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Lack of parking is a top concern for Fairhaven. Here’s what the city is doing about it

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Explore the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington.
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Explore the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington.

More of Fairhaven will soon be limited to two-hour parking.

The new limits will expand what’s been in place since 2015, when two-hour parking was instituted in Fairhaven’s busy commercial core — essentially the streets around the Village Green.

In August, crews will put up signs telling drivers about the new limits for public on-street parking at the following locations:

Harris Avenue from 8th to 13th streets.

Mill Avenue from 10th to 13th streets.

9th Street from McKenzie to Harris avenues.

10th, 12th and 13th from McKenzie to Mill avenues.

11th Street from McKenzie to Knox avenues.

Finnegan Way from Mill to Knox avenues.

West side of 13th Street just north of Mill Avenue.

Parking Map.jpg
Two-hour parking in Fairhaven will soon expand out from the district’s busy commercial core to these new spots. Crews will put up new signs in August 2019. City of Bellingham Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The two-hour limits will be in place 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Violators will be fined $15.

Will there be a grace period? That’s up to the people writing the parking tickets.

“Parking enforcement officers use discretion and common sense in writing citations,” Eric Johnston, assistant director for the Bellingham Public Works Department, told The Bellingham Herald.

The expansion is about making on-street parking available and keeping traffic moving along in Fairhaven, a part of Bellingham that is popular with tourists and residents who flock there for its stores, coffee shops, bars and restaurants.

“Managed parking through time limits or meters helps ensure parking availability by promoting parking turnover in a predictable manner,” Johnston said. “The two-hour time limits are based on measurements showing that the average vehicle is parked for approximately one hour.”

The two-hour limits are part of the parking plan developed in 2015 by the city’s Fairhaven Parking Task Force, which is made up of businesses, property owners and neighborhoods adjacent to Fairhaven.

New parking rules are rolled out based, in part, on how often street parking fills up.

“Triggers related to the availability of on-street parking were met in 2018 with most on-street parking spaces in the core being used more than 85% of the time,” Johnston said.

How are people reacting to the expansion of two-hour parking?

“The task force includes both residents and business owners recognizing the need for the change,” Johnston said. “It is safe to say the while nobody is excited about having more rules to follow, the task force recognizes parking management as an effective tool.”

The task force also is discussing the possibility of requiring drivers to pay for on-street parking by putting in electronic pay stations, like the ones in downtown Bellingham, next year.

Scott Ward, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Fairhaven Association, said the lack of parking was the No. 1 concern that he’s heard about.

“Expanding the two-hour parking and installing pay stations seems inevitable. They appear to be steps in the right direction,” Ward told The Bellingham Herald.

“At the same time, the HFA has worked to find off-site parking options for business owners and employees in order to clear up spaces for Fairhaven patrons,” he added. “Encouraging our neighbors to walk and bike into the village not only frees up parking, but encourages a healthy and grounded lifestyle.”

Ward isn’t a member of the parking task force.

Off-site parking is occurring at Hillcrest Church, at 1400 Larrabee Ave. The church is allowing its parking lot to be used during the week, Ward explained. From there, it’s a five-minute walk to the Fairhaven core.

Pay stations will be discussed at the Fairhaven Parking Task Force’s next meeting on Wednesday, July 17.

The meeting is 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Fireplace Room at the Fairhaven Library, 1117 12th St.

Learn more at cob.org/gov/public/bc/fairhaven-parking.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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