San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 12th, 2008
City to initiate parking study

During the next year the city will initiate a study to determine how it can improve the availability of parking spaces downtown. Manager of Long Range Planning Cecil Pennington said the city will probably hire a private consultant firm after the first of next year to assess options such as installing parking meters, building surface parking and constructing a parking garage.The city hired Walker Parking Consultants to formulate suggestions for improving downtown parking. The company’s recommendations were included in the San Marcos Downtown Master Plan, which states, “parking studies indicate that the Downtown has adequate parking within a several-block radius of the Square…the current supply of on-street parking and surface lots is adequately meeting the parking demand.” Pennington said the studies conducted by Walker Parking Consultants were not extensive.

“We realize that there’s a problem, and we realize that the city has a role in solving that problem,” said Pennington. “Now we need to go back and do a quantitative study, (find out) exactly how many acres of land, how many square feet of existing uses, what those uses are, how many spaces are available currently.”

Larry Rasco, a lawyer and member of the Downtown Association, said the organization supports the building of a parking garage on land currently occupied by the fire station kitty-corner from the post office.

“For some reason our present mayor is not behind that, the master plan didn’t call for it, and I think it would go an awful long way to solving the problems,” Rasco said.

Pennington said he doesn’t know when the Fire Department will vacate the land it currently occupies. He said a construction firm could be found within the next year to build the new fire station.

“I don’t know if that’s even the best site (for the garage) or not — that’s what the study will start to address,” said Pennington.

San Marcos Downtown Parking Advisory Board Chair Kyle Maysel said a lack of adequate parking downtown has been “a perennial problem” from which the city takes an economic loss.

According to the City’s 2008 Community Outreach Survey, downtown parking was among services respondents were least satisfied with. The survey indicates those “particularly less satisfied” with downtown parking include homeowners, those who have lived in the city for over 20 years and those whose annual income exceeds $65,000.

Maysel said the City Council should not have granted a reduction in the parking requirement for Concho Commons Planned Development District (PDD).

“It seems like sometimes Planning and Zoning, and to some extent the City Council, just think that because there is going to be a student-oriented business adjacent to the university, that there’s no need for parking,” said Maysel. “That’s just erroneous thinking.”

Pennington said the Council granted Concho Commons PDD a reduction in the parking requirement against the recommendations of city staff.

“We have recommended against reducing parking for retail and office projects,” said Pennington.

Maysel said supporters of the parking requirement reduction for Vintage Apartments PDD has not been approved, claimed students living there would drive less because of its proximity to the university.

“Well, these students didn’t just pop up like mushrooms,” said Maysel. “They weren’t born there — they come from someplace…Now, granted, not everybody has a car, but the vast majority do. And then what happens when their father and sister and brother and cousin and uncle come down here for graduations and other special events — where do they park?”

Pennington said his department supported the reduction of the parking requirement for Vintage Apartments PDD because the owner offered to provide larger sidewalks and to give tenants the option of renting parking spaces. Pennington said the owner will offer renters the opportunity to lease bike lockers for a reduced fee and will not double-lease units.

“(Vintage Apartments PDD) is a student-oriented project and it is immediately adjacent to campus,” said Pennington. “It’s a different situation from commercial or retail when you know people are going to be coming in from out of town.”

The Vintage Apartment project, however, has yet to sign any final deals with the current owners of the property in question.

According to the current Downtown Master Plan, “there is some abuse of parking spaces by students at Texas State who occupy parking spaces without visiting stores or restaurants.”

Maysel, Pennington and Sergeant Adam Rodriguez of the Texas State University Police Department told Newstreamz.com that student abuse of parking spaces contributes to the lack of parking downtown. Rodriguez and Maysel said to avoid having to buy a university parking permit, many students park off-campus, including in residential areas.

“Residents that live on those streets will regularly call in — usually they call the San Marcos (Police Department) to complain about illegally parked vehicles,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes they’re blocking driveways.”

Pennington said free parking on the streets may discourage residents from using the garage, so the installation of parking meters in tandem with the construction of a garage may be necessary. Maysel said parking meters make people feel like they are being punished for parking downtown, and meters were taken out in the eighties because they “were wildly unpopular.”

Maysel said he supports building a parking garage “where the need is,” which he said is between the university and the courthouse square. He said property owners in the area would probably “be happy to pay a reasonable fee” to use a parking garage. Maysel said another step to solving downtown parking issues involves “more vigorous enforcement” of parking laws.

Council Member Gaylord Bose advocated the construction of a parking garage and said a commuter rail line between San Antonio and Georgetown would alleviate traffic downtown. Bose and said he supports more residents choosing alternative means of transportation like walking and bicycling.

Mayor Susan Narvaiz said metered parking would allow the city “to try to create a situation where there’s revenue being generated to pay towards” other parking improvements. Narvaiz said the city may share the garage attached to the university’s performing arts center and “a floor or two of parking” at Sanctuary Lofts.

by Sean Batura
Correspondent

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0 thoughts on “City to initiate parking study

  1. It seems as if we’ve been down this road with parking meters. They don’t work unless police enforcement is taking place. Instead of a costly study, why doesn’t the city council set a date for downtown business owners to come together and find a resolution, or give ideas to improve parking?

  2. I agree. Parking meters are not the answer. Meeting with business owners should be the first step. A parking garage has been talked about for years, but construction has yet to be approved. It sounds like a reasonable idea to me.

  3. Sgt. Rodriguez is exactly right – this is about more than downtown. TxSt students who don’t want to pay $85/year for a parking permit are clogging up streets in the neighborhoods around campus. It’s been extremely bad this year in particular.

    How about getting TxSt to charge a REASONABLE fee for parking permits, and then build some garages that aren’t miles away from campus so that it’s actually convenient for the students to use them? I realize those permit fees likely contribute to funding for construction of said lots and garages, but $85/year for a permit (and more for staff) seems to be a bit much. If you price it out of the reach of the students, they won’t buy it – and then all TxSt is doing is passing their problem off onto the citizens of San Marcos, which isn’t in the spirit of “city-university cooperation” or whatever line they’ve got this month.

  4. Rather than spending money on a study (which, quite possibly, has already been done and ignored), why don’t we use the valuable resource atop the hill for help with this matter? There are students studying planning and zoning, as well as students in various other fields that can be beneficial to solving this problem. Why doesn’t the city coordinate with the University to offer class credit for a comprehensive study of the downtown parking problem?

    In terms of parking meters, there is something somewhat in place for that… 1 and 2 hour parking spaces where you will receive a fine if you park there too long! We just need to have a steady downtown and surrounding blocks parking enforcement team (on bicycles, by the way) so that people do not see these signs as mere suggestions.

    Parking garages are a pretty good idea, though if another one is built that is as much of an eyesore as the one at Sanctuary Lofts, there will probably be much disappointment. Giant concrete blocks do not make for an attractive city, and San Marcos is too beautiful to mar in such a way. Again, this is something that could be worked on by students for class credit, location as well as aesthetics.

    Also, much love to Councilman Bose for mentioning the rail and bike/ped infrastructure we so desperately need. I’m still waiting for the bike/ped improvements I voted for in the 2005 bond election. I’ve heard the old song and dance about how long construction takes and all of that, but I assure you if more people felt comfortable on bikes, there would be a change in traffic patterns. The sooner the better, please. Thanks to all you San Martians I see biking around every day! You put a smile on my face.

  5. This is very simple and does not require a study. The university charges too much for parking. I see TS lots half empty but can’t find a parking place to go to my favorite bicycle shop. Meanwhile I see students everywhere backpacking it up to the school. Spending money for a study won’t create bicycle lanes, or create better parking enforcement, build more parking places, or cause our good neighbor buddy TS to lower its parking fees and build enough parking places. This scholastic abuse of towntown parking has gone on for years and for some reason the city and ST seem to like it that way — because they just keep doing the same things that cause it or allow it. The students seem to prefer downtown parking. Maybe TS schould just pay rent for downtown parking and be done with it. The school obviously does not intend to help change things.

  6. Why do our city leaders constantly seek counsel from outsiders? It seems to me that residents and business owners know what needs to be done to address these issues. And I agree that we absolutely should utilize the resources available to us through the university. I love this town and I think it’s a shame that things like sidewalks and bike lanes mean very little to those that decide how to spend our tax dollars. Too many people are putting their safety at great risk when they choose to bike or walk across town. Adding a parking garage and parking meters does nothing for residents who really want to make changes to the parking nightmare. And we all know that parking is not a problem when students are gone during summer and winter break. Not much of a mystery there. For 2 years I lived on Academy and had to put up with the construction of “garage-mahal” and now I live on Burleson where students park in my driveway and in front of my house, so many that I can’t get my garbage picked up or my mail dropped off! If the city planners would look for answers from people who actually live here and do business here we can prevent this town from becoming a city that got too big for it’s britches, like that other city to our north that used to be a nice place, but…..

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