There are all kinds of technical names—deficit, shortage, shortfall, insufficiency—when it comes to the lack of parking spaces in downtown Boise. The term most bandied about at Boise City Hall lately is "crunch," and there is plenty being discussed regarding downtown Boise's future parking needs.
Earlier this year, Michigan-based Carl Walker, Inc., which was commissioned to study Boise parking, updated its previous analyses from 2009 and 2014 and concluded in its newest study that Boise faces "dramatic growth in parking demand" for at least the next five years, and there is a "greater sense of urgency related to crafting a new strategic plan," including better utilization of existing parking.
City planning officials couldn't agree more and even concede they've done a lousy job in keeping track of as many as 9 parking lots lining the highly-visible Front Street corridor. In fact, seven of the 9 lots, each deemed "temporary," have allowed their permits to lapse, with one expiring as long ago as 2012—the Ada County employee parking lot at 200 Front St. was never even officially permitted for parking.
"We think the lot was permitted for a building but it eventually became a lot," said city of Boise Zoning Manager Scott Spjute in an April 19 presentation to the City Council. "It was never permitted as a temporary parking lot."
Editor's note: After Boise Weekly's story went to press, Boise Zoning Manager Scott Spjute told BW on April 27 that city officials had since discovered that the Ada County employee parking lot was indeed permitted for parking, since a "building" permit was issued for the same site in 2012.
"We should never have included them on the list. So, there is no issue with that lot," Spjute told BW. When we asked if the Ada County employee lot should have been on his list in the first place, Spjute said, "That's correct. That lot is fine."
But yet another "temporary" lot, this one at 406 Fourth St. in Boise's Central Addition, has never been officially permitted for parking and there is no application on file.
In 1991, the city of Boise amended its code to allow so-called "temporary" lots with permits lasting two years but eligible for annual renewals. During an economic slump in the mid-'90s, city code was updated to allow five-year permits for so-called "interim" parking lots, but the city scrapped that policy two years later and reverted back to the "temporary" two-year permitting process, allowing for up to three one-year extensions.
- George Prentice
- Boise officials on lapsed parking lot permits: “We haven’t tracked them well.”
A review of city records reveals seven lots—406 Fourth St., 406 Fifth St., 350 E. Myrtle St., 1101 Front St., 116 Sixth St., 329 Grove St. and 1110 S. Oakland Ave.—have expired permits. An eighth, 520 Front St., has a permit that expires in August. The ninth lot, at 406 Fourth St. never had an application on file.
"We haven't tracked them well," said Spjute, who asked the council for some direction on how to proceed.
"The first step is to bring all of the non-compliant lots into compliance," said Council President Elaine Clegg. "This just hasn't been fair to the owners of lots who have been properly permitted."
Councilman Scot Ludwig said he agreed all the unpermitted lots needed to be brought up to code, but quickly added he didn't want to see any undue enforcement that might result in lot closures.
"Those lots are absolutely important to fuel downtown growth. Do you know why Microsoft is in this community and not in Denver right now? Because of their absolute need to have a nearby temporary parking lot," said Ludwig. "At least for now—and this is a bit of a boom time—I would highly recommend that the temporary lots be put on a short leash but not with a termination date. I think the marketplace needs to drive this."
Clegg pushed back against the idea of open-ended permits for temporary lots.
"Yes, there's a parking crunch right now, but I still think there should be a time limit on temporary lots," she said. "I don't think we should be terminating anybody right now, but we should have some idea of what the owners' plans are for their property."
As for the immediate future, Spjute said the message is clear: Get those temporary lots permitted.