City council considers downtown parking study; businesses agree it's needed

by Kevin Opsahl |

Three years ago, the Woodinville City Council gave approval to the city manager to find a consulting firm that could study parking issues surrounding the bustling Hollywood District, known for its wine tasting establishments.

But then, before the study could be explored any further, the pandemic hit.

Fast forward to the middle of this January and the council has since revived the issue of parking—but not in the Hollywood District.

“I’m wondering if so much has been decided over there if now it makes more sense to focus [downtown], where we’re having so much growth,” Councilmember Michelle Evans said.

Mayor Mike Millman, who brought up the discussion, spoke in favor of switching the study’s objective to examine parking downtown because he believes the city is getting more tourism three years after the pandemic began; big developments are cropping up and traffic patterns are not the same as they once were.

“I think getting ahead of this is probably a better way of being proactive rather than reactive,” Millman said at the meeting.

Sam Saleba, manager of Sidekick Coffee at 17255 135th Ave NE Suite 1020, agrees with the need for a parking study.

“Just thinking about it, a lot of the businesses have their own parking lots, but if there were more people, I have a feeling it wouldn’t be enough,” she said.

Saleba’s business is located in Woodin Creek, a relatively new development featuring restaurants, retail and apartments. It also includes parking garages.

“We haven’t been having a lot of issues—we’re pretty fortunate that we do have those built-in garages,” Saleba said. “On the weekends, I’ve heard customers have a little bit of a hard time finding parking because they don’t know there are parking garages and they think there is just street parking.”

She has not heard a lot of complaints about parking and her employees have reserved spaces.

Over at the Schoolhouse District, where Kyle Thompson manages Ballard Pizza Company, the situation is a little more complicated. Schoolhouse has its own underground parking, but people who shop or eat there also park near the athletic field or city office.

“If there’s any sports event happening at the YMCA, or the sports field right there, the parking is completely packed,” Thompson said. “Most of the time, people are trying to find parking up the street.”

Even though he believes the parking situation at the Schoolhouse District is common with other establishments like it, Thompson admits the amount of parking space is not enough for his customers during peak business hours.

“They would need a whole new lot, but there is nowhere to put that,” Thompson said. “We just kind of live with it and encourage our regulars to come just a little bit earlier than they would normally.”

Thompson commutes into Woodinville from Seattle but supports a parking study for the city where he works.

“If the taxpayers want to pay for that kind of study, then I say, ‘100%,’” Thompson said. “If it benefits the people, I think everyone would be on board.”

During the Jan. 17 council meeting, City Manager Brandon Buchanan assured the mayor and members “we can certainly take a stab at scope and bring it back to you.”

Buchanan noted during the meeting that he was still not clear whether the council still had an appetite for a parking study in the Hollywood District.

After the meeting, Buchanan’s assistant, Kevin O’Neill, said no further clarification on the objective of the study had been given since there has not been a council meeting since Jan. 17.

In the meantime, Buchanan and city staff have been preparing a draft scope of work to take to council for further discussion and direction by the council.

“We will be taking this item back to council at an upcoming meeting to further discuss the full scope of the project,” O’Neill wrote in an email to the Weekly.

The scope could influence the cost, he added. The 2020 iteration of it could have cost the city up to $150,000, according to documents provided in the recent council meeting agenda packet.

O’Neill described the study as “consultant-led, staff supported,” with part of the reason being that the city is “maxed out” tackling other large projects and “we don’t have the capacity to take something like this on.”

More than that, O’Neill said city officials believe outside consultants can bring their own perspective to projects such as a parking study.

“For the most part, analyzing parking needs in this type of situation is outside the norm for City staff so, utilizing experts in the field will be more cost effective and efficient,” he wrote.

Saleba with Sidekick Coffee agreed.

“I don’t expect city council members to just know how to solve a parking issue by themselves,” she said. “I would be excited to see somebody who specializes in that giving advice on it.”

During the recent council meeting, Millman talked about the importance of conducting a study with professional assistance.

“I’m not a parking expert, but I think it’s time we…hear from one or two,” he said.

Saleba feels for some of the wine and spirits businesses that don’t have a lot of parking spaces.

“I’m also thinking about all of the wineries where all of those roundabouts are,” she said. “[A study] would definitely be useful.”