Customers have to park their cars somewhere, and that need is driving some cities, and North Bay developers, especially of hotels, to find some creative solutions like valeting cars off-site, or using a lift to stack them in a parking garage.
“In the real estate and development worlds it’s definitely the topic du jour,” said Jeff Blackman, president of Bedford Lodging. “In (planning) my developments, parking is a big conversation. What is the right ratio?”
Dallas-based Bedford is the developer of a 144-room AC Marriott hotel in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square, ironically, on a former parking lot. The plan has received preliminary approval from the Design Review Board.
In downtown Santa Rosa, the city requires hotels to provide one parking space per each 500 square feet, which means the 77,000-square-foot project would have to provide 156 parking spaces, inclusive of guests and employees.
Bedford commissioned a parking survey, however, which determined that with Uber, taxis, and bicycle use, a fewer spaces would be sufficient. The city agreed, citing a goal to reduce traffic downtown.
“We’re trying to move away from vehicle traffic to be a more pedestrian-friendly area,” said Patrick Streeter, senior city planner.
Bedford said it will tear down a duplex on property a block away from the hotel and convert it into a valet parking lot with 126 spaces at Sixth and Davis streets.
During the permitting process, Blackman said the city has been “definitely focused” on the parking issue.
“Parking is major issue as far as the city’s review [of the Marriott] and public comment,” said Streeter.
Blackman also said he had been in negotiations with the owner of the under-utilized Santa Rosa Mall parking garage, for possible conditional use. But because of leasing issues, he decided to build the lot instead as a more permanent solution.
Another hotel project downtown, however, has proposed an agreement with the city to exclusively designate a portion of an existing public parking garage to guest parking. The proposed 40-room boutique hotel in the Empire building, at Courtyard Square, would provide valet parking.
The city council will address the proposal from owner Hugh Futrell at a March 14 meeting. This is the first time the city has been approached with a parking solution like this, said Kim Nadeau parking division director, and staff is recommending the Council approve the valet agreement.
Although it’s a first for Santa Rosa, reserving space in public parking garages for hotel guests is nothing new in downtown Napa.
The city does require hotels and motels to make available one parking space per room plus one space for a manager and one space for every two full or part time employees. If the hotel has convention, banquet, restaurant or meeting facilities, additional parking needs to be provided, as determined by the planning commission.
Since the 1970s, however, businesses in the downtown area have been exempt from having to provide on-site parking. Instead, they pay in-lieu fees to the city, which then uses the funds to build public parking areas. The city currently has four public parking garages, with plans for another one near Oxbow Marketplace.
According to Jennifer LaLiberte, Napa economic development manager, the system is an excellent planning tool, creating pedestrian traffic in a walkable city. Visitors self or valet park their car, and walk to a restaurant, theater, or shopping destination.