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Business owners share their struggle with downtown parking

January 14, 2019

For the past two and a half years, the Downtown Roseburg Association has managed parking for the city of Roseburg through an organization called Park-Smart.

Some business owners downtown say it’s not going well.

Some have voiced safety concerns about walking in the downtown parking garage, citing trash and “shifty characters.” Others said they’ve unfairly been ticketed while unloading items at their businesses.

Downtown Roseburg Association director Susie Johnston-Forte said there’s been turnover and she believes things will get better.

Roseburg Book and Stationery owner Jason Byers said he’s worried about safety at the city parking lot near the armory.

“It just doesn’t feel safe at night to walk over there,” Byers said.

Downtown Roseburg Association President Todd Boyd, who also manages Brown’s Shoe Fit Co., said some businesses have issues with parking and deliveries because of the way downtown Roseburg was laid out.

“In a lot of the communities, there’s typically an alleyway behind your business that’s really non-existent with the way Roseburg was originally mapped out,” Boyd said. “There’s no other source of parking available other than the city lots. Parking is extremely limited.”

Byers has to convince delivery drivers to come to his store despite not fitting in the loading zone and not having a loading dock.

“It doesn’t do us merchants any favors when the drivers are scared to park and deliver our goods,” Byers said. “We’re already paying more to get deliveries down here.”

He also has customers complain about not finding parking.

“I want to tell them, ‘Try living in a real city,’” Byers said. “It just seems like if they can’t park right in front of the store, they’re not going to park here at all. I like that downtown has free parking. I don’t want to lose that. It takes everything we have to get people to come downtown as it is.”

Michael Emmanuil, who owns Alexander’s Greek Cuisine on Jackson Street, said he’s received tickets while loading his truck for catering events. He was unaware that the Roseburg Police Department issues delivery permits for $50 that are good for one year.

“Sometimes it feels like we are being punished for doing business downtown unnecessarily,” Emmanuil said. “I was out there for a little over an hour and I already had a ticket. I cannot walk to the next block over with a bunch of food to load up my truck. They never told me I could get a loading permit.”

According to its contract, the Downtown Roseburg Association is responsible for introducing itself and the Park-Smart enforcement program to new businesses and property owners along the patrol route.

Felicia Mellor said she and her employees at Gathering Grounds Coffee House have received citations. However, she has never received any letter from Park-Smart regarding parking rules since the business opened in August.

“There’s no grace,” Mellor said. “I can’t park in the parking garage and load all of my stuff. I know other cities function better, and they should learn before really throwing the hammer down. I’m happy to adhere to rules, but I think they need to do a better job at them.”

Mellor said she would like to come downtown and visit the stores downtown, but she has seen her employees get tickets when their spouses borrow the cars and come downtown.

“It makes me feel like I can never be a customer of downtown because my car will be targeted,” Mellor said. “If I want to go to any of the other businesses, my car is going to be ticketed and I don’t think that’s fair. (The Downtown Roseburg Association’s) goal is to make the downtown area thrive and be more popular, but those two things don’t coincide. I want to support downtown, I want it thrive, but there’s just a few things that need to adjust and parking is a big one.”

According to its contract with the city, Park Smart collects all of the income from parking fees, citations issued, and rent for 235 city-owned spots that are rented to business owners and their employees.

This year, Park Smart paid the city $47,500, which is an increase from the previous two years. The city manages long-term maintenance and provides the meters and accompanying parts. The contract is up for a three-year renewal in June.

Downtown Roseburg Association Executive Director Susie Johnston-Forte said the Park Smart team “has been working diligently to get more consistency across the board.”

“There’s been a lot of turnover in this organization. We are being much more proactive in managing parking downtown,” Johnston-Forte said.

Both Johnston-Forte and Park Smart Operations and Business Manager Keri Geise have been in their roles for less than a year, and both said they are still learning.

“One of the reasons that this is coming up a lot is (Geise) and I are new and we’re trying to get a handle on how it works,” Johnston-Forte said. “It was really clear that there was a lot of misuse of parking downtown and there’s a finite amount of it.”

In the contract, Park Smart is required to keep “written reports on all complaint phone calls or on-street complaints to officer on duty.”

Geise hasn’t taken any complaints to the city. People simply come in every day and voice their complaints at her desk, she said.

“All the complaints we’ve received, we’ve been able to handle in our office,” Geise said.

Geise said she is doing her job to make sure people follow the parking rules downtown.

“We’re just following our contract,” Geise said. “We have an obligation and it wasn’t being met to the full extent. A lot of it was turnover because nobody was really here. You have to be here more than three or four months to memorize the vehicles and know what’s going on.”

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