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City Council adopts new downtown parking plan
Parking pic
The parking lot on the corner of Main Street and Lander Avenue contains free public parking that many community members are unaware of, which the City Council aims to change through maps and information posted on City websites as part of the new downtown parking plan. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

After weeks of planning and deliberation, the Turlock City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to adopt the Downtown Parking Management Plan, which contains a number of measures meant to ensure adequate parking in downtown Turlock.

TJKM Transportation Consultants gathered data and public input on the current parking situation in the downtown area over the past several months, and then developed a number of recommendations based on their findings. The consultant firm presented a draft parking plan to a joint Planning and City Council meeting on June 28.

The most surprising finding to a number of the commissioners and council members was that there are 3,800 parking spaces in downtown Turlock; however, only 35 percent of those are utilized. TJKM found that the people surveyed were reluctant to utilize parking spaces one or two blocks off of the main retail corridor along Main Street due to a perception that walking that far would be unsafe or difficult due to poor sidewalk conditions or lack of lighting.

The final draft of the proposed Downtown Parking Management Plan was presented to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, and it included a number of action items along with implementation measures for each.

The first action item, which will be implemented beginning in November, was to provide education and outreach on available parking options. A webpage on the City of Turlock website will be created, providing the community with information and maps of all public parking lots within downtown. The City will also work with the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association and businesses downtown to add parking information and maps to local websites. By February of 2017, the City will have created a funding proposal for the design, purchase, and installation of parking wayfinding signs throughout downtown to better increase the community’s knowledge of available parking.

“There are a lot of public parking signs out there, but I think going through the process of having it very bright and visible and part of our branding will just highlight those spots even more,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth. “It’s low hanging fruit that we should do right away.”

The second action item looks to improve walkability, access, and security within the downtown area by evaluating the sidewalks, streetlights, wheelchair ramps, parking lot lighting and crosswalk conditions within Zone 1 – the core downtown area – to identify and prioritize needed improvements. Parking spaced within the City parking lots will also be evaluated for ADA compliance. Both of these measures will be implemented no later than January 2017.

The third action item was met with uncertainty from the City Council, resulting in an amendment to the item. Before the amendment, an implementation measure of the item read “Begin enforcement of the time limited parking.” But, Soiseth pointed out that the City couldn’t be sure just yet if it would have the available policing resources to actually enforce downtown parking.

“Instead of saying, in action item number three, ‘begin’ enforcement of time limited parking, I think we should put ‘explore’ enforcement because I do think we need to look at our level of policing at that time and whether we have the resources to actually go and enforce this,” he said.

In the approved resolution, an amendment was made to action item number three so that the implementation measure now reads, “Explore enforcement of the time limited parking.” The other implementation measure revolve around evaluating, removing or replacing time limit parking signs downtown, as well as developing and implementing a program to provide public information about the location of public parking lots and to provide warning notices regarding parking time limits.

The fourth action item also required an amendment. It originally planned to create an employee parking permit program, but Soiseth suggested that the language be changed so that the City may have the opportunity to discuss such a plan with downtown business owners before implementation or development. The word “create” was changed to “evaluate,” so that the action item now reads, “Evaluate an employee parking permit program.” The evaluation will take place no later than September 2017.

The fifth action item will help the City plan and implement Transportation Demand Management to reduce travel demand for single-occupied private vehicles. Implementation measures for this item include improving bike-friendly facilities, such as bike lanes and bike racks by January 2017 and exploring valet options for private businesses and public parking lots as requested by local businesses.

Action item number six will identify funding options to construct new parking facilities by looking at grant opportunities and City funding sources, as well as evaluating parking in-lieu fee programs that have been adopted by other cities. Short-term and long-term parking facility improvement programs will also be developed for the downtown area no later than July 2018.

The seventh and final action item calls for the Downtown Parking Management Plan and Implementation Plan to be regularly evaluated and updated. In three years, TJKM will review the plan and it will be reviewed once every five years thereafter in order to evaluate parking demand and to stay up-to-date on current technology and trends.

“I think it’s absolutely time we talked about this,” said Council member Steven Nascimento before the Council voted to adopt the resolution. “I think we have some good direction.”