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Report: Parking spaces vs. pedestrian access?

A plan has been developing for about four years to reconfigure parking along Nevada Way in the historic downtown district of Boulder City.

On Tuesday, Joe Yatson of GCW Inc., an engineering and surveying firm based in Las Vegas, presented five possible plans for the reconfiguration to the city council.

“We have had a number of public meetings over the past couple of years and one of the issues that has come up in these meetings is parking,” Yatson said. “So we have come up with, through these meetings with the property owners and business owners along the corridor, five options for you guys to consider.”

This is likely an issue that has not been on the radar of most BC residents, which may be because it’s been brewing under the radar since the time that most people were still wearing masks to go into the businesses along Nevada Way. The funding was approved before any of the current city council members were even elected.

Back in fiscal year 2021 (which began in June of 2020), the city accepted funding via the Regional Transportation Commission for rehabilitation of the historic stretch of Nevada Way between Wyoming on the west and Arizona on the east. (Note that the engineers’ plans referred to the project stretching to Park, but the maps and options presented focus on the smaller area.)

In August of 2021, the council hired GCW to provide engineering services. Later in 2021, GCW conducted an informational public meeting to gather input. The council got an update in August of 2022 in which they identified issues to be addressed, including ADA-compliant parking, EV charging stations and “sidewalk conformity.”

A total of five options for parking layout were presented in the meeting but, crucially, GCW originally came up with four options. The fifth option only came about after GCW conducted an “open house” for business owners and their input was used to create a fifth, “business preferred” option.

The business-preferred option calls for the least amount of change. “It pretty much maintains the existing parking,” Yatson said.

The only other constant (and the one big change under the business preference) would be the installation of festival gates that would allow the area between Wyoming and Arizona to be closed off to automobile access during events.

Yatson pointed out that the current parking along Nevada Way does not comply with the city’s current parking standards, which currently call for a 19-foot depth and a 13-foot width. The current spaces are about 16 feet deep and 12 and a half feet wide. Yatson also said that soon-to-be-adopted ADA rules call for at least four feet of unobstructed pedestrian access on sidewalks. That is also the city standard for an encroachment license that allows businesses to have tables and chairs on the sidewalk, but compliance is spotty.

“We went out there and measured and with all of the chairs pushed in under the tables, access ranges from three and a half to four and a half feet. So, even with no one sitting in the chairs, it does not meet the new standards.”

The business-preferred option would also add 36 dedicated motorcycle parking spots.

Just upgrading the parking slots to the city’s standard would mean the loss of 13 parking spaces.

The two most disruptive options would see parking moved down the center of the street with vehicle traffic pushed to the outsides, or converting the entire area into a one-way street.

Council member Cokie Booth led off questioning by pointing out that the business owners did not have accurate information when they gave a preference. The “leave it be” option would not allow for any widening of the sidewalk, unlike all of the other proposals and, once the new ADA regulations come into effect, some of their encroachment options may go away.

“I think that is an important part of the puzzle to discuss with them,” Booth said. “I think that if I were a small business, I would want to have my tables outside because that is the ambiance of Boulder City.” Booth went on to note that the business preference might change if owners were aware of the soon-to-be-enforced standard.

Council member Sherri Jorgensen questioned if motorcycle riders would bother to go around the corner onto Arizona or to one of the other proposed bike parking areas and pointed out that a lot of the reality was going to be about enforcement.

“That is what a lot of this looks like,” she said. “How are we going to enforce the four feet? Is it going to be business as usual? Because if it is going to be business as usual then, of course No. 1 (the business preferred option) seems worrisome for foot traffic but good for parking.”

Council member Steve Walton seemed to sum up the feelings of the council about balancing the need for parking along the street with the legal requirements for pedestrian access when he said, “I don’t know that there is a single great answer for this. Unfortunately, we have to choose the best that we can with the least negative changes.”

Booth said that she had recently been in Pismo Beach, Calif. and that they had converted one street to the center parking. “It looks strange and change is always hard,” she noted but also said that it might be a good option because it would preserve a larger number of parking spots while also widening sidewalks so businesses would not be at risk of losing their outdoor seating.

This was just a presentation, so no official action was taken, but the direction of the council was obvious: Go back to the businesses and make sure they understand the ADA realities and then try again.

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