Did you know Orange, CA is one of the 200 most populated cities in the United States? We’re not as small as we think we are and our local businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in Orange’s economy. As more people visit the local businesses, the business will grow in terms of revenue and number of employees. This growth will generate higher levels of revenue, which means that the business will pay more tax. Also, the employer will add employees as the business grows and pays more in payroll tax. The employees of the business probably eat locally, use local gas stations, and make other contributions to the local economy. The taxes generated are used for local purposes, such as public safety, schools, and infrastructure improvements. Business advancement is currently limited by the lack of parking in our charming Old Towne Orange.
Old Towne Orange has become a destination, similar to Main Beach in Laguna Beach, State Street in Santa Barbara, or Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. People from all over the region come to our historic town to experience the charm we have all come to love and respect and shop at our unique collection of merchants. Unfortunately, the lack of parking has made it difficult and frustrating to enjoy Old Towne Orange and the local businesses that call Orange home.
Parking in the business district of Old Towne Orange is going to get a lot worse before it gets significantly better. With Urth Café and Pandor opening soon, three restaurants potentially going into the former Swift and Swift building, and the COBA School space available, patrons are going to have difficultly parking and shopping and eating locally.
Ultimately, there are a three goals Respect Orange want to accomplish by addressing parking issues:
- Derive parking solutions in a way that are respectful to residents, business owners, and visitors to our city, which includes maintaining the character, charm, feel, and uniqueness of our city.
- Ensure parking enforcement is established and maintained to not only keep vehicles and traffic out of the neighborhoods, but to enforce the parking issues that many residents are experiencing in others parts of the city.
- To bring together residents and merchants to create a greater sense of community.
Since August 2016, Respect Orange has been meeting with local business owners and restaurateurs located in Old Towne Orange about the shortage of parking. We support local business and want to make sure they have the tools needed to be successful. In the beginning of 2017 a larger group approached city executives, which included additional businesses and residents, including OTPA, to voice concerns about parking.
There are both short-term and long-term options that have been discussed and we wanted to spend some time sharing this information.
Many options were discussed and while many of the options are appropriate, not all of the options are viable potential solutions. A comprehensive solution to parking will include the sum of multiple smaller solutions over time. It is our responsibility to ensure the framework and infrastructure is in place for local business to thrive and provide services and local experiences to residents. I will only be touching on the solutions that are most viable.
Let’s first look at some data so that we know the situation in front of us:
There is a Metrolink parking structure that is breaking ground around July 2017 with a project completion time of 18 months. This will be located on Lemon Street and, while this will provide some additional parking, we do not believe the parking is close enough for patrons to realistically use. Additionally, the primary usage for this structure is for Metrolink with 611 total parking spaces and approximately 100 spaces are designated for non-Metrolink usage (i.e. patrons for OTO). Therefore, other options need to be explored.
- Active enforcement of parking time limits.
- Better signage for public parking lots.
- It is highly recommended that OTO merchants have employees park outside of The Plaza District (and out of the neighborhoods) to free up parking. To accommodate this, our city is exploring options of using the city-owned land at Water Street and Chapman Avenue (the future home of a new Fire Station) for parking and shuttle service for daytime use only. Additionally, we are engaging Chapman University in exploring utilizing property and/or structures for this same shuttle service.
- Utilizing Technology for convenience. The data shows that the parking issues are the worst mid-day, during lunch time. An App-based Valet Service is being explored and a trial run is to potentially begin soon.
- Re-striping city owned parking lots and/or diagonal parking. While these options were disused, diagonal parking does not provide much benefit relative to the cost. For example, Respect Orange has safety concerns with diagonal parking and this option nets a total of 2 parking spaces. However, re-stripped potentially does make sense. For example, the North Orange Street Lot can add 15 additional spaces.
New Parking Structure Options:
- Remember it was mentioned that Water Street is the potential new home of the Orange Fire Department? Well, our city also owns the entire block of Grand Street from Almond to Chapman Avenue, including the surface parking lot that currently houses a mere 33 parking spaces. With the Fire Station and Economic development building staying, an unobtrusive 250 parking space structure can be built in the space with a net gain of 217 parking spaces. If, and when, the Orange Fire Department moves to Water street this structure can be expanded for a total net gain of 426 spaces with at least one parking level underground.
- A second parking structure is also being explored on the city owned property on Olive Street and Almond Avenue. A new Senior Center has been discussed and, if that project progresses, a parking structure can be built on that block. A net of 267 spaces can be gain.
WHAT IS THE INCENTIVE FOR USING THE SUGGEST PARKING STRUCTURES?
In the questionnaire sent out last month, most Respect Orange members were in favor of smart parking meters if it made parking easier and quality of life better. To drive or steer (yes, that was on purpose) motorist to the free parking structures, parking meters must be established in the areas immediately surrounding the local businesses. The idea is to have parking structures free of charge and metered parking around the businesses of OTO. This is the best way to incentivize drivers to utilize a parking structure
For those of you who have been to Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or Pasadena recently you know how easy it has become to use parking meters. Gone are the days of searching for loose change. A simple swipe of a credit/debit card will take care of the meter and technology has advanced enough where alerts can be sent to your phone when time is running low. You can even add more time through your phone.
We have been focused on big picture solutions and the more intimate details, such as non-metered times before or after certain times of the day, will occur later.
As Respect Orange continues to work on parking issues, we will reach out to you for additional suggestions and input before more formal steps are taken with our city.