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Changes to parking lot hours downtown worries one business owner
Changes to one of the city’s downtown parking lots has one business owner worried about the safety of her staff.
Earlier this year, the city changed the public parking lot on the 200 block of Main Avenue from an all-day parking lot to a short-term lot that maxes out at four hours.
According to the city, the idea for the lots was to provide a place for customers at downtown businesses and the fear was that the lot was being used by residents taking transit to work. This summer, a business owner brought the issue to the administration and a group was created to look into the matter.
The city recommended converting the all-day lot to four-hour parking, converting 60 spaces at the old city hall building, located at 200 Mill Ave., to free all-day parking and converting a series of street parking spaces from one-hour to two-hour parking.
On Sept. 23, Nancy Cejudo, owner of Ben’s Loans on South Second Street, brought her concerns about the change to the City Council.
Cejudo said she was worried about the safety of her employees, who use the lot on Main Avenue, located right behind the business. Cejudo said she was concerned that the employees, three of whom are women, could run into trouble on their way to their cars if they had to park farther from the business.
“It’s not a good area,” she said, adding that several years ago she once had someone wait for her to leave the business and walk to her car.
The city again looked into the issue and this past week presented Cejudo with three options, beginning with parking at the 200 Mill lot, located around the corner and across the street from the lot the employees currently use. Secondly, the city suggested allowing the employees to use the lot in front of the shop while encouraging customers to park on the lot on Main Avenue, since presumably they would not be there more than four hours. Finally, the city said the business could purchase parking passes for their employees to use the lot on Main, though that would require approval by the city at a cost to be determined.
The city also disputes the danger of the area, saying only domestic violence reports have come from the lot, not robberies or assaults.
Cejudo said Wednesday she still believes the area to be dangerous and worries about her employees, especially with the time change this weekend, leading to earlier sunsets. She said she had hoped the city would change its mind and allow her employees to stay where they were.
“If we want to park, we have to pay,” she said.
Rich Sweeney, chairman of the chamber’s Downtown Committee and owner of Renton Printery, said he thinks overall the city has been “very responsive” to the needs of the downtown businesses, including “tweaking” the parking policies.
He said he thought Cejudo did the right thing by bringing her concerns to the council and said if there is a safety concern, he hoped it would be addressed because safety is a top priority.
But Sweeney also admitted that no matter what, there would probably be some complaints about the parking situation downtown.
“The parking is always controversial,” he said.