DAVIS (CBS13) — Time may be running out for free parking in Downtown Davis. For the first time ever, city leaders are considering installing parking meters.

An empty parking space is often a rare sight in Downtown Davis. When CBS13 timed it Tuesday afternoon, it took only 45 seconds for a vacant space to be filled.

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One customer came from the Bay Area to shop at the Avid Reader Bookstore but says she might not have stopped if a parking space had not opened up.

“I decided I’d circle the block, and if there was a parking place I’d park, and if there wasn’t, I wouldn’t park,” said the shopper.

Downtown parking is currently free for two hours, but now city leaders are considering a plan to install nearly 700 parking meters, hoping to create a greater turnover of spaces.

Many local merchants fear the meters will drive customers away.

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“This isn’t going to make it better, but make it worse by adding the hassle of meters and the fear of tickets,” said Dan Urazandi, owner of Bizarro World.

Under the new proposal, parking meters will be enforced seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. They will cost between $.50 and $1 per hour, depending on the time of day, with a five-hour limit.

A city study said paid parking will increase parking capacity, encourage downtown employees to use off-street garages, and allow customers to park up to five hours instead of just two.

Business owners are not buying it, and some have posted protest signs in their storefront windows. Petitions are also being circulated to stop the paid parking proposal.

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The city council will take up this issue again later this month. If approved, the meters could be installed by late summer.