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
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