Citizens voice concerns about parking issues near CHS

City Council will vote on a resolution to expand area with a two-hour limit on Aug. 15

After listening to comments from citizens, the City Council agreed Monday to consider a resolution that will keep in place current parking restrictions in neighborhoods near Camas High School, and also expand it to include additional areas.

The City Council will vote during its next meeting Monday, Aug. 15 on a resolution that would add the streets of the Waterleaf subdivision to the already existing roads near the high school where on-street parking is restricted to two hours between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Roads that already have the limitation include Northeast 42nd Circle off of Northeast Hayes Street; Northeast 41st Avenue between Northeast Hayes and Ione streets; Northeast 40th Circle off of Northeast Hayes Street; Northeast 38th Avenue from Northeast Franklin Street to the dead end past Northeast Ione Street; Northeast Hayes Street from Northeast 38th to 43rd avenues; and Northeast Ione Street from Northeast 38th Avenue to the dead end past Northeast 41st Avenue.

The issue of whether any of these areas should have on-street parking restrictions was presented to the City Council by city staff, in response to the upcoming addition of 191 on-campus parking spaces that will be available to students in the fall.

“The Camas School District is currently constructing nearly 200 additional parking spaces at Camas High School to accommodate the student parking demand and attempt to alleviate the on-street parking of students’ vehicles in nearby neighborhoods,” read a July 20 letter from the city that was distributed to 130 impacted property owners. “With these improvements taking place, the city council is considering the elimination of the two-hour parking restrictions from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days that are currently posted in nearby neighborhoods.”

A series of two-hour parking limits were originally put into place in many of those neighborhoods in 2005, with additional restricted areas on Northeast 38th Avenue added in 2015. The goal was to address concerns that included safety, lack of street parking available for residents, and issues with trash, property damage and loitering. Students subsequently began parking their vehicles on streets in the Waterleaf neighborhood.

Of those who spoke during the public comment period at Monday’s meeting, all voiced support for maintaining the current two-hour restrictions, and adding the same limitations to roads in the Waterleaf subdivision.

L’Rae Scherwinski, a resident of the Lacamas Summit subdivision, moved to Camas 14 years ago and was among the group that originally petitioned to implement on-street parking restrictions in 2004, after the high school opened at 26900 S.E. 15th St., in 2003.

“After reading the submitted comments from the Waterleaf community, it has come back to me even clearer why we approached you 11 years ago to make this change,” she said. “All of the issues happened when the population of the school was one-half to two-thirds of what it is now. The additional parking at the high school doesn’t come close to solving their problem.”

Scherwinski suggested the school district only allow seniors to drive to school, and encourage car pooling.

“Make parking [on campus] a privilege,” she said. “It’s not a right.”

Diane Irwin, a resident of the Waterleaf subdivision, described the parking situation as “insane.” She explained that she and her neighbors deal with issues including speeding, traffic congestion, and the presence of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

“I don’t think any one neighborhood should carry the burden for the high school parking problems,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing now.”
CHS, with approximately 2,000 students, currently has 430 on-campus student parking spaces. Only juniors and seniors are allowed to park on campus.

In an article in the May 17, 2016, edition of the Post-Record, Principal Steve Marshall said even with the new parking spaces that are being added he still expects demand to exceed capacity.

“The size of our incoming freshmen classes have been consistently around 150 students larger than our graduating classes the past few years,” he said. “We have reached a point where our number of drivers has eclipsed our parking spaces.”

During the 2015-16 school year, a shuttle bus was implemented that transported students who parked at Doc Harris Stadium to CHS. Marshall said Monday that it hasn’t been determined whether that service will continue this year.

“I am not yet sure if it will be initiated this year because ridership was very low,” he said. “Today is our first day back at work, and this is one of the many items we need to discuss and finalize before Sept. 6.”

The district’s Capital Programs Director Heidi Rosenberg said Tuesday that Green Construction Inc., should substantially complete the new $1 million parking lot by Sept. 30. The project is being funded using the district’s existing capital, not proceeds from the February 2016 voter approved bond.

According to Rosenberg, the site provided some interesting design challenges.

“The parking lot will be built above the existing ground surface in order to avoid digging into the existing archaeological site,” she said.

During Monday’s meeting Councilman Greg Anderson questioned where students would park off-campus, if the parking restrictions are expanded to Waterleaf.

“It’s a little tricky [to determine] right now with the additional parking that will come on to the high school,” said Engineering Manager James Carothers. “I would imagine if there’s off-campus parking it will go to Franklin. It will go off to other streets that are adjacent, just as Waterleaf has seen.”

Mayor Scott Higgins admitted the city and the school district will need to work together to address the root of the problem.

“It truly isn’t a solution. It’s a stopgap,” he said of expanding the parking restrictions to Waterleaf. “A full comprehensive solution still needs to be figured out.”

Councilwoman Shannon Turk advocated for the city to continue to monitor the situation.

“Within a year, we need to really evaluate it,” she said.