Washougal resident Lowell McCuller can still recall how stunned he felt the day he discovered, in early September, that city workers had installed several “no-parking” signs along the northern side of “Z” Street, near McCuller’s home.
“I (was feeling) a whole bunch of emotions — upset, confused,” McCuller said.
At first, McCuller thought the signs might be temporary, perhaps something construction workers needed to access the area near eight new homes under construction on “Z” Street.
Soon enough, McCuller would learn the signs were a permanent addition. Now. McCuller and several other dissatisfied “Z” Street residents are reaching out to city officials to express their concerns over the new “no parking” rules.
“The (residents in the) houses on that north side, anytime they have anyone over, (the visitors) have to park on our side of the street,” McCuller said. “My neighbor across the street, they have three kids that drive, and so each day I have cars parked out in front of my house. And, if I have people over, they don’t have access to the front of my house. I can only imagine what’s going to happen on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If our side of the street is all blocked up, the only other place is down below, and you have to walk the hill to come back up to our house.”
The residents worry the signs could cause other problems, too.
“The lady across the street said that the signs drop the value of her house because people aren’t going to want to buy that house due to the no-parking,” McCuller said. “(That’s) something I would really be upset about.”
Washougal City Manager David Scott told the Post-Record the city’s traffic engineer “does have the authority to evaluate conditions at specific existing locations and to potentially determine that no-parking areas be provided to ensure traffic and pedestrian safety.”
“Initial research of the situation in response to the complaint indicated that the original approval for the subdivision called for ‘Z’ Street to have 28-foot wide pavement with parking allowed on one side and no-parking signs,” Scott said. “There should have been ‘no-parking’ signs on one side of ‘Z’ Street since the very beginning. When we discover something like that, we are obligated to ensure the situation is in compliance with what was required as a condition of the subdivision approval. Therefore, no-parking signs were placed on ‘Z’ Street.”
During a Washougal City Council workshop on Sept. 26, “Z” Street resident Scott McCoy said that the city of Washougal has “opened a can of worms” with its decision.
“My street is not 28 (feet wide); it’s only 27 feet, and 9 inches. ‘Y’ Street has twice as many people and it is 27 feet and 7 inches wide, two inches shorter than mine,” he said. “I’d just like all of this to be grandfathered. Whoever (designed these streets) made a mistake, didn’t think this through all that well, so we (should be) grandfathered. Otherwise, I’ll be checking other streets, and I expect (them) to be inspected. If there are signs on my street, I expect them on other streets. That’s my expectation.”
After McCoy lodged his complaint, city officials took a closer look at “Y” Street and determined it also should have no-parking signs.
“Further research led to the discovery of additional documentation done subsequently to the preliminary approval wherein the initial requirement for 32-foot wide pavement on ‘Y’ Street had been modified to also allow 42nd and ‘Y’ streets to have 28-foot wide pavement with no parking on one side and no-parking signs,” Scott said. “It turns out that all streets in this subdivision were supposed to have no-parking signs on one side of the street from the beginning. We will be following up accordingly.”
The city’s street standards require a minimum pavement width of 35 feet to allow parking on both sides, according to Scott.
“The purpose of these street standards is to provide for a travel lane of 9.5 feet in each direction and a parking lane 8 feet wide on each side,” he said. “If cars are parked on both sides, the 19 feet of total travel lane width between the parking lanes will provide the access required for fire apparatus. There have been modifications granted to allow for pavement width of 28 feet with no-parking on one side. We have measured both streets at multiple locations and found both to have the required 28-foot wide pavement.”
McCoy said that he’s looking into possible legal action against the city.
“I would never have bought this house if those signs were up,” he told the Post-Record. “This is a (small) matter, but we did nothing wrong. The city did something wrong and we are paying the price. Our neighborhood needs to come together, not apart.”
McCoy said that city officials failed to notify the residents about the signs in advance and to this day have not adequately answered his questions about the matter.
“I know that some of the neighbors are still waiting to get answers from the city on our questions which they have yet to respond to,” McCoy said. “(We’re) not sure how to get answers from the city at this point. I continue to feel they are using strong-arm tactics, like not telling us that they were going to put signs up, and saying that they would get communication out to all parcel owners (only to) send a police person out to tell us to move our vehicles and give us no reason why.”
McCuller said that he’s hoping that a compromise — such as restricting the no-parking to certain times of the day or year — can be reached.
“Legally, our hands are tied. We’re just at the mercy of the city and what they want to do,” he said. “It just seemed kind of strange how out of the blue they decided to put no-parking on this street. It’s still so confusing why they picked just the street and not this whole area, and there’s no explanation why. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s kind of frustrating, just the way they went about the whole thing, especially when the street down below us is way more dangerous with parking on both sides of the street.”
City officials are not committing to such a compromise, however.
“We do not impose our current street standards on existing streets that were in compliance with whatever standards (if any) were in effect when they were originally constructed. These streets are ‘grandfathered,’ meaning they were in compliance when they were originally constructed, but the standards may have changed,” Scott said. “A street that was not in compliance when originally constructed is a different situation, and is not considered to be ‘grandfathered.’ We have a duty to ensure that it is brought into compliance. This is the case for the streets in this subdivision.”