Ocean Properties Inc. is building a 15-story hotel at the former site of the Adam’s Mark hotel. The city agreed last November to lease the public parking lot at a total cost of $508,165 for exclusive use by the developer for equipment and materials for the construction. The 15-month lease began Feb. 15.
As part of the study, city staff reached out to islanders including business owners, organizations and residents to gather feedback. Some council members raised concerns about whether the effort was sufficient.
“We need to be honest with ourselves,” Mayor George Cretekos said. “Nobody wants to pay for parking. Nobody’s going to say that parking is convenient for them … and no matter what we charge, somebody is always going to say it’s too expensive.
“The parking studies show that you need turnover. And by having paid lots, you get turnover.”
Horne told the council he was satisfied with the two-year approach taken by his staff, who during that time met with beach businesses and residents to gather ideas and input on the proposed changes.
The plan calls for adding a five-hour limit in the premium parking lots at Pier 60 where an all-day pass currently is allowed at $10 for a week day and $12.50 on weekends and holidays.
According to Wilson, beachgoers who pay for a full day of parking sometimes resell their parking pass or, if they leave early, give it to someone else.
“Even transients have gone into the garbage can to find discarded parking tickets and attempt to resell them,” he said.
Parking rates haven’t increased in more than 10 years, Wilson told the council. In most lots, the city will eliminate the weekday hourly rates and instead use the weekend rates on a daily basis.
For example, hourly rates at the lots at 212 Hamden Drive; 429 and 457 Mandalay Ave.; 6 Avalon St.; 51 Bay Esplanade; 605 Mandalay Ave.; and 1 East Shore Drive will increase to the weekend and holiday charge of $1.25. The weekday rate is $1.
However, “premium” parking lots will see hourly rates double. The Pier 60 lot will increase from $1.50 per hour to $3, while the lot between Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and the Palm Pavilion will go from $1.25 to $2.50.
The study also found the need to provide a parking permit program for small motel owners who currently have no guest parking. If the motel meets certain requirements, the owner can purchase a $200 permit per room per year (55 cents per room per day).
The city currently offers:
• A residential permit parking program, available to owners of rental property along Mandalay Avenue that doesn’t have available parking. The permit costs $75 per year (21 cents per day). Of 350 available permits, only 116 are being used.
• A beach employee parking permit, which costs $40 per month ($1.33 per day), except during March and April when it increases to $60 ($1.94 per day). Of the city’s 80 employee permits, only two have been purchased.
Parking at the Beach Marina also will be impacted. The maximum time allotted per meter will be reduced from one hour to 30 minutes in an effort to discourage beachgoers from using the marina lot. Visitors will be required to buy extended parking passes from marina businesses in increments of one or two hours.
In addition, the marina’s permit parking area will be converted to make 71 metered spaces. The city also plans to resurface the marina lot, make stormwater improvements and add LED lighting to the north section of the lot.
The city council will further discuss the parking study tonight at 6 in its chambers in city hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave. Citizens may speak to any agenda item during the public comment part of the meeting.