In light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout, Birmingham City Commissioners approved extending free parking in the city's five parking structures from September 1 through December 31, 2020, and charging a one-time fee for permit holders of $100 to keep their permits, at their meeting on Monday, August 24.
Assistant city manager Tiffany Gunter said the ad hoc parking committee had met and reviewed the current parking situation in the city. On street parking, charges for which began again July 1, is averaging 70 percent occupancy.
“In the parking garages, which remain free, we have not seen the same return to occupancy,” Gunter said, with ranges from the Chester garage at about 10 percent to the Pierce structure at about 40 percent. The Park Street, Peabody and N. Old Woodward each average about 30 percent occupancy.
“We don't know how long people are staying,” she noted. “We had about 85 percent occupancy last year on average. We thought we would have returned to some sort of normalcy by September 1, which we now know is not happening.”
She reported that the fiscal impact for free monthly permits is $224,000 per month; there are 3,800 monthly permits in the system, spread out between the five parking garages. The city has not charged for monthly passes since April 1.
“The impact to the parking fund reserve, to date, is a total $1,445,580. The parking fund balance, as of June 2020, totaled $20,383,867,” Gunter reported.
Gunter said the ad hoc parking committee suggested a one-time fee of $100, payable by November 30, in order to recoup approximately one month of parking revenue, as well as to cull the pass holders who no longer intend to use a structure.
Most commissioners were in support, as well as to leaving the structures free for shoppers and diners.
“I just feel for those who are using it, they should pay for it,” commissioner Clinton Baller said. “I don't see why we don't charge for the decks. I don't understand why we're continuing to support the permits, those who are hoarding it. A hundred dollars. I don't even think about it. It's nothing.”
“This affects the transient parkers, the merchants, anyone who comes into Birmingham,” said commissioner Stuart Sherman. “Yes, it is an asset that generally earns money. A hundred dollars – I think a business with a few hundred permits will think about it. I think this is a good option.”
“I think we're in the same situation we were in May, and we should continue, because we don't know how long it will last,” said commissioner Brad Host.
“When we help all the restaurants to continue, it's their cost. With this, it's our cost,” said Baller. “It's a lot of money out of our pocket. I'm not going to support the motion.”
Commissioners voted, 6-1, with Baller voting against, to approve keeping the structures free and monthly pass holders to pay $100.