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Downtown parking problem turned over to merchants

After trying to assist downtown business owners with a number of issues for the past few years, the Sunnyside City Council this past Monday night voiced its frustration with a lack of response from the merchants.

Council has been looking for some time at how to deal with parking issues in the downtown area, in the hopes it may better assist business owners with their operations.

As requested, Sunnyside Police Officer John Chumley made a presentation to Council about the parking situation in downtown.

Chumley said he began his survey of the downtown parking situation about a month ago. As part of the process, Chumley spoke with chamber of commerce representatives, business owners and customers. Chumley looked at issues involving on-street, public and private parking. The downtown area, as defined by Chumley, basically fell within the west boundary on Fifth Street to the east, ending on Eighth Street, and then to the north, ending on Custer Avenue, and to south boundary stopping at Franklin Avenue.

Chumley said the city has about 461 on-street parking spots available in that area. There are another 89 public parking spots in the free lots that are offered, and 152 private parking spots.

Chumley said most of the parking in downtown is limited to two hours with certain areas having 15-minute restrictions.

The big issue for downtown business owners, said Chumley, is that there aren't enough of the parking spaces. Chumley said that several downtown business owners said they are still doing well financially, despite not having enough parking spots. Businesses located on the corners in downtown have issues with neighboring businesses taking parking spots they need. Chumley said there are several businesses in downtown, such as hair salons, where customers can take up a parking spot for quite a long time.

Chumley suggested that some of the parking issues in downtown might best be solved if business owners start networking better with one another.

"I think there is a lot of breakdown in communication in the downtown," agreed Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar.

Councilman Bruce Ricks said parking has been an issue in the downtown for at least the past year. He said merchants are not working together to solve the issues. Ricks suggested the business owners work with the chamber of commerce to help solve downtown business core issues.

"It is up to the businesses," said Ricks. "If they want to improve their business core they have the power."

Ricks added that businesses shouldn't allow their employees to utilize parking spots that can be used by customers. Ricks said such businesses as the Lower Valley Credit Union, Wal-Mart and Safeway don't let their employees use customer parking spots.

Ricks said his goal on Council has been to assist the downtown businesses in developing parking standards, but there hasn't been much cooperation from the downtown core.

Mayor Ed Prilucik liked the idea of business owners in the downtown solving their own issues surrounding parking, but said if they want the city to become involved staff is going to need to devise some sort of fee structure for violators to enforce parking.

"If they (businesses) want the city to work it (parking) out, we are going to need some more tools," said Prilucik.

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