Parking remains vital vitality issue

Alan Chamberlain is a principal with AxonoMetrix Partners, a strategic planning firm in downtown Chico.
Recommendations: To see the charette report, go to or

HDR Town Planning and Nelson/Nygaard have (finally) released a draft of their observations and recommendations [on downtown parking]. It is surprising only inasmuch as it is largely unchanged from the presentation furnished at the conclusion of the charrette.

It is a dog’s breakfast of fashionable planning trends, and as such includes ideas that merit further consideration, while others are the lamentable result of the three-way collision between social engineering, political wishful thinking and the laws of physics.

As I say, there are some worthwhile suggestions that should not be thrown out with the bathwater, however ugly the baby might be. Certainly recommendations to increase the overall inventory of on-street parking through re-striping for diagonal spaces, differential meter rates, etc., can provide near-term relief to sustain downtown commerce while investment in needed infrastructure can proceed thoughtfully and methodically.

However, suggestions that no new parking spaces will be needed for two decades or more are grounded principally in philosophical predisposition rather than dispassionate analysis.

It is important that folks who prefer sound planning examine this document and catalog its manifest flaws and misguided assumptions, lest the policy community be seduced into yet another stalemate between the land-raping greed-heads and the dirt-worshipping bug-eaters.

Growth of the central commercial core is critical to the sustainability of any town, but in Chico we must remember that these downtown businesses are our neighbors, and that livelihoods, jobs and social networks are at risk. Some promising new businesses have failed as a result of inadequate foot traffic. And many important downtown “anchor” operations have migrated to other commercial corridors.

If downtown Chico is to thrive, we must cultivate an office-based business community to patronize downtown merchants, food/beverage operators and personal-services providers. Office workers require parking all day long, so increasing metered on-street parking availability through redesign will not lure those businesses to locate downtown.

Only when abundant, covered, off-street parking that can be paid for with a credit/ debit card is available will the glut of empty office space downtown become fully leased. And until those offices are filled with well-paid workers, the retail and restaurant businesses will continue to struggle with attracting customers, diminishing job creation, tax generation, and the social capital of a healthy civic culture.