Now that Houston City Council has approved a pilot parking benefits district for the Washington Avenue corridor, city officials are vetting candidates for a district advisory committee.
The Washington Avenue Corridor Parking Benefit District, which was approved by council members Dec. 12, is expected to be operational by the spring.
Bounded by Houston Avenue, Center Boulevard, Lillian Street/Decatur Street and Westcott Street, the district will deploy parking meters, pay-by-phone technology and parking permits for surrounding residential areas to make parking easier and address traffic-related problems in the neighborhoods.
The signage and parking meters, ordered several weeks ago, will be placed along Washington Avenue no later than April, said Christopher Newport, a spokesman for the city’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department.
Approximately 60 percent of the revenue from the paid parking spaces will return to the parking district, where it can be used to fund neighborhood improvements.
The remaining 40 percent will go to a fund to offset the district’s expenses.
District revenues can go to landscaping, sidewalk repair or construction, lighting, security, future parking structures and marketing.
It will be up to the advisory committee to decide how the revenue is used. The committee members will be composed of from five to nine people who live or work in the district. They will be appointed by the mayor and approved by City Council.
“The advisory committee is really responsible for setting the path as far as the project list goes,” Newport said. “They have a big job.”
Committee members could start meeting in February or March.
Parking Management, a division the city of Houston’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs department, will work in cooperation with the committee to manage the parking district. Parking Management aims to ensure a smooth transition for the new district and maintain open communication with area stakeholders, Newport said.
“This is the first time a proposal like this was approved for Houston,” he said. “We’re sensitive to all of the detail work that goes on. We want this to be successful.”
Until the district begins operation, the avenue will continue having free on-street parking. Those spaces now are often taken by venue employees and valet parking services. Paid lot spaces are available, but demand has driven up the cost to park there. As a result, drivers tend to cruise area neighborhoods, looking for parking spaces. Residents have complained about drunken business patrons returning to their cars, urinating in yards, fighting and creating disturbances. Community members also have voiced concerns about the danger and congestion associated with the cruising cars.
The idea of the parking benefit district is to put a reasonable price on existing curb parking spaces so the city can manage supply and demand and make parking easier.
“I was very pleased by the outpouring of community activity,” said District C City Council member Ellen Cohen, who hosted stakeholder and community meetings on the concept. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I can live with it.’ ”
Houston’s parking benefit district for Washington Avenue is modeled after similar entities in cities including Austin.
“I hope 18 months later we can say it worked, and it even exceeded our expectations,” Cohen said.
For more details, visit www.houstontx.gov/parking/washingtonavenue.html.