A Common Sense Approach To Parking in Boca's Downtown

As Boca has grown, so has frustration over traffic and parking. The problem with traffic is that we have too many cars on too few streets. The problem with parking has always been ascribed to the “fact” that too many cars are looking for too few spaces.

There may not be much than can be done about traffic, other than building fewer buildings that attract cars. But a closer examination of the parking situation in Downtown Boca tells a different story. In fact, a significant amount of parking spaces in Downtown Boca sit empty every day and night, due to Boca’s antiquated development laws and red tape at City Hall.

That’s right. Kimley-Horn, the City’s outside traffic engineers just did a study of five parking garages and a number of surface lots in the Downtown. Regarding that limited study, we are advised that Kimley-Horn found 400 empty parking spaces at 7 PM on a Friday.

We estimate that there are over 1,500 empty parking spaces in all the parking garages and surface lots in the Downtown. Especially in those new concrete buildings/garages that have been rushed to completion over the past few years. And there are many more empty parking spaces to come with the current building binge.

 

Why the surplus? The simple answer is that all of our shiny new buildings are far from full. They are not renting or selling as their developers had hoped. As a result, their five and six story parking garages sit empty while residents and business customers search in vain for a place on the street or for an expensive valet service.

Another factor is that the City’s required parking ratios assume the peak use of the property, which is often not the case. City Code does not allow the owner of a Downtown parking garage or surface lot to make his empty parking spaces available to the general public or another Downtown property owner in need of parking. This has resulted in unintended consequences.

Please answer this poll about parking Downtown.

But imagine this: You are going out to dinner at your favorite restaurant Downtown, or shopping, or you are going to an event in the Downtown. Rather than circling endlessly for a parking space, you pull into the nearest parking garage or surface lot, pay the attendant a nominal charge and are directed to a convenient parking space.

There must be a way to make this happen. One solution might be a simple amendment to Ordinance No. 4035. The amendment must first allow the Downtown garage and surface lot owners to make their empty spaces available to the general public. Second, the amendment must establish a thorough but quick approval process. No need for the CRA to become involved in each application. The amendment should set forth the standards and let the CRA Executive Director grant the approvals.

The CRA is scheduled to hear the Kimley-Horn Report on Downtown Garages at its April 23 Meeting. It would appear that there are a very large number of Downtown parking spaces that could be made available to the public. The CRA should be able to find a way to make that happen. It would be a nice win-win for Downtown Boca.

It seems like this is a problem in search of a common sense solution.

John C. Gore
President
BocaBeautiful.org

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John, President of BocaBeautiful.org is a 13-year Boca resident and lives in Downtown Boca. He is also Chairman and CEO of Political Solutions International LLC, a consulting firm which advises a wide range of clients on government relations organization, competence, issue management and strategy. Prior to his chairing Political Solutions International, Mr. Gore served from 1996-2002 as Group Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, for the British Petroleum Company in London. In that capacity Mr. Gore was responsible for BP’s government and public affairs activities in over 70 countries. He is a 1970 graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and attended Georgetown University Law School. He is married to the former Antonia Stepovich of Fairbanks, Alaska. His outside interests include golf, creative writing, and the arts.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Publisher’s comment: Given the right regulatory environment, private sector will solve the downtown parking problem. Local government should work with private sector to craft an ordinance allowing private property owners with available parking to negotiate with other private property owners with parking deficiencies. Government’s role should be to create a regulatory environment that encourages and assists private sector to thrive… Al Zucaro

  2. In a perfect world Mr. Gore’s idea might work. To my knowledge you cannot force a property owner to make their parking available, even if they can collect a fee. What do you do when the building is 100% occupied (most likely during season when the parking demand downtown is the highest)? Like I said, good idea but just not practical. It’s not a simple “fix”.

    Part of the goal/vision of downtown was to get people to walk to their destinations. How do you do that? Make it easier to walk instead of parking at the front door of where you are going. Improve non-automotive modes of transportation. As long as it you make it easy/convenient to park why would people walk?

    • Part of the balance of getting people to walk from place to place Downtown is to have interesting things for them to discover along the way, filled storefronts, not unoccupied spaces. I don’t have much desire to walk through a place where I’m the only person walking and there’s nothing interesting to find.

  3. The proposal doesn’t force anyone to share parking against their will. All it does is drop the barriers, especially the amount of time it takes, for one neighbor to allow another to take advantage of the parking that’s empty and being wasted. This proposal only makes it so government gets out of the way and lets neighbors decide how to manage their parking in a way that’s best for business. No business can afford to have its customers struggle to park.

  4. One remedy would be to use Uber or Lyft. These cars need no parking. The fees are minimal, and are further offset by the mileage you don’t put on your own car. Plus it’s door to door – no searching for a space.

    • The boot happened to us too.
      The plethora of signs can be confusing especially at night.
      Just one space too far to the left cost us $90!
      GREED!

  5. John Gore’s conceptual parking perspective is a good one, in a perfect world. But as John Donaldson, a highly respected traffic engineer points out, it is limited to the present, not the long term. When I go to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or any other major large City, the best way to get people around is Uber or Lyft. The individual then has the choice of walking as they wish, or just traveling to a destination. Probably a combination of all the above comments is the answer…

  6. Forget trying to use available spots in high rises. Owners don’t want strange cars coming in and besides they would have to set a way of collecting money. Just to much aggravation. May be exceptions with valet . Only one solution and that public parking or maybe private garages . Look at Mizner. 4 large garages and works out well. But developers and our council want to convince you “the way of the future” is no cars since we need to walk and bike everywhere. Do not agree. This city needs to force any new developments to build a garage to handle parking. If not, actually city should buy land downtown and build it. But no Leif said, last year, no land available. This week the consultant will feed us a bunch of nonsense . Bike and walk . lol.

  7. I agree with the city “forcing” developer to pay for garages etc.
    For decades developers have too often not been required to pay or pay enough for the impacts their projects have on the overall infrastructure.
    Yes…Walking and biking IS good for us, but one takes their life in their hands doing that here!
    Traffic would have to be significantly SLOWED down. There are sensible ways to do that, but commitment by the city will be a must.
    That will include vigorous and no nonsense enforcement of speeding etc.
    Sadly, I’m not real confident about that right now, given what I see everyday on the roads here.

    More people must pay closer attention to what is going on in their local governments and get involved.
    LACK resident involvement is one of our largest hurdles to a better quality of life period!

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