After about a half hour of impassioned arguments from the community, city councilors voted to table any discussion of timed parking or any other parking solutions until after the summer. On Monday, Brian Davis from Lancaster Street Lab presented the parking study he was hired by the city to conduct. The study spurred city councilors two months ago to experiment with timed parking downtown.
Three-hour parking limit signs on Hemlock Street between First and Third avenues, as well as on First, Second and Third streets between Hemlock and Spruce were suggested by city council in May as a pilot program to see whether or not timed parking increases turnover in parking spots. This was a way to help the city reach the goal of creating 50 new spots by the end of 2018.
But many business owners and community members at the meeting rejected the idea that timed parking would increase business and felt they were shut out of the decision-making process.
Last month, a petition arguing that timed parking would “negatively impact the relaxing atmosphere” of the town, “increase traffic congestion when cars need to be moved,” and “not allow visitors enough time to enjoy the restaurants and browse through the local shops” circulated town and gathered 120 signatures.
“If there is a spot a tourist can park in, let him park there,” Dueber’s Variety and Shorelines owner Jay Shepard said during the meeting. “If there are employees parking there, that can be solved with education. But the last thing we want to do is make this town unwelcoming.”
Why timed parking?
“There is a method to my madness,” Davis joked.
His method was to walk around 24 block faces in Cannon Beach to track how occupied the town was, how long cars stayed and the number of unique vehicles that would enter the space between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. He conducted his study over two days — March 31, the last day of Oregon’s spring break, and April 15, the last day of Washington’s spring break — as representative samples.
In the world of parking studies, an 85 percent occupancy rate is considered the time when parking becomes inconvenient and difficult to find. Davis found that Hemlock Street and Second Street were at full capacity almost all day, while other parts of town ebbed and flowed.
Davis said he suggested timed parking because 7.5 percent of the cars he tracked in his study were parked longer than three hours. Having those cars park in the lots would open up more spots throughout the day, which he said results in more economic impact for businesses.
“What I found was the public lots are supporting the businesses and Hemlock is supporting the beachgoers,” Davis said.
Davis said he has found in most cities the economic benefits of an occupied parking space drop off after two hours.
“If people are going to spend money, they are going to do it quickly.”
After the presentation, some questioned the necessity of timed parking if only 7.5 percent were staying longer than what timed parking would enforce — including councilor Nancy McCarthy.
“If it’s only 7 percent, why are we talking about this?” she asked.
Many in the community suggested to the City Council that the town does not parking problem as much as it has a “traffic problem,” and suggested the city consider a one-way grid downtown, expand shuttle service or invest in different ways to direct traffic to lots to avoid traffic jams.
“The traffic can be a safety issue,” Joyce Lincoln, owner of Northwest by Northwest Gallery, said.
Others were concerned with the number of signs ruining the aesthetic of the town.
“This will make the town seem unfriendly, and as business owners we will get the brunt of the unhappiness,” Sharon Amber said, owner of Jewelry by Sharon Amber.
Amber also suggested the city invest in a parking garage to increase the number of spaces, but Davis warned about expanding too much with little to gain.
“The next space you build will be your worst,” he said. “The return on investment economically would not be high with the capital cost.”
Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse owner Jim Oyala said he doesn’t think Cannon Beach has a parking problem. Oyala has lived here since 1970, and said he wants other people to discover the town with the same ease he did almost 50 years ago.
“This place is magic. It’s a beautiful walking town, and we should help people enjoy that,” Oyala said. “We already had a bad winter. We’re just trying to have a summer.”
City councilors took notes during the hearing for future discussion council plans to have after the peak season comes to a close.
“At the movie theater when all the seats are full and the last ticket is sold, you close the doors,” Councilor George Vetter said. “But we can’t close the door to our town. When we are full we are full, and we need to learn to manage that.”