When we move later this year into a house we are building on East Arsenal Street, we’ll end our Empty Nest experiment as renters and return to the world of home mortgages, property taxes, and utility bills.
We also will start paying a nominal fee for on-street parking. That’s a first. Actually, it’s a first in San Antonio, according to Lori Houston, director of the City’s Center City Development Office. Houston and her colleague, Colleen Swain, the assistant director, met with residents of the near-downtown neighborhood Thursday evening at the Commander’s House to explain the new pilot program.
The meeting came about in response to residential concerns over the scarcity of on-street, daytime parking in the course of the larger public debate over H-E-B’s recently approved plan to expand its campus, build the South Flores Market, and close South Main Avenue between East Arsenal Street to Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
The city’s proposed Residential Permit Parking (RPP) Program for East Arsenal Street is a first for San Antonio, but is not uncommon in other cities, including nearby Austin. City officials have designated the RPP as a pilot program that will run for one year and then be reassessed. Based on the initial positive response from neighbors Thursday evening, Houston and her team also will study extending the program to other nearby neighborhood streets.
If the program is approved by City Council and is found to work, it could be extended to other urban core streets where near-downtown residents find on-street, daytime parking often monopolized by non-resident commuters. The East Arsenal program will only cover parking Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and thus would have no impact on visitor parking at First Friday, Fiesta or other events.
Under the pilot program, residents would be able to purchase up to four parking permits per household per year at $10 each, giving residents, their friends, contractors and other visitors first come-first serve rights to street parking. Regular parking rules would remain in force evenings, overnight and weekends. Residents also would be able to purchase up to 20 guest passes a year for $1 each.
City officials circulated a petition at the Thursday night meeting after explaining that at least nine of East Arsenal’s 16 residential addresses had to be represented with a signature requesting the pilot program. Although nine people signed that evening, the petition is still being circulated.
“Once the neighbors return the petition to us and we review it, we can schedule a public hearing and then move to place the item on the City Council agenda,” Swain said Tuesday. “It won’t be a long, drawn-out process.”
The city also will conduct a traffic/parking study of East Arsenal Street to determine if 60 percent of the available parking spots are regularly occupied and if 25 percent of those vehicles belong to non-residents. That will be a formality, as any resident can testify. Our home builder long ago gave up hope of securing spaces for his workers in front of or even near our building site.
Why should City Council, or Rivard Report readers care about something affecting only 16 residential addresses? The obvious answer is that more residents in more neighborhoods are going to demand the same improved access to their on-street parking.
RPPs are designed to address residential streets plagued by a “chronic commuter problem,” characterized by the same non-resident drivers using the same streets every day for convenient access to their workplaces.
San Antonio’s near-downtown residents are experiencing the discomfort that often accompanies growth and change. That’s the price of urban life. We have to adapt. I’m glad that city officials listened to residential complaints about on-street parking and are trying to do something about it.
Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.
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