Some basic geometry came in handy this week for parking concerns on St. Armands Circle: the rectangle does not fit in the circle.
Sarasota's Parking Services was ordered to back off its enforcement of parking violations in St. Armands of cars parked slightly outside of rectangle parking boxes on the circle. Anything from two wheels to a corner of a bumper can be seen everyday sticking out of these boxes on the circle everyday.
Now, the spaces will become standard parallel parking, but during the transition the dead space between the spaces will still be there.
"Box spaces are typically designed for more efficiency and eliminate people just parking erratically and leaving a lot of open spaces. In fairness, that argument can go in both directions," said Parking Manager Mark Lyons. In part, he added, the ordinance is problematic because it doesn't say what has to be parked out of the box.
And the direction St. Armands business took was that the enforcement was erratic, plus they weren't happy with Saturday enforcement and wanted enforcement to end at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. The Saturday and hour enforcement will be discussed at the commission's Nov. 19 meeting.
Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, flashed complaint letters to the commissioners Monday showing how many tourists weren't happy with the parking situation.
"Thanksgiving and the holidays are just three short weeks away, and season is right around the corner," she said. "We need help and we need to fix this problem now."
Parking has always been tight in St. Armands, as there are only two public lots, no garages and during major events like trick or treating and the Superboat Grand Prix, cars park in the grass median from Bird Key all the way into St. Armands.
"We only have 975 parking spaces total on the circle," Corrigan said. "And our master plan shows that we are 1,200 parking spaces short of what we should have for our retail square footage footprint."
The three-hour time limits in the residential areas also meant that employees at shops couldn't find longterm parking and would have to move their cars in another block to avoid being ticketed, Corrigan said, because you can't re-park in a spot on the same contiguous block.
Time restrictions were removed on about 60 spaces on South Boulevard of the Presidents, Lyons said, and spaces were reworked from parallel to angled parking.
Over last 90 days, 10 percent of all parking tickets in the city were issued in St. Armands, according to figures provided by Lyons. In October alone, 230 parking tickets were issued in St. Armands out of 2,018 parking tickets in the city. That's up from 131 in the circle in September and 1,561 in the city.
Most tickets in St. Armands are issued for parking outside the designated area and over the time limit, Lyons said.
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo was concerned with how the city is budgeted for averaging about 2,200 tickets per month just so the city won't lose money managing parking. That annual targeted figure is 26,767 parking tickets issued.
"This is scary stuff," Caragiulo said. "There's certain a regulatory attitude with parking right now, and I can't say it's Draconian, but these are pretty scary numbers to get to."
Commissioner Terry Turner said the city created its own mess because of downtown merchants saying that the city needed uniform hours and enforcement and was concerned that Main Street would find this change unfair.
"It is not the intention of this commission to generate revenue for parking," Turner said. So it's either restrict the enforcement area and time or go without enforcement, Turner said.
"We're not here to generate revenue by writing tickets," he said.
A parking study is upcoming in January and completed by the summer on what a zoned enforcement program could do and to address revenue shortfalls now that the meters are gone, Lyons said.
Related Sarasota Parking Coverage:
- Merchants to Wear Grocery Bags in Protest March
- VIDEO: Bag-Headed Merchants Protest Meters
- Public On Parking Meters: Find A Different Kind
- Commission Votes To End Paid Parking
- Free Parking Transition Continues in City
- Parking Enforcement Returns
- Committee Tasked With Creating Answers To Parking Issues
- Put A Bullet Through A Parking Meter For Charity?
- City Proposes Changes To Parking Fines