Vancouver eyes revamping parking spots

City council sets public hearing on creating district near key buildings and adding, updating meters

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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On-street parking spaces in downtown Vancouver that are currently free may eventually become pay-to-park, if the Vancouver City Council approves a proposal next week.

On Monday, the council agreed to have a public hearing on the Government Parking Management Plan, 7 p.m. April 15 at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

The ordinance would create a 49-block government district, immediately northwest of central downtown. The area's anchored by the Clark County Public Service Center and the Clark County Courthouse, 1300 Franklin St. and 1200 Franklin St., respectively, and other high-traffic public buildings.

The district, roughly bounded by Mill Plain Boulevard to the north, rail tracks to the west, Evergreen Boulevard/Eighth Street to the south and Columbia Street to the east, includes a mix of industrial, residential and small-office uses.

The area has 783 on-street parking spots. Sixty percent are non-metered, and the metered spots have different time limits, including 30 minutes, two hours and 10 hours. The majority of the parking nearest the county buildings is either free, no-limit spaces, 10-hour metered spaces or permit only.

The proposal was developed by a nine-member task force in 2012 and reviewed by the city's Parking Advisory Committee. Under the proposal, the on-street parking in the government district would be turned into primarily either three-hour or 10-hour metered stalls. The average vehicle stays three hours, according to a report prepared by Assistant City Manager Dave Mercier, "which suggests that many of the 30-minute, 1-hour and 2-hour maximum stays are inadequate," he wrote.

The initial capital cost is approximately $480,000 to $690,000, depending on how many meters will have to be purchased. However, even if the council approves the ordinance next week, it would not immediately take effect. The city council would still need to budget for the program, said City Manager Eric Holmes.

The city has been working on its parking services plan to reduce expenses and turn it into a program that could pay for itself.

In 2012, parking expenses, including debt, was approximately $3 million and revenues — from meters, penalties, leases and permits — totaled approximately $2 million.

The net cost of the program was $928,878.

With help from parking consultant Rick Williams, the city has been exploring ways to further reduce operating debt, work with alternative transit providers to reduce the demand for parking and get out of money-losing contracts for off-street parking.

During a March 18 workshop with Williams on the government district, the point was made that many of the free parking spots available west of the Clark County Public Services Center are used by county employees. The county charges employees $20 a month to park in a garage.

More than 1,000 county employees work downtown; only about 550 pay to park in a garage.

The council voted 5-2 on Monday to proceed to the public hearing. Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Bill Turlay voted no, saying they wanted more information.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.