Parking study committee releases proposed solutions

Residents want merchant ownership of issue

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Ironically, at a time when Downtown and The Landing are struggling to rebrand as a destination for visitors and local residents, the historic districts are looking for solutions to the problems inherent with increases in economic prosperity.

Many other cities’ historic districts have capitalized on their historicity and embraced that “destination” status, but some Riverside and Avondale residents are not at all amused by the actions of mostly late night patrons at neighborhood bars and restaurants.

Residents who live near those retail areas – The Shoppes of Avondale and the Park & King corridor – have been vocal about disruptions to their peaceful streets.
According to Oak Street resident Neil Rushing, who lives in the family home originally built in 1923, “I have seen every change that has taken place in the [Avondale] shopping center and area, but this has been the worst. I am one block behind The Brick. My quiet street is now a parking lot, trash dump and expressway.”

Over in the Park and King retail corridor, Forbes Street resident Colleen Ryan has a slightly different concern about the development in that area.
Ryan’s biggest gripe is the uncivil, sometimes downright rude, behavior that she and her 15-year-old daughter encounter as they walk in the area.

“I didn’t buy in that neighborhood 20 years ago for the bars and restaurants,” Ryan said. “I bought an older, affordable home that needed fixing up, in a peaceful, quiet and stable neighborhood.”

Ongoing discontent finally led to the establishment of a Steering Committee by the City’s Planning Department back in May 2013 to study the issue and come up with resolutions that would allow residents and retailers to live and do business in the same community

• Residents skeptical about solutions

After six months of research and deliberation about the parking issue in those two neighborhoods, the Parking Study Steering Committee revealed its initial recommendations to a group of approximately 50 residents early last month at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.

“Our charge was to balance the interests of residents and merchants,” said committee chair Kay Ehas as she opened the meeting. “The merchants are part of our community; we like to have them here and it’s really important to respect the residents’ quality of life as well. Our goal is that they co-exist as peacefully as possible.”

Martha Moore, a consultant with Ghyabi & Associates, presented a number of solutions aimed at managing the existing parking supply, increasing that supply and managing behavior.
One of the recommendations presented was to put the burden on retailers to educate their customers about parking restrictions and discourage unruly behavior. The residents are skeptical about the effectiveness of that solution.

“Good luck,” said Rushing, in response to behavior modification as a solution. “There is at least two generations out there that only think of themselves: ‘I want to talk loud beside your house and on my phone, pee in the yard, park in the flower bed, up on the sidewalk, across the driveway, throw my sticky gummy bear yogurt cup, Mojo cups, and leftover pizza boxes in your yard because I can.’”

Another committee recommendation was to stripe spaces on the residential streets indicating legal parking spots and thus assisting in enforcement.
Tom and Sue Kenaston, homeowners on Pine Street, are not convinced that this is the best solution.

“This parking solution does nothing to protect the residents of Avondale from the growing traffic and parking problems being created by the Avondale commercial district,” said the Kenastons. “It actually helps to convert our residential streets into commercial parking for the Shoppes by painting defined parking spaces on our streets to encourage customer parking in the residential areas. This is not a livable solution for the parking volume that is about to begin. The impact will overwhelm the neighborhood, both residential and commercial.”
Ryan is not happy, either, about the striping solution in the Park and King commercial district.

“If they stripe the street in front of my house, it will be on the market the next day because striping will promote my street as open to the public,” she said. “We’re zoned residential. Just because it’s zoned mixed-used down the street doesn’t mean the public can park in the residential areas.”

• Two down, more to go

One solution that the residents do support is immediate enforcement of ticketing illegally parked cars. This was expected to begin late last month after personnel shift changes were made in the Office of Public Parking. Along with ticketing comes towing when visitors block driveways. The committee was going to look into contracting with a towing company for that purpose.

The idea of residential parking permits may also be accepted, but only if the permit enforcement time is earlier than the proposed midnight.
Two other recommendations that invoked a “wait-and-see” attitude were a valet service for bars and restaurants and a late-night trolley loop, beginning in 5 Points and extending up through The Shoppes of Avondale.

According to Alicia Grant, of Riverside Avenue, it’s important that the restaurant owners own the problem and work on finding solutions for employee parking away from the residential areas. A shuttle service for employees may or may not solve the problem, especially in Avondale where there are very few non-residential places to park cars.

The committee put forth the possibility of striping Van Wert Street along Boone Park and requiring businesses’ employees to park there, shuttling two to three blocks into The Shoppes of Avondale. There may be deed restrictions that prohibit allowing long-term parking and residents shook heads over that
solution too.

In the Park and King area, CenterState Bank has agreed to allow businesses’ employees to use 30 spaces in its lot Friday through Sunday, as long as the lot is empty and clean come Monday morning. District 14 Councilman Jim Love, and president of the Park & King Merchants Association, has committed the association to paying for a janitor to clean the bank’s lot.

• Residents’ radical solutions

One could tell that the problems and the proposed solutions touched a lot of nerves. Some residents at the meeting offered up radical solutions, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, perhaps not. One attendee suggested that aggressive ticketing and towing would increase revenues to hire more enforcement officers. Parking meters were offered up as a solution. Another wanted to create a gated community north of Talbot to deter public parking on the streets east of St. Johns Avenue. The most radical statement was that of the resident who just “wanted the Shoppes of Avondale to go away.”

The final solutions to be implemented are a start, but may not be the ultimate answer to damping the ire of the residents.
“This is not the end all, be all. We’re going to be working on this forever,” said Love. “Maybe there is new technology that will help. If it doesn’t work, we’ll quit doing it. We’ll find some more things to do.”

According to committee chair Kay Ehas, “Everyone wants to resolve this. It’s just finding the right balance.” She indicated that the committee’s goal as of 2013 year end was to implement enforcement immediately and begin the process – and the funding – to get striping done as soon as possible. Other measures could conceivably be implemented during first quarter.
The committee plans to reconvene in April to assess the success of the recommended solutions based on measurements that include maintaining access for emergency vehicles on residential streets, protecting homeowner access to their driveways, maintaining quality of life in the neighborhoods, managing non-residential demand for parking and encouraging other forms of mobility, including walking, bicycling and using the bus system.

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