Parking rules need changes, councilor says - Albuquerque Journal

Parking rules need changes, councilor says

City Councilor Isaac Benton

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Following the recent hubbub over new on-street parking restrictions near the Rio Grande bosque, one Albuquerque city councilor says the city needs to perform a broader and more robust analysis before enacting any additional neighborhood-driven prohibitions.

Councilor Isaac Benton said the city ordinance enabling resident-only parking areas allows the city to “basically privatize” public streets with limited evaluation. He is proposing changes to the Albuquerque traffic code that would require the city administration to consider multiple factors before approving a neighborhood’s request to bar nonresidents from parking on certain streets.

“The original ordinance doesn’t imply anything other than ‘(Residents) ask for it, and they get it,’ which is pretty much what’s been happening,” Benton said.

The city currently has 96 “residential permit parking areas” – places where on-street parking is limited to residents with city-issued permits. Most are around Downtown and the University of New Mexico, and some are effective only on certain days of the week or for certain hours of the day.

Residents can petition the city for the designation if 51% of people who live along the street support it.

But the Parking Division’s recent approval of two new residential parking permit areas near the bosque in the North Valley has triggered a backlash.

Residents along Trellis Drive NW had complained to the city that bosque visitors from other parts of Albuquerque were causing increased traffic and congestion on their road and that drivers would sometimes speed and block driveways. They wrote in their petition that there were many cars lining the street, and they could not tell if the occupants were harmless visitors or potential thieves looking for burglary targets.

Nearly all – 21 of 24 – of the residents on the affected stretch of Trellis approved parking restrictions, and the city subsequently converted the street to resident-only parking. The new limitations are effective all day, every day.

But critics of the new restrictions on Trellis and nearby Decker Road have argued that banning nonresident parking has reduced public access to the bosque and set a bad precedent. One opponent contends that any neighborhood near a popular public attraction could do the same.

Benton, who represents that part of the North Valley, is also concerned.

He said the city followed proper procedure in implementing the restrictions on Trellis and Decker, but he thinks the current ordinance is simply inadequate.

His proposed traffic code update would require the city to weigh the need for parking restrictions against “the relative value of on-street parking for non-area residents to allow access to community amenities or resources” before approving new resident-only parking areas. The city would also have to consider parking needs of the area’s residents, demand for on-street parking relative to parking availability in the area and economic development.

The amendments also require the city to hold a public meeting about proposed resident-only parking areas.

“This is a pretty important public policy question. A parking space is valuable in a place near the public open space, and something is broken if this extensive an area can just be declared (closed to nonresident parking),” he said.

Benton will introduce the ordinance update Monday, and it would go through a council committee process before any full council vote.

In the meantime, Benton is pursuing a temporary moratorium on new residential parking permit areas and a revocation of the Trellis and Decker designations until the traffic code is updated or for six months, whichever is sooner. His resolution says the Trellis and Decker requests could be reconsidered under the proposed code update.

A spokesman for the city’s Parking Division said on Friday that officials are aware of Benton’s proposal and will respond at Monday’s City Council meeting.

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