LIVERMORE -- Building another parking structure, sharing existing spaces or charging for premium spots are just a few of the options Livermore will explore as it takes a comprehensive look at downtown parking.
The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the spending of $225,000 for a parking study -- the first since 2009 -- to determine current and projected demands, and to analyze ways to increase efficiency downtown. According to Planning Manager Paul Spence, though current downtown parking is sufficient, he said the city expects a need for more.
"We think demand is increasing, but that's a good thing," Spence said. "We want the downtown to continue to thrive."
The study -- to be done by a private consultant -- will look at ways to optimize existing spaces, modifying time limits, working with businesses, like banks, to use spaces on weekends, and designating some areas as pay parking. Adding a multi-unit parking structure, parking count signs, and park-and-ride shuttles will also be evaluated.
"We're trying to be proactive," Spence said. "We want the downtown to remain accessible."
Livermore Downtown Inc. is collaborating on the study, which is expected to be completed in the spring. The group's executive director, Rachael Snedecor, said the study is needed because the downtown's popularity has exceeded previous projections.
"We've done phenomenonally well, but the reality is we're heavy on dining and entertainment," Snedecor said. "It's time to regroup and say, here's where our original idea was and here's where we are now."
Snedecor will be part of a steering committee looking for input from property owners, businesses, and residents. Through social media and workshops at weekend events, Snedecor hopes to get an "all-inclusive look" at parking needs.
"Is pay parking something that has to be evaluated? Absolutely," she said. "We can't have a storage lot on First Street."
Employees who use spaces meant for customers is among the biggest parking gripes for Ben Brassfield, manager of Cal Bicycles on First Street. Businesses that use spaces for additional outdoor seating, and drivers who slow or block traffic while waiting for an opening are also pet peeves.
"People don't use the parking structure because they're too lazy to walk," he said. "A lot of people will drive around to find the perfect parking space and just go somewhere else or go home."
Brassfield said he doesn't think more enforcement or shuttles will help fix the problem, and proposes rickshaws as an alternative way of getting people from Point A to Point B.
"If the city allowed it, people could park farther away," he said. "Not only that, it could be a fun way to get around town."
Karen Greene, an assistant manager at Casse Croûte Bakery on South Livermore Avenue, said she doesn't hear many complaints from customers but her afternoon workers often have to scramble to find parking. She would like the city to build another structure as long as rates are affordable.
"Our parking is horrible," Greene said. "I'd hate to see a high-priced parking structure, but I know the funding would have to come from somewhere."
Residents may also need to warm up to the idea of walking farther to their cars, which could benefit businesses in the long run, said Snedecor.
"This is a pedestrian-focused downtown," she said. "Discovery takes place when people have to walk."
Correspondent Nate Gartrell also contributed to this story. Jeremy Thomas covers the city of Livermore, contact him at email@example.com or 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.