“ParkEasy Nevada City” proposal to add 183 parking spaces in historic downtown

A plan is in the works called “ParkEasy Nevada City,” which could add 183 parking spaces, shuttles and bicycle parking spots in the historic downtown.

It addresses an ongoing problem in Nevada City, as well as other Sierra foothill towns. While the towns offer shopping, dining, and wine and beer tasting opportunities, as well as annual events, the parking often is limited. The problem is compounded given the aging demographics.

“The resulting strategy has been tentatively coined ‘ParkEasy Nevada City,’ because it will provide a remarkable number of additional parking spaces if implemented. The strategy includes an added 183 parking spaces in 12 different locations within and nearby the Historic District, shuttle options and 20 new bicycle parking spots,” according to a City Hall staff report.

“A significant number of the solutions are affordable and can be implemented within 12 months. In fact, it is conceivable that all proposed improvements can be completed within four years. City staff has also identified locations for four electric vehicle charging stations and is actively evaluating opportunities for grant funding to accelerate investment in vehicle charging infrastructure.

“It is recommended that the proposed public outreach efforts described below include seeking feedback on the community’s interest in improving way-finding (directional signage) and enhancing use of technology.”

“Staff is recommending a two-step public outreach strategy to receive citizen feedback on parking expansion options:

“1. A community workshop in late January/early February.

“2. Review by the Planning Commission at their February 16, 2017 meeting.”

The issue will be discussed at Wednesday’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

More details, including maps of the proposed parking spots, are here. (You have to scroll all the way down to page 440).

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

23 thoughts on ““ParkEasy Nevada City” proposal to add 183 parking spaces in historic downtown”

  1. ORDINANCE NO. 2017- xx

    Well I just finished reading the entire state building code to be adopted by the city this coming Wednesday and it states quite clearly all rules and regulations that are to be followed around the issues of ‘storm drainage’ (county building code, chapter XVII, Article 5). Nowhere does ot allow for drainage runoff to run onto a neighbors property nor did it allow for such prior to the proposed upgrades of 2017.

    As for the prosed additional parking spaces, ridiculous concept of angled slots on totally inappropriate narrow streets. Who comes up with these ideas?

  2. I thought someone might have had the brilliant idea of creating shaded parking structures in some very obvious, under-utilized locations, in Nevada City.
    This looks like a “squeeze in”, idea that will put the burden of density and congestion on neighborhoods instead of creating proper parking solutions for the benefit of downtown businesses.
    Please go back to the drawing board.

  3. Jeff,

    The map provided by Nelson appears to have the parking spaces scattered about town instead of condensed in a flat-based, multi-tiered structure, which would be the better, greener and safer solution.
    The hilly streets of Nevada City are already clogged with vehicles.
    Doesn’t seem right.

    1. What about the cost of the flat-based, multi-tiered structure you are referring to? And where would it go? Also what about the congestion? I’m sure you’re familiar with the Union Square garage in S.F.

      1. The cost of building a multi-level level parking garage in most of California today is about $80,000–$120,000 per space, depending upon where in the state one is and how severe the seismic issues are. A structure holding 183 cars would likely cost between $15-$22 million.

        Vehicle Miles Traveled related cumulative impacts and emissions calculations (GHG and criteria pollutants) of large parking garages are actually higher than on-street parking as measured by the calculation model that is required to be used in California, which is consistent with the rest of the country.

  4. Jeff,

    I was thinking about the parking structure in Chico.
    It’s constructed of brick with wrought iron detailing so it blends well with its environment.

    Yes, there’s the money problem.
    Nevada city is poor, no question about it.
    What happened to all that gold rush wealth?
    I am not sure about the pollution problem Steve mentions, given that automobiles of different ages produce different emission levels.
    An old car pollutes more sitting parked than many new cars do when they are running.
    Structures also prevent autos from building heat from sitting out in the hot sun.

    Cramming more congestion into the neighborhoods is a solution of sorts, I suppose, but not a great one.
    Our neighborhood is a de facto parking lot for every event downtown and we have been pretty good sports about it over the years, even though we have had thefts from our property after some of those events and suspect parking up in the neighborhoods gives thieves the opportunity to case private properties.

    1. The structure in Chico is nice! Near my favorite hotel, no less. Alas, Nevada City does not have a state university in its town to supply the tax base for such a structure. Come to think of it, I wish we had a university here too! Let’s go get one.

      1. What a hoot! Todd and his double-digit IQ commentators did not get the sarcasm of “I wish we had a university here too! Let’s go get one.” You can’t fix stupid!

  5. I’m surprised not to see Union Street on this map. This was one of the considerations and is an extra wide street that could actually handle more parking through re-striping. And as far as an underground structure, yes, I love the idea, but it is many dollars and many years away. So, I applaud the city for coming up with a relatively inexpensive, short term solution. Unless somebody has an extra $20 million sitting in their pockets… I don’t know what else the city could do.

  6. The parking at Elks Lodge is close to town and very rarely full. The Rood Center is usually open, particularly on evenings and weekends. Maybe public information signage directing out of town drivers to less than obvious parking solutions might make more sense than angled parking on steep, narrow, congested side roads. Well designed sidewalks and walkways directing foot traffic could optimize pedestrian flow from satellite parking areas at a fraction of the cost of multi level in-town parking garages,

  7. Yes, Union Street would seem to make sense. I hope you bring it up — troublemaker. lol. BTW, thanks for helping our community get a weekly farmers market on Union Street. That’s taken for granted now, but you were a pioneer in the effort.

  8. In 2006-07 we had a Parking Committee that examined the potential of adding spaces on Spring Street behind the hotel. Yes, it was an ambitious plan, but could have worked had it not been for a previous city manager who redirected use of the Parking Meter fund and Parking In-Lieu fund to the tune of about $430K. With those funds spent for other purposes, the Spring Street idea soon found its way to the dumpster.

    In those years, at least, parking meter and in-lieu income went into restricted accounts created for the purpose of paying for new parking. And with that money in the bank, and an assured income stream that would have taken care of the remaining debt without tapping into the General Fund, the Spring Street expansion seemed doable –– both financially and from an engineering perspective. (BTW: That kind of funding plan is how the Commercial Street lot was built and paid for in fairly short order).

    Unless it’s stored somewhere else these days, there’s a plat map in the drawer of the conference table in the William Wetherall Room at City Hall. It was prepared by City Engineer Bill Falconi in either 2006 or ’07 to delineate the full area of city ownership. Although the rear portion of that city-owned property is steeply sloped and appears more as open air than a buildable lot, the city actually owns from Spring Street to Cabin Street. When you look at it as a plat map and calculate its size, it’s impressive.

    In 2006, after watching tilt-up walls being poured and erected at the building for 2 Wire near the GVG campus, the city engineer felt the same technique could be used for the proposed two-tier parking lot. It seemed practical and also economical, and with minimal excavation a flat space large enough for pouring the tilt-up walls was possible. Some of the shorter walls would have needed to be poured directly, but most of it could have been cost-saving tilt-up construction

    Once the side and rear walls were up, the plan was to lower the current Spring Street lot by 10-12 feet and use that soil as fill to help create a flat lot extending from Spring to Cabin. By doing it that way, a street-level “roof” could be built above the lower-tier –– resulting in a two-tiered lot with minimal visual impact from the freeway. There would have been concrete walls, but easy to mask with a well-designed facade.

    If done that way, the top level of the two-tier lot would have been no higher than the present street level. And it would have extended to Cabin Street

    I don’t recall the number of new parking spaces the city enginner calculated could be added with a two-tier lot extending to Cabin Street, but it was substantial. And creating both an entrance and exit on Spring Street was not complicated.

    Costly? Yes, but the income stream from those increased parking meters –– combined with income from existing meters in town and future in-lieu fees that found their way to City Hall –– would have handled the debt without dipping into taxpayers’ money or impacting the general fund. And the $430K or so that was already in the bank, would have handled engineering costs and related advance expenses.

    Sadly, the idea became just that: an idea.

    Steve Frisch certainly has a far better sense of 2017 construction costs than me, but I don’t think it would approach $80,000-$120,000 per space to do what I have so awkwardly described above.

    (Sorry if the above description is a little confusing –– to Steve and others –– but I think readers will understand the basic idea).

    1. Thank you Steve,

      That’s great information.
      What about the tiered lot over by the courthouse on Washington St.
      It’s pretty unsightly and not as near efficient as it could be.
      Has a structure, consistent with period architecture of course, been considered for that lot?
      It would seem a good candidate and would hold many more vehicles if they could be stacked in that same footprint.
      Is that lot part of the courthouse or does he city own it?

      1. Judith:

        To the best of my knowledge, none of the Washington Street property is owned by the city, nor does the city have any lease arrangement for its use. Maybe Reinette could confirm that for you.

        Yep, parking structures can be butt ugly, but they can also be designed to blend in with the surrounding architecture. That was certainly our goal when the Spring Street–Cabin Street expansion was being brainstormed ten years ago.

    2. That Spring to Cabin Street lot would have been a surface lot, correct? The cost of surface lots is less, about half of what I quoted above, although that is a pretty steep slope, the engineering would be interesting. The increased cost of multilevel lots is a real hindrance…and a lot of it is achieving the seismic standards. I have looked at structures in a couple of places in the Sierra and it is mind boggling…that coupled with the fact that under grounding is difficult due to the granitic base makes surface almost the only way to go.

      1. Steve:

        I was afraid my description of the proposed project from a decade ago was a bit confusing –– and I guess it was. To (I hope) answer your question: by excavating the current Spring Street parking lot 10-12 feet and using that as part of the needed fill behind a proposed Cabin Street wall and side walls, there would have been a single flat lot created, 10-12 feet lower then the present lot –– running fully from Spring to Cabin –– rather than the current lot with its limited depth and steep slope to Cabin.

        A concrete roof would have provided an equal amount of parking from Spring to Cabin at the existing Spring Street level, and a Spring Street entrance and exit would have brought cars to and from the lower level.

        (Hope that’s not another confusing explanation).

        At the time, it seemed to some of us like a good way to create meaningful additional downtown parking without building a typical stand-alone, two-storyl downtown parking garage. And we felt that with a creative design the proposed two-level lot –– barely higher than the existing Spring Street lot –– would not have seriously impacted the view visiters entering town on the freeway currently experience. But maybe it’s cost-prohibitive at this point anyway?

        Additional parking has been a goal of several city councils over the past 30-35 years, so I sure hope something positive results from the current community dialogue.

  9. Thanks Steve- These threads, as well as threads from other stories on this blog, have given me more answers about the town than our paper. There is a certain revenue stream from parking meters and a percentage of the tickets that the subcontractor gives back would be an interesting “rest of the story”.. How “ear-marked” funds are mysteriously funneled to other “projects” is historically an issue here and in many cities around the nation. Look up “Enron By The Sea” and see how San Diego powers that be managed to spend even the money to fix pot holes in the streets while guaranteeing to cover the unsold seats for all San Diego Charger football games. When there is a bank account with the city, there will be a dozen people there with very creative ways to spend it. Wait to see how they treat income tax from the new dispensary, —-

  10. This is an issue across our entire region, and how different jurisdictions address it is interesting. Sonora and Jackson invested in parking garages; in Sonora because they were heavily subsidized as part of the heir government infrastructure in their downtown, in Jackson I think it was a deal with the state for widening the highway.

    I think Reinette had it substantively right–sure, a nice parking garage designed to fit into the community would be great, but it’s prohibitively expensive and years out–invest in what you have already built and you get the benefit immediately. Nevada City should be applauded for finding a unique solution and working with the public to overcome the barriers that might come up.

    Some of the ideas expressed here about shared parking are very relevant–often assigned parking goes unused–the courthouse and Elks comes to mind. Managing the parking as a collective asset might actually make a lot more sense for everyone, with some parking reserved for special events at entities that are in the pool.

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation has done some great work on parking management in historic towns.

  11. Steve and Judith,

    The city has been working towards parking between Clark/South Pine and Hwy 49; a gravel parking lot connected to a walking bridge to downtown. All these steps add up and the city is actively pursuing solutions!

    1. Reinette:

      That’s a good spot. It was one of the places proposed for parking in an earlier study.

      Twenty years ago, when the Gault Bridge was demolished and a new bridge was built, the idea was to construct a pedestrian bridge across Deer Creek –– connecting via an easement to Cabin Street –– duplicating (in scale, at least) Andrew Hallidie’s 1862 suspension bridge that was razed in 1902 for what became known as the Gault Bridge. It was planned as part of an interpretive history element for some grant money we acquired to help build the new bridge in the mid-1990s.

      I remember walking around that flat spot off Clark Street with Bill Falconi one day, then walking along the trail to a spot above Deer Creek where a small, existing rest area could be further developed. The concept has low-cost potential for parking and would offer a nice walk to town with a pedestrian bridge in place.

      The pedestrian suspension bridge never materialized, (at least not at that location), but glad to hear that a pedestrian bridge of some kind is being considered once again. Maybe this time the Clark Street parking area will be created and a pedestrian bridge as well? Good luck with the idea –– hope it happens.

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