ALAMO HEIGHTS — Parking woes in neighborhoods where business and school traffic spill over may be a thing of the past if a pilot program launched by City Council proves successful.
Leaders recently approved an initiative in which Cambridge Shopping Center turned 39 parking spaces in public rights of way into private spaces along Circle Street and Fenimore Avenue.
At issue is creating enough parking spaces for shopping-center employees and patrons so spots intended for neighbors on adjacent residential streets won’t be taken.
“In the long run, alleviating parking is an issue,” said Mayor Bobby Rosenthal.
Some neighbors, however, have decried turning spaces in public rights of way into private parking spots.
“I don’t want to look out my front door and all I see are signs,” said Cindy Voss.
Others hope the dedicated spaces will put to rest an ongoing controversy.
“Is this going to keep employees in a certain area and not in front of our houses and be there all night long?” said Dan Snyder.
The council unanimously voted June 5 to advance an agreement with the shopping center to dedicate three spaces for takeout service at Paloma Blanca restaurant, and allocate 36 other spaces for employees of the tenants in the retail site.
On Dec. 1, the council will review the agreement and results of the program. Richard McCaleb, the owner of Cambridge Shopping Center, asked to reserve the public right-of-way spaces along Circle and Fenimore for private use.
In addition to Paloma Blanca and its sister venture, Vela Wine Bar, the retail center hosts a handful of businesses, including a bank, a real estate office and boutique shops.
The council this past March made it possible to consider turning parking spaces in a public right of way into private use upon request.
Fourteen spaces along Circle and 16 spaces along Fenimore were installed and required for fire access as part of the special-use permit the council approved for the adjacent mixed-use development under construction at Broadway and Austin Highway.
Nine spaces behind Paloma Blanca were provided by the landowner and were not part of the special-use permit. The business holder is responsible for maintaining and enforcing those spaces.
Councilwoman Lynda Billa Burke said some places along Broadway have ongoing parking issues.
Those likely will be compounded when the newer retail spaces open at the Broadway-Austin Highway development, officials said.
People who park in spaces off-limits to them, or park on side streets when that may not be permitted at certain hours, could end up getting ticketed.
Burke said partnering with members of the commercial district is a potential solution.
Neighborhoods along Broadway long have had trouble with parking overflow issues, such as the case with Alamo Heights High School students who pull up in nearby residential streets.
“If we don’t want citizens to carry the full load of taxes in Alamo Heights, we need to work with businesses to offset some of these problems,” the councilwoman added. “If we don’t have business because there’s no parking, then we have no revenue, and then everything falls on the homeowner.”
McCaleb said he, too, recognizes there is limited parking for merchants and their customers in the Broadway/Austin Highway area. He frequently hears complaints from his own tenants.
“We’ve got lease space that I can’t lease right now,” McCaleb said. He referred to an adjacent 2,000-square-foot spot that has gotten looks from potential merchants “who wanted the space but just couldn’t get comfortable with the parking.”
Meanwhile, Snyder also said parking problems in his neighborhood can create access issues for emergency first responders, and a fear of getting hit while trying to walk.
Neighbor Robert Harris echoed Snyder’s sentiment.
“I understand it would be difficult to control the patrons of the restaurant, but there’s a difference between someone coming over to eat and staying for two hours vs. two waves of employees parked there for 16 hours a day in front of your house,” he said.
A few other neighbors suggested Paloma Blanca remind its workers it’s OK to park in the newly dedicated spaces, and not far away from the restaurant.
“The most egregious parkers seem to be the workers,” said Councilman John Savage, who lives in the neighborhood.