Parking passion

empty parking lot.jpg

Last week, What's Up Downtown attended a public information session on an upcoming parking study for downtown and impacted neighborhoods. If you’ve even scratched the surface on city issues, you know that parking is a complicated but key factor in improving our downtown. In fact, there was so much parking passion in the room we wish we had brought some popcorn!

The meeting was the first opportunity for the broader community to give input to TJKM, the contractor hired to gather parking data and make recommendations to the city on how to improve both parking and traffic flow. TJKM has also gathered with what seems to be a well-rounded stakeholder committee of neighborhood reps, city officials and a BART liaison.

Of the more than 50 people in the room, around 20 commented on a broad range of parking and traffic-related issues:

  • Residents of the Bates/Muth and Brookwood areas lamented they are unable to park in front of their homes due to Bart overflow and 4 hour parking rules. Both have representatives on TJKM’s stakeholder committee.

  • Did you know that it is the partial duty of just one Orinda police officer to enforce parking in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods? To us, this seems inadequate.

  • One gentleman pushed for more bike and motorcycle parking to be a strong consideration of the study, pointing out how bike and moped adoption has increased as congestion has grown.

  • Some lamented that if BART was to ever build a multi-story parking building, it would be used up by non-locals. “If you build it they will come,” they said. To which others replied, “If you don’t build it, they will still come and clog up our neighborhoods. In fact they already are!” Most agreed that priority parking for Orinda residents was an impossible battle to win. “After all, it is called BAY AREA Rapid Transit,” pointed out one attendee.

  • What’s Up Downtown took the opportunity to let TJKM know just how long the Orinda BART monthly permit waiting list really is… currently 3+ years. That, coupled with a lack of enforcement downtown, means our commercial areas are bound to be clogged up with all-day parkers until something changes. Who is leaning on BART to fix it’s parking issue? What’s Up Downtown has previously heard it suggested that Steve Glazer could be the right person to convince BART to take action. City council member Eve Phillips let us know she is diving into the issue too. 

  • Another gentleman passionately lamented the city leadership’s lack of forethought and that it should have been laying plans for more parking 20 years ago. “Stop kicking the can down the road!” he pleaded.

  • Most agreed that coin operated meters are in opposition to the village character Orinda strives for. One attendee suggested coupling license plate reading technology with hourly limits, thereby eliminating the need for coin meters and circling meter maids, while another begged TJKM to spend some time in Lafayette to see what a nuisance meters can be.

  • We also heard ideas for encouraging the owners of nearby private parking lots, many of which sit empty daily, to monetize their spaces rather than discourage parking. Seems smart to us, but it may only be a band-aid on a much larger problem.

  • Not surprisingly, young families were noticeably under-represented at the meeting. Aren’t the non-retired the most likely to need BART or downtown parking every day to commute to and from work?

There will be more public forums as the study progresses and before final recommendations are made to the city.  We’ll keep you posted on those meetings. In the meantime, the consultants in charge seemed very open to input. Questions, suggestions and ideas can be directed to Tanya Gilmore who will pass them along to TJKM.

Of course, the big question is what the City will or won’t do with TJKM’s recommendations later this year.  We’ll be watching.