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Downtown Morgan Hill by Kathy Sullivan: Downtown MH parking issues on city’s radar

Published in the March 29 – April 11, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Kathy Sullivan

Kathy Sullivan

One of my favorite humorous sayings is, “No one likes change except babies with dirty diapers.” The change no one seems to like here in Morgan Hill is how our inevitable growth is affecting how we park downtown. As construction of new retail, restaurants, parks and housing continue, we are having to rethink our old parking habits.

City Council members heard a report from city staff March 15 of the results of the February 2016 parking study. There was much good news from the study. Presently there are 1,295 public parking spots which do not even include the additional 273 spots at the South County Courthouse. The acceptable standard is 92 percent occupancy rate during peak hours and our city is at 39 percent. We have more than enough spots to meet our current needs.

The change we are facing is having to break from the notion we can park in the immediate vicinity of where we are headed. The new 271-space parking garage is very rarely used to even half capacity. This is a great alternative to the loss of previous parking sites when Redevelopment Agency properties, along with the accompanied parking spaces, were sold. Along with VTA spaces and other spots, most times we are within two to four blocks from where we are headed.

So what are we gaining in the change of having to walk a little further when we go downtown? While besides the obvious benefit of a little more exercise, there is the increased visibility to our retail. Foot traffic is vital for the economic growth and gives us the chance to interact with our community.

City staff has also helped all of us by producing a downtown Morgan Hill parking locations postcard — which can be found at some of our restaurants like Rosy’s at the Beach. They also have additional information at www.morganhill.ca.gov/dtparking. They remind us that parking in downtown is free and convenient. The Third Street Parking Garage offers us clean vehicle spaces, bike lockers and charging stations available with great views and public art.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have parking issues to address. City staff and the council are aware of the need for additional handicap parking spaces. They will be looking at the need for attention to the northern end of town. Even with the parking garage being four blocks away, business owners raised some concerns about how this was affecting their ability to rent space. Concerns of the impact on homeowners in the downtown corridor were also voiced at the last city council meeting. As the new businesses and housing come into this area, more problems will arise. The city is aware they will need to continue to monitor and address these challenges as they follow the adopted Downtown Specific Plan.

Change is here and will continue to come. It is the nature of cities to change, morph and adapt — we can as well.

Kathy Sullivan is a Morgan Hill Downtown Association board member. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.