City modifies SmartPark

Eight months after launching a new systematic parking district for downtown, the city of Riverside is again refining its SmartPark program.

Smart Park
City of Riverside

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The program began in September 2006 establishing uniform parking zones across much of downtown (the only exception being the area around the county courthouse, which had a similar system already in place). SmartPark’s primary purpose is to free up spaces used by downtown employees — thereby increasing overall availability for visitors — as well as encourage garage parking. As such, the program is only in effect during normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

Besides the usual complaints over having to pay, much of the initial flak came from the time limits in and around the Mission Inn and adjacent Library. The city quickly addressed these concerns by adding free spaces to the Library as well as increasing time limits from 2 to 4 hours in areas near the Mission Inn. It also added 50 short-term, “convenience” spots (less than 30 minutes) at various locations such as the post office.

The latest revisions include:

  • Increased free-parking in the 4 municipal garages from 90 minutes to 2 hours with validation
  • Increased the number of 4-hour spots in the areas surrounding the Mission Inn
  • Spaces can remain occupied more than 4 hours with continued payment

We’re glad to see the increase of free-parking with validation for up to 2 hours in the city garages. Likewise, we’re happy that both the uniform costs ($1 per hour) and times (M – F, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) have not changed.

Most of the recent changes came at the request of local merchants, some of whom do not see the need for the large-scale parking system:

Downtowne Bookstore co-owner Nadia Lee said the city launched SmartPark prematurely — before a critical mass of new businesses was in place to draw significant numbers of visitors. The program has driven customers away and the proposed improvements won’t bring them back, she said.

“It still feels like a gaping wound,” said Lee, who has organized opposition to SmartPark. “They’re putting little bandages around the edges.”

Riverside Press-Enterprise – May 11, 2007

And though we agree downtown has yet to reach critical mass necessary for a 24/7 parking system, there’s no doubt activity has increased significantly over the past 5+ years. However, with various commercial and residential projects planned, the Fox Theater renovation set to begin and both UCR and RCC performing arts schools in the planning stages, such activity is likely to keep increasing. Thus, we appreciate the program’s notion of encouraging the use of the 4 municipal parking garages (one | two | three | four) particularly as downtown increases in popularity.

Along with the changes are plans to renovate 2 of the city-owned garages, including seismic upgrades, new lighting, new elevators and even revamped facades. Our only fear is that any major renovation will likely see their classic, mid-century facades (one | two) disappear. Thus, we’d encourage the city to keep the current facades intact as much as possible, or at the very least, ensure any new designs for them pay homage to their current mid-century, modern style.



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