Stirring A Different Conversation On Riverside/Avondale

September 27, 2012 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

An application for Mellow Mushroom in Avondale will go before the Planning Commission today at 5pm. This development along with several other commercial infill projects over the past two years has created a firestorm of community concern in the Riverside Avondale Historic District. The hyperbole has been senseless. The personal attacks are demeaning and unnecessary. The politics have been disconcerting. The controversy surrounding these developments has underscored the need for a comprehensive transportation plan to be implemented within the District. That plan is long overdue and arbitrarily limiting infill development does nothing but kick the proverbial can down the road.

Infill development in Riverside/Avondale Historic District's Five Points.

Parking has and will continue to be a polarizing issue.  For far too long, our community has put policies in place that has sought to increase parking supply at all costs.  Is it odd then, that the complaints about the need to increase parking supply grow in direct proportion to the actual amount of parking supplied?  Parking therefore has become a self fulfilling prophecy.  Furthermore, mandated minimum parking requirements tend to inflate parking supply due to the modeling flaws inherent in the parking generation rates which ultimately dictate supply levels, further exasperating the problem.
Neither the City nor the District have developed effective, long term policies which take into consideration the social, economic and environmental impacts of how parking contributes to building strong neighborhoods.  An oversupply of parking separates complementary land uses, reduces density, impairs walkability and creates obstacles to providing transit and pedestrian friendly communities.  The issue becomes convoluted and hard to understand as the true costs of parking are disguised from the end user.  Parking does in fact shape the design of our city and in turn defines the way in which we conduct our daily lives.  It’s time to devote more time to this issue rather than debating the merits of a restaurant’s alcohol sales.
In the near term, we have failed to focus on increasing parking facility efficiency.  Our community underestimates the benefits of focused management solutions.  This is evident in the amount of underutilization within existing parking facilities.  We do not have a parking supply problem, we have a parking distribution problem.  Parking spaces outnumber cars in our city nearly four times to one.  By focusing on the parking management side instead of the supply side, a commercial corridor can balance the needs of residents and business owners.  In the long term, we should develop viable alternatives to a heavy auto-centric movement of people throughout the area.  Parking is far from the highest and best use of our space.  Increasing the supply of parking is wasteful, inefficient and disruptive to our daily lives.  Designing our community in a way that builds upon the human scale of our neighborhoods will lead to more productive lives and a more robust economic climate.

I submit before you today a transportation plan which possesses effective best practices that could be implemented within the Riverside Avondale Historic District.

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