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City of Sacramento has plans to address central city parking pains

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During peak hours, nearly 46,000 parking spaces remain empty in the Central City even on Second Saturday Art Walks according to a 2012 Nelson\Nygaard study.

Despite these vacancies, it’s not unusual to see frustrated drivers circling around, block by block for curbside parking in Midtown or downtown during Second Saturday .

To address this situation, the city of Sacramento is working with the Midtown Business Association (MBA), and state and private property owners to help decongest Sacramento’s on-street parking.

Howard Chan, parking manager for the city of Sacramento, said the city is working on increasing the number of off-street parking spaces available to the Central City.

“Our efforts now are turning toward private parking lots where we will talk to property owners similar to our discussions with the state and  the Eastern Garage to make their spaces available on nights and weekends to increase the supply again,” he said.

The city partnered with the state to open the East End Garage on 17th and L streets, charging a flat rate of $2 on evenings and weekends in June 2007. The garage houses nearly 600 parking spaces, yet it consistently falls below capacity during heavily congested nights and weekends, according to Chan.

As a response to vacant lots such as the East End Garage, Chan and others are working to update parking zoning codes and increase the visibility of less-utilized spaces.

Here is a breakdown of the current and proposed parking projects under way. 

Residential Parking Pilot Program: The residential parking pilot program will extend resident-only parking hours from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Second Saturdays for three consecutive months. Chan is meeting with neighborhood associations affected by the pilot program for input. Depending on when those meeting take place, the pilot could be under way in July or August.

Parking Zone Update:  The city has drafted a proposal to change mandatory parking requirements for businesses and residential properties. Highlights include eliminating the parking requirement for commercial spaces less than 6,400 square feet, a tiered parking space standard dependent on neighborhood type, and alternative options to the parking requirement such as bike parking or an in-lieu-of fee. The proposed timeline for the adoption of the report and ordinance is September.

City management of private parking: The city is speaking with businesses to turn privately owned parking spaces into city-managed parking on nights and weekends. The timetable for this project depends on the individual agreements with the city and property owners.

Midtown/downtown parking map and iPhone application: The Midtown Business Association is developing a comprehensive map of city-managed, city-owned and private parking lots. The .pdf-format map will be available late this summer. The organization will update its free iPhone parking application called “Explore Midtown” during the same time.

East End Garage Marketing: The Midtown Business Association is working with the city to increase visibility of the East End Garage through increased signage. There will be signs in a one-block perimeter away from the garage with arrows pointing to the entrance.

Chan said that he acknowledges the challenge of encouraging people to use off-street parking in areas that currently have free residential parking after 6 p.m. He said their goal will be to place long-time parkers and employees into off-street parking lots so that on-street parking can turn over faster.

Elizabeth Studebaker, executive director of the MBA, also recognizes the challenge to decongest the streets.

“The difficult thing is that both sides are right,” she said. “I know that parking is congested for residents, and I know that parking is congested in the commercial district, so really, we have a set of tools at our disposal that we just need to make sure we are using as best as possible.”

Chan said that the city welcomes feedback from the public regarding its plans and particularly regarding its pilot program, since it can be implemented very soon.

“We’re trying to really facilitate a good solution, and that’s the nature of our outreach over the next month or two,” he said.


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