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West Linn City Council decides to widen parking spots on Willamette Falls Drive

Despite recent pushback against back-in angle parking on Willamette Falls Drive, the West Linn City Council wants the community to give the new configuration more time before considering an alternative.

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - In August, the city began striping back-in parking spots on Willamette Falls Drive. After what councilors described as an abundance of correspondence with the community on the matter, the council decided at its meeting Monday, Oct. 19 to widen each back-in angle parking stall by half a foot. The city will widen the stalls with temporary striping in the coming weeks and reevaluate the situation next summer. The council also decided to ask the police department to hold off on ticketing people for failing to comply with the rules until Jan. 1.

Since the first back-in spots were completed in August, WLPD has given warnings to drivers who head-in park in the back-in spots.

According to comments on social media and anecdotes from councilors, a few community members have said they will no longer patronize businesses on Willamette Falls Drive because of the back-in parking.

The city began discussing the possibility of back-in parking for the Willamette Falls Drive Streetscape project in 2017.

Initially, councilors, community members and the Transportation Advisory Board were hesitant to embrace the new method for parking, but were won over by studies that proved it was safer than head-in angle parking, as well as testimony from other communities that implemented back-in angle parking and learned to love it.

"From what I've seen, where people have put in this parking, people have adjusted and gotten used to it and actually liked it better," Mayor Russ Axelrod said at Monday's meeting.

During the meeting, council heard testimony from Shannen Knight, a Willamette business owner who has given input on the streetscape project since the beginning of the planning process.

Knight said she has recently taken heat for her position in favor of back-in parking, though she stood by her stance, citing the overall importance of safety.

However, Knight said she would support the council's decision either way because she recognized that other businesses in the area were not in favor of back-in parking.

Councilor Jules Walters had similar concerns for how back-in parking could impact businesses in the area. She said this was not the year to add this additional challenge for businesses.

Council President Rich Sakelik said he drove to Main Street every other day last week, and even on Friday evening, when the business district was at its busiest, 95% of cars had successfully backed in to the parking spots. Some drivers, however, cross traffic to head-in to the reverse-in spaces.

Sakelik said he talked with a few people after they tried the new parking maneuver. They told him it was somewhat difficult but they would get used to it.

Widening the spots from 9 feet to 9 feet, 6 inches will mean less parking spaces than are currently on Willamette Falls Drive. However, the number of parking stalls will be similar to the number of stalls originally on Willamette Falls Drive prior to the project, according to Public Works Director Lance Calvert.

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