Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Pullman residents voice opinions on downtown parking issues"

It's funny how the elitists talk about "smart growth," "dense urban infill," and "walkable downtowns," then when push comes to shove, no one wants to actually implement it. And why should we? They're just some made-up liberal social engineering concepts. I don't know what the answer to the downtown parking problem is. Geography has conspired against downtown. But I can guarantee you it is not some expensive parking garage boondoggle. Did we learn nothing from the River Park Square fiasco in Spokane? I also don't support a moratorium on development downtown, as that will kill all future development there. Unlike Moscow, Pullman can't "afford to be selective."

You can see amply demonstrated why towns grow outward, where there is ample parking available, rather than inward. Remember, downtown Pullman was originally designed for horses, not cars.

And so much for PARD's concept of a downtown business district. We can't even find enough parking spaces for a few condos, much less a large retail store. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Suggestions range from building parking garage to placing moratorium on downtown development

The Pullman Planning Commission wanted public input, and it got it.

In a meeting Wednesday, the nine-member commission opened the microphone to residents to discuss the issue of downtown parking. More than 50 people packed the chambers at Pullman City Hall to offer their ideas during the nearly three-hour session.

The commission heard a handful of ideas, which included constructing a parking garage on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center property, putting a moratorium on downtown development until a compromise can be reached, creating more handicapped parking spots throughout town and relaxing commercial zone height restrictions so parking garages can be built under residential complexes.

Commission Chairman Stephen Garl admitted the commission has a lot to process before its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 22.

"We've had a lot of input," he said.

Downtown parking is an ongoing issue for city residents. The issue resurfaced earlier this year when a local developer submitted a conditional use permit to construct a 50-unit, mixed-use development at the intersection of Paradise and High streets. The development would have provided one parking spot per unit. City codes do not mandate that parking be provided with any downtown development zoned C2, or central business.

The project was opposed by Pioneer Hill residents, and the developer eventually retracted the permit application.

A consistent suggestion to resolve parking issues included altering codes in the downtown central business district to mandate one parking spot per bedroom be enforced with all new development. The restrictions, echoed by many residents during the meeting, would hold developers accountable for providing parking, would keep on-street parking free for business patrons and alleviate overflow parking from infringing on residential areas on Pioneer Hill.

Pioneer Way resident Bill Gnaedinger said he doesn't want to stifle downtown growth, but requiring one parking spot per bedroom in each dwelling unit is the only realistic solution.

"I think the code needs to be changed," he said.

High Street resident Jim Hill agreed. He said the trend to create a high density downtown is pushing parking into his neighborhood.

"We'll see parking just boom all over the residential areas," he said. "It really translates into a parking problem for all residents."

Mike Yeats, who recently developed Market Square, a multi-use building on the corner of Grand Avenue and Main Street, said he provided parking for residents of the nine loft apartments even though he wasn't required to do so.

Yeats said developers likely would include parking in their projects, but space is limited in the downtown area.

"If they're able to put in parking, they'll do it because it makes (the living spaces) more desirable," he said.

Yeats projects that if parking requirements are mandated with downtown building projects, developers are likely to build elsewhere.

"That's a pretty aggressive swing from no parking to one per bedroom," he said. "I'm in favor of addressing parking, but I don't think we want to make a sweeping change. It will discourage people from developing downtown."

Developer Mike Monahan said parking issues could easily be solved if zoning codes were changed.

He proposed altering the downtown commercial code to allow residential spaces to be built on top of Main Street-level parking structures. For now, the code limits street-level construction to commercial spaces with residential upstairs. Increasing height restrictions - now capped at 60 feet - would create more space in development projects for parking areas.

"It can be done for the betterment of the public for no cost to them," he said.

Commission Vice Chairman Phillip Ronniger said parking in the downtown area shouldn't be looked at as a problem, but should be part of a larger vision for the city.

"The world is pretty systemic. We fix parking ... but what other problems does that cause? I think we need a vision," he said. "Although parking certainly is a part of this, I keep hearing from many of you that parking isn't all of it."

Pullman resident and property owner Richard Domey said he was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the parking issue publicly, but asked the commission to focus on correcting the city code - and quickly.

Domey suggested a moratorium be put on downtown development until the commission finds a solution to the parking issue. He said such a move would prevent developers from taking advantage of the zone that allows them to build without providing parking and would set a timeline for the commission to address the problem.

"The barn door is still open," he said.

Todd Butler, president of the Pullman Pioneer Hill Association, agreed with the moratorium concept.

"It's an insurance policy that the conversations will be productive," he said.

Yeats opposed a moratorium.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "Don't make snap decisions about what is going to shape our community."

The commission decided to shelf the parking issue until its next meeting. City planning staff will take the time to put the public input in print for the commission's deliberation.


April E. Coggins said...

I think the moratorium idea is because of the development at the Baptist Church site, corner of Main and Spring streets. It's on the table right now. It's a bad planning decision to allow dense housing along Pullman's arterials.

Justin Rogers said...

I believe unreasonable parking requirements in downtown Pullman would stop healthy growth. Imagine if parking requirements were in place during the proposed Town Centre and Bridgeway Centre. We would undoubtedly be missing these huge assets, now major contributors to downtown's stability. Although at some cost, projects such as these and River Walk give reason to continue investment in downtown's future. Any additional regulations without very careful thought, will only serve to break down important momentum.