Tacoma Urbanist

Jan. 26, 2011 at 12:01am

6th Avenue Merchants and COT Smartly Expand Parking


A few years ago when 6th Avenue was starting to show some signs of life, complaints came piling in concerning perceived "parking problems" on 6th Avenue.  The fact is that Tacoma has had such few successful business districts, it is hard to handle one when one appears.

The City Council was urged to take a number of steps to address the perceived parking problems.  Yet some of the cringing "solutions" to the purported problem would have caused havoc to the business life on 6th Avenue as well as harm to the surrounding neighborhood.

Suggested (and fortunately rejected) "Solutions" to 6th Avenue Parking Problem:

1) Buy and raze several houses on or around 6th Avenue for a central surface level parking lot.

Downside: would create a dead zone on 6th Avenue similar to that of Tollefson Plaza or the parking lot moat around many of Tacoma's hospitals.

2) Build a parking garage on or around 6th Avenue

Downside: parking garages are usually grafittied, expensive, high maintenance crime ridden facilities that blight neighborhoods.

3) Stop new businesses from developing on 6th Avenue

Downside: kills off the life of 6th Avenue.

4) Create network of shuttles taking people to and from 6th Avenue and remote parking lots.

Downside: expensive and a pain to implement.  Plus, no one wants to park and return to a remote scary lot at night.

Implemented Solution:

6th Avenue merchants and the City of Tacoma decided to take a much easier, cheaper and successful method to address some of the parking issues on 6th Avenue by simply increasing the number of curb spaces near 6th Avenue.  Here are some recent pictures of the work (being performed at the same time as utility upgrades).

New curb parking spaces which will soon provide highly valuable parking for 6th Avenue.  Location : Both sides of 6th Avenue on S. Fife St. near Cafe Dei at 2607 6th Ave Tacoma It is not that difficult or expensive.  Curb parking spaces near retail are the gold standard for parking.

Result: The best of all worlds

1) The buildings in the area are intact.

2) More curb parking is built (estimated 70 spaces) which has the highest demand of any parking.

3) Additional spaces means a lower need to charge for parking to manage spaces.

4) The parking spaces do not create a blightful surface level parking lot.

5) The parking spaces are immediately adjacent to the vibrant section of 6th Avenue.

6) No waiting for shuttles to remote parking lots required.

7) Safer for visitors to 6th Avenue.

6th Avenue is wisely following Proctor's game plan for success: maximize curb parking within the mixed use center without tearing down buildings. A walk around Safeway, Metro Market and other side streets reveals where the city has wisely cut out curb parking over the years increasing the health of Proctor.  27th Street in Proctor is used for parking for 6 days a week and parking for Proctor Farmers Market.

Concern for Downtown on Pacific Avenue:

Tacoma needs to be careful and not go backwards and start creating meaningless green buffers on Pacific Avenue and harm the available number of curb parking spaces to meaninglessly "green up" the area.

More commentary on the backwardness of "greening up" urban spaces by Kunstler.

Tacoma is fortunate 6th Avenue has attracted such interest and sparked so much life.  The City should continue to work to enhance the flicker of life on 6th Avenue, not squelch it.  Other business districts could use similar expansion of curb parking which is a tried and true method for success.

comments [25]  |  posted under tacoma


by Erik on 1/26/2011 @ 12:15am
6th Avenue Merchants:


by dolly varden on 1/26/2011 @ 8:15am
What's the farthest anyone's had to park from their destination on 6th? Three blocks? The horror!

by Jesse on 1/26/2011 @ 8:27am
Considering this is the suburbs, I am all for the city stepping in and making a few more parking spots. I'm glad they're going about it in the best possible way.

The suburbs were created out of a car-centric mindset. Downtown should be a transit and walking oriented mindset to development.

by dolly varden on 1/26/2011 @ 8:37am
The main non-mall shopping/eating & drinking strip in the Puget Sound area's second biggest city isn't a suburb by my definition -- and it certainly can't be in the future if we're to achieve any density in Tacoma and control sprawl in Pierce County.

And while I've never had what I consider a hard time parking on 6th, the improvements will probably make the area more attractive and pedestrian friendly, which is a big plus. Now we just need to kill the billboards...

by Jesse on 1/26/2011 @ 8:44am
If it's not the suburbs then would you consider it downtown? What is it then?

There are houses on house lots 50 feet in from the street... and hundreds of acres of them.

by dolly varden on 1/26/2011 @ 9:05am
Tacoma is not a suburb. Sixth Ave is an urban district/neighborhood of Tacoma, just as Fremont and Capitol Hill are (urban) neighborhoods of Seattle. A neighborhood within a central city is not a suburb. "Bedroom communities" like Puyallup and UP are suburbs. They have downtowns (well, at least Puyallup does), but they're suburban downtowns.

by Erik on 1/26/2011 @ 10:34am
What's the farthest anyone's had to park from their destination on 6th? Three blocks? The horror!

Funny and true. I keep hearing people say that there is a "parking problem" on 6th when one can always find a spot.

In more urban cities, one has to pay a ton for a space in the 6th floor of a parking garage 4 blocks away and they do so willingly.

by Nick on 1/26/2011 @ 11:35am
I have to agree that the parking problem was more perception than reality. With that being the case, let's give credit where credit is due and applaud the city for doing something that was actually *proactive* (say what?).

by L.S.Erhardt on 1/26/2011 @ 11:48am
I like the work being done to add parking, but you know as well as I do that meters are an inevitability....

by Erik on 1/26/2011 @ 12:01pm
I have to agree that the parking problem was more perception than reality.

A business area having a perceived "parking problem" is like having too many bills in your pocket. It is a good sign, not a bad one.

Most business districts in Tacoma would love to have the demand or parking that 6th Avenue has. It shows people fundamentally like the area.

I like the work being done to add parking, but you know as well as I do that meters are an inevitability....

You might be right if there were a lot move development. However, I bet the city could easily create out a couple hundred more spots off of 6th Avenue to prolong pay stations.

6th Avenue parking situation could also be improved a bit by extending the free 2 hour time limit until 10:00 p.m. Right now, someone can legally store their car on 6th Avenue from 4:00 p.m. Friday until 10:00 a.m. Monday.

by ixia on 1/26/2011 @ 2:15pm
I've lived near 6th Ave for 12 years. It has grown, become livelier and more eclectic. The parking problem however is only imaginary. There is always enough parking, even if one has to walk three blocks occasionally. Walking three blocks before sitting down for an evening of dinner and drinks is a problem? For the laziest Asado and Masa provide valet service. Itís great the city is improving neighborhoods. All this focus on parking is bordering on the insane.

by thriceallamerican on 1/26/2011 @ 2:34pm
+1 on Ixia's comment. I live just over 2 blocks from 6th and Pine, what some might consider the hub of the district, with Pine being likely the most busy street intersecting 6th. We never have problems parking immediately in front of our house, and if we do it's because of neighbors, not visitors to the Ave. Even on Art on the Ave day, when 6th is closed to cars, there's mor than enough parking available on the side streets...

So streetscaping/beautification = great. Much-needed from the parking perspective, not so much. If this helps businesses on the Ave thrive, I guess it's good regardless of whether someone shopped here because the neighborhood looked inviting or they could park without having to walk farther than (gasp) a couple of block. (Incidentally, I've heard of many breakins in the similar head-in parking area on Junett between Red Hot and Neighborhood Market.)

by L.S.Erhardt on 1/26/2011 @ 5:15pm
The more people on 6th, the better as far as I'm concerned. Get the streetcar and it'll launch the area to the stratosphere!

by ixia on 1/26/2011 @ 5:26pm
Don't tell that to Eric Anderson. He'll have Putnam turn the Baptist Church into a parking garage with a green roof...and raze the Schreiner building for surface parking.

by usefulcommunitydevelopment on 1/26/2011 @ 5:48pm
The addition of on-street parking sounds like a good solution for now. It's wrong to start removing buildings and disrupting the urban fabric. An urban smile (or sububan) needs all its teeth. By the way, we think a business district is a business district, regardless of arguments about whether it's really "urban" or "suburban," and the principles of vitality are the same.

by Erik on 1/26/2011 @ 9:50pm
The more people on 6th, the better as far as I'm concerned. Get the streetcar and it'll launch the area to the stratosphere!

So true.

Seeing more than a few area in an area has been a shock to some people and the city although I have heard less complaints lately. I think residents in the area are starting to acclimate to seeing some life in a business district.

The Rectors building is scheduled to have a coffee shop move into the building soon. Then 6th Avenue will have an unparalleled coffee scene in Tacoma.

As for parking, finding a place to parking on 6th Avenue is 10 times easier than most of popular neighborhoods in Seattle. The difference is other cities do not perceive a demand to visit and park in an area as a crisis needing governmental intervention. They see this kind of success as desirable and normal.

by dolly varden on 1/26/2011 @ 9:58pm
I'm a little worried about the "coffee scene" on 6th. I hope there aren't too many good shops competing against each other. Why can't that street have a good (new) record store, shoe store, outdoors store, and/or a bookstore?. Those kind of stores are somewhat tough sledding in the age of internet shopping, but 6th seems like it could support more retail than it does (i.e., almost none).

by Erik on 1/27/2011 @ 12:02am
Good news: The News Tribune has directly link directly to this post employing my original title on their front page:


by seejane on 1/27/2011 @ 10:17am
Something interesting the parking study found was that if everyone that works on the Ave would park away from the Ave, Jason Lee was suggested, there would be no parking problem. One restaurateur was extremely vocal about her employees leaving work "with HUGE amounts of cash" and it would be unsafe to walk to Jason Lee. She wouldn't say why having 2 employees walk to the parking lot would not work.

Also, one business (I forget which one now) had purchased a house adjacent to their business. They intended to build a parking lot there (fenced, surrounded with trees etc) but could not get the permits.

I've heard the city has stopped building the head-in parking because of funding shortages. That's fine with me. Let people walk 2 blocks to the bar... when you go to a popular spot you can't always expect to park out front.... besides they were going to put one in front of my house and I did not like the idea of more people out there at 1:40 am screeching, urinating and tossing empties out of their cars.

by fredo on 1/27/2011 @ 10:31am
I held a leasehold on commercial property on 6th Ave. for many years.

One problem I observed time and time again was residential people in the vicinity of 6th Ave. placing all sorts of barriers to lawful parking in front of and in proximity to their homes. These barriers usually consisted of leaving large garbage and recycling dumpsters in the street, leaving RVs and motorboats parked for years at a time, owning lots of fixer up cars which were rarely moved and placing large plantings such as laurels, blackberries, & roses near the curb. City parking enforcement was lax or non existant. People seem to have a feeling that the street parking in front of their homes is their personal property, which it isn't. Purchasing or renting a home in the vicinity of a busy shopping area will occasion parking congestion, please consider this before locating.

by ixia on 1/27/2011 @ 10:54am
Folks like seejane make 6th Ave as awesome as it is. Years of engaging and volunteering and organizing deserves kudos. Seejane has my respect and has most definitely earned the right to talk about 6th Ave issues.

by seejane on 1/27/2011 @ 11:12am
Thanks Ixia - Fredo I can assure you that neither I or any of my immediate neighbors do plantings or place garbage cans out to prevent others from parking (we all have off-street parking) I am the one old hag in the neighborhood that calls the city when a junk car sits for 7.5 days!
We like living here, we accept that on weekends we will be awakened a time or two by loud people and that we have to pick-up beer bottles etc. in the morning. I was just happy to learn that there would not be additional parking out front so I don't have additional problems.

by fredo on 1/27/2011 @ 3:32pm
Sorry if it sounded like I was criticizing seejane. I wasn't. In fact she's one of my favorite ft commenters. I was merely pointing out that there are tons of available parking spaces in the vicinity of 6th Ave. But due to the fact that Tacoma doesn't always do a good job with parking and code enforcement the spaces may not be readily apparent. yes I even used to live on the Ave so am intimately familiar with all the displays of street culture that seejane alluded to.

by Erik on 2/5/2011 @ 5:31pm

Almost complete:


by fredo on 2/5/2011 @ 8:17pm
" These barriers usually consisted of leaving large garbage and recycling dumpsters in the street"

Erik's picture proves it doesn't take people long to appropriate the parking spaces for other purposes. thanks Erik.