South Tahoe’s paid parking turns a profit

By Kathryn Reed

Paid parking in South Lake Tahoe is working – based on when it comes to revenues being greater than expenses.

Paid parking in South Lake Tahoe is not working – based on the nine people who spoke Nov. 5.

Paid parking in South Lake Tahoe is evolving and will continue to – based on the direction the council gave staff.

Paid parking has been contentious for the 15-plus years the issue has been discussed here. More than $80,000 has been paid to consultants in that time period to study how best to manage parking. The studies finally stopped and action was taken. Most of the kiosks for paid parking went online in the city after the busy July 4 weekend.

For about two hours the City Council on Tuesday heard about what is working and what isn’t, as well as what the public thinks.

paid parkingMany people just don’t like paid parking no matter how much money is generated. It would be difficult to find anyone in any town – local or visitor – who wants to pay a dime to park their vehicle on a slab of asphalt. So it could be a fact when the people who are against the parking fee say everyone is against paid parking for some reason.

The people who aren’t weighing-in are those who pay for it whether they like it or not. After all, 42,342 people paid to park in South Lake Tahoe in the three-plus months the kiosks have been working. Most were at Lakeview Commons – 20,876; then Lakeside Beach – 16,796; Venice Drive – 3,347; and Paradise – 1,223.

Bellamy Court kiosks have been in for a couple years, with 9,161 transactions during the same time period.

Of the 3,551 tickets issued in fiscal year 2012-13, 1,507 were in the paid parking areas. Other tickets include being in front of a fire hydrant, in a handicapped spot, snow removal or other reasons.

The ticket at the parking kiosk costs offenders $55. If there is no challenge to the ticket, the city pays the Southern California collection agency $3. That dollar amount goes up through the appeals process, so then the city is generating less income.

According to the staff report, the compliance rate at kiosks is 97.5 percent.

The city collected $190,976 off the kiosks in the 12- to 15-week period it was operational and another $211,183 from tickets. After expenses, some being one time, the net revenue for 2012-13 was $180,783.

The city is projecting net revenue of more than $1.37 million in five years beginning with the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.

Still, Lakeside Beach area people have been fired up and angry about the parking and remain so.

Andy Engelhardt of Lakeside told the council, “You have created disgruntled, not delighted customers.”

He keeps saying Lakeside lost money ever since the kiosks went in. But what he doesn’t publicly say is that the fee to access his beach went up and Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel no longer buys beach tickets for its guests. The former Embassy Suites was Lakeside’s best customer in years past. There has also been a change to who is operating the restaurant on the beach and that contract is now being negotiated.

Most of the other beach areas on the South Shore that the city has nothing to do with have paid parking during the summer season – such as U.S. Forest Service beaches, Ski Run and Camp Richardson.

Kings Beach is following South Lake Tahoe’s lead with year-round parking. The North Tahoe Public Utility District voted this fall to charge at Kings Beach State Recreation Area and North Tahoe Regional Park. The park alone has more than $1 million in deferred maintenance.

Councilman Hal Cole in his support of the program said the city needs to create cash to pay for the operation and maintenance of places like Lakeview Commons, as well improvements to other areas like Lakeside.

The council agreed to have the parking program come back after the first of the year to further look at the entire program, whether kiosks would be removed from Paradise Avenue, how to improve Venice Drive – including possibly adding a trail for pedestrians and cyclists and bringing trailer parking back, hours of operation, lighting on kiosks, signage and a season pass.

Already the paid parking on Venice Drive has been suspended until May 1.

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Comments (15)
  1. Andy Engelhardt says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Kae, Chief Uhler made the comment about the significant reduction in people using passes at the beach and he thought it was due to fewer passes. I updated his information after my 3 minutes.
    The fact that one hotel chose not to provide their customers free passes to the beach is not the issue.

    Comparing only hotels and properties which used passes in 2012 to only those same hotels and properties in 2013 showed that the number of people using free passes went down by 54%. This is significant. The only change in that comparison is paid parking.

    This does not support the City’s goal of a recreation/tourist based economy.

    The real harm will come from “disgruntled” tourists who won’t return. That includes those who didn’t want to pay to park as well as those who used passes but came out to find a $55 ticket on their car.

    The other thing which continues to be overlooked is that Lakeside Beach is a private beach which allows public access. The property owners in Lakeside pay 100% of all the taxes, land fees, insurance, maintenance, repairs, garbage clean up, playground and bathroom costs. These property owners hire the life guards and other employees to keep the beach clean and safe. The city has no cost at all.
    It’s the same as when the city will expand their program to put a kiosk in front of your home so you can pay to park where you live.
    I can’t park today at my own property without paying to park

  2. Lisa Huard says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    I live in the Al Tahoe area and on occasion decide to drive my car to the Commons as I have extra visitors and extra “stuff” with me. I have never once minded paying for parking. They kiosks are easy to use. I pay for parking whenever I travel anywhere. I am frustrated with all the money it took to simply put into place an item that will generate funds to provide the maintenance that is needed. Nothing is free folks and if we want things to stay nice and updated, it needs to be paid for. It is far cheaper to keep things maintained rather than trying to find funds to later “fix” things that get dilapidated. Really people, move on!

  3. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Lisa Huard:

    Thank you! I agree 100%.

  4. Bob Fleischer says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    The bald fact is that the City streets, thereby street parking, do NOT belong to the adjacent property owners.
    I may not like paid parking (I do not), but I have to use it now and then…..and that includes the city’s parking garage at Stateline…when I went to Heavenly’s Pass office a couple days ago.
    If we want City services, we locals, and all those tourists that keep this town alive, will have to pay for things. Parking included.

  5. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Nine opposed spoke.

    Not what could be considered overwhelming opposition.

    Glad to hear the program is operating in the black, contrary to many predictions by those opposed. And a 97% compliance rate. Wow!

  6. jw7 says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Paid parking is great for cities and urban areas, but not for mountain recreation areas. I guess this program makes us a lot more like a city… :(

    South Lake Tahoe has an identity issue it needs to deal with.
    Nickel and dime the guest to death is not a good long term plan for a tourist based economy.

    Invite and provide the proper infrastructure, not restrictions, limitations, and more fees.

    Poor planning.

  7. dryclean says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    If the program is working why is city council revisiting it and wants it changed? All changes that they asked be looked at would diminish revenue. Cole even asked what it would cost to abandon the kiosks. I think more than 9 people have gotten into city council ears and the voters, yes the voters, don’t want paid parking.

    It was obvious that the majority of council did not give the program a thumbs up. Not one indicated they could support it as is other than Angela Swanson.

  8. mrs.t says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    If my math is correct, expenses were $221,376 — if it weren’t for the tickets (and ticket revenue was higher than kiosk revenue) then the parking program would have LOST $30,400.

  9. Louis says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Funny, 9 people opposed the parking meters. I didn’t hear (or personally know) anyone supporting them, aside from a few comments above.

    But what a dozen people show up to say plastic bags are destroying this town and they get their way?

    Sounds like all we need is just a few more people complaining, maybe mention they will vote these people out and we can fix just about anything we don’t like with the city.

  10. dumbfounded says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Income equals cost roughly, with a small loss. However, the actual profits came from tickets. What happens when no one gets tickets anymore because they (reluctantly) cooperate? At the reported rate of compliance being near 97%, there is only 3% available for “growth”. The logical prediction will be a continuted loss and zero profits. In business, we consider that a failure.

    In my reading of this article, I would not refer to the City’s parking program as being profitable, I would call their ticketing profitable.

  11. sunriser2 says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    $1,37 million over five years? Lets be sure to spend it five or ten times and still not fill any potholes.

  12. reza says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    Dumbfounded, well said! Wish someone had said that at the presentation.

  13. Biggerpicture says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    I would guess that a certain percentage of the prospective revenue most municipalities expect to receive from paid parking is ticket revenue. And to think that 100% compliance of paid parking will happen is unrealistic.

  14. Steve says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    A city’s priorities are certainly misguided when one of its goals, particularly as a tourist destination, is to write as many tickets as possible.

  15. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: November 6, 2013

    the thing that you folks are missing is

    1..they want to lower the number of visitors and the number of residents

    2..that’s been on the agenda since the start of Redevelopment

    3..even before then, remember 1985 the Rancho’s was supposed to be the bedroom community of South Lake Tahoe

    I have paid 2 times to park on Venice to go fishing in the river

    it seems strange to me that the City would put garbage bags over the parking signs and take out the Kiosk

    just like Heavenly put’s garbage bags over the No Parking signs around the Main Lodge for over flow parking days