by Eric Peterson
A Nov. 1 public hearing on the new
parking rules and regulations put forth by the City and County of Denver was
postponed due to a lot of rumors and “confusion,” say city officials.
The major misunderstanding? Many
people thought the city was cutting back on residential permits that have
become dominant in dense areas like Capitol Hill and Highland, or starting to
charge for such permits. The hearing has yet to be rescheduled.
“There have been a lot of misconceptions about our new
rules and regulations,” says Cindy Patton, senior city planner with the City
and County of Denver.
“We’re not trying to take permits away from anyone,” echoes
Sean Mackin, the city’s parking operations manager.
The city will send everyone with a residential parking
permit a renewal form for 2014, but people moving into new buildings with nine
or more units “will get a more thorough review,” says Patton. People in
residential permit blocks in single-unit dwellings or apartments with eight or
fewer units will receive permits as before.
The main changes for 2014, say Patton and Mackin, are two new kinds of permits, one for high-traffic
areas like schools and another more flexible residential permit that can be
customized for “zones,” rather than forcing residents to park on their block
and only their block.
People were also up in arms due to the spectre
of a $40 fee for residential permits, but this will not be the case in 2014,
says Mackin, and the permits will remain free. That
could, however, change in the future.
resource is limited -- it doesn’t grow,” says Mackin.
“Parking is an elastic product so we can shift patterns with pricing.”
If $40 fees were implemented for residential permits, it
would be to cover administration costs and not generate revenue, says Emily
Williams, spokesperson for Denver Public Works, noting that the city currently
subsidizes the residential permit program with about $1 million in funding
annually. (The city collected about $29 million from parking meters and
citations in 2012, and all that revenue goes into the general fund.)
Patton says the city is supporting car-sharing,
bike-sharing, and transit-oriented development, easing some of the pressure.
Regardless, she adds, “There is still a demand for vehicle ownership. We’re
trying to maximize the off-street supply.”
As one initiative to do so, the city started its Accessory
Parking Program in 2010 to make it easier for businesses to convert their lots
into paid parking at night.
Growth and new development “are really good things, but
they come with challenges,” says Patton. “Denver is growing and people are
coming here because it’s a great place to live. But we’re a lot different from
San Francisco, Chicago, or Portland. Everyone wants to have their car to go to
the mountains on weekends.”
The tightest parking spots in the city are downtown as well
as LoHi, Capitol Hill, and Cherry Creek -- but Baker
and Platt Park have their issues as well.
“There’s not enough parking on South Pearl,” says Kaelen Gueymard, president of the
Platt Park People’s Association. “It’s because it’s a successful business area
and an attractive destination.”
Gueymard says the
finite nature of on-street parking and the increased business activity
Pearl, along with new residential development in the general vicinity,
means “there aren’t a lot of solutions to this problem. We
can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat.”
“It’s something we need to explore together, and we need
the city to provide technical assistance,” says Gueymard.
In 2011, the city did a parking occupancy study of the
South Pearl district between Arkansas and Mexico avenues and Washington and
Pennsylvania streets that found ample parking in the morning and afternoon, and
more demand in the evening, but “not at the level or consistency being
reported,” according to city officials.
Now that additional restaurants like Session Kitchen and Una Mas Taqueria have opened on
South Pearl, the city is planning a follow-up study in early 2014.
In Baker, there are three distinct parking scenarios for
the north, central, and south parts of the neighborhood, says Matthew Wasserburger, chair of the Baker Historic Neighborhood
Association’s parking committee. Near 6th Ave., “Everyone is concerned about
Denver Health,” he says. Employees compete with residents and customers for
limited street parking.
In the heart of Baker around Broadway and 1st Ave., it’s a
different story. “Residents who were used to parking on the street are now
competing with patrons of restaurants and bars,” says Wasserburger.
Closer to Broadway and I-25 there is no shortage of street parking, but that
could change with a major mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the works.
Some blocks in Baker have residential permits, and others
don’t. “They tend to be pretty haphazard,” says Wasserburger.
After a meeting with city officials in May, residents and
merchants were both “pretty upset,” he adds, and for different reasons. “The
residents and the merchants are the furthest apart. We have no official
Residents want more blocks with residential permit parking
and more flexible permits, while merchants of course want fewer restrictions on
customers so they can more readily find a place to park.
One possible solution, offered by the city’s Accessory
Parking Program, is leveraging the parking lots of banks and other businesses
after hours in dining and nightlife destinations like Baker. Wasserburger also hopes for “half and half solutions” that
balance residential permits on one side of a block and less restrictions on the
But the parking scarcities on South Pearl and Broadway pale
in comparison to those in Cherry Creek, and it’s going to get worse.
Wayne New, president of the Cherry Creek North Neighborhood
Association, says new mixed-use zoning (C-MX-5 and C-MX-8) allows for taller
buildings and about 70 percent less parking per square foot of development than
“We’re projecting a 50 percent buildout
in 10 years,” says New. “Most of this growth is going to happen between 2nd and
The new C-MX-5 and C-MX-8 zoning allows for “less than one
parking space per residential unit – which is unbelievable,” says New.
Previous zoning required two spaces per residential unit.
Worse yet, retail and office are even more
parking-intensive, so if the buildout slants away
from an expected 48 percent residential and 52 percent office and retail
breakdown, the problem could escalate.
The Cherry Creek North and Country Club residential
neighborhood associations funded a traffic and parking
study by TDA Colorado in 2013.
There is still projected to be fewer than 600 metered
spaces in Cherry Creek North in 2023, just as there is in 2013, says New,
making for a serious deficiency in on-street parking. “If the meters are fixed,
you have to have off-street parking,” he says. “Here’s the bottom line: we’re
going to be short 2,300 spaces.”
“It’s just going to be madness,” says New. “It’s going to
be Capitol Hill.”
And Cherry Creek’s parking problems are not independent of
traffic problems. Traffic flow will coagulate with all of the new development,
putting more pressure on traffic routes at 2nd and 3rd and York and University.
Making existing parking lanes into turn lanes is one solution, but then the
shortage gets even worse.
Cherry Creek’s location off the light-rail map doesn’t
help, New says. “Planning keeps saying transit’s going to take care of this.
“Planning says we’ll solve it when it becomes a problem,”
he adds. “That’s not planning.”