In order to maintain and expand services, the Ventura Harbor Port District has decided to implement paid parking and begin the use of a water taxi until early September.

Harbormaster Scott Miller said the revenue generated from parking fees and taxi fares will go toward maintaining lifeguard services for $20,000 — a service the city hasn’t funded since 2009 — paying for the water taxi and re-striping Spinnaker Road. He said the water taxi will cost $34,000 and the re-striping will cost the district approximately $18,000 — the city of Ventura covering the additional $18,000 for the total cost of the re-striping. The district will spend $27,000 for operating and staffing the parking program. The total for maintaining and expanding services is $99,000.

However, Port District General Manager Oscar Peña, said that the fares and parking fees are estimated to generate approximately $74,000, which includes $7,000 from the taxi, $12,000 from Harbor Cove and $55,000 from the village.

This leaves an approximate $25,000 gap between investment and revenue for the port.

“We’re investing in a program to see how it works,” said Pena. “Hopefully, it can pay for itself in the future.”

During weekends and holidays, parking in the Village is free for the first two hours, then $2/hour (or part of an hour) thereafter to a maximum of $6/day. Parking in the Cove is free for the first 90 minutes, and then the same fees will apply.

The Port District has created more than 140 free parking spaces by re-striping Spinnaker Road. The road now has one 12-foot traffic lane going in each direction, with 6-foot bike lanes and 8-foot parking lanes.

With free all-day parking on Spinnaker Road, many employees feel it makes Spinnaker a dangerous street and takes customers farther away from harbor businesses.

“Nobody I have talked to around here likes this,” said Nick DeFrancisis, 18, an employee at Harbor Wind and Kite Co. “They all feel it will stop people from wanting to come. It will cause accidents on the street.”

Tuesday King, manager of Harbor Hatter, has no doubt that paid parking will negatively affect business, but fears more for the safety of her employees. During the weekends, employees will have to park on Spinnaker Road or in the designated off-site parking at Ventura Isle Marina adjacent to the self-service boatyard.

“Nobody down here had any say,” said King. “The harbor doesn’t give anybody any say. They just do whatever.”

But Pena believes that creating more parking spaces by re-striping Spinnaker and implementing paid parking will not deter harbor visitors. But full parking lots and lack of additional parking turns potential customers away.

“We have to create an opportunity to create revenue,” said Pena. “I know it’s difficult to get excited about paying for parking. But lots of studies about paid parking programs show that it creates more opportunities for people to park and that creates increased revenue.”

To encourage less traffic, the District will be introducing a water taxi. The taxi will be able to take visitors to four destinations within the harbor: Ventura Harbor Village, Ventura Harbor Public Launch Ramp, Harbortown Point Timeshare Resort and Marina Park Dock. The taxi will be able to hold as many as 18 people, speculated Miller. It will operate June 26 through Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. The fee will be $2 per trip.   

shane@vcreporter.com