Parking garage foes launch campaign
Friends of the Downtown, the citizens group looking to stop a multi-level parking garage from being constructed at Second and Wall streets, officially kicked off its referendum campaign during the Saturday Farmers’ Market May 28.
The goal of the referendum is to force the City Council either to overturn or put on the ballot for voter approval the resolution it made May 17 to extend the parking meter hours of enforcement to help fund the bond measure to pay for the $15 million to $18 million five-level structure.
A year ago the council voted to double the fees from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour. That increase, along with the extended hours, would raise about $10 million toward the parking structure; the rest would be paid for with Chico Redevelopment Agency (RDA) funds, whose budget currently stands at $36.6 million.
“Everybody is very adamant and we’re getting good reactions, and so far today a lot of signatures,” said the group’s spokesperson, Cheryl King.
“We’re getting lot of signs of support, and we’re very positive,” she said.
She said they’ve sent out 1,600 petitions to a number of addresses in the city asking each recipient to pass the petitions on to four or five friends. Volunteers will also canvass neighborhoods and set up tables in public places to collect signatures.
“We’ve talked with downtown business owners who are saying either they would be willing to see [the location of the structure] moved somewhere else or they are against it altogether. Only a few have been pro-parking structure.”
In a press release the group describes itself as a “coalition of downtown businesses, farmers and community leaders.”
It goes on to say the referendum requires 10 percent of the city’s registered voters (3,865) to sign the petition by June 16.
One member of the Friends of the Downtown suggested that if the referendum is successful and the hours of enforcement are not extended, the city could opt to make up the difference with even more RDA money, which could in turn spark greater public outcry against the structure.
There has been concern expressed by Farmers’ Market vendors and patrons that displacing the market to make way for a parking garage could threaten its viability, even though city staff and proponents of the structure, including the Downtown Chico Business Association, say the market will be accommodated by the new structure.