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Opinion: Parking Paranoia in Midtown Sacramento

I moved to Midtown Sacramento in January 2007 from Washington DC. My neighborhood is a wonderful place to live – there is a vibrancy and energy unlike any other place in the Sacramento area. Theaters, restaurants, churches, bars, stores, clubs, and galleries provide a great deal of cultural capital and are one of the main reasons I love where I live. However, there is something that I find comically annoying: complaints about parking. Are there times when finding parking in Midtown can be difficult? Yes. Is this one of the major problems facing our city? No.

A recently announced pilot program will create changes to street parking during Second Saturday in Midtown. The three-month trial will cover 16th Street to 29th Street and the south side of G Street to the south side of I Street. Without a residential permit, on-street parking will be limited to a maximum of two hours. This proposal has caused me to think a little more about my frustration when discussing parking in and around Midtown.

My frustration tends to fall within two groups: those from outside the downtown/Midtown area who are afraid of visiting an area without parking lots and residents who feel that outsiders visiting Midtown should be viewed with extreme suspicion because they are likely groups of hooligans with cars waiting to riot at a moment’s notice.

To those people who are afraid to visit Midtown because you feel there will be nowhere to park; I have the perfect solution – stay at home. Okay, not really, I want you to expand your horizons and support the people doing incredible work in my neighborhood. In that spirit, I offer a few suggestions. First of all, there is street parking. It might require you to park 3, 4, or (gasp!) 5 blocks away from your intended location, but you will be OK! Contrary to public opinion, you will not have to fight off dragons or rabid unicorns on your walk to your desired location. If the idea of parallel parking still makes you a little queasy, there are parking garages available as far up as 17th street. Finally, if you are in the mood of a bit of an adventure, you can always put on your fanny-pack and jump on the light rail.

Do you know what really makes my neighborhood email discussion group explode? Conversations about closed pools? Under-performing schools? A new arena? Nope. Parking. The conversation gets especially heated when there is news of a new business, especially those that might serve alcohol, opening in the neighborhood. The reactions range from lack-of-parking hysteria to a belief that thousands of drunk frat dudes will be coming into the neighborhood flipping over cars and setting homes on fire in an alcohol-fueled rage. New businesses, especially in this economy, are something we should be celebrating, not squashing. I understand and empathize with long-term residents who have seen their neighborhood change. However, with few exceptions, neighborhoods change and evolve.

Midtown is an active, urban area. It is not quiet suburbia. In fact, the desire to be close to those businesses is why your property values are significantly higher than in other areas. We should be celebrating the fact that too many people want to be where we live! Now, does that mean that it should be a free-for-all? Absolutely not. But there are working solutions to effectively handling problems of urban life. Instead of complaining, how about we take a second and enjoy the delicious dilemma of having a growing, thriving neighborhood in our capital city.  

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