Drive to Sixth Avenue in Tacoma on a Friday evening for drinks or dinner, and chances are good that you’ll have to park on a residential side street. That is, if you can find a spot that isn’t reserved for residents.
For years, residents near business districts could pay to get a sign put in front of their home, giving them sole rights to street parking. Now, Tacoma city officials might make it tougher to establish residential parking zones. Zones that are created would be less exclusive.
The change in the residential parking program, to be considered by the City Council Tuesday, would require residents to prove that at least four block faces (on a block, each side of a street is considered a block face) in their neighborhood are experiencing serious parking congestion. It also would open those areas to business district visitors who could park for up to two hours without a resident permit.
In exchange, the city would step up enforcement of parking in the permit areas. As the program now exists, residents call 911 when they have a problem, and parking complaints are typically low on the Police Department’s priority list. Plus, many of the signs that residents have paid for over the years are falling down or faded, said Eric Huseby, the parking services manager for the city.
“What we’re trying to do is prioritize the residential user and still try to maximize the use of the right of way, which is why we have two-hour parking,” Huseby said.
More business activity in Tacoma is partly why street parking is getting tight in many neighborhoods, city staff members said this week. That can lead to parking headaches, and can sometimes mean people who live nearby have no place to park when they get home, Huseby said.
What we’re trying to do is prioritize the residential user and still try to maximize the use of the right of way, which is why we have two-hour parking.
Eric Huseby, parking services manager
Under the revised program, a request for a residential parking zone would prompt the city to do a quick study to make sure about 75 percent or more of the street parking is occupied during certain times of the day and to determine if at least 35 percent of those vehicles are coming from outside the neighborhood. If both conditions were met, the city would establish a parking zone if 60 percent of the residents on those blocks indicate their support.
Residents who want to to park in that area would pay $60 a year to register a car, and would be able to park for an unlimited amount of time. They would also get several guest passes per year, so if they have a visitor coming for the day or overnight, the owner could register the visitor’s car to park on the street for up to 24 hours. Those who don’t live in the neighborhood or don’t register could only park in the zone for two hours at a time, Huseby said.
$60 annual fee for parking registration for residents
60% buy-in necessary from neighbors to have parking zone established
City staff members would enforce the parking rules between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. with license plate recognition technology. Those plate recognition units, the first to be purchased by the city’s parking services division, cost about $50,000, Huseby said. The hope is the program will pay for itself eventually with revenues from permits, he said.
After hours, Tacoma police will enforce the parking rules.
Several City Council members supported the plan when it was presented at a meeting this week. Some said the current program doesn’t make sense, because reserved spots sit empty when residents who have rights to them are gone for the day. The purpose of the new plan is to make better use of the public right of way.
“I know this certainly affects my neighborhood as far as spillover of cars,” said Councilman Robert Thoms, who lives in the Stadium District. “My thought is it’s terribly necessary to do for neighborhoods that have that spillover.”