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Shared parking may help downtown
Goal is to spark new investment into Mantecas heart
Downtown parking strategies will be addressed in the traffic circulation update. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Back in 1998, Raymond and Sanchalee Lee wanted to open a restaurant in a downtown building on Manteca’s shortest street – Pierce Avenue – near Library Park.

Manteca had a law on the books at the time that required providing off-street parking for anyone opening a business in a downtown building that didn’t mirror the previous use.

Before the Lees could open, the city required them to secure off-street parking. They struck a deal – or at least they thought they had – with a nearby owner of a vacant parcel at Sycamore Avenue and Yosemite Avenue and, made $43,118 worth of improvements to create a parking lot.
Due to an ensuing dispute they never got a chance to use the parking lot that was subsequently chained off by the property owner. It triggered litigation that cost the Lees almost $7,000 more than the actual parking lot improvements.

Shortly after the snafu, the City Council lifted the parking requirements in the core downtown district.

The lifting of that requirement allowed two local parties to invest in downtown property – Dr. Richard Cuevas and Ken Hafer. Cuevas was having a difficult time securing bank financing to take over the building where he had acquired a long standing dental practice due to bank concerns the value of the building was limited due to requirements that it always be used as a dental office.

Two blocks away, the old Manteca Funeral Home was able to be sold and used as a health spa thanks to the rule change. Ironically, if the mortuary was a new use at the same location, they would have needed well over 50 parking spaces. Had someone reopened the mortuary, though, they wouldn’t have had to add a single space.

Now the city is getting ready to address another roadblock to investment in downtown Manteca - parking requirements for new development.

The initial study for the traffic circulation element of the general plan addresses concerns involving the downtown and parking.

The key provision is a proposal that the city will require a share parking analysis for all proposed mixed-use us development and new projects in the downtown area to ensure that parking is not oversupplied.

The major remodeling and addition of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a case in point. Until staff found justification to relax the rules, the project would have been a no-go under city guidelines as they would have needed to add parking spaces that there was no space to add. Since the store has been open there hasn’t been a significant impact on parking except for that on-street spaces are now being used.

A shared parking analysis would give consideration to peak traffic times for businesses. Most restaurants, for example, have a higher customer volume in the evening and weekends when professional services are closed and many retail stores are not open.

It contrasts sharply from a policy that requires each individual new store that opens to meet parking requirements for its use as if they were located in a strip center.

Many other cities have found out the only way to encourage investment into downtowns is to have a separate parking approach for the central districts that tend to have a higher density as well as uses that are varied and not similar.

Such an analysis, for example, allowed Kelley Brothers over a decade ago to take an existing use - a burned out theatre that had minimal off-street parking – and allow them to open a large restaurant and micro-brewery by determining they would be able to use other nearby lots for their customers at peak periods when those businesses were closed.

Other downtown parking strategies that may be addressed in the circulation plan include:

•the possible restricting of parking on public streets through permit programs, time limits, or parking meters.

•working with merchants to improve on-street and off-street parking conditions.

•allowing for change in the parking requirements under certain conditions for new development that would require participating in a parking district or paying in-lieu fees to buy and develop parking in lieu of the business providing their own off-street parking.