Downtown parking may change

CITY HALL — City commissioners next week will mull decreasing parking requirements for downtown development.

The discussion will come during a special joint meeting Wednesday of the Traffic & Transportation and Planning commissions on a series of proposed changes to the Downtown Specific Plan, a planning document adopted by the City Council in 2006. Any changes would ultimately require City Council approval.

Highlighted among the proposed changes is reducing parking requirements for a variety of uses, including restaurants, bars, retail and office buildings.

"Adjusting these requirements will keep Glendale in line with peer cities, making it an attractive city for new, smart growth development," outside consultant Bonnie Nelson said in a report on the recommendations.

It is difficult to encourage developers to relocate to the main downtown stretch of Brand Boulevard, she said, because it is near impossible to meet current parking requirements, which means they must go through the additional red tape of applying for parking exceptions.

Nelson recommends other adjustments, including allowing shared and tandem parking, the addition of bicycle parking and amending parking exemptions for change-of-use projects.

The recommendations are the result of more than a year of public outreach on the hot topic, which has long been a subject of local debate.

Transportation & Parking Commission Chairman Christopher Welch said he is glad to see the topic come in front of the two commissions.

"I'm not in favor of any major changes in most of the city, but in the denser urban core, that is where we need to adopt much smarter strategies," he said.

He cited the inefficient use of many downtown parking spaces associated with office buildings, which sit vacant on weekends.

"If parking was better managed, we could have more efficient development," Welch said.

But Planning Commissioner Hank Scheetz said he was skeptical of easing parking requirements.

"Changing the minimum parking is foolish to do because we already are suffering the consequences of not enough parking," he said.

City officials forecast an additional several months of outreach before proposed changes reach the City Council for final approval in mid-2011.

The special joint meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Room 105 of City Hall's Municipal Services Building, 633 E. Broadway.

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