A Parking Reprieve?

1. 28 spaces on lot leased by city 2. 34 spaces behind future

City has plan for temporary parking during streetscape project
as well as long-term ideas
By Stephanie Condon Special to the Dispatch

Gilroy – With downtown business owners bristling in anticipation of the wave of construction to hit Monterey Street in the coming months, city officials insist that downtown parking is not a problem, nor will it be one once the construction begins.

With construction of the newly approved Garlic Festival Association (GFA) site slated to begin next year, the parking lot currently occupying that space at Lewis and Monterey will close just as the streetscape between Fourth and Sixth streets should start, disrupting the parking between those blocks. However, the city has plans to resurface three sites for temporary parking during the construction and may have other sites available for parking by then as well.

“Right now we have three parking lots that are not currently being used for public parking that will be open by the time Monterey starts, and we have all of the other parking we have in downtown,” said City Transportation Engineer Don Dey.

Those lots, Dey said, should be open by the time the streetscape begins, which is scheduled for Jan. 2.

One such lot sits on Eigleberry Street, between Fifth and Sixth streets. Dey said the city plans to combine this 43-space lot with the adjacent 34-space lot owned by the GFA. After the combined lots are resurfaced, Dey said it should hold 94 vehicles.

Another lot which the city plans to use is privately owned by Gary Walton, who said he has plans to eventually build on the site, but has leased the now-empty and chained off space to the city on a month-by-month basis. It could hold about 28 cars, Dey estimated.

“I have plans to put a building there, but we wouldn’t be ready until at least spring,” said Walton.

The city also is working with South County Housing (SCH) to create temporary parking at its lot on Lewis and Railroad streets, where it will construct the 200-unit Cannery housing project. Dey said that 29 spaces will fit in this lot.

In total, business owners can look forward to more than 150 spaces serving the downtown merchants

In spite of these preparations to manage parking during the construction, some downtown business owners remain unhappy.

Steve Ashford, owner of Ashford Heirlooms on Monterey Street, said the SCH lot that lies across the railroad tracks is particularly troubling because the lack of lighting in that area makes it dangerous to park at night.

“I think the alternatives are unacceptable,” he said. “If you look over there [at the SCH lot] and say we’re going to give you that in exchange for 50 or 60 spaces, I think we’re getting the short end of the stick,” he said.

In response to complaints about lighting, Dey said the City Council Monday night approved plans to install lighting.

“We hadn’t specifically looked at the lighting,” Dey said, “but we will look at the lighting in that area to make sure it is sufficient there and on other streets and alleyways.”

In addition to providing three temporary lots, Dey said the city also will be restriping 34 spaces along an alley between Monterey Street and the railroad tracks, next to Lewis Street.

To further ease the parking headaches of downtown, Walton drew up a parking plan. It would entail tearing down the back part of the old Gaslighter – which Walton owns – and using the land behind that establishment and its neighbors to create a parking lot with about 100 spaces. Walton has presented the plan to the city but has yet to discuss it with the other business owners who would have to agree to the renovation.

“I haven’t really gotten around to talking to them yet,” Walton said “There’s some parking there, but it’s not a formal, lighted parking area along the railroad tracks.”

In addition to providing temporary parking during construction, the city recently issued a long-term parking study that envisions a downtown parking structure.

Plans for a parking garage will be “assessed on an annual basis, and it’s really going to depend on the need,” City Planner Gregg Polubinsky said. “There’s no funding to go out right now.”

He added the streetscape project also will increase parking through the use of angled spaces, noting a recent study found that downtown parking is not heavy.

“There were really only two blocks that appeared to be heavily impacted during the day, and that need doesn’t justify a parking structure yet,” he said. “Probably what will come first is more surface lots and eventually the need will justify a structure, which will give you three times the spots.”

Ashford, for one, is not entirely happy with the city’s long-term plans either.

“When I go out and I plan something, I know how I am going to pay for it,” he said. “They’re banking on the fact that 10 or 15 years from now, the City Council will agree that they should put in a parking structure.”

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