Parking in downtown Napa

The Napa City Council agrees with the Napa County Grand Jury that parking supplies in downtown are adequate overall, except for a few locations. The city will consider beefing up parking enforcement.

J.L. Sousa, Register file photo

Napa will modernize its parking enforcement equipment and look into a ban on evading time limits on downtown vehicle spaces, officials announced in response to a county grand jury report calling on the city to garner more money from its downtown parking.

Over the next year, the city parking enforcement division will replace obsolete camera equipment it uses to detect parking violations, and the City Council will weigh a possible ban on “re-parking” cars from space to space to avoid caps of two to three hours on busy streets.

The changes would be part of a streamlining that also includes hiring a parking manager to oversee all aspects of vehicle management in Napa’s core.

Police Chief Steve Potter and Community Development Director Rick Tooker announced the upcoming changes last week in Napa’s official reply to county grand jurors, which the City Council endorsed Tuesday.

Published in June, the grand jury’s 14-page statement suggested Napa was missing out on revenue because of understaffing and old equipment in its two-person parking enforcement team. Authors also advised the city to make more efficient use of its vehicle spaces on streets, surface lots and garages, and to head off what they called a mounting shortage in the Oxbow district east of downtown.

The city’s response made no immediate promise of additional staff to catch parking scofflaws, saying such decisions will lie with the new parking manager. However, it did support discussion of a re-parking ordinance that would ban those moving their cars from a city block from parking on the same block for at least four hours – a step supporters say would turn over scarce curbside slots more quickly.

Although the grand jury had warned that lax enforcement is encouraging business owners and workers to “beat the system” and overstay two- and three-hour parking limits, Napa replied that too little information exists to measure the extent of the problem.

Napa’s response letter agreed with the grand jury’s verdict that overall parking supplies are sufficient, although marked by underused space in some garages.

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But the city disagreed that the Oxbow area as a whole suffers from a scarcity of space, saying that pockets of high demand are concentrated on curbsides along First, McKinstry, Vernon and Water streets.

Although build-outs of vacant properties like the Napa County corporation yard on Water Street and land owned by the Wine Train could drive more traffic into the Oxbow, city officials said such projects all will be required to accommodate vehicles on the premises.

Only developments inside a special downtown district are exempt from on-site parking requirements; builders within that zone instead pay into the city’s fund for a future multistory garage near Pearl Street, estimated to cost at least $12 million.

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Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.