Parking Study – Recommendations

There are a variety of methods to effectively manage and accommodate parking needs for residents, businesses, and visitors. While the study found a surplus of parking, changing business uses and future development may impact parking demand downtown. Should this occur, the City is proactively looking at strategies to manage parking now and into the future.

Policy Strategies

Parking Requirements for New Development or Redevelopment

Proposals for new development and intensification of commercial use in downtown have faced challenges in meeting the City’s downtown parking requirements on-site, sometimes preventing or stalling new commercial activity altogether. Requiring developers to provide all their required parking on-site can lead to an oversupply of parking, contradict the historical development pattern and take up valuable land in the downtown core that could be devoted to higher uses like new retail, restaurants, and public amenities.

The City may consider opportunities to change how parking is required for new development. Instead of meeting a required amount per the municipal code, the City could evaluate the parking requirement for new projects in downtown on a case-by-case basis. This new process would consider how much underutilized public parking is available in proximity to a potential project site and allow new development to utilize some of this supply to meet their parking demand. This approach could help to maximize public parking that may otherwise sit empty, while also allowing new development or redevelopment to devote less land to parking.

Project applicants should also have the opportunity to submit a Transportation Demand Management Plan (TDM) or parking management plan, detailing plans to reduce vehicle trips or plans for how they can accommodate parking demand on- or off-site. This should allow developments to further reduce their parking demand by bringing people or employees to and from the site by other modes of transportation or by using off-site parking.

Eliminating or changing standard parking code requirements would ease the burden for new development or redevelopment to provide all parking on-site. This would help ensure that downtown development is not oversupplied with private surface parking lots that are unavailable for general use. Rather, the downtown can be viewed as one system sharing the same supply. This could also support the City’s goals of becoming less auto dependent and encouraging more biking, walking, and transit use in the downtown.

Reduce Development Impact Fees

If a new business in downtown cannot meet their parking requirement, they can pay a Development Impact Fee (DIF) for the number of parking spaces they lack. This fee is currently $22,523.77 per space. Some new businesses and developments have abandoned their plans  because they are unable to meet parking requirements on-site or pay the parking DIF. City Council has often had to discount the current fee to encourage and support new commercial endeavors. .

In order to support new development or redevelopment in the downtown, the City should consider reducing the existing DIF to make it a more appealing and realistic alternative to providing the parking on-site..

Time Limits

Time limits are an effective method to manage parking and encourage parking space turnover. Time limits help ensure that the most sought-after spaces, such as those on Linden Avenue and Carpinteria Avenue, are more readily available to visitors. These limits also deter longer-term parkers, such as employees and residents, from parking in prime downtown spaces.

Linden and Carpinteria avenues currently have 90-minute parking limits. Lot 1 also has some time-limited parking including 90-minutes and 1-hour spaces. The parking study provides the following recommendations for time-limits in downtown:

  • The existing 90-minute time limits on Linden and Carpinteria avenues appear to be sufficient to accommodate the majority of downtown visitors and should remain. These limits were also effective in deterring long-term parkers (employees and residents).
  • With higher parking demands on Linden Avenue, especially in the core area between Carpinteria Avenue and 8th Street, converting a space or two to 24-minute, short-term, or pickup/drop-off space is recommended. With greater demand for takeout and delivery at restaurants and use of carshare services like Uber and Lyft, providing a short-term space allows these uses to quickly pull-in/out. This would allow for frequent turnover of these spaces while also maximizing the use of 90-minute parking spaces for visitors parking and staying in downtown longer.
  • Lot 1 currently has a mix of 90-minute, 1-hour, and unrestricted (no time-limit) spaces. This currently appears to function well by allowing visitors to utilize the time-limited spaces and providing some longer-term parking for employees.
    • As the downtown continues to grow, the City may consider adjusting the time-limits to make the entire lot 90 minutes. This may help reduce confusion as well as increase turnover and open up more spaces to downtown visitors. However, planning considerations would need to be given to employees utilizing the longer-term spaces.
  • Lot 2 is currently unrestricted and appears to be a prime location for employee parking. This lot should continue to be used for unrestricted long-term parking for employees and customers/visitors.
    • Time-limits in this lot could be considered in the future as downtown continues to grow and change. However, plans for downtown employee parking would need to be made to accommodate long-term parkers.
  • Lot 3, as well as any new lots that may be constructed in the future, are farthest from the downtown core and are therefore reasonable locations for long-term users, such as beach-goers, Amtrak riders, or employees.
    • Time-limits could also be considered for this lot in the future if demand exceeds available supply. If time-limits are implemented, a permit program could be established for long-term parkers to use this lot (e.g. employees, Amtrak riders, etc.), if California Coastal Commission or local coastal plan restrictions allow.

Additional Parking Opportunities

The City may have the opportunity to increase the downtown parking supply through public-private partnerships or constructing new parking spaces.

Public-Private Partnerships

Public-private partnerships would involve the City entering a partnership with private property owners that have underutilized, available parking in downtown. There are numerous benefits to public-private partnerships, including maximizing available parking spaces in downtown. The City would likely need to compensate the property owner, but that cost would likely be lower than constructing and maintaining new parking spaces, even on City-owned property.

Building  New Parking

The City may consider building additional public parking  on downtown City-owned land. This would provide additional off-street facilities and help accommodate potential future development. However, using existing parking supplies, such as private lots, is typically more cost-effective than building new parking.

The City could also consider angled parking on some of the main commercial corridors or side streets to increase on-street capacity. Further study would be needed to determine the feasibility.

Parking Management

Adequate parking capacity means more than adding striped, asphalt spaces. Implementation of transportation and parking management strategies can help to ensure adequate parking availability. In some cases, these strategies are crucial, even when the quantity of spaces is found to be adequate. This may include assigning specific user groups to specific lots, developing valet programs, as well as encouraging or planning for the use of non-driving modes to, from, and around the downtown.

Valet Parking

Valet parking could be used in busy areas of downtown, such as Linden Avenue. This would improve customer service to downtown visitors and reduce the time people spend finding a space. Valets could use underutilized public facilities or lease unused space in private facilities to park valet vehicles.

Residential Parking Permits

The City is now considering new projects that could increase parking demand in Downtown Carpinteria, including the Surfliner Inn project and a project to redevelop the 700 block of Linden Avenue. If increased parking demand causes visitors to park on the residential streets in downtown, the City may consider implementing residential parking permits or time-limited parking on these streets, or a combination of both. Continual monitoring of downtown parking demand would be needed as well as feedback from neighborhood residents to determine specific locations or viability of this option.  Additionally, California Coastal Commission requirements could preclude this option.

Employee Parking

Employees typically need longer-term parking. Currently, with lower utilization in downtown as a whole, employees parking in residential areas is likely to not conflict with visitor or residential parking needs. However, this should be monitored over time as development in downtown expands and parking demands increase.

As demand increases, the City may work with businesses to develop employee parking plans by designating appropriate areas for employees to park and mitigating their impact on prime customer and visitor parking.

An employee parking plan may include assigning employees to park in specific lots, such as Lot 3 on the periphery of downtown, or using spaces leased through a public-private partnership to accommodate employee parking. Assigning employee parking may also assist in preventing employees from parking on residential streets as downtown parking demand grows. This may be done in conjunction with a residential permit parking plan.

The City may also require downtown projects to submit an employee parking plan and provide resources to businesses on appropriate areas for their employees to park.

Transportation and Mobility Options

Providing facilities that support pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access to downtown is another effective method to reduce or accommodate parking demand by providing alternative ways to access downtown that fit with the City’s broader transportation and quality of life goals.

Increased transportation options may include:

  • Protected bike lanes on Linden Avenue
  • New mobility options in downtown, such as dockless bikes or scooters
  • Opportunities to increase transit service to/from downtown
  • Designated pickup/drop-off spaces for rideshares such as Uber and Lyft


Some of the on-street parking on Linden Avenue could be designated as parklets to provide additional public spaces on Linden Avenue. This typically involves converting an on-street space into a public space that may include public seating, dining space, and bike parking.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the City has allowed temporary parklets for some businesses on Linden Avenue. Since then, there has been interest in making these permanent.

Given that Linden Avenue and Carpinteria Avenue are relatively long streets for walking, one or more parklets could be used to create a more comfortable pedestrian experience, allowing pedestrians a place to rest and relax.

Parklets also increase foot traffic around nearby businesses, have a traffic-calming effect on the street, provide an enhanced pedestrian experience, and increase the sense of place and community. Parklets that are designed with bike parking may help encourage residents and visitors to bike to/from downtown.

With the existing surplus of parking, the conversion of a few spaces on Linden Avenue to parklets should have an imperceptible impact. Over time, as parking demand increases in downtown, the parking management strategies recommended as part of this study should aid in continuing to mitigate in any potential loss of parking due to parklets.

Additionally, it should be noted, that while a parking space can accommodate one vehicle, a parklet can serve several pedestrians, provide additional outdoor seating downtown, and provide additional amenities such as bike parking, public art, and landscaping.

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