Danville Express

Newsfront - February 23, 2007

The fine art of setting parking lot time limits

Council debates three-hour allowance for new Front Street lot

by Natalie O'Neill

Three hours to shop and eat. That's how much time visitors to downtown Danville will likely get when the new Front Street parking lot is opened in the coming weeks.

A Town Council discussion last week centered on whether a three-hour parking limit is appropriate to both encourage leisurely shopping and discourage students and employees from using the lot.

"Those parking spaces need to turn over on a regular basis I don't want it to turn into school parking," Town Manager Joe Calabrigo said at the study session.

A memo from the town Economic Development Coordinator Bonnie Guttman, used as a reference at the meeting, detailed that a three-hour limit is "consistent with feedback from merchants and citizens."

She also noted it will allow plenty of time for "customers to patronize multiple businesses, such as visiting a hairdresser and having lunch."

Many merchants along Hartz Avenue and Front Street feel that time frame is long enough to shop without feeling rushed, even for services that are typically more time consuming.

"That's a great amount of time for me because I'm fast. I can do a nail fill in an hour and a half," said Justine Fulgham, owner of One Front Street Nails.

But while most merchants agree, some residents feel that for older visitors and those coming in from out of town, four hours is a more appropriate limit.

"As someone who's lived here 51 years, I think we ought to make it longer so older people have time to have lunch and diddle around. Older people don't walk as fast," said Lynn Bremer, who works at Gagen, McCoy, McMahon, Koss, Markowitz & Raines, a law firm on Front Street.

Bremer said the three-hour limit wouldn't impact the amount of business the law firm gets because it has its own parking lot. But she said she has friends that come in from Pleasant Hill and Castro Valley who want to spend the whole day downtown and would like to see longer time limits.

The problem with this thinking, Guttman points out, is that if the limit is bumped up to four hours, employees will probably use the lot for half-day parking.

Employees of downtown businesses can purchase parking permits that allow for eight-hour parking in designated locations. But these employees might find the new lot more convenient.

Most of the town's research on the issue was taken from previous experience with the Clock Tower parking lot, Guttman said. Originally merchants near the Clock Tower wanted a two-hour time limit to encourage more business through a higher turnover rate.

About a year after the lot was put in, however, the town started getting calls from merchants and customers saying they were getting tickets. Customers said they didn't have enough time to make two stops, and merchants detailed that their customers were upset.

"Some women who get their hair done need longer than two hours," said Councilwoman Candace Andersen.

And Guttmann said that the feedback she has received from Discover Danville and the Chamber of Commerce highlight similar points.

"Parking is an art, not a science. It's a weird balance, you have to keep tweaking (time limits)," Guttman said.

Project manager Mike Stella said the exact date of the opening of the Front Street parking lot could not be given, but that it would hopefully be opened in the next two weeks.

San Ramon Valley Principal Joseph Ianora was not available at press time to comment on whether the three-hour limit would deter students from using the lot.

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