Parking perspectives pose problems in Newhall

Cars park along Main Street in Newhall on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday regarding parking in Newhall. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Residents, business owners, property owners and city staff all agree the parking in Old Town Newhall is insufficient.

But, the way to solve that problem is still divisive.

City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday to gather more community feedback and decide on next steps.

The city delivered a survey to 75 business and property owners in the area and got 71 responses, ranging from “Meter parking for during the business hours is not a bad idea” to “Paid parking will only hurt businesses!!!!!!”

The range of businesses on Newhall’s Main Street range from the gently used nonprofit clothing store for the Assistance League to the popular gastropub-style restaurant Newhall Refinery, and the opinions reflected the diversity.

However, after evaluating feedback, paid parking was one of the most popular options, according to city staff reports. Of those surveyed, an averaged 41 percent said paid parking was the best option, with 54 percent of property owners, and 38 percent of businesses favoring customers paying.

“If it were paid parking, it would be a real hardship for our customers,” Cheryl Dellepiane, vice president of the Assistance League, said.

A parking-in-lieu fee, was another alternative presented by the city, which would charge business owners for added parking spaces. It was close behind with 40 percent of respondents in favor. Business owners supported this at 40 percent, and property owners supported it at a clip of about 50 percent.

“The top option from the survey supports the parking-in-lieu fee,” Jason Crawford, City Planning, Marketing and Economic Development Manager said. “This means that only those (property owners or businesses) that add brand new square footage are responsible for providing parking (or are paying the fee) for that new square footage. Any businesses moving into existing buildings can do so with no additional parking requirements or fees.”

This option was proposed at a Aug. 22 City Council meeting, but did not have resounding support. City staff now recommends offering a payment plan to help businesses pay the fee.

Business owners rejected the option for a “parking in lieu fee” in 2014 because of a lack of community support, according to the city.

Even for businesses with their own parking lots, there still is not enough capacity, according to Assistance League volunteer Pat Sullivan.

Though the Assistance League has six spots behind the store, there isn’t enough room for all of the workers who work at one time, and it doesn’t fit any customers, she said. Often, many of the employees have resorted to parking at the Old Town Newhall Library.

“There is definitely not enough parking,” Sullivan said. “The parking is horrific.”  

There was not enough planning done before all of the businesses set up shop on Main Street, she said. If the city planned to expand Old Town Newhall, parking should have been arranged before the businesses were put in, she said.

A new parking structure is underway on Main Street to help with the parking shortage, but the city does not have funding for a second.

Way Station Coffee Shop’s General Manager Eric Leeser hopes the structure under construction will help alleviate some of the problems.

When filling out the survey, Leeser said he made clear that paid parking was not a good idea and believes the parking in lieu fee will be burdensome.

“I’m waiting to see how things work out after the structure opens,” Leeser said. “It’s really been a struggle for customers. There’s certainly more business and traffic in Old Town Newhall.”

The new structure is much needed, according to Newhall Refinery Owner Simon Mee. During especially busy seasons and holidays, Mee has opted to do valet parking for his customers.

Though, even without it, Mee said the inconvenience of parking on the street a few blocks away and walking should not deter community members from going to Old Town Newhall businesses.

“If there is a business you want to support,” Mee said. “you’ll find a way of getting to it.”

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