Parking Impacted Neighborhoods


Parking Impacted Neighborhoods

I received this the other day:

"Parking Impacted Neighborhoods"
I live in North Park, which is fast becoming THE Art & Entertainment destination of San Diego.  We have a newly constructed a new parking garage and it remains lightly used!  Simply put, the folks continue to park free on neighborhood streets instead of using the garage. I wonder if you know of similar situations and what was done to increase garage usage. Thanks  PS — This could be a good case study for Parking Today

Ah, where to begin. First of all — to take the last sentence first.  Yes, we could do a case study. Or you could hire any one of a number of consultants to come in and divine just what had happened and why people prefer to park for free rather than pay to park.  However, I’ll just write the following and leave it at that for now.

A bit of further information — the Garage is 388 spaces and has been open less than a month. However I don’t think that makes much difference. My guess is that what follows is correct or will be correct.

Although I don’t know exactly what happened when the garage was built, I’ll make up the following. The merchants in the area (and residents, too) complained bitterly to the San Diego powers at be that they didn’t have enough parking. The place was jammed with cars and it was obvious that more parking was needed. So the city, in its infinite wisdom, built a garage. They knew they had to pay for the garage somehow so they decided to charge a bit for people to park there. The free market being what it is, the people decided to park where it was less expensive, so they parked on the street where it was free.

The other issue is that there couldn’t have been too many more cars than available spaces since if that was the case, the overflow would have filled the garage, no matter that they charged. One can surmise that the number of cars in the garage, on average, is the number of parking spaces that were needed. 

If the writer above is correct and it is "lightly" used then let’s assume that it is 20% used. That’s 76 spaces.  They spent 14 million bucks to build a garage to take care of an overflow of 76 cars. My guess is that they could have parked them on vacant lot where the garage was built.  But that’s another story.

The problem in North Park, and many other such areas, is that the on street parking is free, and that most likely residential parking around commercial areas is by "permit only" and the permits are virtually free. 

See, the concept is that if you own a house, or live in an apartment, you have a "right" to park for free on the street in front of that house. And you have a "right" for visitors to your house to park for free there.

Back in the days when there were horses, it was sort of OK. However as urban areas grew and things got more congested, livery stables sprung (?) up and off street parking of horses and buggies began. This didn’t quite move over to suburbia or to streets that were purely residential. I own the house, I live in an apartment, I own the street.  When the street is lighted, paved, swept, policed, and maintained, its not the money from my property tax or just the property tax on my street, that pays for it. Its the property tax from the general fund. (I’m not sure that’s the way it should be, but that’s another blog).

If, however, everyone who parked on the street had to pay for the right to park there, my guess is that the entire "look" of most neighborhoods would abruptly change. Take mine, for instance.  We have a new neighbor next door. Nice guy, nice family. He has three cars and an airstream. He has a two car garage, a relatively large area behind the garage, and a driveway behind that area — all street accessible. He parks one of his cars and his trailer on his property and two of his cars on the street. Why? Not because it would be more difficult to park in his driveway and garage, but because he came from an area where he had to park on the street and got used to it. And since he doesn’t have to pay to park on the street, he simply does.  This makes the street more congested, there is less space for visitors, and basically lowers the quality of life in our neighborhood.  I have done a study and at three quarters of the cars parked on the street in our block could be parked off street, but the drivers simply don’t want to and since its "FREE", they don’t.  The zoning required the space to park the cars, but people don’t use the space.

Now, what if there was a charge, lets say $100 a month or $4 a day, to park on the street. When someone came to visit, they ponied up $4 (or I did if I was in the mood), and my neighbor who has four vehicles and room for three paid the $100 to park his Caddie on street.  Now my street hasn’t been maintained or repaved in over 25 years. It is full of pot holes and patches. If half the houses paid $100 to park on the street we would collect about $3,000 a month and probably an additional $5000 from daily parkers, and taking out overhead, we would net about $6 grand a month or plenty to repave our street every 10 years, upgrade the lighting, replace the sidewalks and trees, and etc. All paid for by the people who actually USE the spaces. 

So philosophically, its a much better deal for my neighbor to pay to park one of his cars on the street, remove one, make more space for others, and add to the overall feel and look of the neighborhood.
Or, maybe he would finally sell that Caddie his wife has been after him to dump…

Back to North Park — If the on street parking was not free, my guess is that there would be plenty of parking in the area.  A lot of residents would clean out garages and driveways and get rid of unused cars and move their cars off the street making room for others on street. Those parking on street would pay a bit to do so and that money could be used for civic improvements. The 76 cars using the $14 million facility would  have plenty of space to park.

I doubt sincerely if "THE" arts and entertainment district of San Diego would dry up and blow away because folks had to pay $5 to park their cars. In fact, it might even thrive more because there would be space for them to park, probably more conveniently than the garage.

Residents and workers in the area would purchase monthly parking space in the garage so they could escape the on street rates (five bucks a day is $150 a month) — $95 a month in the garage is a better deal and would seem to be reasonable. 

Getting those residents and workers off the streets would mean that space in front of merchants would be available for, dare I say it, actual customers. They convenient spots would be there and people would park in them. All would be right with the world.

North Park has thrived not because of free parking on street, but because of the mercantile and merchants who have made it successful.

If you built it, they will come — and they came to North Park. In spite of the parking.


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John Van Horn

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