This is the first in my series of of posts on the proceedings of City Commissions I’m involved in. I’d love to discuss with you!
I attended the Parking Policy Review Board monthly meeting at 10am yesterday at City Hall.
Here’s what we discussed:
Public Works is collaborating with the Crossroads Community Association to do a street-by-street survey of parking inventory and conditions. This data will help drive policy direction when it is complete.
Staff updated the board on the status of staffing up parking enforcement operations, which transitioned from City control to the Policy Department. Two hires have been made, with other internal transfers in progress. When complete, there will be 13 officers charged strictly with parking enforcement city-wide. Lax enforcement has been a major issue impacting parking policy.
The board considered potential members for its vacant position, which is reserved for someone who doesn’t live, work, or own property downtown. Board members agreed to make recommendations to the Mayor’s office to fill this role. Hit me up if you meet the criteria and you are interested in providing the visitor’s perspective to the board.
We briefly reflected on a presentation the board saw in the previous meeting featuring high-tech parking meters that offered functions like credit card payment, pay-at-the-meter tickets, cameras, and license plate recognition. I thanked staff for helping keep the Board on top of its game by bringing us up to speed on the latest tech, but made the point that we should let the problems dictate the solutions, and not the other way around. Fellow board members made the excellent points that any consideration of implementing this technology should be sensitive to the potential “big brother” impressions, and the impacts of the meters on the aesthetics of the street.
Next, we considered requests from the public to make changes to current parking conditions.
Eastbound 8th Street immediately west of Broadway is wide enough for 2 lanes, but has no turn or through lanes marked. It is signed for no parking. The Board considered several implications of allowing parking here. It seems like a great opportunity to add parking to a street that has excess capacity, and often has people pulling out to turn right onto Broadway without watching for pedestrians. The Board asked staff to contact adjacent stakeholders for any input before finalizing, but I anticipate that we’ll make this change.
We also reviewed a request from the developers of 500 Grand, which will be the home of a new restaurant, for two loading zones to accommodate take-out customers. With other short-term parking in the immediately vicinity, the Board asked staff to prepare a report of current conditions for review, since the restaurant will not be open for several months. The Board also considered the rather dramatic and rapid changes coming to this section of Grand, with the streetcar coming soon and accelerated development on all sides. In making parking changes, the ever-changing nature of the street becomes an important area of focus.
The board then considered language for a scofflaw policy, aimed at curbing problems with repeated illegal parking offenders who do not pay their tickets. The Board officially indicated their intention to adopt a policy, and charged staff with working up the specific language to make the policy a reality.
Finally, and most importantly, the Board heard public comments. A resident of the Crossroads spoke of growing pains in the neighborhood, where inadequate off-street supply for condo buildings is stretched by increasing demands and restrictions on on-street parking. This isn’t a surprise in a neighborhood changing as dramatically as the Crossroads. However, there are opportunities to make this easier that we’re not leveraging.
Chief among them: off-street parking. The city recently built a $30M+ garage with 1000 spaces for the Performing Arts Center. They can lease spaces, which would be a great option for the residents in the immediate vicinity that are calling for solid parking options, but the terms of the agreement lock out the lessees on nights when the PAC is sold-out. I strongly argued that blocking a long-term parking customer from a garage only on nights when the parking capacity in the neighborhood is the most stretched is completely untenable, and pressed staff to find a solution to allow this garage to work harder for the neighborhood. I was promised a report at the following meeting, and will continue to press.
Beyond the Arts District Garage, there are garages throughout downtown that need to be working harder for the neighborhood. When lots and garages fall to single use, they sit empty for half of the day, killing density and shutting out convenient alternatives. We can do better.
Additionally, we learned that loading zones were being signed without oversight or review from the Board, and committed to getting a handle on this problem. The Parking Policy Review Board exists largely as a mechanism to fight parking changes in a vacuum, and neighbors don’t deserve to be surprised when these special use changes appear on their streets.
After providing next steps to review these issues, the Board adjourned. See you next month.
Key take-away: how to we use publicly-funded garages to ease the demand on on-street parking facilities and better free it to serve shorter-term users, all while giving options to residents? How can we get private lot owners to allow flex-use policies that will maximize utilization of their lots? How do we get the most out of the City’s investment in parking, while getting the most value from our street parking inventory?