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Orange city officials acted on two parking issues at the City Council meeting Tuesday night: One addressed the potential need for more parking downtown, while the other reduced parking spaces in various locations like drive-thru restaurants, retail stores and office lots in town.

The council voted unanimously to approve a $92,840 contract with Irvine-based engineering consultant Fehr & Peers to conduct an Old Towne parking study to determine future parking needs downtown. 

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Larry Tay, the city traffic engineer, described during the meeting how Orange’s historic district has changed over the years from a small shopping district to a widely-utilized space with various businesses.

Because of this change, Tay said the city must determine short- and long-term parking trends and needs.

“Many of the antique stores have slowly converted into high-performing restaurants and retail, becoming this successful vibrant activity center,” Tay said. “Some of that success translates unfortunately into unintended consequences, one of which is increased parking generation.”

As the city considers closing down Old Towne’s Glassell Street seasonally for outdoor dining, Tay described potential parking challenges that could arise in the future as demand increases.

[Read: Historic Old Towne Orange Could See Some Seasonal Outdoor Dining]

The parking study is expected to serve as a helpful guide when discussing downtown parking solutions in the future.

“We anticipate parking generation and demand to continue to increase as more restaurants go through the conversion process, and there’s potential for redevelopment applications in and around Old Towne itself,” Tay said. “In order to better plan for the future and understand the big picture and long-term parking implications, we need to better understand the dynamics, some of the challenges we may encounter and certainly some of the opportunities that we have to implement change.”

The parking study will also be used later this year when the council discusses utilizing the Paseo for seasonal outdoor dining uses, according to a city staff report.

Adam Duberstien, an Orange resident, commented at the meeting that conducting a downtown parking study with Glassell Street closed for outdoor dining would not prove to be helpful.

“If Glassell is closed, how can the parking be studied?” Duberstein said. “If traffic is being diverted, and the circulation changes, that is on a temporary basis through the end of the year, how can that be properly studied?”

Tay responded to the speaker that staff is confident the data collection will account for the temporary closure of Glassell Street in Old Towne Orange.

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Later in the meeting, the council again voted unanimously to amend the parking code after staff presented a 2018 citywide study that suggested reducing the amount of parking spots in various zones.

The study was an in-depth review of the city’s parking code and found areas that needed updates to help align parking with building tenancy and property characteristics, according to another city staff report.

Notable highlights from the staff report include decreasing retail parking from five to four spaces per 1,000 square feet and decreasing general office parking from four to three spaces per 1,000 square feet. 

Additionally, restaurant parking space requirements will be changed based on demand.

For example, a restaurant that typically utilizes a drive-thru more than the indoor dining area may lose parking spots to accommodate the need for drive-up space.

Also, tandem parking — when one car is parked directly behind another, blocking the first car from exiting the lot — will be available for designated office and residential lots moving forward.

Adrienne Gladson, another Orange resident, commented at the meeting that the two parking discussions conflicted with each other, creating contradicting arguments.

“We heard a contract discussion with Fehr and Peers about downtown, and we heard that there’s a parking problem downtown, and this particular item is telling you that there is no parking problem in the city,” Gladson said. “We got to get our information correct and tell this story correctly. Our community is really upset about the issue of parking citywide, whether it’s downtown or other parts of the community. We need to do this topic justice.”

The council meets again Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. The public can stream the meeting on the city website.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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