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City parking under review

Employees take up 15 to 25 percent parking spots, director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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City staff tossed out the idea of two-hour parking limits in Downtown and Old Town Auburn at Monday’s council meeting. The council also debated whether holiday parking enforcement helps or hinders local businesses. On Monday the council directed staff to add additional directional signs to certain lots, including one on Lincoln way up the road from Cherry Avenue and one at Cherry Avenue/Tennis Way in Downtown Auburn and the Law Library Lot and Jury Lot in Old Town Auburn. It also directed staff to discuss its report and possible changes to city parking operations with the Old Town and Downtown business associations. Agreed-upon changes would start in the spring. Will Wong, director of the city’s Community Development Department, said in 2009 Walker Parking Consultants conducted a study of on-street and lot parking and in 2010 and 2011 the city updated those numbers. Staff conducted parking studies on seven different days, typically four times daily. The times surveys were taken included 11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. 4:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and a Saturday. Wong said as far as district-wide results, there are no issues in Downtown or Old Town, but the core areas of both districts are considered impacted, including Lincoln Way in Downtown, which had a parking occupancy of 85 percent or greater. The core in Old Town was also deemed impacted, with streets such as Court Street, Lincoln Way between Court Street and Maple Street and Sacramento Street between Washington Street and Brewery Lane having 85 percent or greater occupancy in most counts. Wong said during the study staff found that approximately 15 to 25 percent of on-street spaces in the core areas were being used at certain times by non-patrons, including employees and merchants. Wong said this was a problem that the council could remedy with a number of options, including changing three-hour spots to two-hours or boosting parking enforcement. “Increase your parking enforcement now to the core,” Wong said. “Possibly employees and merchants will park outside (of it).” Wong said these ideas would be discussed with the business associations before moving forward. Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he didn’t think the city had conducted the counts during a key time, 5:15 and 5:30 p.m. on Fridays, and said he has found those to be busy times. Nesbitt said he has requested staff survey at those times for two or three years and he didn’t understand why they hadn’t. He said during that time parking can be very impacted because locals get off work and could be stopping for cocktails and those on trips up the freeway who stop in Auburn could also be using spots. Wong said he could try to find volunteers to survey at those times, but said he wasn’t sure how much more of an impact would be found. Staff also recommended the council vote to cease parking enforcement during the holidays, which has been done in the past. City Manager Bob Richardson said this is typically done at the request of the business associations, but the city hasn’t received the request yet this year. Councilman Kevin Hanley questioned whether the lack of enforcement would actually be good for businesses at that time, especially if 15 to 25 percent of spaces in impacted areas are being used by employees. “It seems like it’s better for the business, especially during the holiday season, to have a pretty good turnover,” Hanley said. Councilwoman Bridget Powers said she was going to ask about the holiday enforcement and said she has received complaints from merchants about getting tickets throughout the year. Powers asked what feedback the city had received about enforced parking. Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn said the department does receive several complaints a week, but they usually come from people passing through the area or people who forget to put permits out and get tickets. Mayor Bill Kirby said he would like to see the city talk to the business associations about ceasing holiday parking enforcement this year. The council voted unanimously to have the city talk to the associations before holiday parking enforcement is decided on. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com