SAN DIEGO - Taxpayers shelled out some of the $185 million to open the new Central Library in downtown San Diego. It is free to get in, but parking will cost you $1.25 every 20 minutes and patrons tell Team 10 that is just too much money.
Graduate student Emily Nichols could not wait for the new 500,000-square foot, state-of-the-art library to open.
"It's beautiful. It's quiet. It's the perfect place to study," said Nichols.
She will not be back that often after realizing just how much parking will cost her.
Parking was free for the first two months. Now, the library offers one hour free for patrons and charges $1.25 every 20 minutes, with a daily maximum of $21.
An afternoon of studying for Nichols cost her $13.50 to park. That is just too much for the grad student and she believes others cannot afford it either.
"As a student, I really want a place to spend hours and I thought I found it down here," she said.
ABM is the company that manages the garage and they told Team 10 they operate it at cost. They are not making any money off of these prices, but the library stands to make nearly $750,000 a year.
Team 10 brought these concerns to Interim Mayor Todd Gloria.
"It feels a bit high, but the rate is set by the market and of course, downtown parking is at a premium," he said.
Gloria also pointed out that the library is centrally located and near trolley stops and urged patrons to take public transportation to the central library.
Team 10 checked and of the 42 parking garages downtown, the library rates are below average. Nichols said this is a library and taxpayers already shelled out millions to get it built.
"For such a great public amenity, it's a shame it's going to be underutilized because of expensive parking," she said.
ABM said when the parking was free while a contract was worked out between the library and the company, the garage was filled with people who lived and worked nearby and library patrons and staff could never get a spot.
Team 10 asked library officials why not offer more than an hour of free parking, offer student or senior discounts for parking or offer discounted parking rates for frequent library users. Team 10 is still waiting on those answers from the library.