On-street parking in downtown St. Paul won’t be free in the evenings starting next year, under measures approved Wednesday by the City Council.
Council members unanimously agreed to extend metered parking downtown by an additional five hours — from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. — Monday through Saturday, and to let the city traffic engineer set special-event metered rates for areas surrounding Xcel Energy Center and CHS Field.
Starting Jan. 1, it’s expected that meters will be enforced at current rates until 6 p.m. (rather than 5 p.m.) and at $1 an hour until 10 p.m. Event rates will be $3.75 an hour near the Xcel Center and $2.50 an hour near CHS Field.
Mayor Chris Coleman proposed extending downtown metered parking and adding event rates in his budget address last month. The changes will generate additional revenue — an estimated $1.6 million annually — and, officials hope, encourage more long-term parkers to use off-street ramps and lots instead of limited street spaces.
The new parking policy, which is backed by the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, emerged from a study that found at least 7,500 downtown parking spaces go unused even during the busiest weekday times. To steer more cars to those spots, the study recommended raising on-street rates to come closer to off-street prices.
The Public Works Department also is preparing a parking meter pilot project next year for Grand Avenue, a neighborhood commercial district that draws a significant number of on-street parkers.
Despite objections from some merchants, officials in May plan to install parking meters on Grand between Dale Street and Ayd Mill Road. Results will be analyzed later in the year.
In other action Wednesday, the council:
• Unanimously set the city’s maximum property tax levy for 2016 at $105.6 million, a 1.9 percent increase over this year’s levy. That matches the figure recommended by Coleman in his proposed budget.
The council has three months to tweak and adjust the mayor’s budget — and lower the levy, if it chooses — before final approval in December. The levy includes taxes collected for city operations, the library system, debt service and the Port Authority.
• Approved an ordinance to speed up city removal of snow and ice from sidewalks that property owners have repeatedly failed to clear. Residents who have received a complaint about their sidewalks in the previous year will now be subject to immediate abatement and charges by the city, rather than the current 7- to 10-day abatement process.
St. Paul requires property owners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of receiving snow or ice. If someone complains about a sidewalk, the city can inspect and issue an order requiring that it be cleared within two days.