The City of Langley has presented two plans for a project on First Street to utilize a $250,000 state grant. One, with improved angled parking, removes three parking spaces. The other, changing to all parallel parking, permanently removes 13 parking spaces — 25 percent of the prime parking on First Street. Both plans make very similar improvements to pedestrian infrastructure. A large majority favor the plan that removes as little parking as possible. Mayor Tim Callison and city staff are determined to implement the plan that takes away more parking. This decision is contrary to city studies, public opinion and sound planning principles. A prime rationale given for removing parking is that people will park and walk a great distance to their destination at Alderwood Mall and the Woodland Park Zoo, so they should do it in Langley as well.
One of Langley’s main attractions is that it is a real hometown, a place that locals visit to work, shop and hangout, a place with character. Tourists see and feel this quality. For businesses to thrive they need convenient parking that allows locals, as well as tourists, to come and experience the wonderful walking town that Langley is. The question is balance, and Langley is currently at a tipping point in terms of parking; ask any business owner or frequent visitor. Langley has an exciting mix of shops, restaurants, services and entertainment options — many newly opened — and any decision should first and foremost be made to ensure that these businesses can succeed.
In my efforts to give voice to stakeholders left out of an inadequate planning process, I have been having conversations with business owners in Langley. I recently spoke with Joe and Nancy at Fine Balance Imaging, located in the old Lind’s building. It’s a great shop providing printing and digital services, a co-working space and classroom, and also a storefront shop with cool and practical goods. They have clients from all over Whidbey as well as from the greater Puget Sound area. They hear everyday that parking is a challenge. A client who drives to Langley and parks to pick up an order will often eat lunch, grab a coffee or do some shopping. If the parking options become even more limited and they choose to take their business elsewhere, it’s not just a loss for Joe and Nancy, but also the downstream effects to other businesses. The vast majority of business owners in Langley can tell you similar stories.
Mayor Callison’s notion of “arrivals without cars” — stated several times at the most recent council meeting — as a guiding principle is absurd given Langley’s rural location and its connection to our broader community. Like it or not, the automobile is the only viable way to get around and experience Whidbey Island. The continued support by the mayor and city staff of a plan that would eliminate far more parking than necessary is irresponsible.
Please contact the Langley City Council, Mayor Callison and the planning director and let them know you are in favor of the angled parking option on First Street that removes less parking. Support the economic vitality of downtown Langley and its small businesses.