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RSVP Sales Surge Past 1,200

City continues to push Resident Shopper Vehicle Permit for free downtown parking, with weekend meter enforcement on the way.

With weekend parking meter enforcement kicking in next week, City Hall is continuing to push its new Resident Shopper Vehicle Permit program with a series of on-site registration dates this week and next. The program's extensive marketing push has paid off so far, as the city has sold more than 1,260 permits, garnering 45 percent of its first-year goal of 2,800 in less than two months.

"We're very pleased, and I think we'll see another bump once families come back from vacation and get settled into school and back into the family routine," said Paula Reynolds, the chair of the Business Advisory Board, which first proposed the program.

The permits, available to any resident of the 94941 zip code, can be purchased through the city's Web site, in person at the Public Safety Building, and at the following times in front of the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce office at 85 Throckmorton Ave.: from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 30; 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 31 and Sept. 2; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 3.

The permits allow any 94941 resident to park at a metered spot at any time for free for the maximum time allowed on the parking meter. The cost of the permit is $30 each for the first two vehicles and $65 each for a third or fourth vehicle permit. Meter rates went up Aug. 1, and weekend meter enforcement starts Sept. 1.

The city is offering the program as a way to stimulate downtown business and make downtown's uphill battle against the free parking-laden shopping malls a fairer fight. In addition to the Web site and on-site registration, the city sent out RSVP brochures to 14,500 94941 postal customers, and will be adding RSVP reminders to every parking meter in town to entice people as they put quarters in the meters.

"That point of sale impact will be important," Reynolds said.

The city must convince residents that the RSVP program was intended to mitigate the hike in meter rates and extended meter enforcement, not the other way around. The rate increase and extended enforcement were needed to fill a gap in the parking enforcement program's budget

"Some people have gotten a little confused about all the changes that the city has made at the same time, in terms of what was the chicken and what was the egg," Reynolds said. "When people understand that the meters were going to change regardless, they get it."

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