Claremont Insider: City Identifies Prime Cause of Downtown Parking Problems

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

City Identifies Prime Cause of Downtown Parking Problems

The Village parking problem was supposed to get some attention at last night's Claremont City Council meeting. Specifically, the council was supposed to consider an ordinance that was supposed to help prevent so-called "vehicle shuffling" that adds to the parking nightmares people trying to visit the Claremont Village face with cars stacked up hither and yon filling every possible available space.

A Claremont Courier article by Tony Krickl last week explained the ordinance and the reasons for needing it:

City staff hopes that the “No-Vehicle Shuffling” ordinance will deter business employees from constantly moving their cars to different parking spots within the Village every few hours to avoid being ticketed.

The ordinance would also open up more parking spots to paying customers, a move that some believe will boost business and make the Village a greater attraction.

Something happened, however, that caused the issue to be pulled from the council's agenda for last night. The city's official website carried this bit of news:

A public notice was published stating that the Village Parking Proposed Ordinance would be on the July 8, 2008 City Council meeting agenda. This ordinance has been pulled from that agenda, pending further review by the City Manager. For further information, call Craig Bradshaw, City Engineer, at (909) 399-5465.

Parking policy wonks weren't completely shut out last night, however. The city council spent some time having a discussion of an appeal of a Claremont Planning Commission decision to approve a 162,000 square-foot academic and administrative building on the Claremont McKenna Campus.

As a condition of approval, CMC was required to submit a document showing that they would provide adequate parking for the building. This requirement was part of a new ordinance the city council approved recently to help alleviate downtown parking problems and the adverse parking impacts created by new projects.

So, the Planning Commission in June approved the CMC project and its parking management plan. However, a number of Claremonters, including former Mayor Judy Wright and Ginger Elliot, both very active in Claremont Heritage, objected to the CMC parking plan because it counted parking spots that were nowhere near the new building. For instance, CMC counted parking spots at properties CMC owns in the Arbol Verde section of Claremont - spots that are far enough away from the new building that people going there would not use them.

Seems clear, right? Looks like CMC is playing a numbers game in its parking plan and should be required to rewrite it with more realistic parking projections and mitigations.

Wrong. During the discussion, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho stepped in to quash the discussion by pointing out that the new ordinance requiring a parking plan to be submitted contains no provision for review.

All a developer has to do is submit a plan, any plan, and it must be accepted by the city without review. All those people who showed up ready to argue for or against the CMC project had to sit down. There were no grounds for an appeal because the city's ordinance has no provision for appeals. The city forgot to include that.

Chalk another one up to that crackerjack city staff that wrote the policy, to City Attorney Carvalho, who was supposed to review the ordinance for any such defects before it was approved, and to the Claremont City Council for approving an ordinance with a very serious deficiency. City Planner Lisa Prasse said that was not the intent of the law, but there you have it.

All in all, it was an embarrassing night for everyone who reviewed and voted on the new ordinance, and all (with the exception of Carvalho, who hardly ever admits an error) seemed to acknowledge this was a big mistake.