Tacoma considers additional parking for eco-friendly Center for Urban Waters

Tacoma City Council is currently considering a plan to turn a vacant, city-owned piece of land on the east side of Thea Foss Waterway into a 50-stall paid parking lot to serve visitors to the Center for Urban Waters.

The proposal was originally included as part of a purchase resolution slated to appear before Tacoma City Council on July 26. It was moved tentatively to the Aug. 2 meeting, and then to the Aug. 9 meeting, before it was postponed for a later date after some councilmembers raised questions over whether or not additional parking would conflict with the city’s goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status for the building, as well as long-term economic development plans for the east side of Thea Foss Waterway, including a so-called Innovation Partnership Zone that would create the second phase of the Center for Urban Waters on the site of the proposed parking lot.

The three-story, 51,000-square-foot, $22 million Center for Urban Waters is located at 326 East D Street and currently serves the city’s environmental services department, University of Washington Tacoma researchers, and the Puget Sound Partnership, according to the city’s Web site. The vacant land proposed for use as a parking lot is located across the street at 303 East D Street.

According to Tacoma Public Works Director Richard E. McKinley, 32 parking stalls are available at the Center for Urban Waters: five stalls serve tenants; five stalls serve van pools; three stalls serve drivers with ADA needs; and 19 stalls serve fleet vehicles and visitors. Twenty on-street, first-come-first-served, two-hour parking stalls also serve visitors. “Since the facility opened in April 2010, there have been over 90 meetings with 25 or more people in attendance,” wrote McKinley in a Aug. 11 memo to interim City Manager Rey Arellano. “These meeting attendees are often unable to find nearby parking on a temporary basis.

“Over the last year or so of occupancy, we have encouraged both employees and building visitors to carpool and use alternative transportation as much as possible,” McKinley added. “Due to the location of the building, alternative transportation is very challenging due to the Murray Morgan Bridge construction.”

The Murray Morgan Bridge is closed to vehicles and pedestrians until December 2012 while it undergoes a $57 million rehabilitation.

In his memo, McKinley argues the new parking lot would not affect the city’s ability to achieve LEED Platinum certification for the Center for Urban Waters. “Under LEED for New Construction, the project team must define a site boundary to be used consistently for all LEED calculations,” McKinley wrote. “The 303 East D Street lot was not included in the site boundary for the project because it was not being developed (nor was it contemplated to be developed) during construction of the building. LEED Existing Building Operation and Maintenance (EBOM) does not have any requirements or points associated with the number of parking stalls. EBOM does have points associated with the number of building occupants that use alternative transportation. Environmental Services is exploring ways to operate the lot to further encourage alternative transportation by our employees. Options include providing discounted parking for carpools and for hybrid/electric vehicles.”

During city council’s study session on Aug. 9, Councilmember Jake Fey observed that the parking lot was only a short-term solution to the larger problem related to parking at the Center for Urban Waters. “This particular action just simply takes advantage of the fact that we happen to own some vacant property across the street and we might as well get parking revenue from it while we have it,” said Councilmember Fey. “This property is one of the prime locations for future economic development activity. We know at a staff level that if someone comes in tomorrow with a great proposal to go on that property, that’s where we would go, and the parking issue for that property would have to be resolved. We are more or less taking advantage of the situation that we have now.”

The original purchase resolution would have authorized Republic Parking to operate and maintain the parking lot, which is owned by the City’s Environmental Services Department. Drivers would pay $50 for a monthly parking permit, or four dollars per day and/or 75 cents per hour to park on a short-term basis. It has since been revised — drivers would pay $40 for a monthly parking permit, or four dollars per day and/or one dollar per hour to park on a short-term basis. Similarly, the same purchase resolution would have also authorized Republic Parking Northwest to manage the city-owned, 35-stall parking lot located near South 14th Street and Pacific Avenue downtown. If approved, drivers would pay an initial rate of $2.50 per hour, and a rate of $125 (plus tax) to park there monthly.

Tacoma City Council’s environment and public works committee is scheduled to discuss the issue during its meeting Weds., Aug. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market Street, Conference Room 16. A copy of the agenda is online at http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/CouncilCommittees/Agendas/2011/EPWAgenda/EPW_20110824.pdf .

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Sauro’s parking lot contract tentatively headed to Tacoma City Council (08/03/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2016405&more=0

Tacoma City Council to vote on parking contracts (07/19/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2009355&more=0