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Parking, politics and perception: 1ON1 with Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham on the state of traffic

A view of Old Town Scottsdale where during certain times of the day the availability of convenient parking can be hard to find —- a problem local leaders are trying hard to solve. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Old Town Scottsdale traffic, parking top of mind for Councilman Barry Graham
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

To the chagrin of motorists everywhere, the idea of traveling to a downtown sector and finding the elusive convenient parking spot can, in of itself, be a serious deterrent to the economic prospects of any live, work and play environment — Old Town Scottsdale is no exception.

Downtown Scottsdale — and its Old Town sector — has a parking problem, one member of City Council contends, as the local governing board recently held a public discussion on challenges reported around the scarcity of parking spots.

At the March 21 work study discussion, which was led by Scottsdale Development Area Manager Bryan Cluff and Public Works Director Dan Worth, an overview was provided of parking stock, challenges and new efforts to cure concerns in the Old Town and downtown sectors.

According to the Old Town Character Area Plan, Old Town Scottsdale is bounded by Chaparral Road to the north, Earll Drive to the south, 68th Street to the west and Miller Road to the east.

A total of 18 recommendations came out of that discussion at City Hall, records show. One point of fact defined by the discussion is the Galleria Parking Garage continues to be underutilized. Here is a rundown of those recommendations:

  • New parking signs in Old Town are beneficial and should continue to be used to indicate available parking lots and structures.
  • The Galleria Parking Garage is underutilized.
  • Use of parking spaces for public parking should be negotiated with the current owner of the Galleria.
  • Install visible colorful banners on parking garages to direct attention to available public parking.
  • Continue to educate ride-sharing companies to wait outside of the ‘Entertainment District’ instead of taking up parking spots.
  • Inform members of City Council if parking spaces are changed from angled parking spaces to parallel parking spaces.
  • Provide better identification of the various parking structures as it is ambiguous.
  • Determine existing parking structures that should have parking levels added to increase parking availability.
  • Staff to provide an email to the City Council with information related to possible parking fees at hotels, resorts and apartments. Information to include: if separate parking fees are charged, who staff contacted for information, and if compliance rates are increasing or decreasing. City Manager Jim Thompson replied staff would provide written information to the Council but noted the existence of “resort fees” which include many items on a nationwide scale, including possible parking fees.
  • Provide information related to the Spring Training trolley service.
  • Improve parking options in the Stetson Drive and Sixth Avenue area.
  • Determine if public parking is available at the Galleria Parking Garage. Install wayfinding signage to identify which levels and/or spaces are for employees, tenants and the public.
  • Identify and quantify what is in the Galleria Parking Garage (e.g., employee, tenant, public parking spaces).
  • Encourage employees who work at the Galleria complex and surrounding establishments to park in the Galleria Parking Garage.
  • If public parking spaces are identified in the Galleria Parking Garage, mark those spaces as having a three-hour parking limit.
  • Get clarification on nighttime parking uses recognized by the Galleria tenants.
  • There is adequate parking located in the downtown area; however, the issue is more about allocation rather than availability.
  • Public parking should be increased in the Entertainment District, including providing public parking in the Galleria Parking Garage.

In broad strokes, there are more than 30 parking lots and structures throughout Old Town accounting for 8,500 public parking spaces available to patrons, visitors and residents.

Also, there are about 9,000 private parking spaces whereas new development is required to provide on-site parking to serve the use of the structure once completed, city officials say.

The Arizona Digital Free Press reached out to Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham to better understand his perspective on Old Town parking concerns he is hearing from constituents. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/
Parking, politics and perception: 1ON1 with Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham

The Arizona Digital Free Press reached out to Scottsdale Councilman Barry Graham to better understand his perspective on Old Town parking concerns he is hearing from constituents. This is what he had to say:

*From your perspective as a member of city council, is there a legitimate problem with parking availability in downtown Scottsdale?

Yes. For years, downtown businesses have expressed concerns about parking scarcity, and residents told us they agree: In the 2019 bonds, almost 70% supported spending $21 million to build a parking structure in Old Town. Unfortunately, city staff are signaling, because of cost overruns on other bond projects, this project probably won’t happen.

Concerns about downtown parking center around:

  • Hotels and large apartment complexes charging for parking and violating city code. Such charges are prohibited because they encourage guests to use free street parking, harming downtown businesses whose customers must search for scarcer parking.
  • Employees, including those of businesses near the Galleria, inappropriately using free on-street parking.
  • The city converting angled-parking into parallel parking, which cuts available parking in half.
  • Inadequate wayfinding signage leading to complaints of “hidden” parking.

*Is it important we draw a distinction between downtown and Old Town boundaries for this matter? If so, why?

Yes. The confusion is understandable. “Old Town” used to refer to a sliver of downtown east of Scottsdale Road that includes Main Street. Recently, all of downtown was rebranded “Old Town,” defined roughly as Miller to 68th Street (east to west) and from Chaparral Road to Osborn (north to south).

*Have you heard back in regard to questions you posed to staff regarding the March 21 work study discussion?

I received a reply in early May. Staff explained the terms of Galleria public/private parking, but other questions weren’t directly addressed. Staff conceded there are “challenges and nuances” to parking problems, but mentioned they aren’t pursuing any “code cases regarding free downtown parking.”

*What is important for our readers to understand that is new about this legacy issue?

Downtown parking problems remain unresolved — and might get worse. Construction for upcoming development projects, combined with not delivering the voter-approved parking garage, threaten to compound existing problems. Residents, tourists and visitors deserve convenient parking when they visit Old Town. We need to find ways to make it better.

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