Seattle Department of Transportation Officials Margo Polley, left, and Ruth Harper, right, discuss with central Ballard residents the possibility of Restricted Parking Zones.
Ballardites explore possibility of Restricted Parking Zones
At the March 14 Central Ballard Residents Association, Ballardites expressed concerns about parking and explored with SDOT officials Ruth Harper and Margo Polley the possibility of Restricted Parking Zones (RPZs).
What are RPZs? It's a program that is used to ease congestion in residential neighborhoods, essentially to keep outsiders from taking parking spots in front of houses and apartments. Currently, RPZs are in 31 neighborhoods, with the most known example perhaps being the Capitol Hill neighborhood. You can learn more about RPZs here.
In Ballard, residents have been expressing a growing frustration with outsiders taking their parking spots, particularly during the weekends when a popular nightlife attracts people from all over town.
"Parking helps support a thriving business district and so taking parking kind of ... (she doesn't complete the sentence) there's a delicate balance," Polley said.
CBRA President Mike Kahrs expressed concern about the exploding growth of Ballard, including several high-rise apartments which will be going online around the same time within the next couple of years.
"A lot of these people in these buildings are not going to rent a parking space (and they will use street parking), so we have a lot of pressure," he said.
Fellow CBRA member Ethan Van Eck also expressed concerns over the high-rises.
"There's construction of massive apartments and some of them provide some parking, but we suspect not enough," Eck said. "We still expect to entertain friends and family."
Ballard Resident Liz Cunningham expressed frustration that she couldn't invite people to her house if there was no parking.
"I had friends who came in from Shoreline and leave because they couldn't find parking," she said.
Even Harper conceded she had trouble finding parking in Ballard.
"I have my own Ballard anecdote," she said. "I once tried to go to the Ballard Library with my son on a Sunday and we left."
For Ballard resident Julia Sterkovsky, who lives in an apartment building in the core of downtown Ballard, it has been difficult to regularly find convenient parking outside her home.
"I really enjoy what's happening on Ballard Ave," Sterkovsky said. "(But) they took parking and turned it to two hours, which works for business, but I hope for some RPZs around the building in exchange."
Kahrs half-joked that he didn't leave during the weekend unless he planned on coming back on Sunday after 4 p.m.
Polley said that parking for apartment buildings could be extremely expensive. If people wanted any affordable housing, that means the apartment buildings would have to take some parking spaces away.
Polley and Harper explained that in order to move forward with a parking study and the possibility of RPZs, they need residents to find out where they think parking is a problem. Moreover, residents need to identify 10 contiguous blocks which they think could qualify for RPZs and then include that in a letter to SDOT.
Why 10 blocks? Because before, residents were getting RPZs for extremely small areas, which caused a problem for police officers who would have to go out of their way to check on just a few cars.
Residents at the meeting said they were willing to share with businesses or other institutions and were unsure they needed a whole 10 blocks.
When residents send the letter with possible problem areas and if SDOT agrees that, yes, there is a problem, they will go forward with a study and start designing RPZs in conjunction with the neighborhood. There would also be a public hearing where residents could give suggestions and express concerns.
"It takes a while. It can take as long as a year from soup to nuts," Harper said.
Kahrs said CBRA has already begun working on the process and he hopes to put together a letter in the near future. But he said he was unsure of when that would be.
Zachariah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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