King City council approves a compromise parking plan for the Highlands that residents hope will make streets safer

BARBARA SHERMAN - When events that draw a lot of parents occur at Deer Creek Elementary, many of them park on Highlands streets, as this photo iillustrates, because that is the closest available parking once the school lot fills up. Highlands residents are tolerant of the situation, but they want some restrictions at intersections to maintain visibility.One-and-a-half years after Highlands residents came up with the idea of being annexed to King City as a way to control outsiders parking on their streets, there is now a law in place to do just that.

The Highlands 55-plus community officially became part of King City on April 1, and on June 7 the King City City Council voted 4 to 2 approving a resolution for a Highlands residential parking zone.

But there were a lot of detours and roadblocks along the way, and after the plan was debated during a public hearing at the June 7 meeting, the councilors were split on the final plan, narrowly passing it.

The adopted plan, crafted by city officials and Highlands residents, goes into effect July 31 and requires residents to obtain parking decals for their own vehicles and those of guests free of charge, excluding recreational and commercial vehicles.

The resolution includes:

-- Establishing a self-monitored resident and guest parking area on most of Peachvale Street, including its cul de sacs, most of Dickson Street, Overgaard Street that parallels Peachvale and Dickson, 136th Terrace, and 126th Terrace and its cul de sacs;

-- Providing a limit of 24 hours for parking vehicles without decals and requiring vehicles with decals parked within the zone to be parked in accordance with current municipal codes;

-- Allowing King City police to write violations only for vehicles that have been reported, marked and observed for more than 24 hours;

-- Restricting parking on the north side of Peachvale between 130th and 131th.

The plan came to fruition during a May 12 meeting of King City staff, Mayor Ken Gibson, Highlands Board of Directors President Dave Platt and Director Jerry Crane, and Steve Brown, the owner of Timberland Homes who has built a small subdivision just north of Dickson.

Peachvale and Dickson provide the two entrances into the Highlands from 131st Avenue, and with many subdivisions going in along 131st in addition to the Timberland development, Highlands residents have been growing more concerned about non-residents using their streets for long-term parking.

BARBARA SHERMAN - Ever since the Timberland development comprised of single-family homes and apartments was built on Dickson, just north of the Highlands, residents have complained about increased traffic and parking problems.Under consideration was making the north side of Dickson a no-parking zone, but due to lower traffic volumes, the designation was not included in the final plan.

Highlands residents originally submitted their own plan to the city on April 4 that basically declared all Highlands streets a neighborhood parking zone for the benefit of residents and guests. However, Highlands residents in general are very tolerant of the need for Deer Creek parents to use their streets near 131st briefly before and after school when dropping off or picking up their kids as well as during an occasional school event that draws a lot of parents.

Among the speakers during the public comment period for proponents of the plan was Bob Juskowiak, who lives at 129th and Dickson. "Traffic speed has picked up on Dickson," he said.

He added that people coming out of the condos north of Peachvale have to go up a hill to Peachvale where there is limited visibility. "Are you going to take any responsibility for any accident or death that occurs there?" he asked.

Ken Jones, who lives on 126th Terrace, said, "I'm in favor of parking restrictions on both (Peachvale and Dickson). I have no issue with it, but there is an increase in paring on Dickson from people living in the apartments and houses. There is now a greater issue of safety on both streets."

Brown of Timberland Homes said that according to his apartment manager, most apartment complexes provide 1.6 parking spaces per unit, "but ours has two per unit," he said. "I really believe there is not going to be a problem. The last thing I want is a safety problem or safety concern, and we're almost 90 percent full."

Among the opponents was Gordon Keeney, who who lives in the 16000 block of Refectory and said, "I'm not in favor of restrictive parking zones for the whole community – this is crazy."

He said he did a survey of the ratio of vehicles parked on the street to residences and came up with one-to-54 ratio, adding, "I didn't count landscaping and pizza delivery trucks. This is an infringement on my freedom and will decrease my property value."

He added that too many streets were included in the parking plan.

Heather Keister, president of the Deer Creek Elementary PSO, told the council, "I have a parking spot in the Deer Creek lot, but I park on Peachvale some mornings because I can't get into the parking lot. I am an advocate for parent and student safety.

"We just can't handle all the cars in our tiny little parking lot. I suggest painting the curbs in the parking zone because parents will see that easier than signs."

BARBARA SHERMAN - The Deer Creek Elementary parking lot is so small that for people attending events at the school, the closest overflow parking is on the streets of the Highlands. From there, they must dart across 131st as shown here during a spring event at the school. At the May 17 King City City Council meeting, the council voted to take over jurisdiction of 131st Avenue from Washington County, and City Manager Mike Weston told the council June 7 that after the Washington County Board of Commissioners approves the request, the road would come into the city next spring. The city also is waiting for the Tigard-Tualatin School District to realign and widen the entrance into Deer Creek, and once those two issues are settled, the city will start working on a crosswalk across 131st between the Highlands and Deer Creek.
Rod Bartholomew agreed, saying, "Red means danger, and people pay more attention to that over signs. I think it is overkill demanding Highlands residents get parking permits... You hardly ever see anyone parked on the streets. Using residents as monitors to track and report violators will turn neighbor against neighbor."

However, Mary Mills, who has lived in the Highlands for seven years, said, "We now have a traffic problem, and Dickson is worse than Peachvale. We need no parking on the left side. Left-turns cause 90 percent of accidents as opposed to right turns.

"The Highlands shouldn't have to be changed in any way to make kids 100 percent safe. I wouldn't have voted for annexation if I had known you weren't going to follow the Highlands' original parking plan."

Jerry Crane, who opposed annexation from the beginning, said, "Tonight is the first time (parking) opponents have been able to speak. I do like the change from the overly restrictive Highlands' original plan to this one, and I applaud your efforts..."

Crane said he doubted if a plan would work that asks residents to call neighborhood traffic coordinators about parking issues rather than call King City police themselves, although it was set up this way to cut down on calls to the police.

"Since annexation, Highlands residents can call the King City police," Crane said. "Many people will call when a suspicious vehicle parks on their street. They won't wait 24 hours. No one is going to be calling a traffic coordinator."

Judy Austin, who worked on the plan, said, "We wanted to avoid making guest passes cumbersome for our residents. That's why we came up with the traffic monitor program. It is not going to be neighbor on neighbor."

Juskowiak spoke again, saying, "There is a problem on Dickson and has been since it was paved 20 years ago. If people park in the S curves, drivers have to go out into the middle of the street. I ask the council to look at the S curve and paint it (no parking). People are going faster on Dickson than ever before."

Mary Mills said that she was in favor of restricted parking areas "because I see cars parked where they shouldn't be."

Finally, Platt gave his rebuttal, noting that the plan "has zero impact on residents who don't park on the street."

Speaking to the complaints of those who were not happy that the Highlands' original parking plan was not adopted by the council, City Manager Mike Weston said, "We came up with this as opposed to what was originally proposed. I talked to the police chief, and this plan is enforceable."

The city's first foray into parking issues happened one-and-a-half years ago when a restricted parking zone was created for some of the streets next to Fischer Road, including King Richard and Queen Anne, where residents from the apartment complex across Fischer were parking.

Next it was Jordan Way, where residents living close to 131st on the loop street asked for restrictions to keep non-residents from parking; the city agreed to put up no-parking signs without providing enforcement for violators as the first step in the process.

When someone asked if the Jordan Way plan set a precedent, Weston replied, "I think we've already tipped that first domino with King Richard and Queen Anne."

After councilors debated if safety issues should be separated from parking issues, Mayor Gibson said, "We need to look at the city overall. Dickson is not there (to the point of being dangerous) yet, but Peachvale is. What we are doing on Peachvale will not solve this problem with the city – it is a Band aid.

"I'm in favor of moving ahead with this parking plan. I'm good with how it's written, and we'll adjust as we go along."

Gibson and Councilors Bob Olmstead, Chi Nguyen-Ventura and Billie Reynolds voted in favor of the Highlands parking plan, and Councilors John Boylston and Gretchen Buehner voted against it; Smart Ocholi was absent.

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