Parking spaces to be striped behind Langley post office barricade

Facing the reality that the one-time, interim access from Third Street to Second Street through the post office lot is no more, Langley’s mayor is hoping to make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak.

Mayor Tim Callison has a plan to stripe a few more parking spaces adjacent to the concrete barriers set near the former Third Street access to the post office parking lot. That area of Third Street already offers public parking and essentially operates as a dead-end lot. A private home blocks Third Street from connecting to Cascade Avenue, just east of the post office. Parking spaces are available on either side of the road, from Anthes Avenue to the dead end. Among persistent criticism that there is not enough parking in the downtown hub, any additional parking is welcome.

“It’s no different than the rest of the parking on Third Street,” Callison said.

“It’s pretty crowded back there,” he added. “I know the merchants ask their employees to park there and we ask the city staff to park there too.”

The United States Postal Service leases the post office building from a second party, but the property is city-deeded. The federal postal service made the decision earlier this year to cut off the vehicle access to and from Third Street. Doing so was a matter of safety for the postal carriers who load and unload in that area, Langley Post Office Supervisor Lisa Wood said during an interview for a previous story. Cars speeding through the lot, as if it were a street, were an issue, and cutting off the access restored things to the way it was for decades.

Langley leaders had hoped to keep the access open. A ramp was built to connect the lot to Third Street during major work on Second Street in 2013, to the tune of $20,000, which allowed postal trucks to get to the office when the Second Street access was temporarily closed for road work. City leaders were under the impression that the access would remain open, and even met with a USPS attorney to go over what they believed was a contractual obligation. But the attorney pointed out that federal agencies as tenants get more leeway when it comes to organizing their facilities. That meant that the access could be cut off and removed, which happened in February.

Three concrete barricades were placed at the former Third Street entrance. Someone placed fake legs and shoes, as if being crushed by the barricades, next to a sign that read “Mr. Postmaster, tear down this wall,” invoking Reagan’s address to then Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev about the Berlin wall.

Putting in the striped parking there wasn’t an act of retaliation, and won’t impact the post office’s operations, the mayor said.

“It’s just to open up more parking,” Callison said.

A common request from downtown merchants and some nearby neighbors is to add parking. Here and there, the city has in recent months.

Through a lease extension with Callahan’s Firehouse, the city recently added a handful of parking spots to the public list. The building is owned by the city and leased to blown-glass artist Callahan McVay, who sought and received a five-year extension and returned five parking spots behind the building, near Third Street, to the city’s use. One will be specifically designated for handicap parking with room for a van equipped with a wheelchair loader.

Lack of parking, city leaders say, tends to be a matter of perception. The reality they have found is that there are enough spots downtown, and if not downtown, in the immediate vicinity.

A former planning intern for Langley conducted a parking survey this past year and reported what previous parking studies had concluded: there’s enough parking downtown and in the adjacent lots to accommodate demand. It was a matter of perception that the walk was too far from lots at Langley Middle School, the Island Church of Whidbey and Langley United Methodist Church to the stores on First and Second and Third streets.

“I think the studies have shown over and over that (during) peak summer traffic, and this summer may prove to be different … you may not be able to park directly in front of the store you want to,” Callison said. “The parking distances aren’t any further than the Alderwood Mall.”

“Of course if you want to come down at nine o’clock at night, there’s plenty of parking,” he added.