CITY HALL — What started as a relatively minor request for the purchase of parking meters turned into an hour-long debate over their usage at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

What began as a relatively minor request for the purchase of additional meters turned into an hour-long discussion about their usage at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Council pulled the item, which approved the spending of $323,000 on 350 parking meters, from the consent agenda after nearly a dozen residents requested to speak. The consent calendar often passes without any discussion.

The parking meter item included recommended installation in three city locations deemed in high-demand by parking officials: The Broad Stage, Woodlawn Cemetery and Ocean Park Boulevard.

Principal Transportation Engineer Sam Morrissey said that some parts of the streets in these areas are regulated and others are not, causing an imbalance with everyone parking in the unregulated areas.

“If we get the permission to purchase the meters, we’ll follow the process in the past for installing new meters,” he said. “We’ll directly mail and notify businesses and residents on both sides of the streets for any of these locations where we plan to instal meters.”

Morrissey noted that the meters would go in front of businesses, not residences, and that the lack of parking meters are hurting turnover. He suggested that residents may be confusing the meters with a proposed pilot program that would put meters in front of some homes. That pilot program requires council approval and is currently being aimed at the Ocean Park neighborhood, but is unrelated to these meters.

Even though the meters are not slated to go in front of homes, residents pointed out they are coming into residential neighborhoods. They asked city officials on Tuesday to reveal the planned location for all 350 meters.

“To Wilmont (the neighborhood located between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue), it’s also about creeping commercialism into residential neighborhoods,” said resident Taffy Patton. “(Morrissey) said new meters would be located adjacent to commercial and institutional properties. Wilmont is loaded with institutional properties: schools, churches, senior centers … often several on one block.”

Several councilmembers noted that they historically have not approved the exact locations of parking meters.

Until relatively recently, Morrissey said, city officials would “install meters and see what happens” without reaching out to residents, which he said was “not a good practice.”

City officials do adjust time limits and locations based on residential feedback, he said. They recently reprogrammed all of the meters on Main Street after speaking with business owners.

Parking meters help encourage turnover around businesses and are more effective than signs, which require city officials to check streets multiple times.

In this case, Morrissey said, parking meters may be the best option.

“Nobody really ever comes in and asks us to put in a parking meter,” Morrissey said. “But they ask us to fix parking problems.”

Council ultimately decided unanimously to approve the spending, but several councilmembers asked city officials to communicate with residents.

“I don’t recall ever having eight leaders of neighborhood groups across the city come out on parking meters before,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “So we probably do have some communication work to do.”

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