Another parking flare-up in latest test of 9th and 9th’s willingness to urbanize

Another debate about parking in one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods outside of downtown flared up just days before contractors were prepared to start a major reconstruction project on the east end of 9th and 9th.

The city is figuring out how to move forward with plans to build a roundabout at 900 South and 1100 East, drop a lane of travel in the area, build a separated bike path and improve bus stops. It now must do so in the face of renewed backlash from residents and business owners concerned about parking cars.

The issue is the latest test of whether one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods will support taking meaningful steps toward urbanization.

While the project was spurred in large part because of the neighborhood’s desire to improve car travel, the same neighborhood is now threatening to derail the project over concerns that it will be inconvenient to find parking.

The final project designs would result in repurposing 29 parking spaces between about 950 East and 1300 East on 900 South. There are currently 405 spaces on public and private property, city officials say, 200 on the street and 205 on private property. Of the 29 repurposed spaces:

  • Six are being repurposed because of federally mandated ADA improvements.
  • Four were due to improved crosswalks.
  • Three were because of the bike path.
  • 16 were repurposed because of the roundabout.

At an East Liberty Park Community Organization meeting last week, Northstar Builders Principal Phil Winston said he planned to lobby the city to stop the project.

“My company and several others in the neighborhood plan to take action if the project continues,” Winston said.

He said he and others conducted their own parking study, and that more than the 29 spaces would be repurposed. Others said the city’s outreach didn’t focus enough on parking.

The neighborhood has shown itself sensitive to parking concerns in the past, suing the city after a developer planned to build an apartment building that provided less one parking space for every two units.

While it lost in court, the neighborhood was partly successful in its fight, and the developer agreed to spend the money to build at least a space for every unit in the project, Nexus on 9th, which was recently built.

The new discussion around parking comes as the city has worked to make strides toward improving transit, bike routes and walkability into and out of the neighborhood.

“We’re going to reach a tipping point where we can’t build any more parking, and then what do we do then?” asked city transportation planner Tom Millar at the ELPCO meeting. He noted the city is working to provide equitable access to people who either can’t or choose not to travel by car.

Eastbound bike lanes now appear near the 700 East intersection and disappear again heading into the heart of 9th and 9th. Westbound lanes appear around 850 East and disappear before the 700 East intersection before reappearing again at 200 West. The 9-Line will soon be funded from 600 West through 1300 East, unless this portion of the project is abandoned.

The project from Lincoln to 1300 East will include a raised and separated bike lane as part of the 9-Line trail that will be continued through the Central 9th neighborhood. The rest of the section connecting the city’s west side with east will come soon.

This summer, the city’s 900 South bus line will also be improved, and the street’s reconstruction design includes an improved bus stop.

Where McClelland crosses 900 South (an intersection where westbound cars are coming fast downhill), the city is planning to create bulbouts that shorten the distance for people to cross. The crosswalk will be raised at McClelland and in the roundabout.

With a contractor prepared to begin work, the city is looking for ways to concede some to upset neighbors, possibly lowering the number of repurposed parking spaces.

It is also promising to conduct a comprehensive parking study, focusing on parking needs, parking space utilization and more.

ELPCO announced late Tuesday night it would hold another community meeting this week or next about the project.

Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.