Following a recommendation made by the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Board, City Council voted 5-2 during a May 4 meeting to direct the board and city staff to examine the impact of implementing paid parking at City Park.

City Council asked for the proposal to be examined with free parking for San Marcos residents. It was not decided how residents would prove their residency or how much a resident parking pass would cost, but the park board's recommendation was for the price to be no more than administrative cost of issuing the pass.

Additionally, the board recommended paid parking would only be active from May 1 to Labor Day and for special events. The first 30 minutes of parking would be free, with an hourly variable rate after that.

City Council asked city staff to evaluate how many out-of-town visitors use the parking as part of the research into the proposal in order to evaluate whether it would be worth the city's investment.

The park board also recommended paid parking be implemented at Rio Vista Park, but City Council opted to limit research into the proposal of implementation at City Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Drew Wells told City Council the program had questionable value if it was limited to City Park.

"If we're not willing to extend it beyond the park, I believe you're right," Wells told City Council. "The challenges that we face in determining who's a resident, who's not a resident and just the number of spaces available—and the cost of the technology—is probably not gonna be worth it."

Mayor Jane Hughson, Place 1 Council Member Max Baker, Place 2 Council Member Saul Gonzales, Place 5 Council Member Mark Gleason and Place 6 Council Member Melissa Derrick voted in favor of examining the paid parking program.

"I grew up in South Florida, and you had to have a pass—you had to have a seasonal pass—and you had to pay for it," Derrick said during the meeting. "Getting a free pass to a natural resource if you live within the city limits is actually, by most cities, a good deal."

Place 3 Council Member Alyssa Garza and Place 4 Council Member Shane Scott were the dissenting votes.

"I think it's safe to say that like five bucks or so that people can spend on parking could probably go to buying stuff downtown," Garza said. "The money's going to come back to us anyways usually."

While Gleason voted in favor of looking into a paid parking program, he expressed reservations and doubts of its utility.

"I think City Park is really the only one where we can really maybe try to implement a pilot program, but I'm concerned ... there's gonna be an undue burden, even if we don't charge," Gleason said of residents needing to obtain a parking pass. "I think this is going to be more complicated to implement than what [the parks and recreation board is] thinking, and I think there's some serious unintended consequences, but I'd be willing to look at a pilot program at City Park only because that parking lot is more isolated."