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City does a U-turn on neighborhood parking fees

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The city of Albuquerque says it has changed a controversial new policy requiring residents to pay $25 for on-street parking permits in certain neighborhoods.

Officials now say the fee will apply only to those using a new online permitting system. Residents can avoid the fee by making an in-person, by-appointment visit to the city’s Parking Enforcement Division office.

The city changed the policy to include a free, in-person permitting option on Friday – the same day the Journal reported on the new fee, which was implemented in June after years of free permitting. Residents in one affected neighborhood had complained it was excessive and instituted with little to no notification.

Even City Council President Pat Davis said he did not know about the new fee until constituents recently began contacting his office. Davis said the council normally learns about new charges during the budget process but he could find no reference to the on-street parking fee in previous budget documents. He said the city should have a clearer, more public process when adding or raising fees.

“I don’t have an issue with us making this available (through a new online service) or charging a small fee, but it doesn’t seem like it was explained very well,” Davis said. “I understand why neighborhoods are frustrated.”

On-street parking permits are required in only certain neighborhoods, like those near high-traffic destinations like Downtown, the University of New Mexico and the state fairgrounds. Neighborhoods opt in to the program.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Municipal Development told the Journal part of the new revenue would pay for an online permitting and payment system the city recently introduced for customer convenience – a system that costs about $2,500 per month. The city had not previously offered the permits online.

DMD spokesman Johnny Chandler said public feedback prompted the city to change the policy and reinstate a free permit option. The city also will offer refunds to those who have already paid the new fee, he said.

Fair West Neighborhood Association President Katherine Turner said she knew nothing of the new fee until the Journal contacted her earlier this week, even though several streets in her area require parking permits. She said eliminating free permits entirely would have devastated some of her neighbors near the fairgrounds whose already-precarious financial situations have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“I know families who live three generations in a house because they can’t afford anything else, and ($25 permit fees) would break them,” she said

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