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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pay-for-parking system on Peaceful Valley streets gets put on hold

UPDATED: Wed., June 14, 2017

Erine Wright, left, and Ron Kull prepare their kayaks while parked along Water Avenue, in Spokane’s Peaceful Valley, Sunday, June 11, 2017. Peaceful Valley residents are asking the city to do something about boaters and rafters who take up on-street parking for long periods of time on summer weekends. The city proposed asking residents to buy $25 permits in order to park on the street without fear of tickets or towing, beginning this summer, but the measure was put on hold at a meeting Wednesday night. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Erine Wright, left, and Ron Kull prepare their kayaks while parked along Water Avenue, in Spokane’s Peaceful Valley, Sunday, June 11, 2017. Peaceful Valley residents are asking the city to do something about boaters and rafters who take up on-street parking for long periods of time on summer weekends. The city proposed asking residents to buy $25 permits in order to park on the street without fear of tickets or towing, beginning this summer, but the measure was put on hold at a meeting Wednesday night. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Residents of Peaceful Valley, a neighborhood popular with river enthusiasts who some accuse of monopolizing on-street parking, hit pause on a residential pay-to-park program that could spread to other Spokane neighborhoods.

The plan to charge about three dozen homeowners and their guests a $25 seasonal fee to park on three city blocks in the historic neighborhood beneath the Maple Street bridge got a mixed response from residents at a meeting Wednesday night. The neighborhood council decided to wait for the results of a resident survey before asking the Spokane City Council to weigh in on the proposal, which would be a first test of a pilot project that could target other areas of heavy on-street parking in town.

“We’re just trying to figure out what the best solution is for this neighborhood, and its values,” said City Councilman Breean Beggs, who addressed a packed meeting room of about 30 residents at the Peaceful Valley Community Center on Wednesday.

The plan would allow residents and their guests to buy permits to park on two city blocks in an area that grows congested between Memorial Day and Labor Day by floaters and rafters using the Spokane River. The permits would grant parking beyond a two-hour limit on those streets between the two summer holidays, after which parkers without permits would be subject to tickets and fines.

Discussion of the plan began after neighborhood representatives approached the city to ask for help clearing stretches of Water Avenue and Ash Street, which have become filled in recent years by rafters and tubers who launch from an undeveloped area on the west edge of Water Avenue and don’t return for several hours.

Those residents who addressed Beggs and Heather Trautman, the city’s director of neighborhood services and code enforcement, at Wednesday’s meeting expressed outrage at the idea of paying to park on a public street, while acknowledging the need to address a scarcity problem that likely will only be made worse by planned improvements to the area.

The city plans to begin construction later this year on improvements along the river that will include a new trail through Glover Field, under the Maple Street bridge, and a new boat launch, likely bringing even more traffic to the area.

“Basically what’s driving this, is we’ve had complaints of people coming home from the grocery store, or something, can’t park in front of their own house,” said Bill Forman, chairman of the Peaceful Valley Neighborhood Council, though he acknowledged he only experienced the problem a few weekends out of the year. Others in the audience said it was a more prevalent problem.

Josh Flanagan, owner of rafting outfitter Wiley E. Waters that has been operating out of Peaceful Valley since 1994, said his company worked to make sure customer parking did not inconvenience residents by busing in larger groups. Flanagan said before the meeting the company would put plans in place to adhere to a permit system, if one is approved.

“It’s definitely not something we really love. We’d love for that other parking area to be put in,” Flanagan said, referring to planned parking that could be included in the Glover Field improvements. “I understand where the neighborhood’s coming from.”

Downtown residents already have access to a permit parking system, which costs $25 a month, less than it would cost to plug a parking meter every day of the week. The Peaceful Valley plan would charge that same amount for a three-month period. Parking enforcement crews would visit the site on two-hour intervals and note unpermitted cars, then return to see if they’d moved. Those staying longer would be ticketed after a warning period.

Trautman said such a system might make sense elsewhere in the city, including near the Spokane County courthouse campus. The idea has been floated to neighborhood representatives as one option to address congestion issues.

“We want to be a partner in parking, and it’s part of a larger assessment we’re doing with all aspects of parking,” Trautman said.

Similar programs have worked in cities such as Portland and Seattle, Trautman said, where residential areas have become destinations. Beggs said the residential permit proposal might make sense in the South Perry District, or in areas near Audobon Park where restaurants such as the Flying Goat and Downriver Grill are neighbors to single-family homes, but only if residents there asked for it.

Responding to a question from a resident about whether there would be fee exemptions for low-income residents, Beggs said that hadn’t been decided yet.

“The short answer is, potentially, yeah,” Beggs said. “None of this is baked.”

“Before we went to council, I said, I know there’s going to be some feelings about this,” he added.

The Spokane City Council had been scheduled to vote on a resolution Monday that would create the permitting system for two years in Peaceful Valley. Beggs said he’d withdraw the proposal until after city staff have time to ask residents of the affected blocks if they’d be in favor of the permits.

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