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Two bosque access points make Alvarado Gardens a popular gateway to nature, with many using the North Valley neighborhood as the starting point for a scenic stroll, jog or bike ride.
But the problem with being a funnel to the Rio Grande, according to longtime resident Joe, is the associated vehicle traffic, which he said has increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe said that every day on Trellis Drive – where he’s lived for over 30 years – cars honked and beeped with each locking and unlocking, and they lined the street’s shoulders and sometimes even blocked driveways. Crowds had been pushed to Trellis in part because parking already is prohibited on nearby Campbell Road, he said.
“Trellis became the parking lot for everybody,” Joe said.
That is not the case anymore, however.
The street’s residents petitioned the city to ban parking except by city-issued permits that only they can get, putting Trellis in the company of some Downtown and University of New Mexico neighborhoods that similarly limit outsider street parking.
People driving on Trellis between Candelaria and Campbell now see signs declaring “No parking Mon-Sun except by permit.”
“Now that the signs are up, our neighborhood is pretty much back to normal,” Joe said. “It’s quiet and a whole lot less congested than it used to be.”
But restricting parking on that stretch of Trellis – and doing the same along a nearby portion of Decker Avenue – is not sitting well with some.
North Valley resident Peggy Norton said it has further squeezed public parking around the neighborhood’s bosque access points that she and many others use.
She said it also raises questions about a neighborhood’s power to reduce access to popular destinations. Now that Trellis, like Campbell before it, has restricted parking, she worries about a “snowball” effect. She wonders what would stop residents from getting the same city support to cut public parking on other bosque-area roads or even streets near parks and well-used venues elsewhere in Albuquerque.
“What if people around the zoo did this? People park on the streets for their summer concerts. Where would they park?” she said. “People who live across from parks can do this permit-only parking, so this is a citywide issue and a policy issue.”
The city currently has 96 residential permit-only parking areas, according to a spokesman, largely around UNM and the city’s core. Trellis and Decker are now the northernmost roads with the designation.
The Alvarado Gardens Neighborhood Association, meanwhile, has its own issues with the change.
While it has not yet taken a position for or against the permit-only parking, AGNA President Diana Hunt said the board is concerned that the city transitioned both streets without involving, or even notifying, the neighborhood association beforehand. Hunt said she was unaware the streets were permit-only parking until after the signs were installed and she began fielding questions from residents. Hunt said she followed up with the city’s parking director, who told her “it was best practice to work with the neighborhood associations and make sure they’re involved, and that they really just dropped the ball.”
City spokesman Johnny Chandler said the parking division normally contacts neighborhood associations as a courtesy, but the matter is really “up to the streets more than the neighborhood associations.”
As for Norton’s concerns that the city is allowing neighborhoods to dictate who can park on city streets, Chandler said the parking division assesses an area before permit parking requests advance. The city visited and evaluated the Trellis area, he said and determined it was experiencing a “high impact” from non-resident parking.
The process also requires a survey of the affected street’s residents. At least 51% must agree for the city to convert to permit-only.
On Trellis, 21 of 24 households supported the change. An unsigned note accompanying the petition complained about speeding issues, abandoned vehicles and a sense of fear about whether the vehicles lining the street were potential burglars scoping out targets. The letter said the street parking congestion was not attributable to the street’s residents since they all already park on their own property.
“We hope that the permit parking will be for 7 days a week so that we can enjoy our neighborhood like it once was; quiet, no congestion and not looking like a parking lot,” it said.
Trellis resident Joe said the Trellis and Decker restrictions did not eliminate public parking in the vicinity of the area’s two bosque access points – one at the west end of Candelaria and one at the west end of Campbell. He cited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park’s public lot, though it costs $3 per vehicle and is locked at 5 p.m. daily. There is also free street parking along most – though not all – of Candelaria between the bosque and Rio Grande Boulevard. However, parking is still prohibited along the entire equivalent stretch of Campbell, which Chandler said predates the current parking division but was apparently due to “reports of illegal activity in that area.”
Joe said recreation seekers should convince either the city or state to find other parking solutions if they need more.
“Why should a quiet neighborhood that’s always been that way, all the sudden getting impact by all those people coming down here, … have to live with that?” he said.
But Norton sees new parking lots as a tough sell and said she is still worried that what is happening on Trellis and Decker will have a domino effect throughout the area and possibly the city.
“What concerns me is shutting off access to public open space properties by having private parking,” she said. “We already have so many gated communities that shut it off.”