Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

October 27, 2004

 

 

 

Councilmember Richard McIver, Chair

City Council Budget Committee and

Members of the City Council

P.O. Box 34025

Seattle, WA 98124-4025

 

RE:  City Budget – Parking Meters and Pay Stations at Passive Parks

 

Dear Councilmembers McIver and Members of the City Budget Committee:

 

            The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees urges you to reject the Mayor’s proposal to install parking meters and pay stations in Seattle’s passive parks and on park boulevards.  The Mayor’s proposed budget calls for adding parking attendants initially at five locations—Green Lake, Seward / Lake Washington Boulevard, Lincoln and McCurdy Parks.  In 2006, the budget level would be increased to provide parking attendants and staffing to expand the program to 12 additional parks at undisclosed locations. 

 

            We believe that the fees specified in the Mayor’s proposed budget—a minimum $1 fee, maximum $3.50 and $5 for special events—would gradually increase over time excluding many families from using our passive parks.  We agree with the position of Open Space Advocates which states that the “use of public parks should be seen as one of the rights of citizenship.  A century ago, the Olmsted brothers envisioned a park and boulevard system in which all people would be welcome, regardless of ability to pay or any other standard.  We want people to use and enjoy the parks, not discourage them in any way.  This right should not be taxed.” 

 

            We do not believe it is appropriate for parents taking their children to a soccer game to have to pay a parking fee.  Nor should seniors or others who take the time to go for a stroll to enjoy our beautiful parks to have to pay for parking. 

 

We believe that parking meters in passive parks would lead to parking overflow into nearby neighborhoods, where many streets are already congested.  This raises pedestrian and traffic safety concerns that should be addressed. 

 

            The Mayor’s proposal would provide the Parks and Recreation Department with the discretion to decide where to install parking meters or pay stations at a dozen additional undisclosed park locations.  We are concerned that the Parks Department would consider Warren G. Magnuson Park due to its massive size and what the department may perceive as a potential for additional revenue.  So, it is likely that the annual free concerts in the park or the Christmas Ship festivities and other such events would no longer be free and accessible to neighbors—due to the $5 special events fee.  There is already a requirement to pay a $10 fee to use a picnic table at Magnuson Park in the summer—a program that in our view has been unsuccessful.  We suspect that there are similar issues at other parks throughout the City.  User fees are one thing—to pay for admission to the Aquarium or the Zoo, golf, tennis lessons, etc., but fees to enjoy our natural environment or other passive park uses are another.  

 

            Finally, we have concerns about the economics of the proposal.  A careful study of the costs of the meters, pay stations, installation and maintenance, parking attendants and administrative staff is necessary to ensure that net revenue would result without an undue burden on citizens.  It is possible that the revenue generated would not pay for the costs without substantial parking rate increases in the future.  From the information in the budget, it appears that initially $165,000 would be spent in overhead to retain $100,000 in net revenue, yet details about the capital costs of the meters and maintenance is not easily ascertainable in the budget.  It is possible that the program could merely serve to pay for the cost of the parking attendants and other expenses with no net revenue to the city. 

 

            We urge you to reject the Mayor’s proposal to install parking meters at our parks during your budget deliberations.  Thank you for considering our views.

 

Sincerely,

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net