Fresno Beehive

Parking downtown? You're going to pay. Here's how to best find (and pay for) a spot

The city operates several parking garage around downtown Fresno.
The city operates several parking garage around downtown Fresno.

Given enough time, discussions on downtown Fresno take a predictable turn.

Someone brings up parking.

It's long been a sticking point between supporters of downtown revitalization, who see paid parking as a reality of urban life in any big city, and detractors who so detest the idea they'll avoid the area altogether.

Even if it means missing out on that super-hip new craft beer place everyone is raving about.

"Stop by and grab a pint on the way home from work?"

“Nah, they have parking meters.”

That's a direct quote from a post on the For the Love of Downtown Facebook page.

Watch and listen as former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin describes the dramatic changes to Fulton Street as seen from drone video. After winning the fight to reopen the mall to traffic, proponents like Swearengin are looking forward to big things

With thousands expected to show up downtown on Saturday for the FreYes Fest and the second Fresno Football Club home game, it should be noted that there is no shortage of available parking downtown (there are 2,000 metered spots and five city-operated garages), even if the restrictions, exceptions and payment options can be confusing and/or inconvenient.

For instance, parking is free after 6 p.m. and on weekends — unless there is an event at Chukchansi Park (Saturday night's soccer game, for instance) or the Convention Center or Saroyan Theatre or Selland Arena. (Or all four. It has happened.) Then, two-hour meters become four-hour meters and everything is enforced until 10 p.m.

Depending on the location, meters run from 30 minutes to 10 hours, at a cost of $1-$1.50 an hour. You'll pay more to park on Fulton Street. Also, the meters are old-school. Read: coin-operated. There are plans to install debit card-reading smart meters down the Fulton corridor, at least, but you'd do well to keep loose change on hand for now.

You can buy a prepaid "smartcard."

The cards are available on the fourth floor of City Hall and can be reloaded with additional time (back at City Hall). Eventually, you'll be able to do that online, the city says.

Forty hours of parking costs $30 (plus a $3 activation fee). It's kind of a deal.

For $150, you can get a monthly meter occupancy permit, which hangs on the car mirror and allows parking at any meter, regardless of posted time limits. It's a good option for those who work or otherwise regularly frequent downtown.

Those planning to spend any real amount of time downtown will want to forgo the meters altogether and just find a parking garage, says Mark Standriff, the city's director of communications and public affairs.

The garages at Tulare and Fulton, Van Ness and Inyo and Tulare and Van Ness are $1 an hour, with a $9 maximum. The first hour is free.

"It's actually more expensive to use street meters," Standriff says.

Parking options
The city operates several parking garage around downtown Fresno.

And believe it or not, there are also non-metered spots in downtown, if you are OK with a short walk to you destination. See: sections of the Cultural Arts District and the new Brewery District. Some of the spots have no time restrictions. Others will be limited to two or four hours. So, look for signage.

Saturday downtown

FresYes Fest: 1-11 p.m., Tioga Sequoia Brewing Company, 745 Fulton St.

Fresno FC: vs. LA Galaxy II, 7 p.m., Chukchansi Park

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee