In the early spring of 2008, Neighborhood Development Services for the City of Charlottesville hired consultants to conduct a study of downtown parking.  They examined whether there are currently enough parking spaces to meet today’s needs as well as the demand for the future, whether the parking in the core of the city is meeting community needs, if the parking exempt zone is still useful and how improved public transit may affect parking demand. The results of this study were first presented to Council on November 3, 2008.

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At their meeting on February 2, 2009, the City Council heard the staff’s recommendations ( Download Parking Resolution )  for addressing these parking issues.  The study found that the way spaces are currently utilized in the downtown area presents problems for the loading and delivery that is necessary for downtown businesses to operate. They also concluded that the parking exempt zone is no longer appropriate.  (The parking exempt zone was established to encourage downtown redevelopment by waiving minimum parking requirements for new developments.)  Furthermore, the study suggested that parking should be managed and coordinated with a planned system for how on-street spaces could be designated.

Assistant City Traffic Engineer Donovan Branche a ddresses the City Council

City staff suggested making changes to on-street parking that include:

Several community members spoke at the public hearing in support of the parking study and its recommendations. Todd Toms, owner of Moxie Hair Lounge, said that he thinks improved parking will help the warehouse district to continue to grow and develop.  “Great construction and development are happening here which will make the area a viable part of the city,” Toms said.

“Parking is vital to our survival, we need it and we want it,” said Sharon Manning, owner of Quince, urging the Council to move forward with improving parking around Garrett Street.

Peter Kleeman, who lives on Hedge Street, questioned the accuracy of the study saying that the parking garage being constructed on 4th street northeast for the Juvenile and Domestic Court project was not included in the study, making it less accurate than it otherwise might have been. “It is not in the interest of our community to build parking garages in the core downtown area,” Kleeman said.

Collette Hall, President of the North Downtown Residents Association, told Council that her group’s main concern is overflow commuter parking in neighborhoods.  She recommended development of a Park and Ride system for City and County employees to relieve some downtown parking spaces.

One of the recommendations of City staff was to explore ways in which parking enforcement can be made more efficient, citing a decrease in citations.  Police Chief Tim Longo was asked to respond to this suggestion.

“We do our very best to use the resources we have in a way that’s smart for both enforcement but also helping to manage the greater parking issue that takes place downtown and in our communities,” Longo said.  He explained that there are vacant positions for parking enforcers.

“I’d like to think that people are changing their habits and seeking out other transportation options when they come downtown,” Chief Longo also told council.

City Councilor Holly Edwards said that she would like to hear more from the police department about how efficiency could be measured.  She said she would like to see it become efficient within the department where it exists rather than move the responsibility to a new department.     Additionally, Councilor Edwards suggested that the zoning specify that funds be used for transit improvements or establishment of a park and ride system in addition to a new parking garage. “The remote parking that UVA has established at U-Hall is a good example of how that can be successful,” Edwards said.

Parking on Market Street

City Councilor Satyendra Huja expressed concern that limiting parking in the core to one hour was too restrictive. “I wonder whether one hour is sufficient time for somebody coming downtown for lunch or something,” Huja said.

Mayor Dave Norris also challenged staff’s recommendation to convert the core zone to all one hour parking. Saying that as a step to deal with the “two hour shufflers” this does not address where those people will park instead. “I’m not convinced that moving to one hour parking is the best way to go,” Norris said.

Mayor Norris also suggested providing incentives to developers and employers to create transportation demand management programs in addition to parking.  “We should be encouraging developers to contribute toward transit itself,” Norris said.

The parking study also included discussions with the owner of Friendship Court and nearby businesses.  Currently, parking on the south side of Garrett is restricted after 9 P.M. “The current owners of Friendship Court have told me that they no longer feel [the parking restriction] is necessary to maintain public safety,” Mayor Norris said.  However, Norris said there is still the need to talk to the people who live in Friendship Court to see if they are favorable to lifting those restrictions.

“More bodies, cars and pedestrians on side streets would improve public safety,” said Mayor Norris.  The Council voted to adopt a resolution incorporating some of the recommendations, as well as their various amendments.

Fania Gordon