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.

Increasing capacity of existing parking facilities.

parking lots behind commercial buildings throughout the district could be better utilize to resolve the area's parking distribution problem.

*Allow for shared parking arrangements between complementary uses within close proximity.  Allowing for and encouraging shared parking actually has the effect of reducing the overall number of parking spaces needed within a given area.

*Better utilize back alleys away from principal pedestrian routes as access points for off-street parking and loading

*Utilize tandem or stacked parking arrangements incorporated with evening valet services.  This is particularly effective during peak periods.

*Reduce the size of parking stall dimensions overall and dedicate a certain percentage of stalls to compact cars

*The enforcement of time limit restrictions and prohibiting occupancy of key on street parking facilities during specific times.

*Provide signs, maps and brochures that make available accurate information to users on parking facilities and availability.  Improving user information is particularly useful when there is a perceived parking shortage, although spaces are available in an area.  Parking at unused on street facilities a short distance away still requires less walking to a destination than parking your car at the mall and walking to a store inside.
Parking facilities that serve multiple destinations tend to be more efficiently used.  These are strategies that are cost effective and do not rely on variable pricing strategies, which tend to be less business friendly.

Encourage alternative forms of transportation/Increase mode share

Multiuse paths, such as this one in Winter Haven, FL, are examples of infrastructure projects and transportation solutions that can increase mode share.

The number one way to reduce parking demand is to provide viable alternatives to personal auto-centric circulation.

* Create a policy goal whereas 10% of all trips in the District are made by bicycle.  Commercial buildings should have bicycle parking facilities for at least 10% of all building users within 200 yards of the building’s entrance and multi-unit residential buildings should be mandated to have bicycle storage facilities for 20% of the building’s residents.
* Substitute bicycle parking for automobile parking requirements in the Overlay.  For every 5 non-motorized spaces provided, automobile-related related spaces can be reduced by 1 up to a maximum of 10% of the total parking requirement.

* Adopt the Mobility Plan’s network of bicycle and bicycle projects within Mobility Zone 7 and actively promote and find ways to match funding for the implementation of these projects.

*Improve sidewalk connections from off site parking facilities to commercial districts.  Improving the quality of walking conditions expands the range of parking facilities that serve our commercial districts and increases the feasibility of sharing parking facilities and use of remote parking facilities.  Walking and cycling improvements also encourage transit use as the majority of transit trips involve non-automotive links.

* Encourage a network of businesses to promote a transit merchant validation/incentive programs.

*If transit passes are provided to all employees of a particular business and high frequency transit is located within close proximity of that business, the total parking requirement for this development can be reduced by 10%.
*Implement a transportation management association (TMA) among commercial property and business owners.  TMAs are private, non-profit member controlled associations that provide transportation services throughout the District.  TMAs are funded by membership dues and local government grants.  A TMA can fund a high frequency, private circulator system whereas a shuttle service is provided to ferry users between existing peripheral parking locations.  TMA dues can also supplement long range transportation projects identified in the Mobility Plan.  
Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian crosswalk signs in downtown West Palm Beach.

*’Stop for pedestrians’ crosswalk signs should be installed at every marked crosswalk within the three commercial districts.

*On street parking should be restricted to one side of the street on roadways that have inadequate width to support safe circulation of automobiles.

* Adopt the Mobility Plan’s network of bicycle and bicycle projects within Mobility Zone 7 as the top pedestrian and cycling improvements throughout the District.  Within the five year priority list, almost 4 miles of improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be fully funded and constructed within the District provided the Mobility Fee is collected over that same period.

A signage program known as Walk!Philadelphia has found success in encouraging walking throughout Center City Philadelphia and the surrounding urban neighborhoods.

According to a recent study entitled Dangerous by Design, Jacksonville ranks as the fourth most deadliest metro area for pedestrians.  The study found that children, the elderly and ethnic minorities are disproportionally represented in the number of fatalities and significant deaths suffered by pedestrians.  Clearly, the health and safety of our resident’s should be a primary concern in any transportation policy.  

Long Term Goals

An example of a streetcar line in New Orleans, LA.

*Align all transportation policies within the Overlay to the 2030 Mobility Plan.  A long term goal would be to supplement funding for transportation projects within the Mobility Plan with revenue from a TIF-district or any potential residential parking sticker program, while offsetting storm water runoff management projects with the remaining funds.

*A high frequency streetcar line connecting King Street with Downtown is fully funded through the collection of the Mobility Fee.  This transit line will provide a desirable form of transportation to choice riders, decrease automotive trips throughout the District and will push large commercial developments out of highly concentrated residential areas and into urban transition areas, thereby maintaining neighborhood scale.

*Implement a density bonus program.  The concept of incentive zoning can complement the Riverside Avondale Zoning Overlay by maintaining the historic characteristics that built the neighborhood.  Density bonuses function whereas a developer is permitted a certain exception to the zoning code in exchange for the inclusion of a specified community benefit.  These benefits can take the form of a public space fronting a building, a widened and improved sidewalk, historic preservation or transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Along the commercial areas in Riverside and Avondale, density bonuses can provide for such things as public green space, allowing parking deviations when permanent bike facilities are substituted for a portion of the overall parking requirement or funding transportation improvements which could serve to match funds for specific neighborhood transportation projects identified in the 2030 Mobility Plan.

*Reduce parking requirements by 20% if facilities are within walking distance of high frequency transit.

*Offer a “payment of fee in lieu of parking” option.  Developers can utilize this option to help fund public parking facilities or fund transit initiatives.  Forgoing building private parking facities (such as an onsite parking lot) in lieu of creating more public facilities can be both cost effective and increase the efficient movement of people within the overall commercial district.  Instead of serving a single destination, the vision of the community can be implemented using funds from a developer.  Often visioning exercises remain unimplemented due to capital constraints.  An in lieu of fee provides community stakeholders with the necessary capital to implement these goals.  This option could be mandated, but would be more effective if left optional.  
Addressing the root causes of the issues facing our community requires buy in from a cross-section of various stakeholders.  Implementing a workable plan requires local advocacy groups, residents, business owners and developers to work together towards appropriately managing parking and transportation issues.  We should revise policies that provide adequate parking supply yet still encourages that which makes our neighborhood strong: preserving historical and contextual character, encouraging pedestrian and transit friendly design, promoting the fiscal and economic benefits of alternative modes of mobility and enhancing the human scale of our neighborhood.
Some of these strategies are complementary, meaning they are most effective when implemented concurrently.  Data shows that a relevant combination of these cost-effectve best practices can reduce parking required in the District by upwards of 40%.  This is space that can be recaptured for a broader public good.  When it is all said and done, supporting responsible infill growth is the most prudent and logical way our community should move forward.  We’ve become victims of the sideshow blinding us all to what really matters.  Meanwhile, our neighborhood hangs in the balance.  

Article by Mike Field

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