In a nod to downtown merchants who revolted this summer against rate hikes for street meters, Mayor Javier Gonazles, along with two city councilors, on Wednesday introduced a proposal to provide two hours of free parking inside Santa Fe's public garages.

The proposed change could cost the city about $297,000 of annual revenue, according to an analysis by Noel Correia, parking division director.

Two hours of free parking, followed by $3 an hour until maxing out at $12, would apply to the city's garages at Sandoval Street, the Railyard and the convention center, as well as the public lot off Water Street. The resolution also calls for free parking on Saturdays from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

The resolution comes from a task force composed of concerned citizens, merchants and city officials, according to city spokesman Matt Ross. Local business owners this summer railed against a $1 increase to hourly fees for on-street parking.

Before the resolution hit the council floor Wendesday night, potential revenue losses triggered concern from its two co-sponsors, Councilors Signe Lindell and Renee Villareal, according to emails obtained by SFR.

As late as Nov. 30, city officials were still mulling an alternate fee structure: The first hour of parking would be free, the second would cost $1, and subsequent hours would cost $3.

"300k is too much for parking to eat as an enterprise fund. Either of you

two want to arm wrestle this!!!" Villareal wrote to the mayor and Lindell.
"Let's discuss again. People will feel better with 2. Ladies!" Gonzales replied.

"Of course they will but I don't think it is the fiscally responsible move. 300 is a lot even if Convention kicks some in," Lindell wrote back. She eventually came around to Wednesday's resolution after an analysis showed that the revenue difference amounted to about $25,000. "I thought it would be more … Thanks for all the work on this. We are all ready for this to go away!"

The resolution will make its way through the committee process before a council vote next year.

Before reading the resolution at the biweekly city council meeting, Mayor Gonzales introduced his parking plan on Twitter: