Houston's New Parking Commission

The City of Houston's new Public Parking Commission held its first meeting today, to give its members their marching orders, which are to find solutions for the city's growing public parking problem. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The city's growth and development in recent years also brought a lot of parking problems, especially in the downtown business district and other areas, but solving the problems is difficult because authority over public parking is spread out over several city departments. To centralize the authority, City Council created the Parking Commission to put the problems under the microscope and recommend solutions. Commission Chairman Marvin Katz says their mission is to get all the parking regulation under one roof.

"Anybody who now develops must have certain requirements for parking depending upon the use they're making of the property, but that's done in the planning department. The Airport manages its own deals. Other people manage in downtown, but I think the whole goal was to put it all into one central group."

As constituted now, the Parking Commission has no authority to adopt rules or ordinances. It's just an advisory board, but Katz says City Council is taking steps to change that.

"They are now working on certain drafts of modifications to the ordinances, that would perhaps give this commission certain authority, in the same manner that the planning commission has the authority to approve or disapprove plattes, City Council cannot second guess what the Planning Commission does. And I think the idea is to make certain things fall within the purview of this committee. (Q: But as things are now you're just an advisory group?) That is absolutely correct."

The 15 member Parking Commission is made up of people from the general public, city departments, and other agencies with some degree of control over public parking -- Planning and Development, Public Works and Engineering, Conventions and Entertainment, Metro and Harris County Commissioners Court. Bob Eury represents the Houston Downtown Management District and he's excited to see the city take control of the parking problem.

"What's gratifying to me is that it elevates parking issues within the city government. Parking issues have a lot to do with quality of life in our city, for all of us as citizens, and especially that's true in places that have a lot of mixed use, downtown being a great example."

Among other things, the Public Parking Commission will hold public hearings on parking problems and needs, and be responsible for building and managing new municipal parking facilities, and installing new high tech parking meters in high traffic areas. It will meet on the first Wednesday of every month at the City Hall Annex. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.