Yakima committee set to tackle downtown parking issues

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Parking in downtown Yakima is one of those thorns city leaders are trying desperately to solve. It is the key hurdle for creating a workable downtown plaza. KIMA reports new talks will focus on short-term recommendations from the city's consultants.

Kathi Bonlender owns The Sub Shop in downtown Yakima. She supports creating a downtown plaza, but has concerns.

"I would worry about the impact on me because a lot of my customers park across the street."

Other downtown business owners feel the same way. It's why Yakima hired parking consultants to come up with answers to ease those fears.

Yakima is considering moving forward with some short-term recommendations. They include converting some downtown side streets to angled parking. The consultants say it would create roughly 155 additional spaces.

Edward Ogee's not sure that's the best idea.

"If you have diagonal parking, you're going to have people backing out and causing more accidents than the added parking spaces would justify."

Consultants also recommend changing lots with four-hour parking to limits of no more than three hours, so spaces open more often.

"What we have happening quite often down here is an employee camped out in a spot that should definitely be available for a customer who wants to come down and spend some money," said Yakima Economic Development Manager, Sean Hawkins.

Underused lots next to the Barrel House or across from police headquarters could be reserved for city employees. The city's talking to some banks about making their private lots available to the public.

Consultants also recommend a parking czar. Yakima's city manager intends to appoint James Dean, the city's Utility Services Manager, to be the point person for downtown parking issues.

As for paid parking...

"I don't think there's any interest from our staff or Council to add paid parking in the near future," said Hawkins.

The Built Environment Committee will take a look at all of the recommendations at its next meeting.

Hawkins tells KIMA that angled parking is the top priority. But, no decisions have been made on any of the recommendations. City Council will have the final say.