Downtown Parking Strategy
2009 Downtown Oxnard Mobility and Parking Management Plan Highlights
Mobility and Parking Management Plan was developed to help the City accomplish the following goals:
- Ensure good access to the Downtown by all modes of transportation;
- Provide circulation through and around the Downtown for longer distance travellers;
- Maintain functional, beautiful and pedestrian-friendly streets that will support strong retail life;
- Make best use of existing transportation assets as catalysts for economic development; and,
- Maintain sufficient parking for downtown visitors and employees, with a realistic and effective plan for operating and managing that parking.
This plan is intended to function as a “consensus blueprint” that will allow City staff to manage parking to achieve the dynamic vision called for in the 2030 General Plan and provide a transportation plan that will effectively manage future downtown growth.
In addition, the Mobility and Parking Management Plan is designed to provide an economically efficient transportation plan for Downtown Oxnard. This efficiency is important not only for the actual cost of generating and maintaining transportation resources, but also for the economic development that can be facilitated by a wellplanned system. Other cities facing similar circumstances as Oxnard, have used parking policies and management to spur economic growth.
Parking supply and utilization was analyzed separately within six districts of the Downtown: Civic Center, Plaza Entertainment & Arts, A Street Retail, Transportation Center, South of Seventh Street, and Meta Street. A total of 2,833 parking stalls are located within the study zone: 962 onstreet and 1,871 off-street. To evaluate parking occupancy, parking occupancy counts were taken from 7 am to 9 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 25-27, 2007.
Total occupancy counts show that at the busiest period (Thursday, 11 am – 1 pm), just 54% of the Downtown parking supply was occupied, with both on and off-street spaces showing roughly the same percentages of spaces occupied (54% and 55% respectively). At this peak hour, 1,297 of the 2,833 spaces in the Downtown parking supply were vacant.
Based on the on- and off-street occupancy counts, there is more than enough parking supply overall to meet existing demand. Target occupancy rates of 85% and 90% are effective industry-standards for short-term (two hour or less) and long-term spaces, respectively, so with a current peak occupancy rate of 54%, the system has substantial excess capacity. However, because the most convenient, front-door parking spaces (the spaces that new visitors and customers see immediately upon arriving) are consistently full at peak hours, the perception may easily arise that an overall parking shortage exists.
The key conclusion that we draw from these occupancy counts is that the most convenient on-street parking spaces are routinely filling up, often with employees’ cars, even as less convenient lots and structures sit mostly empty. The problems that this situation may cause, in terms of both a lack of convenient customer parking and the perception of an overall parking shortage, cannot be solved by building additional parking spaces. Instead, improved management is required to shift some parking demand, particularly long-term employee parking demand, from the most desirable front-door spaces to the currently under-used structure and parking lots nearby.
By supporting economic development in Downtown Oxnard through parking management, the Plan simultaneously addresses several of the concerns raised by community stakeholders. During the stakeholder process, concerns were expressed on several fronts. Stakeholders expressed the desire to provide a safe, customer-friendly atmosphere, and specifically to:
- Improve Downtown’s image through the intensification of both commercial and residential uses.
- Attract additional retail to continue Downtown’s progress on revitalization and establish Downtown Oxnard as a destination.
- Reduce the length of the development process and remove obstacles to new development and reuse of existing buildings.
- Provide better signage, traffic circulation and gateway treatments to make.
- Downtown Oxnard more visible to travellers on Oxnard Boulevard, and easier to reach.
- Address perceived safety concerns for downtown customers, particularly at night.
- Provide funding for a more visible, active on-street police presence.
- Provide funding for the continuance of improved lighting, upgraded landscaping, better signage and enhanced streetscapes.
This plan recommends eight measures to help resolve these stakeholder concerns, manage downtown transportation and stimulate economic activity.
Recommendation 1: Pursue a “Park Once” Strategy
Adopt a “Park Once” strategy for the Downtown Plan area by (a) operating as many parking spaces as possible in a common pool of shared, publicly-available spaces and (b) encouraging existing private commercial parking to be shared among different land uses and available to the public when not serving private commercial use. This strategy should be implemented via the following policies:
- Prohibit or discourage private parking in new development (except for residential spaces). Instead,
make public parking lots available to downtown shoppers and employees, and (when more exclusive parking arrangements are necessary) lease spaces in nearby public lots and structures to private businesses, for the particular hours and days of the week when the reserved parking is actually required.
- Purchase or lease existing private parking lots from willing sellers, and add this parking to the shared public supply.
- Facilitate shared and/or valet parking in existing private parking lots wherever feasible.
Recommendation 2: Reduce Minimum Parking Requirements and Institute an In-Lieu Fee
Oxnard should reform commercial minimum parking requirements in the Downtown by first reducing them to levels that reflect the demand of Downtown Oxnard and mandate that at least 50% of those spaces be met through an in-lieu fee to help fund a shared pool of public spaces
and other alternative mode programs. Once market-rate pricing has been instituted for Downtown’s on-street parking, and residential parking benefit districts established to protect neighborhoods from unwanted spillover parking, the next step would be to mandate that 100% of the minimum parking requirement be met through the in-lieu fee. Residential requirements should also be modified to allow developers to utilize the in-lieu fee.
Minimum parking requirements are one of the biggest obstacles to many cities’ efforts to encourage new residential and commercial development in their revitalizing downtown areas. With 1,297 parking stalls currently vacant during the peak hour in Downtown, there is more than enough parking available to cope with existing demand and any demand that could be generated by
future development. With a current oversupply of parking, minimum requirements are only acting as an impediment to economic development, rather than their stated goal of ensuring adequate availability.
Oxnard’s current minimum parking requirements applying to the Downtown area often require more than one square foot of parking area for every square foot of building. These requirements can be particularly damaging to uses, such as eating establishments, which help create vibrancy
and life in the Downtown area. By allowing commercial developments to fulfill at least a portion of their minimum parking requirements through an in-lieu fee, the City will be removing one of the largest barriers to new development downtown.
The in-lieu fee will encourage efficiently shared public parking rather than many small, inefficient private lots; and create a healthy market for downtown parking, where parking spaces are bought, sold, rented and leased like any normal commodity.
Recommendation 3: Install Parking Meters on Blocks Where Shortages Exist, and Return All
Resulting Parking Revenues to These Blocks
Install multi-space, pay-by-space parking meters on any block face in the Downtown that routinely exceeds an 85% occupancy rate. Set parking prices at rates that create a 15% vacancy rate on each block, and eliminate time limits during allowable parking hours. Rates can initially be set as low as
$0.10 per hour and subsequently raised or lowered based on future occupancy counts.
The installation of parking meters downtown will efficiently manage demand for downtown parking while accommodating customer, employee, resident, and commuter parking needs. By creating vacancies and turnover of the most convenient “front door” curb, parking spaces availability for customers and visitors will be ensured. The revenue generated should be dedicated to the continuance of public improvements and public services that benefit these blocks, such as upgraded security and enhanced streetscapes.
Recommendation 4: Invest Meter Revenues in Priority Downtown Programs
Meter revenues should first be invested in building an on-street security presence to improve perceptions concerning safety. Feedback from stakeholders revealed that security is a key issue for employees and customers. In order to address this issue, meter revenues can be spent on having an active on-street security presence in the form of “Mobility Ambassadors.” These individuals can serve multiple purposes by escorting motorists to their vehicles at night, patrolling the Downtown, and acting as information resources to visitors who need assistance in getting directions.
Funds can then be used for infrastructure such as garbage cans, street lamps, and trees or less obvious items like sidewalk steam cleaning that keeps the Downtown’s walking areas looking pristine. When the parking supply can no longer cope with demand, revenues can then be spent
on a full spectrum of transportation demand management strategies for downtown employees and residents, including transit, carpool, vanpool, bicycle and pedestrian programs.
Recommendation 5: Provide Universal Transit Passes
In recent years, growing numbers of transit agencies have teamed with universities, employers, or residential neighborhoods to provide universal transit passes. These passes typically provide unlimited rides on local or regional transit providers for low monthly fees, often absorbed entirely by the employer, school, or developers. Universal transit passes increase transit ridership and provide incentives for existing and new downtown residents to reduce vehicle ownership by providing free transit passes to all downtown residents and employees.
Oxnard should use revenues to provide free transit passes to all downtown employees and the existing residents once Gold Coast Transit has an operating program. For all new multifamily residential developments, require a universal transit passes program be provided to residents.
Recommendation 6: Require Parking Cash Out
Many employers in Downtown Oxnard (including the City itself) provide free or reduced price parking for their employees as a fringe benefit. However, those employees using alternative modes do not currently receive transportation benefits. With the implementation of a parking cash out program, all new and existing employers that provide subsidized employee parking would also
be required to offer their employees the option to “cash out” their parking subsidy. This would result in an equal subsidy between all employee commute modes and create incentives for commuters to carpool, take transit, and bike or walk to work.
Under a parking cash out requirement, employers will be able to continue to offer free or reduced parking on the condition that they offer the cash value of the parking subsidy to any employee who does not drive to work.
The cash value of the parking subsidy should be offered in one of three forms:
- A transit/vanpool subsidy equal to the value of the parking subsidy (of which up to $230 is tax-free for both employer and employee)
- A bicycle subsidy equal to the value of the parking subsidy (of which up to $20 per month is tax-free for both employer and employee)
- A taxable carpool/walk subsidy equal to the value of the parking subsidy
Employees who opt to cash out their parking subsidies would not be eligible to receive free parking from the employer, and would be responsible for their parking charges on days when they drive to work.
Recommendation 7: Create a Residential Parking Benefit District
In order to prevent “spillover” parking in downtown adjacent neighborhoods, Oxnard should implement Residential Parking Benefit Districts in adjacent residential areas, such as the Meta or South of Seventh districts, at the same time that parking meters are implemented for curb
parking in the Downtown core. These Districts should be implemented as necessary once a parking evaluation has taken place.
Residential Parking Benefit Districts are similar to residential parking permit districts in that a certain number of parking permits are issued to residents usually for free or a nominal fee. These permits allow the residents to park within the district, but allow a limited number of commuters to pay to use surplus on-street parking spaces in residential areas, and return the resulting revenues to the neighborhood to fund public improvements.
Recommendation 8: Construct New Parking Structure When Needed
While costly, new public parking structures may be necessary to meet demand once substantial new
development has taken place. Before constructing additional parking, Oxnard should first make use of its existing parking surplus, and then pursue implementation of cost-effective strategies to reduce parking demand. Once all of the lower-cost transportation demand management measures and shared parking strategies have been exhausted, additional parking may then be required. Good
advance planning can help prepare for the eventual need to provide one or more new downtown parking structures.
- Identify present parking needs to ensure that the site chosen in the Oxnard Downtown Strategic Plan for the northwest corner of 4th Street and Oxnard Boulevard is the most promising location for a future parking structure.
- Prioritize and aggressively implement all feasible strategies for reducing parking demand, that are more cost-effective than increasing parking supply.
- Monitor the current surplus and effectiveness of new strategies to reduce parking demand and initiate the pre-development process for a new parking structure when downtown peak parking occupancy regularly and consistently exceeds 80%.
When implemented together as a coherent package, these eight recommendations provide Downtown Oxnard with a strategy that allows it to grow and thrive, makes possible the reuse of existing buildings and the construction of desired new ones, manages the existing parking supply in
a way that puts customers first, and maintains sufficient parking and access for all users.