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Published June 29, 2016
Orinda's Downtown Parking Action Plan Stalls
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Although a consultant's study into downtown Orinda's parking issues provided some interesting facts and insights, it appears to fall short of the actionable plan of pragmatic measures to solve Orinda's parking problems called for by the city council when it commissioned the study.
TJKM, the consultant that conducted the Downtown and Affected Neighborhoods Parking Study for the City of Orinda, presented its preliminary findings and recommendations at a community meeting on June 13, following nearly six months of data collection and analysis.
It will present its final report to the city council at an unspecified future date and no additional community meetings are planned, but public comments may still be submitted for consideration to tgilmore@cityoforinda.org.
For the present, TJKM's specific recommendations are limited to four measures to increase the management of existing parking inventory in the downtown and immediately adjacent neighborhoods.
Chris Kinzel made the presentation on behalf of TJKM, briefly explaining the methodology that was used and the findings made before outlining the recommendations. Essentially, the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods were classified into five zones. A total of 574 parking spaces were identified in these five areas. On the data collection date, Thursday, Feb. 25, parking occupancy and duration were recorded hourly at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. and at 3, 4, and 5 p.m. in each of the zones. Curiously, no data was reported for the midday period from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when there is a perceptibly high volume of downtown parking and turnover related to banking, restaurant, library, Community Center use, and retail activity, a feature of the study that Kinzel did not explain.
Of the total inventory of spaces in the study area, 13 percent are not currently subject to a time limit, 37 percent are subject to a two-hour limit, 30 percent to a four-hour limit, and 12 percent to a one-hour limit. On average, the occupancy rate for all spaces for the day was found to be 48 percent, varying from a low of 32 per cent during the 8 a.m. hour to a high of 57 percent at 3 and 4 p.m. These percentages are broken down in further detail in the study. High demand areas were identified on Orinda Way, Santa Maria Way, Bates Boulevard, Brookwood Road, and in the Theater Square area.
TJKM also conducted an online survey on the city's website to identify the purpose and duration of trips involving downtown parking, and received 420 responses, 88 percent of which were from Orinda residents. Fifty-eight percent cited shopping and errands as the reasons for making their trips, but BART was given as the reason in 13 percent of the responses. On the other hand, 42 percent responded that their perception is BART parking is the reason for Orinda's high parking demand.
In reality, the relationship between BART and Orinda’s parking issues remains unknown. Kinzel referred to an informal contact he made with BART concerning use of the Orinda station lot, and found that most of the users were from the “greater Orinda area,” which includes both Orinda and other communities in the Highway 24 corridor. All of the lots fill up by 7:45 am. Not a lot of Orinda users come from outside, he said, and the percentage from Richmond and El Sobrante is in the single-digit range. One thing is certain: Orinda cannot expect to receive any assistance from BART, as “the likelihood of BART doing anything to increase its parking spots is very, very low,” he said.
Kinzel exhibited no familiarity with the casual carpooling area next to Theater Square and its relationship to Bates Boulevard parking, and was confused by the fact that the curb is also marked as a two-hour parking zone. When a member of the audience explained the casual carpooling arrangement, he responded, “Is that a good thing?”
While the study results appear to raise more questions than provide solutions, TJKM does recommend four short-term measures to improve the management of existing parking spots in the study area. The first is to improve enforcement, a measure favored by 89 percent of the survey respondents to maintain free parking. The consultant recommends that the city allocate one full-time employee for this purpose, funded by citation revenues.
The second recommendation is to change time limits for all four-hour spaces to two-hours, with effective enforcement.
The third is to issue Employee Parking Permits for Study Zones 1 and 2, and the fourth is to consider Residential Parking Permits on selected streets with documented long-term parking.
The study also suggests less specific longer-term measures to reduce parking demand, such as encouraging the growth of bicycle and motorcycle use, and for increasing parking supply by building or sharing parking lots, perhaps coupled with shuttle service.
One measure that TJKM specifically does not recommend is the implementation of parking meters.
The timing of the meeting conflicted with Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a circumstance that could not have been predicted in advance, said Tonya Gilmore, the city’s public information officer, and it was sparsely attended. A video of the meeting – albeit of poor quality in some places – can be viewed on the city’s website, www.cityoforinda.org.

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