Monday, October 22, 2007

Results From Third Round of Downtown Parking & Transit Meetings

City of Tacoma staff have posted answers for the questions posed by members of the downtown community during the third round of parking and transit meetings with City Manager Eric Anderson, held in August and September. Although attendance at the public forums was considerably reduced from that at the beginning of this year, the questions were much more detailed than in the two previous rounds of meetings.

Anderson plans to submit his final recommendations to members of the Tacoma City Council at their Study Session on October 30th.

A set of recommendations from the Transit & Parking Advisory Committee organized by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber is expected to be released prior to that date; it will update stakeholder recommendations regarding parking and transit issues.

1 comment:

  1. We will look to see the presentation. Hopefully, it will be similar to the Parking Advisory Committee recommendation.

    However, one of the answers from the city (Stadium #13) is disconcerting.

    Here, the city states in response to the question that the off-street parking requirement would only be removed after there was a street car infrastructure is put in which could take years. This answer is contrary to the “best practices” recommend by parking expert Donald Shoup and many of the primary stakeholders on the parking issue.

    Onsite Parking: The Scourge of America's Commercial Districts

    Onsite parking requirements, which have crept into many cities' laws over the past 50 to 70 years, have sucked the potential out of commercial properties on main streets and in downtowns everywhere. Perhaps more than anything else, rules requiring onsite parking -- to be distinguished from "on street" or "offsite" parking -- have created the blighted conditions that characterize many older North American commercial districts and boulevards.

    Tacoma’s current antiquated off-street parking requirement makes the empty lots
    such as by Drakes on Pacific impossible to fill in with an appropriate building so they sit there as a blightful surface level parking lots. We need to set our sights higher. Thus, until this policy changed, downtown Tacoma will continue to be pocked with empty lots.

    Portland, Bellingham, Seattle, San Francisco and Olympia removed their off-street parking years ago to create a pedestrian friendly downtown. Of course, builders will still build parking but will not be forced to large surface level parking lots.

    Tacoma is certainly in no position to make extra requirements on builders not present in most model west coast cities and seriously going to expect there is going to be investment downtown.

    The only other action that needs to occur at the same time is for the city to manage parking to create a 15 percent on-street vacancy.

    One only need to look at 38th Avenue in Tacoma or Federal Way to see the devastation to the urban form that results from the off-street parking requirement.

    The Downtown Housing Task Force consisting of a broad range of representatives through downtown found it to be a barrier to the construction of affordable housing. The off-street parking requirements ends up creating overly expensive, low density housing with bad urban form requiring each and every small building downtown to have a driveway spilling over the sidewalk and a one garage entrance after another facing pedestrians.

    If Tacoma is going to change it’s parking policies, it needs to make sure it is adopting the “best methods” available otherwise, it could cause more harm than good.

    Hopefully, the actual recommendation by the city on October 30th will permit infilling of Tacoma's small commercial lots with appropriately designed buildings.

    For more information, see the letter published in the Business Examiner by planner Andre Stone as to how the off-street parking requirement in Tacoma is thrawting investment in the city:
    If given the choice between building an office building in Tacoma, with its onerous parking requirements, or building in Seattle, with no parking requirements and for millions of dollars less, I think developers would pick Seattle every time.

    (letter hosted by Exit 133)