By Sarah Campbell, SRCC President
Last March, City Council adopted a resolution (#20110310-024) directing the City Manager to work with all groups—specifically naming the Bouldin Creek and SRCC neighborhood associations and locally owned businesses—affected by inadequate and overflow parking associated with the success of the “nationally known retail district” that is South Congress. The City’s Transportation Department put together an “advisory group” comprised of neighborhood representatives and S. Congress business and property owners, which first met on August 2nd. We were told we were going to solve the parking problems caused by S. Congress!!
I am participating from SRCC, along with Mary Lovell, who actually lives on S. Congress at East Gibson, and Matt Lynaugh, who lives on Academy between two very popular commercial establishments within one-half block of S. Congress.
The Advisory Group’s meetings have been facilitated by the City’s new Community Engagement Consultant, Larry Schooler. Mr. Schooler has kept us on track with his excellent skills and good humor such that by the end of the third meeting on September 26th, the group was able to come to a very high degree of agreement on the following list of twenty-five ideas. You will notice that many of the ideas are similar, and amount to slightly different takes on the same idea, but we were just listing, not editing. I’ve offered some explanations in brackets where I felt it might be needed or helpful.
1. Paint curbs on the blocks we are discussing: on either side of driveways as well as near corners. [We decided that the Study Area extends from Nellie/Academy on the north to Crockett/Leland on the south and generally 2-3 blocks into the neighborhoods east and west].
2. Step up police enforcement of violators; at least on weekends, first Thursdays and during special events. [People park too close to stop signs, private driveways, fire hydrants, etc.]
3. Install bike racks in certain parking spots (must be in well lit areas and have some sort of post that can prevent autos from accidentally backing in to bikes).
4. The City to build a garage somewhere.
5. Consider effects of proposals on South 1st. [Because South 1st is also becoming a popular retail strip, really putting a squeeze on Bouldin Creek Neighborhood.]
6. Enforcement of site plans (parking requirements, trash cans, etc). [The City approves site plan promises but does not enforce them. The most egregious example of what can happen is Doc’s: the owners were allowed to meet parking requirements by leasing spaces from School for the Deaf with valet service. The gate to these remote spaces is always closed and locked; the spaces are not used by Doc’s; Doc’s has a tiny sign near the street informing those wanting valet parking to inquire inside (and where do they park while they do so?), but they do not have valets on the street waiting to help customers. AND Doc’s has just been allowed to add enclosed space for more customers!]
7. Better CapMetro service between downtown and South Congress.
8. Enforcement of current 2-hour limits.
9. Signage “Be Nice to Your Neighbors”. [An idea to raise the awareness of visitors to S. Congress that they are entering neighborhoods when they park on side streets.]
10. Expand Transportation Dept Study to include South 1st St.
11. Consider underutilization of parking in RPP [Residential Parking Permit Program allows residents to petition for restrictions on on-street parking for residents only] and re-evaluate.
13. Remote parking via shuttles for employees.
14. Church on West Gibson street as parking.
15. Allow employee passes in RPP areas.
16. Waive moratorium on Rob’s (owner of ‘o4 Condos) parking garage addition.
17. Remote parking via shuttles for patrons.
18. Create evening shuttle for weekend nights and first Thursdays from One Texas Center, shopping centers.
19. On all streets in Study but Congress, have resident-only parking on one side of the street, 24/7.
20. 50% limit on RPP coverage.
21. Have 2-hour parking limits in affected RPP areas (“the Berkeley Model”).
22. More flexible hours with RPP (something other than 24/7). For example, 5 pm to 2 am.
23. Set up a transportation work force or committee.
24. Electric vehicles for hire, like downtown.
25. Parking meters on South Congress and even into some neighborhoods.
The number of ideas and their permutations demonstrates that there is no one big easy fix for the S. Congress parking problems. A true fix will have to be a delicately balanced number of initiatives, instituted in just the right proportions, which will likely take some trial and error. So don’t be surprised to see some short-term changes that might occur on and near the Avenue in the near future. We will keep you posted.