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Kirkland Council considers extending paid parking hours in downtown lots
Two of the three city-managed parking lots in downtown Kirkland are free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a three-hour limit. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. it costs $1 an hour. All parking is free parking from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., but in a third city-run lot it costs $1 an hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Of course, there are no rules on the weekend and holidays. The library parking garage is free on certain levels and by permit on others.
“We get people who come in and are confused whether to pay or not all the time,” said Alicia Baker, manager of The Slip restaurant in downtown Kirkland. “I definitely think something needs to be done.”
The biggest issue has been articulating the rules on parking signs.
The Kirkland City Council and Parking Advisory Board are taking a look at the issue in an attempt to streamline the city-managed parking-lot rules. The aim is to have one simple set of rules that everyone can understand in all the lots, which could mean extending paid parking hours across-the-board from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
But not everyone thinks the signs or the laws need to be changed. Some business owners are not happy about patrons potentially having to pay more to park downtown.
“I think that Kirkland is much busier at night for the dinner crowd,” said Brian Ugurlu, whose family owns Sirena Gelato across the street from one of the parking lots at the corner of Central and Lake Street. “The free parking encourages people to come downtown at slower times.”
That parking lot and the Marina parking lot have the same rules with the same signs. Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for three free hours. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. it costs $1 an hour.
“(My clients) tell me they only come to Kirkland to get their hair done and there is nothing downtown that they are interested in,” Parking Advisory Board Member Roxanne Louise told the council during a study session on Feb. 7. Louise has worked downtown for over 20 years. “A lot of them have quit coming to Kirkland because they got a (parking) ticket.”
Louise said another issue is that some residents and employees abuse the rules. They just move their cars around all day to avoid paying for parking and taking the available stalls. She said that many patrons would rather pay than have to move their car or worry about a fine.
But more money for parking may mean less money for businesses.
“I am kind of okay with it because it is cheaper than most cities,” said Baker. “You do what you have to do to look towards the future.”
The city began leasing the parking lot surrounding the old Antique Mall by the transit center in March of last year to supply more public parking downtown. To offset the cost of the lease parking in that lot costs $1 and hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The idea from the board is to make the Central and Lake Street and Marina parking lots the same.
The city manages 586 parking spaces in public lots in downtown Kirkland and the change would bring in $100,000 a year to the city. Replacing the existing parking signs would cost the city $3,500. The city currently takes in $130,000 from paid public parking.
“Pay parking is the easiest way to monitor it because it tends to be self-monitoring,” Parking Advisory Board Vice Chair Jack Wherry told the council. “Most people we find park for two hours or less. If you make it pay parking most people are there for two hours … We get a lot of pushback from retail people who need more than two hours downtown.”
The new revenue would be used to help develop new public parking, in privately-owned developments, in the future. The city added 162 new parking spots between 2005-2008. But the city also has to be prepared for the day when the Antique Mall land is no longer available for public parking and is redeveloped.
The fourth public lot in downtown is the parking garage under the public library. But that has issues as well. The garage is split up between employee parking for the library, permit parking and free public parking.
Many, including Mayor Joan McBride, have voiced concerns that the garage is too dark, dirty and dangerous at night. One idea would be to also have the library be paid parking to help pay for upkeep, security and contribute to future parking needs.
A recent parking survey conducted by the city indicated that 43 percent of the respondents supported the use of revenue for maintaining parking facilities.
The Parking Advisory Board and the city are hoping to agree on changes to these lots by June 12.
Despite the potential for change one thing will stay the same: The 338 on-street parking spots are free in downtown Kirkland and that is not changing.