Changes Coming to Residential Parking Permits

Changes are coming to the way the City handles residential permit parking. This is probably a good thing, because for the last couple years the City really hasn't handled the permits at all.

The program is meant to preserve parking for residents in areas with a high level of demand from other nearby uses.

The previous system was a remnant of a time when demands on parking in the city's neighborhoods was significantly lower. Residents could request the creation of a residential parking zone, and for $2 purchase lifetime passes to park in front of their homes. The zones were of varying sizes, with some as small as just a couple property widths, and the $2 lifetime fee didn't come close to covering even the maintenance of the signs marking the zones. Additionally, while the City's Public Works Department managed the program, enforcement was done by Tacoma Police, leading to a disconnect.

Parking demands grew, and the program didn't keep up. The City stopped creating new zones, and considered its options. With input from the citizen Parking Technical Advisory Group, a new plan is being developed with the goal of maximizing the use of the right of way to give priority to residents during high occupancy times, while accommodating short-term users when possible.

The new plan specifically addresses permitted parking in residential neighborhoods, meaning that questions around commercial and mixed-use parking zones aren't a part of this conversation.

To be considered for a residential parking zone designation under the new program a zone must

  • Be at least 4 contiguous block faces in size
  • Experience 75% occupancy during hours to be permitted
  • At least 35% of that occupancy must be from outside the zone (so this isn't going to help with those neighbors with half a dozen cars parked on the street)

Once the zone has been designated, residents can pay $60 per permit annually to park on the street in that zone. This increase from the existing $2 lifetime fee is meant to cover the cost of the program, including maintenance of the signs identifying the zone. Residents will also get a set number of guest parking permits for temporary visitors to their zone, with more available for purchase.

Enforcement will begin again, aided by new License Plate Recognition technology. That technology will streamline all parking enforcement in Tacoma, using a license plate reader that compares plates against a database - in this case the list of cars approved for parking in a zone.

The new program hasn't been finalized yet, but when it is, it will be phased in over a period of up to two years, allowing City staff to work with residents in the 65 existing zones to address their options under the new program. Zones that do qualify, and where residents want a zone, will be updated to the new system. Those that are too small will eventually be sunsetted. Both existing and new zones will require a parking use study to demonstrate that they meet the 75/35 occupancy level. The City will also need to consider a plan to deal with parking zones that fall within mixed-use areas.

At a recent presentation of the proposed changes by staff to the City Council Neighborhoods and Housing Committee several questions came up, not least of which was concern around equity for lower income residents for whom the $60 per vehicle annual fee might be a stretch. Staff will come back to council with a more finalized version in the next month or two.

With forecast population growth pushing increasing residential density in Tacoma, issues of parking in neighborhoods aren't going away any time soon. Does this sound like a workable solution?

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Jerry V Ramsey

Is there any chance for handicapped reserved parking spaces in front of one’s home?

September 9, 2015 at 11:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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DeeBee Cooper

“residents can pay $60 per permit annually”... let the howling begin!

September 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

“Enforcement will begin again, aided by new License Plate Recognition technology. That technology will streamline all parking enforcement in Tacoma, using a license plate reader that compares plates against a database - in this case the list of cars approved for parking in a zone.”

Another mass surveillance technology, controlled by outside contractors, which the Tacoma PD should not possess. Geez….Ramsdale has his own mini-NSA (STINGRAY) and now LPR’s for further abuse - misuse.

September 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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DeeBee Cooper

Imagine if the Tacoma had resources to assign a police officer to follow every resident every day. The crime rate would plummet — a desirable outcome indeed. Just as we find it outrageous that police officers would track the movements of law-abiding citizens, we should find it objectionable that they would track the movement of our vehicles. Considered another way, if tracking vehicles is acceptable, then why not track our use of public transportation, consumer purchases, or attendance at sporting events? We would cut crime in all of those sectors and have rapid arrests of offenders.

Proponents of the system might dismiss that as paranoia. After all, privacy advocates can’t point to specific examples of the system being abused (though one DEA employee did suggest monitoring attendees at a gun show — if that doesn’t bother you, you can stop reading now). But the fact that government hasn’t yet abused its power in no way justifies something that was a bad idea from the start.

Principle matters. The framers knew that granting power to the government carried with it an inherent potential for abuse, and that once granted, such power — whether used to regulate speech, monitor phone calls, or track vehicle license plates — would never be ceded easily. The potential for abuse may be small, but the consequences could be grave. The framers’ answer was to insist that access to personal property and information always require a warrant and be subject to due process — something completely missing here.

To be clear, this isn’t a knock against law enforcement; it’s a knock against human nature. And let’s face it, at the most basic level, the whole Constitution is a knock against human nature. The framers understood the power of power — the way in which it could subtly influence and alter behavior. The separation of powers is not an attempt to be fair or just, it is a structure designed to maximize the likelihood that one person’s bad judgment — or bad intent — doesn’t jeopardize everyone else’s freedom.

In today’s digital society, we happily make available commercial identifiers ranging from credit card numbers to internet browsing history. But this information represents private activity conducted over private (non-government) networks, fully protected under the Fourth Amendment.

When the government issues identifiers like license plates, a driver’s license, or social security numbers, it does so for a specific purpose prescribed by law. Using these identifiers for other purposes only increases the risk for abuse; using them to track the movement of law-abiding citizens runs contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution. But Tacoma could care less about such messy, quaint, ideas like civil liberties.

September 9, 2015 at 3:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

Wow…really well said. So DeeBee, do you think this is really about traffic and parking enforcement or just a smokescreen for expanding the capabilities of LARIAT and the E911/STINGRAY systems sharing database? Either way we will have the most sophisticated neighborhood monitoring system in Washington State for sure.

September 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Yep, I dismiss this as paranoia. Licence plate tracking technology can be downloaded and operated by a meth addict with a cell phone.  Anyone can track you.

September 10, 2015 at 1:24 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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DeeBee Cooper

Thanks…nothing more red-blooded about Tacoma than the ability to dismiss an issue from discussion or concern with an allusion to mental illness and a reliance on the meth addict analogy. I’ll feel much better now and go back to counting my stash of money - because all bankers are crooks and they aren’t getting mine.

September 10, 2015 at 4:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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This Rube Goldberg scheme isn’t designed to help residents; it’s designed to make money for the city in the few rare instances where a group of neighbors will be able to jump through all the hoops.  Shorter version: it’s a bunch of BS.

September 14, 2015 at 10:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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