Wednesday, June 28, 2017

[Napa County] Grand jury calls on Napa to beef up city parking enforcement

While Napa plots a strategy to revive paid parking downtown and find millions of dollars for a new garage, the city also should make the most of the parking it has – by boosting a sagging enforcement program.
That was the conclusion of a county grand jury report, released Wednesday, that advises Napa on how it can more efficiently use its garages, surface lots and curbsides as an expansion of hotels and businesses feeds more visitors into the city core.
Over the next year, Napa Police should add to its two-person parking enforcement team and update its equipment to throw a wider net over parking violations downtown. Grand jurors wrote that such a thin presence – and a decline in ticket revenue – threatens to further embolden those who overstay two- and three-hour limits and deny peak-hour vehicle space to shoppers and store workers.
Enforcing time limits for cars also has been hampered by outdated hardware and software, a problem worsened by the absence of a city equipment contract for the parking division since 2013, the report added.
“The lack of sufficient parking officers makes it easy for violators to play the odds they won’t get tickets on weekdays and can avoid parking tickets altogether on Saturdays,” jurors said in the 14-page statement. “This doesn’t help the revenue picture, and also sends the wrong message to the public that they can ‘beat the system’ in the downtown (district).”
Lt. Brian Campagna of Napa Police had no immediate comment Monday on the report, saying the city is preparing a response to the grand jury’s findings.
While several downtown business owners interviewed Monday afternoon noted more of a presence from Napa’s parking patrol than the grand jury suggests, many agreed that the parking supply has become troublesome not only for customers but their workers.
“It’s a problem, even for them, to find all-day parking,” said Indra Fortney, owner of the Boho Lifestyle boutique on First Street west of Main. “They have to leave my store, and I’m paying them to move their cars. As more jobs become available, I expect we’ll see an increased problem with that.”
“That’s usually a daily struggle, even for our workers,” said Courtney Holston, a shift leader at the Yo’belle frozen yogurt shop at Main and First streets. “Because of our long shifts it’s hard to find long-term parking,” she added, saying most of the staff leaves its cars at the nearest all-day city lots – on West Street about three blocks northeast, or behind Kohl’s department store two blocks west.
The manager of another Main Street mainstay, however, declared that the level of complaints about downtown parking has much to do with the kinds of businesses involved – be they stores meant for long browsing, or quicker-service outlets like coffee shops.
“Like any downtown merchant, I hear my share of parking (complaints) from my customers,” said Doug Dunlap, manager of Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co. “But we’re mostly a morning-oriented business, so people are in and out of here pretty quickly.”
Despite the complaints of some merchants and visitors, grand jurors declared downtown parking issues more a matter of distribution than of outright shortages, calling the overall supply of 1,747 public spaces adequate but marked by underused garages.
Just east of downtown, however, the emergence of the Oxbow Public Market and the opening of CIA at Copia are stressing the parking supply of the Oxbow district, whose two major lots on First Street are privately owned. Police enforcement of a curbside two-hour limit has been spotty, the grand jury said.
The grand jury report also took aim at “re-parking” drivers who move their vehicles from space to space, avoiding tickets but violating the spirit of time limits. Napa can ensure faster, fairer turnover of curbside slots on the busiest streets by setting a minimum time – perhaps four hours – before vehicles leaving a block can park there again, then citing violators, the report said.
Jurors supported the city’s effort to hire a service manager to oversee Napa’s entire parking system and seek funds for a new downtown vehicle structure, which will hold more than 300 cars at a site near the demolished Cinedome on Pearl Street. However, the report noted the continued shortfall for funding the garage, estimated to require $12 million to $15 million.
June 27, 2017
Napa Valley Register
By Howard Yune

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