City's tough, but right, choice

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board November 16, 2011 06:58 pm

The Baker City Council had a tough choice to make last week regarding parking on Resort Street.

We agree with the four councilors — the slimmest majority possible on the seven-member Council — who opted for parallel parking on both sides of Resort between Auburn Avenue and Campbell Street.

The new parking set up, which will take effect in either 2012 or 2013 when the street is rebuilt, represents a change from the current situation.

Diagonal parking is allowed now on the east side of the street.

The conundrum is that both parking options have advantages.

Diagonal parking can accommodate about 30 percent more vehicles.

But parallel parking is safer because drivers leaving a parking space don’t have to back out into a lane of traffic.

The inherent danger in such maneuvers is one reason diagonal parking has not been allowed on Main Street downtown for many years.

Although we agree with the majority’s decision, we don’t believe the city’s work is finished.

As Councilor Clair Button, one of the three who voted against the parallel parking option, pointed out, having an ample supply of parking spaces is vital for downtown businesses.

Little wonder, then, that of the Resort Street property owners who participated in a recent survey, 20 of 23 favored diagonal parking.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the loss of spaces due to the pending shift to parallel parking.

First, City Manager Mike Kee said officials have had very preliminary talks with a downtown property owner about buying a parcel that could be used for off-street parking.

We urge city officials to not only pursue that possibility, but also look for other parking areas that aren’t being fully used.

Second, business owners should be diligent in encouraging their employees to avoid parking in prime spots near their stores.

Aside from building a multi-deck parking structure — a decidedly unlikely scenario — the supply of parking space in the downtown commercial district is certain to remain an issue.

And it’s an issue the city should monitor by asking for regular updates from business and property owners and from Historic Baker City Inc.

Debates notwithstanding, everyone has the same goal: to have a downtown that’s both safe, and convenient, for shoppers.