Parking Lot–or Not: speech to city council

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Prepared Remarks to the Port Angeles City Council
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I am speaking tonight as a citizen concerned that more of the voices of those who use the civic parking lot downtown in front of the Feiro Marine Life Center–need be heard.  They may not have read your Comprehensive Plan but they love parking access at the beach and easy access to shopping downtown.

Eight volunteers spent over 20 hours interviewing parking lot users over four days last weekend and Monday.  Over 127 local and 62 tourist cars were approached containing over 470 drivers and passengers.  In no way was this a “scientific” survey” – we only wanted to gather information about parking lot users’ sentiments about the use of the parking lot and reasons for coming downtown.

Obviously, the parking lot is the busiest part of the downtown – by far.  The parking was substantially full most of the time.  Reasons for coming downtown and parking in the city pier parking lot:  children’s playground, Hollywood Beach, the Olympic Discovery Trail, Feiro Marine Life Center, dog walking, City Pier and downtown merchants providing food, services and merchandise.

For whatever reasons, many users of the parking lot do not normally show up at City Council, Planning Commission, Comprehensive Plan and other civic planning meetings in order to discuss the future of our home, our City.
Why do these elements of our community not participate in our government process of consensus building?  Why is the percentage of eligible voters voting in each election not higher?  I do not know the answer to these questions.
However that does not means their voices should not be heard.  You, the City Council, is elected to serve all your constituents including those who cannot or do not even vote.  You are not here to serve only the tourists.

The sentiment about reducing the size of the parking lot ran at least 40-1 against.  This includes family with the elderly, disabled and children including babies.  We are talking canes, wheelchairs, walkers, baby carriages, children’s bicycles and dogs on leashes.

I come tonight to strongly urge the City Council to remove the parking lot’s size reduction from the Comprehensive Plan and to retract its 2011 resolution in support of taking the lot to potentially expand the Feiro MLC.  Also I urge the City Council to instruct City Staff to engage the Feiro organization and other downtown/parking lot stakeholders to come up with more solutions.

Remember only two years ago the Feiro MLC, NOAA and the City were in negotiations to potentially purchase the McClatchy property on the corner of Front and Oak.  A development like this could have resulted in a new home for the Feiro, co-location with NOAA and a small convention center.  Other locations?  Other concepts?  Easy does NOT mean desirable or best.

More alternatives need to be found.  Some will say all this has been discussed and decided?  By whom?  Only 250 signatures appeared on the Comprehensive Plan sign-in sheet to the best of my knowledge.  One percent of Port Angeles residents?  Really.  In fact, only 2-3 locals interviewed knew about the Comprehensive Plan and the potential drastic reduction in parking spots.

I have never met a single person who does not want the Feiro MLC to be a vital, important part of Port Angeles.  However, almost all we interviewed believed that Feiro’s new home NOT be at the expense of parking lot, historically the epicenter of city pier, beach, trail, merchant and playground activity.

Two last comments.  First, we all realize how important NOAA is to Port Angeles even though NOAA has limitations as to its ability to help develop a successful plan for remaining in our City and perhaps co-location with the Feiro MLC.  The City should make it known to NOAA that a new effort will start to make Port Angeles its preferred home.

Second and crucially, to approve the Comprehensive Plan’s direction in drastically reducing the city pier parking lot, I believe, will be a Pyrrhic victory.  In order for the Feiro MLC to grow and to prosper, which everyone wants, funding for planning, construction and operating expense subsidies must be approved by voters and present and future City Councils.  Grant funders, seeing community opposition to the Feiro’s plans, will be more likely to reject applications for assistance.
 I believe the City Council, City staff and the Feiro MLC organization need to re-engage with other stakeholders as quickly as possible so that the requisite community support is gained.
Thank you.

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