Agendas and Minutes

Downtown Parking Management and Circulation Ad Hoc Advisory Committee (View All)

December 3, 2014 meeting

Minutes
Wednesday, December 03, 2014

 ASHLAND DOWNTOWN PARKING MANAGEMENT & CIRCULATION AD HOC ADVISORY COMMITTEE MINUTES
December 3, 2014
 
 
CALL TO ORDER The meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. in the Siskioyu Room, 51 Winburn Way
Regular members present: Pam Hammond, Michael Dawkins, Rich Kaplan, Dave Young, John Williams, Emile Amarotico, Lisa Beam, Marie Donovan, Liz Murphy, Cynthia Rider, Joe Graf, John Fields (arrived at 3:40)
Regular members absent:, Joe Collonge,
Ex officio (non-voting) members present: Sandra Slattery, Bill Molnar, Katharine Flanagan, Mike Faught, and Lee Tuneberg  
Ex officio (non-voting) members absent: Mike Gardiner, and Rich Rosenthal
City of Ashland Staff members present: Tami De Mille-Campos, Kristy Blackman, Maria Harris
Non members present: Don Anway (Neuman Hotel Group), Linda Fait (Diamond Parking), Edem Gomez, Adam Hanks and Carol Voisin
 
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Minutes of November 5, 2014
 
Approved by unanimous consent, Kaplan abstained due to having not been present for that meeting.
 
Dawkins shared with the Committee his unhappiness with the seating arrangements. He would like the room to be arranged so that everyone can be seen while they are speaking. Others echoed the same feelings. Faught pointed out the reason behind the setup was to try to pull all of the voting and nonvoting members together at the table. Staff will arrange the room differently at the next meeting.
 
PUBLIC FORUM
Carolina Lavagnino, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for the Neuman Hotel Group
She shared that the Neuman hotel group brings quite a few people into town thanks to their sales and marketing efforts and they will be bringing more into town with the opening of the convention center; Ashland Hills. The convention center will be able to hold large events up to 700 people. While there is plenty of parking available at the property, they are very concerned that the guests will have difficulty with parking when they come to downtown Ashland to play during their stay. The guests who visit downtown benefit everyone. With large events of that size, they wonít be able to accommodate that many rooms so that means other hotels will benefit, restaurants will benefit and all of the downtown merchants will benefit as well. She added as a resident of Ashland she has encountered parking issues in the downtown on many occasions.
 
Louise Shawkat, 870 Cambridge St.
She is concerned about excess carbon in the atmosphere and feels we need to continue to be a model for Oregon cities. She said Ashland needs to reduce its carbon footprint and a parking transportation plan should do that. She stressed we need to increase our multi-modal roads by extending the road diet along Main Street. It would mean using electric trolleys that would run from one end of town to the other. She added trolleys are cute; cute invites tourists. She further added these two suggestions would reduce the demand for parking. Electric trolleys are used in other cities the size of Ashland and larger such as: Cambridge Massachusetts and Stanville Virginia. She urged the committee to stop doing business as usual, think globally/act locally and think about the long term and not just the short term.
 
Andrew Kubik, 1251 Munson Dr.
Without taking up any time he stated he would echo exactly what Louise said.
 
Colin Swales, 95 Coolidge St.
He thanked the Chamber of Commerce and City staff for the recent Festival of Lights celebration. He said it was amazing how well it was organized and how well the traffic flowed down Lithia Way while being diverted around the downtown. He said there were about 10,000 people that came into town for the celebration. He added that it is also interesting to see that when all of the parking is removed from the Plaza area those 10,000 people manage to park quite easily. He had an appointment to get to so he was one of the first cars to follow behind the police escort as East Main Street opened back up and he stated it was incredible to see the multi-modal inequity in this town along East Main. You go from 3 full traffic lanes filled with people and revelers and all of the sudden those 10,000 people are squashed onto these narrow little sidewalks. His second point which he thinks can be done quickly without too much problem is getting a bike lane through downtown. Cyclists have to dodge and weave through there and he feels a bike lane should be a high priority for the committee.
 
Continued Evaluation of Parking & Circulation Management Plan
Faught said there was a lot of discussion at the last meeting and we went through kind of a brainstorming session. The notes that were taken during the meeting were put into categories by staff after the meeting and he read them to the committee (comments were hung on the wall for review and are also included in the November meeting minutes).
 
Tuneberg said he didnít recall the consultants providing numbers of employees during specific times of the day, such as peak number of employees on any given day. Faught said there are some data gaps. The information we have is the total amount of employees which was provided by the State of Oregon employment department.
 
Faught asked the committee if staff had captured what they were saying during the last meeting. Slattery said under parking supply it says ďGrowth/demand needs to be looked at by type of user (OSF, residents, tourists)Ē. Sheís not sure that really captures it correctly and wonders if there is a better way of saying it. She said if we are talking about the downtown and railroad district, theyíre businesses/buildings and those buildings are occupied by owners and employees and not all of them are residents. There are people who work in Ashland that are not a part of the visitor base and there sort of left out of that description. Faught added that is sort of an expansion of what we had. Slattery also mentioned where it says ďparking situation is seasonalĒ, parking sort of ebbs and flows. During the holidays and on weekends it is much more challenging but that falls out of that 9 month window and she added we are looking at a year round economy and not just 9 months of the year. Kaplan said he agrees the term ďseasonalĒ kind of leads you in a wrong direction. The parking situation varies during the entire year, saying 9 months doesnít add much value. Faught clarified; maybe we should say it is year round because we donít have 3 free months out there.
 
Faught pointed out the data that was received from the consultant was current data and didnít really look out into the future so he feels there are some future data gaps in their analysis. We are looking at existing and long term growth demands and he mentioned at the last meeting that we have very limited available property in the downtown area. So if the committee thinks there is a supply issue, today or in the future, we need to figure out where those are now and put together a plan before development occurs and we miss that opportunity. With that said, he isnít sure we have sufficient data to help make those decisions. He had asked the Chamber if they could help pull some of that data together. He mentioned to Molnar that as they look at the current land use there is some potential residential development there as well. The two of them can pull some data as they look at what might actually build out but he thinks it would be valuable if there was more future data available as the committee begins making some of these decisions. He added he appreciates everyone being open to bringing more data to the table. He said this is our vision and our future plan so we want to make sure that we arenít just looking at a snapshot of today when we make these decisions which affect the future.
 
Faught displayed one of the maps from the November meeting which displays the buildable land within the downtown study area. He pointed out to the committee that he had the Public Works GIS department put the map together. He added as you look at how much detail is in this map he wonders if it would be best to have a subcommittee work on this and a few other key areas within the plan. He isnít sure how effective it is for the entire group to look at some of these things. The subcommittees would drill down and then bring strategies back to the entire body for further discussion and decision making.
 
Dawkins said he heard that this was in the process and he gave it quite a bit of thought. He is really against having subcommittees, simply because he believes this committee is made up of a great cross section of people. He feels that by breaking the committee up into subcommittees essentially it is kicking the can down the road because eventually the whole committee has to come back to discuss what the subcommittee has done. He added that even though it is a large group, he feels all-in-all they have done fairly well working together and now that the consultants are away they can drill down into the bigger issues.
 
Kaplan asked if the subcommittees are established how much staff support would be involved. Faught answered it would require himself, Molnar and Tami to pull all of the details together.
 
Marsh likes the idea of the smaller groups. She said there is so much to do and she thinks if the committee was to break down into smaller groups and dive into it then they can bring it back to the body and hash it out again, which needs to happen anyway. She feels the committee needs to go over it again and again because it needs to be right. She added it is something that is going to carry us through for the next 25 years. As it is the committee has been meeting for a year now and in another year she isnít sure it will even be done unless we can start drilling down.
 
Sandra thinks it would be helpful if staff could define what the groups would do so they could determine what kind of work is involved and then whether or not that works in a small or large group so they could get a sense of timing. She thinks there is a lot that needs to be done, whether they do that in a large group or not they need to get a sense of the timing.
 
Faught said on the supply side he envisioned this particular subcommittee drilling down on all the parking options, including whether or not to change the restricted parking as recommended in the draft management plan. They will look at what inventory is left, future inventory that is needed and then determine based on what is available out there what kinds of strategies will get us through the next 20-25 years. He envisioned it being 4 or 5 people and thinks this one will probably take 2 or 3 months of work as this one is probably the most complex piece. There are a couple other subcommittees that he is recommending. There is the multi-modal piece which is complex as well. Land use is another one. He envisions with the land use subcommittee it would include one or both of the Planning Commissioners as it directly relates to the Planning Commission and maybe even a city Councilor as well.
 
Young stated he would tend to agree with Dawkins and he still isnít clear why we need subcommittees at this stage. He added we have completely exhausted the contractual money paid to our consultant and they came up with a phased approach which included public-private partnerships. He also added no other part of the Transportation System Plan includes this level of detail. He fundamentally disagrees with the idea that this level of detail is important. 6 months ago the committee agreed to focus on identifying public-private supply options that doesnít preclude that concept being what is agreed upon and then like other areas of the TSP, when there is either development or when thereís funding we then form a subcommittee to do that work. To him that is the model that the rest of the TSP has always worked on so he is confused about why we need to do this now and delay the completion of this committee. Faught answered he needs to make sure he has the assumptions of the committee correct and his assumption based on the last meeting was that the committee wasnít interested in accepting the draft plan as is and that the committee wanted to work on additional parking supply and more vision. He added, from a staff perspective he needs to know if his assumption is accurate.
 
Dawkins said regarding land use, there isnít a whole lot that can be done with that because the downtown has certain requirements. He pointed out; there is underground parking in all of the Lithia Way development that is occurring. He also added we arenít bringing a huge influx of people into town with the way that development is taking place. A majority of the development occurring in the downtown are high end condos used as 2nd homes. He said there could be a committee to discuss the land use but he doesnít think they would have a whole lot to offer the group because it isnít really an issue related to this committee.
 
Donovan said she disagrees with Dawkins. The reason they had that conversation at the last meeting was in order to move forward and do anything constructive or meaningful she feels the committee needs to look at all of these other issues. She said a lot of the minutiae that will be involved in some of the discussions and side meetings will be a lot of staff time and then they will have data that they can actually use. She thinks there was a consensus at the last meeting that they were not comfortable rubber stamping the consultants plan. She feels we need to look at this some more.
 
Williams likes the idea of subcommittees for several reasons, not just because it helps to divide and concur all of the work but it also allows the committee to work on issues where they think they add the most value and sort of drill down into areas where some of their individual expertiseís may be.
 
Marsh feels land use inevitably has to be a part of this because we need to know what the buildup potential is of downtown as we look at what parking supply is going to be required over a long period of time. She feels land use is where it starts in terms of defining the issue.
 
Kaplan remembers one of the key premises of the consultantís report is that we may have a supply issue but it is predominately a distribution issue. He asked if that is no longer the consensus of the group. Faught said that is the foundation of the question and his take from the last meeting is that is no longer the consensus of the committee. The committee talked about how the plan recommends moving employee parking out into the residential areas and as he said at the last meeting that makes him extremely nervous because he knows he will be inundated with phone calls. Rider pointed out she will get the phone calls to because some of them will be her employees. He said while it seems like an easy solution, if he lived out there that would be a problem for him. He mentioned another question is can you do that without building quite a bit of infrastructure to make it safe. His take from the last meeting is that the committee had moved from that analysis to looking at long term parking needs, not only because that seems like an area where we may encounter problems but also because we have limited areas where we can take advantage of future parking facilities.
 
Young responded he thinks we need to separate out the recommendation about parking permits and moving things out into the railroad district, which a lot of people have reservations about, from the core assumption that was data driven (from surveys, expertise of the consultants) and said there is a lot of efficiency to be gained with the existing parking stock. Also, their data showed there wasnít as big of a problem with employee parking as some thought. Their core assumption includes identifying additional parking from public/private sources which is thinking about the future. He feels the whole plan took the future into consideration and not just the current needs. He doesnít think the committee should change the assumptions that they ran on for a long time.
 
Beam agrees with what was deemed as opportunity for turnover and changes to signage and identifying loading zones etc. She feels those are short term fixes and she would think from the cityís perspective they would be quick fixes. As a committee, for long term opportunities she personally doesnít feel just moving and pushing people out into residential areas is a good solution and would cause residents in those affected areas to be upset with that. She thinks the committee does need to keep exploring opportunities and not kick the can down the road for someone else to solve.
 
Fields spoke to Dawkinsí previous comment and said what is driving the downtown development is relative values and where people see they can make profits. He said there is a parking problem but itís in a good way; people are coming to downtown. He added he doesnít think it is a crisis but the question is the future. He said this is the same discussion that has been had for the past 30 years. He feels if we are going to spend time understanding this and making any decisions we need to have a good understanding and a vision of what the dynamic forces are and can we guess it right.
 
Rider mentioned OSF isnít building another theater but there is no doubt that even a 1% swing (which in their marketing world is not that huge) is 4,000 more patrons. They certainly hope they will have more people coming each and every year. Hackett mentioned last month about there not being a huge increase from them but what he was talking about was that they arenít expecting huge amounts of additional people due to adding another theater or something of that sort. She said the biggest time that they have capacity to grown would be the February, March, April, September months but they even have capacity to grow during the busy season. For instance, even when they are at 100% capacity it doesnít mean they are at 100% for every single show.
 
Faught mentioned that we have to make sure that parking isnít an issue where OSF canít expand, or if the Neuman Hotel group starts bringing in more people we donít want that to be a problem either.
 
Anway stated it is not just OSF though. Faught apologized to Anyway but said he isnít able to take his input during the middle of the meeting but if any non members have input they are more than welcome to submit those to staff.
 
Hammond shared that she had a 17% increase in sales in November which was likely due to having more customers in her store. Faught pointed out this gets back to the data gaps, which the Chamber is willing to bring to the table. He said thatís the piece thatís missing and we donít have enough data yet to say how far we should go.
 
Flanagan said Ashland wouldnít be Ashland without OSF and it is the cornerstone to why people come to Ashland but she would like everyone to remember that there are over 300,000 people that come every year and about half of those come to see OSF. She said Rider explained the dynamics of how that can ebb and flow. They have a certain amount of capacity in terms of lodging space, restaurants, parking etc. but we also want to increase that capacity because Ashland is a visitor destination. There are a lot of different reasons that attract people to Ashland; recreational events, wellness, micro brews, mountain biking or a number of different things.
 
Faught asked Slattery to speak to the vision of the committee. Slattery mentioned as she has been thinking about all of this and reading about what was discussed at the November meeting, criticism is an interesting word and sometimes people can get defensive when others are critical but she feels it is where we need to be. She doesnít feel itís bad where the committee has come from over the last year, she thinks the consultants provided a level of analysis that was needed but for her if she is going to envision the future those data gaps are pretty big because what the consultants didnít do was look at the full picture of the future economy; whoís currently using it and where we are going. She said itís not just the Chamber that provides data but also the Employment Department is able to provide some of the information regarding who is occupying the space downtown. There is a great amount of data from the Planning department and through the Chamber but all of that together is what the committee should be looking at, factual data. The consultants that were hired were fine but the students didnít have the depth of experience and knowledge to really give a picture of what the community is in this particular area. She added she loves the conversation of multi-modal and if the committee wants to vision the future and look at nicer sidewalks, better lighting, connecting the downtown to the railroad district, making it easily accessible and safe to walk etc. that is what we should be thinking about because if multi-modal is put in then you can see how all of those connect together and make it a wonderful user experience for residents, employees and visitors.
 
Dawkins said he was really taken by some of the things Slattery said at the last meeting and he has been thinking about it quite a bit. He said the conflict really seems to be whether there is a parking supply problem or a distribution problem. One of the problems they have as a group is there really isnít a problem, Ashland works just fine the way it is. The business community is perfectly fine with the status quo, theyíd like more parking but if they canít get that itíll be fine.
 
Hammond said as a community member and a business owner she is for change in the downtown and Beam said she isnít ok with status quo either.
 
Hammond also responded to an earlier comment that Dawkins made, she said there are people who live above the downtown businesses year round. Dawkins replied that he is a huge supporter of the businesses downtown, from a planning action standpoint they look at what has been built. Some of them are owner occupied but most of them, specifically on Will Dodge Way are vacant (2nd homes).
 
Fields said it brings us back to the land use. The city wanted to see the downtownís density grow & encourage it and they eliminated any parking requirement and what that did was allowed people to develop and create this density. He added what makes a downtown work is continuous storefront and having the density that works. Land use is that mechanism where he wishes would determine where parking is going to go and who pays for it. The community has to decide if they want to build parking garages in preparation for growth or development requirements related to parking.
 
Faught commented that this is very complex and it leads him back to why the committee needs to drill down on the details.
 
Beam said she likes the idea of the committee at least talking about what they see in the future because that is the driving force. Not only taking into consideration the tourists but also recognizing the regional growth. We need to keep it convenient for when people do come to Ashland.
 
Marsh said she was just looking at the title of this committee and itís real clear in listening to everyoneís comments that what this group is talking about is morphing into a full downtown study because they are starting to pick up all of the other areas; land use, amenities etc. She thinks maybe the committee needs to decide if this is something they are willing to take on and if so, is that something we have the staff capacity to take on. If that is what they decide then maybe it is something that should be taken to Council to fill them in on the direction that the committee is going because this is something that is much broader than how it started out. Young asked if that is the level of detail that is required for the TSP. Marsh said if he is asking her if she is worried about finishing the TSP, the answer is no because there is a whole level of detail already completed. What this group is coming to is can they do the work of circulation and parking without looking at land use and if you are looking at land use then the amenities should also be looked at. She added it becomes this comprehensive thing that is morphing and you can reel it all back and decide to only do certain pieces but that is the question that the committee is struggling with.
 
Donovan said she thinks part of the struggle with that is they were looking at changing lanes, pushing traffic into residential areas, what should be done with employee parking and what became clear is that none of the solutions made any sense. Then they started thinking maybe they needed to look a little broader and that is when it started to evolve and it felt like they were getting ready to endorse something that wasnít comfortable. It felt premature and she doesnít want to rubber stamp something that feels that way. She feels the committee needs to do this right and either decide to finish it or decide to be done with it.
 
Rider said she thinks what the committee is actually trying to do is decide what the problem is to be solved and that is why the answers donít feel right. She thinks there are both distribution issues and future supply issues. She doesnít think it is an either or.
 
Faught shared that he was also uncomfortable with the general solutions that were outlined in the plan. He also said this may be why it has been studied for many, many years; because it is more complex than just figuring out 3 lanes to 2 lanes. He would recommend the committee looks at all of the elements and do the plan correctly. He thinks that the land use can be centric to the TSP.
 
Kaplan said he hopes the committee isnít throwing out the low hanging fruit from the consultants plan. Faught said he thinks once the committee defines what they really want to do and agrees to the subcommittees then they can start pulling up pieces from the draft plan which will be used as background data. He feels what was missing from the consultantís report was land use, the vision, future parking supply etc. Kaplan replied he believes that is beyond what the initial charter of this committee was.
 
Molnar added a few months ago the City Council directed the Planning Commission to take a look at the zoning issues related to the downtown. Since they are doing some bigger projects they havenít been able to get to it but they were hoping to scope that. They had envisioned that as they were taking a look at some of those issues they would be doing it on a parallel track and being able to come back to this committee and display some of the findings. They always intended to sort of fuse the findings and bring them back to this committee.
 
Murphy stated when she joined the committee which was the first time she had ever served on one she just assumed that every City had a plan in place and she is marveled that a city can run without a plan. She is questioning if they are the right group to put this plan together and she isnít sure how they determine that or not.
 
Graf said it seems to him that they canít do their job without making some guesses about what is going to happen in the future. He added they can make guesses about what is going to happen in the future without being the group that makes a recommendation about what should happen in the future to City Council. It is important for them to make the best guess and recommendation but it could be completely wrong. He feels the problem still needs to be defined and that can only be done once the nuances are understood.
 
Young wanted to clarify an earlier comment that Rider made about either having a distribution or supply problem, he said phase 1 very clearly was both supply and distribution and he isnít sure how it was characterized as either or. He went on to say the committee needs to decide if the consultants plan should just be ditched. In terms of what Graf said he doesnít feel the future can ever be predicted but the committee can decide what they would like the future to look like.
 
Kaplan said he isnít sure that the future canít be predicted but certainly the committee needs a set of assumptions to follow.
 
Marsh said if the committee decides that they would like to take a comprehensive look at these issues as discussed, her answer to Murphyís earlier question is she does think this is the right group to do that. Each person was carefully chosen by the Mayor to offer diversity. She is very confident that the committee is capable of taking this on. She said if the sense of the group is to move forward with this she would recommend an executive committee sit down with staff and come up with a proposed work plan. Then when the draft work plan comes back to the committee the group can decide whether or not to move forward.
 
The following committee members volunteered for the executive group: Williams, Fields, Dawkins, Slattery, Graf, Donovan and Young.
 
January meeting information will be relayed to the committee via email.
 
ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 5:10 pm
Respectfully submitted,
Tami De Mille-Campos, Administrative Assistant
 
 

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