Planning Commission Unanimously Recommends Montrose District’s Application For Special Parking Area
On January 19th, the Houston Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that City Council approve the Montrose Management District’s application for a Special Parking Area (SPA). The commission, a 26-member board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council, comprises elected officials, interested citizens, and the director of planning and development.
The planning commission’s green light comes on the heels of a December 7th community engagement meeting at which the Montrose Management District received public input on its SPA application. “The feedback we got from that meeting was positive to very positive,” said Montrose District Director of Special Projects Tony Allender. “We were able to answer questions to nearly everyone’s satisfaction.”
The SPA is intended to relax the city’s strict parking requirements for Montrose-area businesses. Currently, the city requires that all parking spaces for a given business be located less than 500 feet from that business, with some exceptions. Up to 25 percent of those spaces may be up to 800 feet away for businesses smaller than 30,000 square feet, or 1,000 feet away if the business offers valet services. Offsite parking requires that a business own or lease a property for that purpose, or enter into a shared parking agreement with a nearby business to use their excess space.
The SPA application simplifies and extends that parking flexibility by allowing all users (with the exception of residential and automobile-related services) to park up to 80 percent of cars up to 800 feet away, with the option of extending to 1,000 feet if valet services are offered. Regulation changes only impact off-street parking, and are limited to the area within the SPA boundary. On January 17th, the Houston Chronicle ran an editorial praising the proposal, noting that “adding flexibility would help bring cars out of neighborhoods and into shared parking areas.”
Because the City of Houston recognizes that its parking regulations don’t work for every part of the city, it allows groups like the Montrose District (and before it, the Menil Collection) to apply for a SPA and create special parking rules locally. If approved, the Montrose SPA could go into effect as early as February 2017.
The biggest concern voiced by Montrose businesses is that the SPA doesn’t cover the entirety of the management district. In response, Allender said that the district’s parking management plan (an umbrella program which includes the SPA), proposes a variety of district-wide programs expected to enhance parking, improve the walking experience and encourage use of alternative transportation. “The beauty of the district’s parking management plan is that, with the exception of the regulatory changes, it expands the concept of the SPA to the entire district,” he explained. “In the future, we hope to expand the boundaries of the SPA as well.”
As part of the parking management plan, the district intends to partner with area businesses to facilitate shared parking arrangements, cutting down on the number of new parking spaces they must provide. The district also hopes to coordinate with civic partners and the private sector to bring additional structured parking to Montrose. The ultimate goal, said Montrose District Executive Director David Hawes, is to enhance the accessibility and walkability of Montrose while keeping cars off residential streets. “What makes for economic development is a sense of place, security, walkability, and a pleasing environment,” Hawes said.
Thanks to the city planning commission, that goal is closer than ever.