City cruises into parking options

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

May 20, 2006

The City of Hood River has plans in the works to relieve downtown parking congestion.

Bob Francis, city manager, said the following steps are being taken or under consideration to address the ongoing challenge:

* New commercial developers will be required to create 1.2 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of construction. If site plans make that impossible, they could pay into a special fund that would be dedicated to a public parking structure.

* Each year monthly parking fees in city lots will increase to cover the annual cost of living adjustments in the city budget.

* A residential parking zone could be set up around the downtown blocks. The city wants to encourage employees and business owners to park in public lots. All homeowners would be issued two daytime parking permits and two visitor passes but no night-time enforcement would take place.

* Parking meters will be installed along the entire length of Sixth Street to create greater turnover near the downtown blocks.

* The number of monthly off-street permits will be reduced for purchase by one business or individual.

* Meters with four-hour parking limits will be installed along the north side of Oak Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

* The existing one-hour non-metered time zones located on Oak Street between Fifth and Seventh streets will be converted to three-hour meters. That time limit will be enforced to open up more spaces.

* On-street employee parking permits will be limited to the south side of State Street and to the area on Sixth Street between Sherman and Cascade Avenues; and between Oak and Columbia streets along Seventh Street.

* Change the current 10-minute zones on the south side of Cascade Avenue near the Post office to three-hour meters.

Francis said those plans are phase one of what could be two or three phases of change. He said the recommendations were included in a parking study initiated by the council last summer.

“We are trying to take steps to encourage movement along Oak Street,” he said.

Police Chief Bruce Ludwig has agreed that use of meters on Saturday also needs to be enforced. He is working with Francis to create a Community Service Officer position to fulfill that duty.

“The lack of enforcement on Saturday is unfair to the dozens and dozens of law-abiding citizens who plug the meter,” said Ludwig.

Francis said $30,000 of the CSO salary would be funded by Saturday parking meter receipts. Another $15,000 could be generated by having that individual ticket people for violations of garbage, sign and other nuisance violations.

In addition, the CSO would handle evidence in criminal cases to preserve the chain of custody for the police department.

“If all goes well, we should have someone in this job by July 1,” said Ludwig.

Consultant Rick Williams was paid $35,000 last year to find ways to optimize the number of downtown parking spaces — especially during the tourist season.

He concluded that reducing the number of on-street employee permits would provide an immediate fix. He recommended that 25-30 employees out of the 48 granted permits should be encouraged to park at two city lots that are about 64 percent occupied during peak working hours.

Francis said that parking in a city lot is a “good deal” because the monthly fee averages out to about $1 per day.

Williams also suggested that the city solve its long-term needs by moving forward with construction of a new parking facility to add 100 new stalls.

Another possible solution, said Williams, was for the city to acquire land from Mt. Hood Railroad to create a new lot that could be used by downtown employee and visitors during special events.

Francis said the Downtown Business Association has been actively involved in the parking plans.

“It was really important to us that the DBA buy into this before we did anything,” he said.

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