Parking shortfall hurting downtown

In 2005, a city-commissioned parking study found no shortage of places to park in downtown Gilroy. That study also stressed that city officials needed to create a parking management plan to adequately deal with 200,000 square feet of anticipated new commercial development  by adding more than 500 new parking spaces.

Fourteen years later, more than 100,000 square feet of new commercial have been added in the city’s downtown corridor, yet downtown business owners and developers say there are nearly 100 fewer parking spaces than in 2005, more than 600 spots short of what’s needed.

That’s according to a recently completed parking study sponsored by the Gilroy Downtown Business Association, which hopes to work with the city to address what association president Gary Walton describes as a crisis for downtown.

“We’d like to partner with the city,” Walton said. “We’re dedicated to staying on top of the parking situation and parking options for downtown.”

John Taft, who served on the parking study’s steering committee, agreed.

“If we can convince the city to work even more with us in terms of what we can do downtown, we can significantly improve the value,” he said. “There’s a big opportunity there.”

The business group’s study looked at the core of downtown, which is defined as Monterey Street between Fourth and Seventh streets, and sandwiched between Eigleberry and Railroad streets. That area consists of 129 businesses and about 535 employees, according to the study.

Members of the Downtown Business Association, which consists primarily of volunteers, conducted a survey of the downtown businesses, asking them to assess parking needs.

Of the 81 responses to the survey, 93 percent have employees who drive to work. On peak days, the total number of merchants exceeds the number of public parking spaces, forcing employees to park on the street and in spaces reserved for customers, according to the study.

As a result, it’s hurting businesses, according to a number of responses in the study.

“So many people comment that they were going to come to the store, but they knew they would not find parking so they went to XYZ instead,” one respondent wrote. “This perception of the parking situation is having a severe impact on downtown.”

“I see too many business owners or employees parking in front of their business or in front of their neighbors,” another merchant wrote. “The biggest challenge that downtown Gilroy has is these owners and employees who are too selfish or lazy to park on side streets or behind the buildings so that customers have the best parking spots.”

One spot being eyed by city officials for a parking lot is the shuttered Gilroy Demonstration Garden on Eigleberry Street between Seventh and Sixth streets.

Current garden board president Walter Dunckel, the city’s facilities superintendent, and last year’s president, Steven Stratton, told the Dispatch last month that city administrator Gabriel Gonzalez told them they would have to shut down the community garden to make way for construction of a one-acre parking lot.

A half-acre vacant lot sits next to the current garden site. Both parcels are city-owned.

Walton said the Miller Red Barn Association has approached garden officials about moving it to Christmas Hill Park. The Eigleberry site was always intended to be a parking lot, according to a master plan for the Gilroy Center for the Arts, he added.

For a copy of the parking study, contact Nancy Maciel at 842-0005 or [email protected].