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Downtown Parking Management Plan

Summary and Current Status

City Council has directed the preparation of a comprehensive, long-term parking strategy/management plan for Downtown Sonoma.  To accomplish this, the City contracted with W-Trans, a local traffic engineering firm, to create a Downtown Parking Management Plan (Plan) that outlines a strategy to address parking challenges in Downtown Sonoma.

The City’s planning department released a Public Draft Downtown Parking Management Plan for a 30-day public review that closed at 5:00 pm on November 16th. The Plan was considered by the City's Planning Commission at their meeting on November 17, 2022, (watch a recording) and continued the item to their December 15th meeting. The Draft Plan was amended in response to public comment.

Next Steps

City Council will consider the Draft Downtown Parking Management Plan at their meeting on September 18th, 2023.

Find more information about the Draft Plan, FAQs, updates, documents below.

Please Please note that large documents might not be able to be previewed, but can be viewed by clicking the "download" link.

Questions?

Contact the Planning Department:  Call (707) 938-3681 or Email

City Public Works Staff Installing a New Directional Parking Sign on the Plaza.
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Draft Downtown Parking Management Plan

The Draft Downtown Parking Management Plan (Plan) summarizes the most recent parking inventory, supply, and demand study, including counts of the public on- and off-street parking supply. The Plan identifies specific parking strategies, which represent a toolbox of measures available to the City. To prioritize their application, they are broken into two phases.

PHASE 1 - The strategies in the first phase are recommended because of their relative ease of implementation. These strategies require comparatively little management and may by themselves result in an acceptable parking system for the City. Phase 1 strategies include:

  • Enhanced parking enforcement through technological improvements.
  • Work with the State of California to develop a mutually beneficial agreement in which the parking supply of the Casa Grande lot is increased.
  • Incorporate new wayfinding signage if shared lots become available and consider real-time technology for the Casa Grande lot if an agreement is reached with the State.
  • Introduce passenger loading zones downtown.
  • Identify shared parking opportunities with private downtown lot owners.
  • Evaluate revising on-street parking time restrictions so they are in effect seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm and evaluate no parking zones.
  • Offer more public bicycle parking in convenient downtown locations and evaluate the bicycle parking provisions of the Municipal Code.
  • Expand the use of bicycle valet parking during special events.
  • Improve the City’s quality and distribution of mobility information, resources, and incentives.
  • Conduct a study to determine if there is sufficient demand and funding available for a downtown circulator.

PHASE 2 – Phase 2 Strategies (If needed based on evaluation of Phase 1 Strategy Implementation)

  • Institute a Parking Benefit District to manage Downtown parking and transportation improvements.
  • Implement on-street metered parking and regulate based on demand.
  • Create a Resident Parking Meter permit program to prioritize resident needs in the Downtown core.
  • Allow for the creation of Residential Parking Permit programs to address potential spillover issues in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Create an Employee Parking Permit program and designate certain off-street parking spaces in the Downtown for employees.

Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of a downtown parking management plan is to identify the parking issues, concerns, and needs, both current and future, and to outline recommendations and strategies for improved and effective management of parking in a downtown area.

Historically, a city wishing to “solve its parking problem” in a high-demand area has generally focused on increasing the supply of off-street parking. However, simply increasing supply does not fully address the core problem of concentrated demand, in which popular on-street spaces are consistently oversubscribed while nearby off-street spaces often remain underutilized.

The goal of parking demand management is to manage demand for curb spaces to ensure availability, while also optimizing utilization of the existing off-street supply to meet a variety of parking needs. Effective parking management strategies can result in positive economic impacts for local businesses as it allows employees, residents, and visitors to better utilize the parking supply to shop, dine, or recreate.

The City of Sonoma is home to a unique blend of residential neighborhoods and a historic commercial district. It enjoys a regional status as a key Bay Area visitor destination and is a well-known tourist vacation spot because of the orientation of its Downtown around the Plaza. Combined, the mix of users creates parking issues for the City that make managing the parking supply challenging, especially during peak periods like weekends in the summer, for example.

This Draft Downtown Parking Management Plan is the first step in the City’s efforts to address parking challenges Downtown. The Plan summarizes the most recent parking inventory, supply, and demand study, including counts of the public on- and off-street parking supply. These counts are used to examine actual parking data and establish key parking trends occurring throughout Downtown. Based on the key findings from the parking data, this Plan includes a coordinated set of recommendations designed to improve parking.

Priced parking around the Sonoma Plaza is not included in the Phase 1 recommendations and is not being considered at this time.

One of the Phase 2 recommendations is the possible implementation of a paid parking program on the Plaza which would likely rely on technology for implementation, rather than physical parking meters for individual parking spaces. A method for those not having access to technology would also likely be provided; however, as this is a Phase 2 option, these details are not available at this time.

Any efforts to consider paid parking in the future will include a robust public outreach process that includes and informs business owners and the public before its potential implementation.

The adoption of a  Downtown Parking Management Plan will be conducted at a public meeting of the City Council after it receives recommendations from the Planning Commission. Any new parking rules will be communicated to the public prior to implementation.

Individuals can subscribe to receive automatic email updates about the Downtown Parking Management Plan on the Plan webpage.

This will be determined after review by the City Council during a future public process.

The Casa Grande public parking lot is owned and operated by California State Parks. The City has been coordinating with State Parks regarding their future plans for the lot.

A Draft Downtown Sonoma Parking Study was prepared by the City and W-Trans in 2017. The 2017 study analyzed the area bounded by the Sonoma Bike Path to the north, Patten Street to the south, 2nd Street West, and 2nd Street East. In addition to on-street parking, the study considered the usage of two public parking lots, but no private off-street lots were included in this prior study.

The current study builds on the 2017 parking study, the data for which was collected in 2014. Patterns of commuting, visiting, and travel for other purposes have been in flux since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as of April 2022 travel conditions had not fully reverted to historical patterns. Since the parking data was collected prior to the pandemic, it is assumed to represent “typical” conditions and serve as a viable basis for planning purposes.

 

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