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‘Parklets’ may solve First Street parking problems

Parking on First Street may look a little different in Langley’s future. A proposal will be made by June for the parking space configuration on Langley’s main shopping roadway to keep angled spots but remove four in favor of small pedestrian areas.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Parking on First Street may look a little different in Langley’s future. A proposal will be made by June for the parking space configuration on Langley’s main shopping roadway to keep angled spots but remove four in favor of small pedestrian areas.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Driving along First Street, the thrust of the area is clear: business.

Shops, restaurants and galleries line the road. The only problem for the merchants is parking, and it can be a major impediment to their success if cars block their storefronts.

Langley’s city planner proposed three options for parking on First Street. After taking public input for months, Jeff Arango is close to making an official recommendation to the city council in June.

With the support of several business owners, Arango will likely push for keeping the angled parking. The twist will be the removal of four spaces in favor of two “parklets,” creating  public spaces with benches, bike racks and tables.

Keeping things the way they are is an option before city leaders. It’s just not a popular choice. Currently, 20 angled spaces exist on First Street with more available across the road as parallel spots.

“Visually, it’s a lot more cars, particularly when larger vehicles park there it blocks the storefronts,” Arango said.

A study was conducted in the summer of 2011 in which three days of parking were observed. Arango reported the peak parking occupancy was 68 percent of the city’s approximately 550 spaces downtown, leaving about 180 spots open. On First Street, however, peak occupancy was counted as high as 95 percent of the spots, basically meaning only one or two spaces were open. That means street side real estate is important for the business owners on First Street, but there are places to park within a block or so.

Not wanting shoppers to stray, keeping plenty of parking on First Street was important. Swapping out four angled spaces for the two “parklets” may quell businesses’ concerns because the third option, called Alternative C, “balances need for parking and answers some problems of storefront visibility,” states Arango’s report.

The 11-foot travel lanes for traffic will remain as they currently are under Alternative C. Cutting parking by four spots increases sight lines of passing cars to the storefronts on the north side of First Street. One of the unintended benefits of reducing the number of parking spaces could be restricting the type of car that may park there. Councilwoman Rene Neff, who also owns Brackenwood Gallery on First Street just past the Anthes Avenue intersection, blasted large cars that park in the angled spots. Trucks, SUVs and large vans hide what’s behind them, including smaller cars and children.

“If some little kid runs out between them, you’d never see them,” Neff said.

In Arango’s report to the council, he wrote that public space would increase by 648 square feet by adding the “parklets,” though the commercial value of putting in benches, tables and public art were not stated.

Comments and questions regarding parking design on First Street may be sent to Arango by email at JArango@LangleyWA.org, by phone at 360-221-4246 ext. 26 or a comment form on the planning blog www.designLangley.org.

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