Port moves to add paid parking along waterfront

City will form downtown parking advisory committee

AUGUST 2017: a woman holds a parking space at crowded East Portway across from Event Site, a high-demand summer parking zone that will be a paid area starting in June.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
AUGUST 2017: a woman holds a parking space at crowded East Portway across from Event Site, a high-demand summer parking zone that will be a paid area starting in June.

Two local agencies have made varying moves on parking in Hood River.

Port of Hood River Commission last week approved a measure to meet a long-standing idea, paid parking on portions of the waterfront, to take effect in June. Rates and penalties have not yet been decided; those decisions will follow a series of meetings this spring convened by Port Executive Director Michael McElwee.

He will talk with shareholders and the port will scheduled a community meeting in late April or May to take input.

“Details have not yet been finalized, that will come with a discussion about how much to charge, as well as penalties for overparking and obstructing, but the decision to move forward and prepare for operations in June has been made,” McElwee said.

The Hood River City Council on Monday instructed staff to proceed with forming a downtown Hood River Parking Study Advisory Committee, to be made up of seven people: two downtown building owners, two downtown business operators, two council members, and one at-large member.

The ad hoc committee “is not anticipated to be a long-term permanent committee, but will help guide and shape the parking review process going forward,” City Manager Steve Wheeler said in his memo to council. Council approved the committee Monday and appointed councilors Kate McBride and Mark Zanmiller to serve on it.

Some work remains in forming the committee and determining how it will operate. Erika Gerald of 2nd Wind Sports told council Monday that the Downtown Business Council will submit five names for the council to consider. The city will accept written applications — a process to be developed. The committee, once formed, will make recommendations to the city council. The decision-making process has yet to be determined.

“The main thing this committee will be looking at is what are the standards and requirements we should have, and once they are in place, what do we do about it?” Zanmiller said.

According to Wheeler, the committee will be addressing issues including a parking needs analysis and data gathering to gauge “adequacy of parking supply on a high peak and low peak basis;” evaluating the need for additional parking, including both surface and structured parking options; evaluating and updating the city’s parking in lieu impact fee for new construction; review and establish appropriate downtown parking development standards for new residential and commercial construction; review the impact of parking regulation and standards on historical buildings and evaluate and advise on possible separate parking standards for the redevelopment of those buildings.”

The port commission’s action last week was a two-parter: the first was implementation of the plan and the second was approval of the purchase of the Cale pay stations, to be installed in May and to have an operational plan for parking.

These areas will be subject to parking fees:

First Street (along Nichols boat basin);

East Portway from Second to First;

West Jensen lot, now a gravel area, which will be paved;

A seven-space parking area next to Nichols Basin seawall

Parking will remain free on West Portway in front of Waterfront Park from Second Street to Eighth Street.

The city, a separate decision-making body, has set at $1 an hour the rate for downtown parking. McElwee said the commission regards the waterfront parking dynamic as different from downtown “and the goals are somewhat different.”

He said equity underlines the two primary two factors in instituting paid parking: revenue and access.

“It’s about turnover and access, and making sure on the revenue side that, to the extent it is reasonable, the people who use the restrooms and leave trash to be picked up and other impacts, that they help pay for it,” McElwee said. He noted that Event Site users pay $8 a day to park, “but 40 feet away you can park for free all day long and use all the things in the Event site and not pay anything.

“In good weather, Portway East is parked out, and sometimes there is no one in the Event site, and you see people gathering up gear and walking over, so there is a more specific equity and fairness issue that accrues to that portion of the waterfront,” McElwee said.

“Another issue is that it is highly seasonal, and in summer it is slammed and in winter time, very little but it’s grown. What we’re seeing is more truck parking. We considered whether there was a need to ask trucks to help contribute as well,” he said.

The city, meanwhile, is monitoring the practice of Ryan’s Juice and other waterfront light industrial area properties lined up for hours in parking areas, or lanes of travel, waiting to load or unload. McElwee said trucks “are also damaging pavement over time and utilizing a public asset to their benefit.”

He said, “There are many similarities but also difference between downtown and this one. One we heard is that there was an understanding (under past waterfront planning) that there is an expectation among downtown folks and the belief there was a commitment that there would be paid parking, because of the perception that it’s unfair.

For downtown businesses, they see it as a different kind of equity issue, when there is no paid parking on the waterfront.”

McElwee said of the port parking plan, “this is a change and it’s significant because it’s so visible and parking is oftentimes controversial. No one wants to pay when you park on a street.

“But we are down $350,000 a year to maintain the trails, mow the grass, fix irrigation, cleaning out restrooms and emptying trash sometimes three to five a day. It’s a fairness issue; where does that money come from?” McElwee asked. The other two options are tapping into bridge toll revenue or diverting commercial lease funds.

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