Parking ahead: proceed with caution

The community of Chico is about to engage in one of those donnybrooks that erupt every few years and tear the town apart, leading to bad feelings on all sides. As evidenced by a clamorous public meeting this week, the looming decision on whether to construct a new five-level parking structure is sure to elicit some high tension and angry debate and most likely open old wounds.

Already the controversy has lit up computer screens with long and emotional e-mails defending or cursing the specter of a new parking garage downtown. We’ve been down this road before, a dozen years ago when opposing sides went to war over the Salem Street parking structure.

We expect name-calling is just around the corner on this latest proposal. Opponents will be labeled as Birkenstock-wearing, bicycle-riding anarchists who are damning downtown to the vacancy rate of a ghost town; proponents will be accused of being money-grubbing capitalists unconcerned with aesthetics or a steadily degrading environment.

We ask, probably in vain, that the discussions take the high road and recognize that both sides have what they think are the city’s best interests in mind. We’ll see.