A solution to Parking Woes

City eyes fee in lieu of parking spaces

Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The city may give developers and property owners the option to create fewer or no parking spaces when building downtown and instead pay a fee that would help construct a parking garage.

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After decades of searching for a solution to the downtown parking shortage, the Juneau Planning Commission approved the Downtown Fee-In Lieu of Parking Ordinance on Tuesday night, six years after a similar proposal was tabled due to the lack of a designated project for the funds. The ordinance will go to the Juneau Assembly for consideration.

"The fee-in-lieu of parking program is an option for developers and property owners who are incapable of providing parking on site," city planner Ben Lyman said. "We have very small lots downtown where it's hard to put a building and parking spaces."

Applicants who own commercial property in a pre-selected downtown area would have the option of paying a one-time $8,500 fee for each parking space they would have been required to build. The revenue would help fund a new public parking garage.

Residential users in the selected area would have the option of paying $4,250 for each parking space required under city code.

Each residential and commercial building is required to have a certain number of parking spaces depending on how many people occupy the structure and what the parking demand is for the home or business. Single-family homes are required to have two parking spaces, while parking requirements for buildings with three or more housing units depend on how many bedrooms are in the building.

Resident Doug Larsen told the commission he has several worries about the proposed ordinance, particularly concerning the overflow of parking into residential neighborhoods. As density goes up, the competition for parking increases, he said.

"Without some kind of (residential) permit parking, existing residents downtown get pushed out by developers," Larsen said.

Since money generated from the ordinance would not pay for the entire parking garage, Larsen said the city should tax the mixed-use district downtown that generates the majority of the parking needs in the city.

Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek said he has been supportive of the fee-in-lieu program for years. He said a tax on the mixed-use district also would be a good idea.

"Given the cost of any parking structure that we're going to build ... this is going to be a drop in the bucket, and every little bit helps," Kendziorek said.

The program is a way to help raise more money to restructure the downtown parking possibilities, Lyman said.

"It's the catalyst for getting more drops," he said. "By having a fee of $8,500 per parking space, that's not going to build a structured parking space. It gets us part of it and once we build that parking space we could charge someone to use it."

If the Assembly adopts the ordinance, the funds generated from the program would be added to the continuation of a 1 percent sales tax that funds capital improvements, including a downtown joint transit center and parking garage. The city has identified several possible locations for the multi-level structure, with the most probable possibility being the city parking lot across the street from Merchant's Wharf, Lyman said.

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