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Extended paid parking hours eyed to revitalize downtown Victoria

City staff have been asked to look into the implications of extending pay parking both on the street and in parkades.
A parking kiosk on Douglas Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria council has asked city staff to look into the implications of extending pay parking to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both on the street and in parkades.

Pay parking is now in effect Monday to Saturday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the parkades and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily on the street.

The proceeds would be re-invested in the downtown core for beautification, maintenance, cultural opportunities, new public parks and amenities.

Council previously endorsed a staff proposal to increase parking rates and extending the hours for paid on-street and parkade parking to 7 p.m. from 6 p.m., in a bid to limit this year’s property tax increase to no more than the rate of inflation, or 6.9 per cent. The measures are expected to generate more than $1.9 million in additional parking revenue.

Coun. Matt Dell, who brought forward the latest motion, said the goal is to help revitalize the downtown.

“We’re the capital city of the province and the downtown should reflect the responsibility that goes with being a capital city,” he said. “Unfortunately, over the last number of years, our downtown has struggled. It needs some love and investment from this council.

“We need to make a major investment in our downtown. We need to invest in beautification, curb appeal, events and activities, public amenities, infrastructure, and vibrancy.”

Dell said an improved downtown is a stronger draw than free parking. “What gets people downtown? Do they come down for the free parking or do they come down for an amazing cultural experience that our downtown offers?”

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said if it was up to him, there would be no free parking ever. “I think the reality is that it’s time to reduce the subsidies that we offer to parking. The polluter must pay, the user must pay,” he said. “I think this is a good step in the right direction. This would mean 12 hours of pay parking and 12 hours of subsidized parking.”

More than 60 per cent of the city’s revenue comes from ­taxation, while user fees account for 19 per cent and parking fees and fines make up about seven per cent.

The parking initiative was one of five motions council passed Monday to be considered for the 2023 budget.

Council also directed its staff to determine the impact of creating a $150,000 grant to activate the Victoria Music Strategy, of a pilot project to provide storage for people sheltering around the city, and of providing $110,000 annually to the Greater Victoria Community Social Planning Council to support the Greater Victoria Rent Bank.

Staff were also asked to look into the allocations provided to the city’s reserve funds — the Parking Reserve Fund, the Development Stabilization Reserve and the Debt Reduction Reserve — with the goal of lowering the tax lift in 2023.

The city’s $300-million draft budget calls for a 6.9 per cent tax hike for 2023, which would translate into a $251 increase in property taxes for an average household and a $646 increase for a typical business in the city just to maintain the current level of service.

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