The City of Turlock is seeking public input on the best way to implement the strategies in the Downtown Parking Plan, and on Tuesday a group of downtown business owners and employees offered their insights on parking in downtown during a forum held at the Public Safety Facility.
All of the attendees at Tuesday's meeting were surprised to learn how much free public parking exists in downtown Turlock currently, which coincides with one of the proposed strategies of increasing community awareness of available parking.
"I've been here since 2011 and there's never been parking," said Kym Lamarre, a chiropractor whose office is located on the corner of N. Center and E. Olive streets.
According to a count done for the Downtown Parking Plan in March, there are 3,872 public spaces total in the downtown area including 800 in the downtown core and 523 in the 11 public parking lots.
The need for the City to do more promotion of the available public parking spaces, and specifically parking lots, in downtown Turlock was apparent including installing better parking wayfinding signs.
Turlock Development Services Director Mike Pitcock brought up another issue that is greatly affecting parking and the downtown businesses — employee parking.
"The idea is to get employees and owners off Main Street and to have them park in the public lots," said Pitcock.
With employees and business owners parking in the public lots it would leave the prime space in front of downtown shops, salons and restaurants open for a steady stream of turnover customer parking, said Pitcock.
While those in attendance on Tuesday agreed that leaving prime parking open for customers made sense, they also voiced concerns regarding personal safety.
"It isn't safe to walk out there in the dark, it just isn't," said Lamarre, who cited times when there were smells of marijuana coming from the public parking lot located directly behind her business.
Acting Police Chief Nino Amirfar said that while auto burglaries in the downtown area are very minimal, he encouraged anyone who feels they are unsafe to call the police.
Ronda Malmberg of CovenantCare at Home said since the company moved into the old EDD office on the corner of Broadway and Olive she has been encouraging all of the company's 70 employees — 40 who are in the office regularly during the week and the 30 who come and go — to park in the public lot in front of the police and fire departments.
However, after a couple of employees almost got hit crossing the street by cars running the light at that intersection, they were hesitant to keep parking there.
Amirfar said he would have traffic officers keep an eye on the intersection (located adjacent to the police department).
When Senior Planner Katie Quintero went over possible strategies to keep parking open in front of Main Street businesses — such as an employee parking program, revamped limited time spaces and the enforcement of those time limits, and the installation of parking meters, those at Tuesday's meeting found benefits and drawbacks of each strategy.
With an employee parking program, business owners would be responsible for implementing the plan and checking for compliance. No one could agree on what is the best time limit for Main Street parking as four hours seemed too long to the meeting's attendees and two hours may not be enough time for a customer to eat lunch, shop or visit a salon all in one visit. Everyone also acknowledged the drawbacks of enforcement with regards to funding for an additional police officer assigned to parking and the potential for customers to get ticketed.
This was just the first meeting the City of Turlock plans to host in an effort to gain more public input. Additional meetings have not yet been scheduled, however, Quintero encourages those with input to contact her directly at email@example.com or by calling 668-5640.