Parking: The Perennial Complaint

The highlighted colors represent downtown land devoted to parking and/or auto sales.

Parking, like taxes and Congress, is one of those perennial complaints. It seems like no matter how much parking you have, it’s never enough. Consider the graphic on the left. A 2007 study found 2,162 spots within the dotted area. This translates to over 8 acres of parking in that area alone!

Yet another downtown parking workshop is scheduled for tonight, and a cynic can’t help but wonder if this is another case of paying for studies until you find the one that tells you want to hear. 

Here are some questions I think should be answered at some point during our discussion on downtown parking:

  • The county currently occupies office space in at least four different buildings downtown. How much parking is currently used by public employees downtown?
  • Is the county paying the city at all for use of these spaces eight hours a day?
  • Presumably the overwhelming majority of county workers commute by single-occupant motor vehicles. Is there any plan to introduce incentives to ride-share or use alternate transportation?
  • There is a considerable number of under-utilized parking lots downtown. What sort of thought has been given to addressing this issue?
  • Right now, it is free to park downtown. However, parking is not free to provide. It costs on average $4,000 per spot for surface parking,  $24,000 per stall for an above-ground structure, and $34,000 per stall in an underground structure. This means we are all paying for parking, whether or not we use it. Why should non-drivers subsidize drivers, and why should parking be exempt from free market efficiencies?
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Guerilla Artists Strike in Downtown Redding

Guerilla public art by unknown artists at the old Dicker's building.
Guerilla public art by unknown artists at the old Dicker’s building.

Today, the old Dicker’s building (or Need for Speed building for you young ‘uns) is sitting empty and boarded up, waiting for the final draft of the Downtown Redding Transportation Plan to find out whether the City of Redding is going to open up Market Street to automobiles again. If so, it will require the demolition of the one-story structure, which sticks out into the old right-of-way of Butte, Market, and Yuba Streets. From what we hear, that will be just fine with owners K2 Development Company, who would like to build a multi-story mixed-use building on the site.

In the meantime, there’s a few pieces of plywood up covering broken windows on the Market Street side. Some unknown community-minded artists took it upon themselves to spruce up the plywood with a little artwork. Although the scuttlebutt is that these artists didn’t secure permission before applying paint to pressboard, we hope the folks at K2 don’t mind too much—these temporary art installations damaged no real estate and helped eliminate a little visual blight downtown until the fate of the Dicker’s building is decided.… Read the rest

Historic Bell Rooms Threatened With Demolition

This is not exactly the note we wanted to begin on, but we think it is important to discuss that yet another historic building in Downtown Redding is threatened with demolition.

Location of the Bell Rooms, indicated by push-pin.
Location of the Bell Rooms, indicated by push-pin. Imagery via Google Earth.

The latest structure to be menaced by the wrecking ball is the Bell Rooms building, a 107-year-old, two-story brick building located on the southwest corner of Shasta and California Street. The building is part of a small complex of newer buildings that includes a cinderblock addition and a row of auto repair bays directly south. These buildings were most recently home to Bing Automotive, B&R Radiator Service, and American Lock and Key.

The property is owned by RABA (Redding Area Bus Authority) and is scheduled for demolition this fall. According to a city official, the building is “in severe disrepair” and it is being demolished because of “liability and to provide space for transit expansion or parking.” Please note that as of this moment, the building has not been determined to be structurally unsound—just in ”a state of disrepair.”

The two-story building dates back to the fall of 1908, making it one of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in Redding—older than the Cascade Theater, Redding Hotel, Pine Street School, the downtown post office, downtown fire house, and veterans’ memorial hall.

The Bell Rooms building (built 1908) as it appears in 2015.
The Bell Rooms building (built 1908) as it appears in 2015.

Over the years, this building has been slightly modified from its original appearance—some of the windows have been partially or entirely bricked up and it originally had a peaked roof, porch, as well as a two-story balcony; but underneath the drab paint is some beautiful locally manufactured brick. The interior, by several accounts, is surprisingly intact.

Please take a look and imagine this handsome little building with the auto bays and recent cinderblock addition removed, its natural brick exposed (or at least painted red like the Lorenz Hotel), and its original windows and balcony restored.… Read the rest