SEASIDE - True to his word, resident Doug Wiese kissed the top of the head of City Councilor Stubby Lyons, who had marked the spot with a large "X" of black tape Friday.
A jocular Wiese had pledged earlier that he would pucker up if Lyons and fellow councilors could somehow find a way to pay for a shuttle bus this summer without instituting parking fees. Wiese serves on the transportation committee of the Seaside Downtown Development Association, which had pushed for a shuttle to offset the dire shortage of downtown parking space during the peak of summer tourist season.
Councilors had scheduled the special session Friday with the potential to act on a recommendation of City Manager Mark Winstanley. He had met with Cindy Howe of the Sunset Empire Transportation District to discuss solutions.
Winstanley and Howe agreed that if the city paid the district $15,000, district officials would try as soon as possible to establish a shuttle to circulate between the downtown core and the parking lots of the high school and middle school. As planned, the shuttle will begin circulating this week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Labor Day Weekend.
Councilors described the effort as a temporary solution to a long-term problem.
Winstanley proposed to draw funds from a combination of sources in the 2002-03 budget: $5,000 from the advertising and visitor's bureau fund, $2,000 from annual contracted services in the general fund, $2,000 from the office budget, and $6,000 from the street fund derived from state gasoline tax revenues.
"These are areas where you can (reduce funds) without a significant impact," Winstanley said. Contracted services usually total approximately $32,000 a year, for example, but had been budgeted at $35,000.
He also stressed that the funding plan was a "one-shot deal" to fund a shuttle this summer.
Councilors voted 5-1 in favor of the plan.
Councilor Don Larson opposed the strategy, saying he did not support the reduction of any dollars targeted for street repairs or paving. He and Councilor Diana Schafer reiterated opinions that a modest parking fee would be a reasonable approach to fund the shuttle.
But a majority of councilors had voiced reluctance to impose parking fees. The city also had already advertised free parking.
Wiese laughingly fulfilled his jest to Lyons at the end of the meeting, but during the discussion said he was tempted to rescind the gesture - because "the plan you're talking about now is doomed to fail."
The transportation committee had recommended imposing a $2 to $5 fee at the public parking lot near the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. Wiese said the fee would serve as an incentive for local residents and downtown residents to use the free remote school parking lots and shuttle, increasing the availability of the closer spaces for tourists willing to pay.
With a fee in place "we're going to effect a parking habit change," Wiese said. Without a fee, downtown employees will continue to park in the lot and displace tourists, he said.
"The parking fee is an important part of a management plan," he added. "It's the only thing that's going to work."
Residents often avoid downtown in the summer because there is no place to park, committee member Gary Diebolt said.
Councilors agreed that in any event, posted two-hour parking limits along Broadway should be strictly enforced by police. Violators can and should be ticketed more than once if needed, Winstanley said.
"We should be looking at Planning Commission guidance as well as yours" for long-term solutions such as the city leasing other parking lots, Councilor Don Johnson said. But Winstanley's recommendation would allow everyone involved to at least begin to track the effectiveness of shuttle use for one summer, he said.
Mark Exinger, another transportation committee member, urged city officials to publicize and encourage use of the incoming shuttle as much as possible to free up space downtown.
Use of the city's streetcar bus, which circulates to the Factory Outlet Center, also should be encouraged, councilors said.
After next summer, the Trendwest Resorts complex under construction is expected to open 180 public parking spaces in its five-level garage. But the city will still have a parking shortage, as it did before the project, transportation committee members said.
The committee will continue to work with the city staff and planning commissioners on long-term parking solutions, said Dolna Mespelt, administrative assistant for the downtown development association.
"The main thrust in the past year has been to bring to your attention the parking need," and as that attention is evident, she said, "I do want to thank you."