South Sonoma Neighborhood Project
MANAGE TRAFFIC FLOW AND PARKING
IN SOUTH SONOMA
Streets cluttered with parked cars can be hazardous because people and pets walk between them and, when a space isn’t available, drivers cruise around. Many communities consider an abundance of parked cars aesthetically unappealing and we know Planning Commissioner Chair Robert Felder and some Planning Commissioners were concerned about aesthetics when discussing the 20269 Broadway development. We also know everyone expects new tenants and their visitors to park on Clay.
The City is growing and is expected to continue its current trend to grow denser, not more diffuse. Much of the growth will occur on the West side of town, starting with the low-income housing development at Broadway and Clay. This area in South Sonoma is ideal to launch an integrated pilot parking management program that might include: Prohibiting parking on the North side of Clay to make it safer and quieter; shared parking; paid parking; a parking permit program; and enforcement capabilities.
There needs to be an integrated, cost-effective parking management program in place on Broadway and Clay Street before new tenants arrive, partly because we don’t want drivers’ habits to form only to have to redirect them. From the current residents’ viewpoint, the sooner an effective program is in place, the sooner we could experience a higher quality of life.
Train Town does not have sufficient on-site parking during tourist season, school breaks, including Summer, Winter and Spring, and long holiday weekends, when tourists stream in on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. During these times, curbside parking along Clay Street is at a premium and concerns for safety become more heightened.
The Lodge attracts vehicles of all sizes to Clay Street, from 18 wheelers to flat beds to box trucks, buses, RV’s, mobile homes, and even horse carriages and buggies. It does not have a loading dock and instead, uses Clay Street, which serves several neighborhoods.
Residents of South Sonoma and Planning Commissioners expect tenants and visitors of the new housing development to park on Clay. Now is the time to start developing an integrated plan to manage traffic and parking, and public input is necessary. The City can take traffic counts and monitor turn movements, but only the public can offer qualitative information, which is just as important.
There will be some costs to implementing measures to return Clay to its original purpose of serving local residential neighborhoods. Train Town owner Robert Frank and the Lodge at Sonoma should share those costs. Since the new housing development is a Sonoma County project, we should consider including them in cost sharing.
Clay Street full of Train Town visitors' cars
Improve Clay Street immediately
1. Enforce the No U Turn sign
2. Do not allow jackknifed and double-parked vehicles to block the street and sidewalk
4. Post hours of loading zone: 7AM to 6PM, Monday through Saturday and holidays, Chapter 10.52, City Code (Note: Lodge dock hours are 7AM to 7PM
5. Prohibit buses and tour vans along with RV’s, mobile homes, and boats. (Note: Families on Clay, past Bragg sometimes park their RV’s, etcetera in front of their houses before embarking on trips)
6. Prohibit horses and other large animals on Clay Street
The City Planning Department has expected the Lodge to work with its vendors to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the number of illegal
U-Turns at Clay and Bragg, but that hasn’t been successful.
The Sheriff's department doesn’t send officers to Clay Street because it lacks the resources. Therefore, the City must put the Lodge on notice that if the number of U-Turns does not plummet over a 30-day period, management will receive a regular bill to cover the cost of police enforcement. Even without the Lodge’s participation, the Police Department should enforce the No U-Turn sign. To begin the process of discouraging U- Turns, officers could regularly position themselves in the area for 30 days, pulling over drivers and issuing citations; after that time, police would continue patrolling the area at regular intervals.
Conditions of use
It’s not just vendors like Pepsi and Sierra Nevada whose drivers make unsafe U-Turns, it’s also the Lodge’s employees, contractors, and landscapers. These last three groups not only make illegal U-Turns, they also often dominate Clay Street’s parking spaces, which is a violation of its Use Permit.
An engineering solution to prevent illegal U-Turns would be to construct bulb outs at Clay and Bragg to discourage drivers of big trucks.
Synchronize traffic signals
The traffic lights at Leveroni and Newcomb need to be synced. When idling on Clay at Broadway, drivers wait quite a while for breaks in traffic heading south. Just before an opportunity arises to make a safe left turn, traffic heading north gets a green light. This situation would be improved by syncing the lights.
Build a loading dock at the Lodge at Sonoma
The Lodge does not have a loading dock. Although it relies on daily deliveries of everything from toothbrushes to food to mattresses, no one involved in evaluating and approving the Lodge noticed there was no actual loading dock included in the site plan. The easternmost driveway on Clay Street leads to what's called the "service area," and that has substituted for a loading dock since 2001, when the hotel opened.
Loading docks are notoriously dangerous places, partly because of the equipment that’s used around them. Trucks, pallet jacks, and forklifts are dangerous and OSHA regulates their use. The Lodge receives deliveries from drivers who use pallet jacks and forklifts even in the rain when the “service area” is slippery. The "service area" is unsupervised, and even the biggest trucks don't use wheel chocks when they’re parked, whether parallel to Clay, jackknifed, or right in the middle of the street.
The people living in the collective neighborhoods of South Sonoma have been exposed to unsafe conditions on Clay Street for eighteen years and, beginning in October 2019, construction will begin at 20269 Broadway, adding innumerable vehicles of all sizes. When construction ends, 200 new residents will move in and the safety risks will increase unless a dock is established elsewhere.
Clay is 38 feet wide, which falls short of what is needed for trucks to maneuver safely. When cars are parked on the North side, it further limits maneuvering space and drivers must make many passes to get into position at the driveway cut. A typical loading dock includes a raised platform and a ramp between the dock and a truck. There is no room in its current location to add these features. Though loading docks are places of potential hazards and must meet high standards if they are to be safe, the hotel has made no improvements to the area.
The Lodge plans to remodel its restaurant, many of its hotel rooms, and replace the landscaping along the Broadway frontage. We think it is more important for the hotel to build a loading dock elsewhere on its 9.5- acre property to remove the dangerous conditions on Clay Street before money is spent on cosmetic projects. We also think the City should not issue permits or amend the Lodge's Conditions until they build a loading dock that conforms to industry standards and OSHA regulations.
In 2005 the City Council offered $27,000 in subsidies to the Lodge to pay for a higher masonry wall around the dock and a surround for the rooftop fan. They didn’t build the wall, but we know the City will offer financial incentives when it wants to. The City could subsidize all or part of the cost to move the dock or make significant improvements. Certain improvements would make it easier for drivers to deliver and pick up, which would help traffic circulation, but any plan needs to be accompanied by a commitment to preventing drivers from making illegal U-Turns at Bragg and Clay.
If the hotel built a dock, presumably the dumpsters, garbage cans, and recycling bins would also be moved to the new area. This action would vastly improve the quality of life for current and future residents. (Note: Even without building a dock, they could relocate everything related to garbage.)
There is a lot of online literature that discusses ways municipalities manage parking shortages and its evil twin, underutilized parking. In all instances, shared parking was part of management strategies. A solution to current and future parking shortages on Clay Street caused by Train Town customers lies in a promising opportunity for shared parking at Adele Harrison Middle School.
Train Town is situated close to Adele and within reasonable walking distance
Both are on the same side of Broadway, which would make walking safe for families
Adele’s parking lots are empty on holidays, weekends, Summer, Winter, and Spring school breaks, which is when Train Town attracts the most visitors
Train Town would pay a fee to the School District to use the lot
Train Town owner Robert Frank will have to come up with an alternative to using Clay Street as his overflow area because a residential parking permit program is inevitable, given that future residents of the Broadway housing development and their visitors will use both Clay and Broadway to park.
If there are Municipal Codes or other obstacles to using Adele’s lots, the City could clear them in much the same way it changed the definition of Mixed Use in the Broadway Corridor--one step at a time. City Code should explicitly allow shared parking by different users and owners, and amend the code to allow for flexibility in administering shared parking. Perhaps this would only apply to this one area with options to expand to other parts of town at a later point.
Adele’s lots are the best choice because of its location, but if obstacles to its use can’t be overcome, Kovak's lots might be an option. However, they are not nearly as attractive an option because 1) It’s unsafe for pedestrians to cross Broadway anywhere between Leveroni and Newcomb 2) Its business hours don’t correspond well with Train Town’s high seasons or its busiest days on holiday weekends, which are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Frank’s would be expected to pay Kovak's a fee for using the lots. Apparently, the City has no influence with the Frank’s, but Supervisor Susan Gorin might be able to help with this.
Steps for the City to take
Update City Code, if necessary
Approach the Sonoma Valley School District and the owners of Kovak's about participating in a one year shared parking pilot study
Create or update design guidelines for standardized sign design and placement policies for shared parking
Update the City’s website with an easy-to-find map and explanation of public parking options
Place standardized public parking signs at relevant locations
Note: It’s possible liability insurance and shared parking agreements would be needed.
When developing a plan to regulate Clay Street, all ideas should be on the table, including permit parking. There are many ways to set up this kind of parking and discussions are necessary to identify what’s appropriate for this location and within the context of all ideas presented in this document, along with other contributions that are offered in the future.
If a large event at the development’s community building is planned, they should have to notify the City at least 48 hours before the event and perhaps be required to request temporary parking permits. Management should also be responsible for notifying all neighbors.
Limit parking on Clay Street to one hour. If paid parking is appropriate, provide one pay station/kiosk to cover the area on Clay from Broadway to Bragg. Place another from Bragg to Picket Street and perhaps install another along Broadway, if CalTrans allows it. Like using a regional park, drivers would display their receipt. If the City and citizens decide to include paid parking as one component of an integrated parking management plan, the price of parking should be high on weekends and holidays and drop the other days of the week, using a range from $5 to $.50 an hour. To be effective, enforcement would be required and would be paid for by money collected at the pay stations.
There are hundreds of websites published by municipalities, urban planners, citizen groups, etc., that advocate for the elimination of free public parking and provide a lot of supporting information.
A downside to limited or paid parking would be the frequent movement of cars, which would make the streets less safe.
“Underpriced curb spaces are like rent-controlled apartments--they are hard to find, and once you find a space you’d be crazy to give it up.”
Why Free parking is bad for everyone
Cruising for parking
Engage citizens at the beginning of the process
Too often the community doesn’t know the City is in the midst of making plans and can only react to them after being made public. Asking citizens to respond to a plan that is far along in the process is a problem for a few reasons:
1. Plans made without citizen input invite arguments and resistance
2. Without discussions on conceptual ideas like safety and quality of life, details and implementation are more difficult
3. Citizens may have ideas and definitions that differ from those of bureaucrats, who, for example, might look at safety differently
4. Involving citizens is a basic form of respect
The residents of South Sonoma want to see a substantial change in the nature of Clay Street near Broadway and Bragg and will help to transform it from being Train Town’s parking lot and the Lodge’s personal alley to the residential street it’s supposed to be.
The City has ignored the unsafe conditions on Clay Street since 2001, when the Lodge opened for business
Jackknifed and double-parked vehicles have been allowed to block the street
The Police have not enforced the No U-Turn sign at Clay and Bragg
The Planning Department does not enforce the Conditions of Use that apply to the Lodge, causing congestion at curbs
Parking on Clay Street should be regulated and there are many viable options to consider
Citizens need to be involved in identifying the problems, discussing solutions, and coming to a decision on how to improve the South Sonoma neighborhood
The Planning Director called the blocking of Clay Street a “nuisance” but it is much more than that: It is a safety hazard. This document discusses some of the problems and proposes possible solutions that can be used in combination. No doubt there are other options this paper doesn’t cover but we would like the opportunity to sit at the table with other stakeholders to discuss and evaluate all the options. We are as committed to working with City Engineering, Public Works, City Planning, Planning Commissioners, Traffic and Safety, and the Police as we are in wanting to clean up Clay Street.
There will be costs involved but change is necessary. Some costs can be defrayed by passing them on to Train Town and its customers.
The Lodge was built without a loading dock but a driveway was placed on Clay Street. Managers do not respect the neighbors or the neighborhood and have done a poor job of policing itself, its vendors, and contractors. There are many things the Lodge could do to limit its negative influence on the public environment, but they don’t do anything. Neither the City nor the public has been able to change their behavior or compel them to be more sensitive. However, to help reduce the Lodge’s overbearing presence, the City can and should enforce the Conditions of Use no matter how marginal those improvements would be.