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Healdsburg city officials to consider parking garage

A public parking garage might be in Healdsburg's future.

Healdsburg would become the third city in Sonoma County to build a parking structure under a scenario envisioned in a consultants' report that will be discussed Tuesday at a joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting.

One potential site for the $9.5 million parking garage is identified as the West Plaza lot, now a surface lot where the Farmers Market is held.

“Building structured parking on the West Plaza lot is particularly expensive, but potentially necessary measure by which to increase the parking supply in downtown Healdsburg,” Walker Parking Consultants stated in their 54-page report commissioned by the city.

If Healdsburg decides to build a public parking garage, it would join Santa Rosa and Petaluma, the only other cities in the county where they exist.

Is it a sign that Healdsburg is losing its vaunted small town charm?

“If we build one, it will fit in with small town character,” City Councilman Gary Plass said Monday. “It doesn't have to be ugly or so large, or obtrusive.”

But Mayor Jim Wood cautioned that Healdsburg may not be ready yet to build a public garage.

“We have talked about the possibility,” he said. “I don't know that we've gotten to the point where we are seriously talking about building a parking structure.”

That could come into better focus at Tuesday's 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

The study assumes parking in the structure and on the street would remain free to motorists.

Healdsburg residents recoiled at the prospect of street parking meters proposed by the police department a couple years ago.

Downtown parking or its scarcity came to the forefront last summer with a proposed 75-room hotel. Though the project was dropped, it raised questions about parking requirements for downtown projects.

Since 1986, the city has allowed parking exemptions for many new businesses to encourage economic growth and a pedestrian-oriented downtown.

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