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[whitespace] Officials get first look at feasibility report on parking garage downtown

Los Gatos--Councilmembers got their first look Jan. 4 at the draft report on downtown parking structures, and any way they cut it, it's not going to be cheap.

The Downtown Parking Structure Feasibility Report draft report, prepared by the Watry Design Group of San Mateo, examined seven alternatives for the two lots, with grand totals ranging from $2.2 million for the most basic design on Lot 2 (between Bachman and Royce avenues) up to $10 million for the biggest possible structure on Lot 13 (behind the La Cañada building on W. Main Street).

Right now, town officials have about $3.5 million set aside for the parking structure. On top of that, the town would have to rely on other funding sources, such as paid parking, an assessment district, or bonds. All options would involve debt financing.

Downtown business owners came out in force to prod the council to get moving on the plan.

Town Chamber of Commerce executive director Sheri Lewis said she would be putting together an ad hoc committee of downtown business owners to look at the report on their own and decide what's best for the business community.

"We recognize we can't do both with the money that's there," Lewis told the Los Gatos Weekly-Times. "But we want to build each lot to the max, and we want to get started now. We don't need further studies to do that."

Lewis says Chamber members don't want the town to build part of a garage, and then add another story sometime in the future because the construction would interrupt the flow of customers for small businesses.

As far as which lot is the best choice, Lewis says Chamber members want whichever lot is the most expedient.

"We want to get the best bang for our buck and build the most logical lot," Kent Cooper, Chamber chairman said.

But while some store owners have called for both lots to be built as soon as possible, the business community isn't as vocal when it comes to suggesting where the extra cash would come from.

Because the new garage won't be finished for at least two years, the Chamber is also starting to work on an interim parking program that would look at a possible finance option for the second lot, Lewis said.

Meanwhile, councilmembers are stuck between plodding along through a thick schedule of meetings and public hearings to hear from everyone--or selecting an option as quickly as possible.

Before the council considered the report, planning director Lee Bowman walked the council through his inch-thick history of parking districts. It began like a work by Charles Dickens.

"The history of parking in Los Gatos is the history of the love/hate relationship between the downtown and the town government," he wrote in the introduction. "It is a history of mutual dependence and periodic tension brought about by the sometimes divergent needs of downtown and the community at large."

The rest of the report consists of old maps, ordinances, tables and graphs dating back to the early '50s, when the then-Chamber of Commerce began a program to improve parking in downtown.

It traces the town's acquisition of the old Southern Pacific right of way, which began with talks in 1957 and ended with the acquisition in 1963 of the string of parking lots that parallel N. Santa Cruz Avenue, along with other SP land, including what's now University Avenue north of Blossom Hill Road. (It cost the town less than $500,000.)

Bowman also said that the term "phantom spaces," which is sometimes used to describe spaces in the parking district, is a misnomer. "The popular myth is that there's a huge amount of 'phantom spaces' in the downtown area," he said. "The town did complete its obligation, and it has built every space it was contracted to build." Bowman said that the latter stages of the parking plan depend on paid parking.

In the history of Los Gatos, no Town Council has been brave enough to approve paid parking--and deal with the presumed wrath of voters.

But if residents and businesses want a second lot, money is the only barrier. And one of the options the town will be forced to consider is implementing a paid parking program.

Town attorney Orry Korb said of the various financing options, using the Business Improvement District to raise additional funds would put the question only to those businesses within the district, and would assess businesses, not property owners.

With the money it has now, even the cheapest combination of two parking structures is still beyond the town's reach.

The first seven options:

  • Lot 2, Option A: One basement, one ground, one above-ground level. Would add 206 new stalls for $4.7 million. Additional land required.

  • Lot 2, Option B: One basement, one ground level. Would add 67 new stalls for $4.7 million.

  • Lot 2, Option C: One basement, one ground level. Would add 118 new stalls for $2.7 million. Additional land required.

  • Lot 13, Option A: One basement, one ground, two above-ground levels. Would add 207 new stalls for $6.8 million.

  • Lot 13, Option B: One basement, one ground, two above-ground levels. Would add 391 new stalls for $10 million. Additional land required.

  • Lot 13, Option E: One basement, one ground, two above-ground levels. Would add 224 new stalls for $6.9 million. Additional land required.

  • Lot 13, Option F: One basement, one ground level. Would add 222 new stalls for $4 million.

For Lot 2, options A and C both come in at about $23,000 per net new parking space--that is, how many spaces the garage would actually create in addition to the existing spaces. Both of these options are based on the donation of two parcels behind Eureka Bank that are currently used for customer parking. Option B would cost about $33,000 per new space, but could be built entirely on land that belongs to the town.

Lot 13, Option B depends on acquiring two developed parcels on Lyndon Avenue, and appears to be a long shot at best. While Option B has the best dollar-per-space payoff, at $25,780, the other three options all come in at around $32,000. Options A and F both route Victory Lane through the structure, but the alley would skirt around the structure under options B and E.

Councilmembers also requested an additional study on Lot 13 with one ground level and one above-ground level, along with more detailed financial analysis, outlining low, medium and high options, and architectural renderings of what each garage would look like from the street.

The final report is expected to be ready by the beginning of next month, but councilmembers pushed back the next consideration of the issue to Feb. 16, to give the business community more time to mull over what they want.

Copies of the Watry draft report are available in the Town Clerk's office, 110 E. Main St.
Jeff Kearns

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