On July 15, paid parking to begin for 80 Ben Franklin Drive parking spaces on Lido Key and at Centennial Park Boat Ramp

Sarasota City Commission approved changes earlier this year

This aerial map shows a portion of Benjamin Franklin Drive near Lido Key Beach. Image from Google Maps

“Following extensive public engagement,” the City of Sarasota has announced, new public parking policies will take effect on Monday, July 15, “to increase turnover and efficiency of City of Sarasota public parking spaces.”

In early March, the city commissioners approved a multitude of changes, mostly on split votes.

The following are the new policies, a city news release points out:

  • Benjamin Franklin Drive on Lido Key Paid parking will be implemented for 80 premium spaces,” a city news release points out, at the rate of $1 per hour. That change is expected to generate $374,400 per year for the city, staff has told the city commissioners.

Parking Division General Manager Broxton Harvey reported to the board in early March that city staff had received a lot of complaints about people essentially camping overnight in their vehicles parked along Ben Franklin Drive.

“The 368 public parking spaces at the Lido Beach Pavilion surface lot will remain free,” the news release notes.

  • Centennial Park Boat Ramp — Fees will be $5 for a single vehicle parked all day and $10 for a vehicle with a trailer that remains in place all day.

During the March 4 City Commission meeting discussions about the proposed parking changes, Harvey said data showed that approximately 70% of the vehicles that park at the boat ramp are used for commercial purposes.

This is a view of the boat ramps at Centennial Park. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The staff proposal to impose fees at the boat ramp was among the issues that generated the most debate on March 4. Initially, Commissioner Kyle Battie voted against it. Then, following the board’s lunch break, he told his colleagues that he had spoken both with Harvey and city Planning Director Steve Cover. They had explained, Battie continued, that Sarasota is one of the few municipalities, if not the only one, that does not charge persons to use boat ramps. Moreover, Battie said, many of those who park at the boat ramp come from outside the city.

Battie made a new motion to charge the fees, as proposed. Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Erik Arroyo voted “No,” so the motion passed 3-2.

  • Electric vehicle charging — A fee of $1 per hour will charged for the use of electric vehicle charging stations in public parking spaces citywide.

City staff told the commissioners that that change is expected to bring in $30,400 on an annual basis.

During the March 4 board discussion on that proposal, Mayor Liz Alpert said she believes that the person using the electricity should pay for it. “There’s no reason for the taxpayers [to do so],” she added.

Vice Mayor Ahearn-Koch pointed out that, originally, allowing free use of the stations was viewed as an incentive for people to “spend money downtown” while their vehicles were charging. Yet, she added, city research had shown that the free service had not proven to be an incentive after all. Moreover, she said, charging stations are more common in the area these days.

During a presentation as part of a commission workshop in early January, city Parking Division General Manager Harvey reported that, through outreach to the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association and the Downtown Improvement District, plus surveys undertaken through the Downtown Sarasota Enrichment Association, staff had received “[o]nly one or two negative comments” about ending the free use of the charging stations.

  • Garage parking — The complimentary parking period at the State Street, Palm Avenue, and Second Street garages will be reduced from two hours to one hour. The parking fee for the second hour will be $2, and the expense for each hour after the second will be $1, the news release pointed out. “The daily maximum will remain $23,” the release said.
  • Credit card only — Metered parking spaces citywide will accept only credit cards or payments via the ParkMobile app. Commissioner Debbie Trice had requested that the latter stipulation be included, as the goal was to eliminate drivers’ use of cash.
This is the Palm Avenue parking garage. File photo

The city news release also points out, “During the initial week of implementation, citations will not be issued. Instead, written warnings will be provided to inform drivers about the changes. Parking ambassadors also will be on site to educate and offer assistance,” the release adds.

“We’re a growing city and our parking program needs to reflect best practices around the country that encourage parking space turnover without deterring visitors who want to experience all that Sarasota has to offer,” Parking Manager Harvey explained in the release. “The new policies are going into effect following considerable community outreach, discussion, listening to stakeholders and approval by the City Commission. These changes strike a needed balance for our community,” he said in the release,

In August 2023, the release explains, the Parking Division staff began discussing the recommended changes with the public. “Over eight months, staff hosted a special parking information community meeting” and presented details to stakeholders, the release adds. Then staff discussed the proposals during three City Commission meetings before the policies were adopted, the release says.

More information about public parking policies, programs and initiatives in the city is available at www.Sarasotafl.gov/Parking.

Questions about public parking should be directed to Parkinginfo@sarasotaFL.gov.

Leave a Comment