It was a great change of pace to see the Planning Commission (PC) talking about planning, or in this case, planning to plan. Given some of the decisions they’ve made lately (like approving an indeterminate number of CNG vehicles to enter into the most congested part of the City), we’re better off if they spend more time on planning.
Anyhow, it was a productive meeting, despite a staff report that had several errors, didn’t include relevant data, and made some serious methodological mistakes (for a copy of my analysis of the staff report, send an e-mail to DrJGardner@gmail.com). But under the guidance of Chairman Zechmeister, the Commission pushed on and came up with some good discussion points. No decisions were made, but the PC gave the staff some guidance as to what to bring back so that the next meeting could be more productive.
Here are some highlights from the meeting –
Tandem parking was a big part of the opposition to the Brookfield project. It seems now that even those PC members who were staunch supporters of allowing tandem parking to count as 2 parking spots, now see the dangers in doing this. CJ Brower said “I don’t want to ban it, but don’t want it counted 1:1”. Newbie Commissioner Jolene Fuentes has tandem parking and admits she never uses it. “Don’t use it as a standard” she recommended to applause from the small audience. Chairman Zechmeister said “Allow it, but don’t count it” and Vice Chairman Verplancke suggested that we make it more expensive for developers to use tandem parking. Everyone seemed to agree that as a result of having approved the Brookfield project, and with the limited land available, any new projects are probably going to involve developers asking for tandem parking, so the PC needs to have strict guidelines in place.
ENFORCEMENT VS. PLANNING
Commissioner Brower was the first to observe that all their efforts toward revising the Parking Standards Code was not necessarily going to impact the problems that currently faced the City. Fuentes agreed, but wanted to go through the exercise anyway so that we had an up to date set of standards that are “clean and good for the city”.
Unfortunately, the staff had no enforcement data available for the meeting, so it was impossible to focus on what the current problems are. Nonetheless, some good ideas did surface for future consideration -
· Requiring everyone who asks for a room addition to provide for additional off-street parking.
· Doing a better job with street sweeping compliance so that derelict cars can’t be left forever on our streets. This would also give us cleaner streets and, as Vice Chair Verplancke pointed out, would keep the watershed in better shape and help the City avoid major fines downj the road.
There were some mixed comments about the use of garages. Because many people use their garages for storage, streets have more cars than they were intended to have. The City could require that garages be used only for cars, but Commissioner Hamilton was adamant that “the City shouldn’t tell people what to do with their garage.” While I think most people agree with him, the City has no problem telling us what to do with many aspects of our life, so why draw the line at our garages?
The bottom line is that nothing was decided, and the PC asked for more information so that their next meeting could be more productive. Personally I was disappointed that there were only a few people in the audience. Believe me, decisions will be made by the PC that are going to impact all our lives, so you might want to show up for the next meeting on Parking and offer your opinion. Lake 2 resident Bob Holtczlaw was there complaining about street sweeping, and he got this topic on the PC’s radar. Kudos to Bob and kudos to the PC for taking his concerns seriously. Save Lake Forest advocate Mary Altoff was there to show the PC the 4,000+ signatures she helped collect and to emphasize the need for the PC to reflect the needs and values of the people, not just the businesses. Kudos to Mary. I think the PC got her message because several Commissioners mentioned it in their later remarks.