For the past two and a half years, the Downtown Roseburg Association has managed parking for the city of Roseburg through an organization called Park-Smart.

Some business owners downtown say it’s not going well.

Some have voiced safety concerns about walking in the downtown parking garage, citing trash and “shifty characters.” Others said they’ve unfairly been ticketed while unloading items at their businesses.

Downtown Roseburg Association director Susie Johnston-Forte said there’s been turnover and she believes things will get better.

Roseburg Book and Stationery owner Jason Byers said he’s worried about safety at the city parking lot near the armory.

“It just doesn’t feel safe at night to walk over there,” Byers said.

Downtown Roseburg Association President Todd Boyd, who also manages Brown’s Shoe Fit Co., said some businesses have issues with parking and deliveries because of the way downtown Roseburg was laid out.

“In a lot of the communities, there’s typically an alleyway behind your business that’s really non-existent with the way Roseburg was originally mapped out,” Boyd said. “There’s no other source of parking available other than the city lots. Parking is extremely limited.”

Byers has to convince delivery drivers to come to his store despite not fitting in the loading zone and not having a loading dock.

“It doesn’t do us merchants any favors when the drivers are scared to park and deliver our goods,” Byers said. “We’re already paying more to get deliveries down here.”

He also has customers complain about not finding parking.

“I want to tell them, ‘Try living in a real city,’” Byers said. “It just seems like if they can’t park right in front of the store, they’re not going to park here at all. I like that downtown has free parking. I don’t want to lose that. It takes everything we have to get people to come downtown as it is.”

Michael Emmanuil, who owns Alexander’s Greek Cuisine on Jackson Street, said he’s received tickets while loading his truck for catering events. He was unaware that the Roseburg Police Department issues delivery permits for $50 that are good for one year.

“Sometimes it feels like we are being punished for doing business downtown unnecessarily,” Emmanuil said. “I was out there for a little over an hour and I already had a ticket. I cannot walk to the next block over with a bunch of food to load up my truck. They never told me I could get a loading permit.”

According to its contract, the Downtown Roseburg Association is responsible for introducing itself and the Park-Smart enforcement program to new businesses and property owners along the patrol route.

Felicia Mellor said she and her employees at Gathering Grounds Coffee House have received citations. However, she has never received any letter from Park-Smart regarding parking rules since the business opened in August.

“There’s no grace,” Mellor said. “I can’t park in the parking garage and load all of my stuff. I know other cities function better, and they should learn before really throwing the hammer down. I’m happy to adhere to rules, but I think they need to do a better job at them.”

Mellor said she would like to come downtown and visit the stores downtown, but she has seen her employees get tickets when their spouses borrow the cars and come downtown.

“It makes me feel like I can never be a customer of downtown because my car will be targeted,” Mellor said. “If I want to go to any of the other businesses, my car is going to be ticketed and I don’t think that’s fair. (The Downtown Roseburg Association’s) goal is to make the downtown area thrive and be more popular, but those two things don’t coincide. I want to support downtown, I want it thrive, but there’s just a few things that need to adjust and parking is a big one.”

According to its contract with the city, Park Smart collects all of the income from parking fees, citations issued, and rent for 235 city-owned spots that are rented to business owners and their employees.

This year, Park Smart paid the city $47,500, which is an increase from the previous two years. The city manages long-term maintenance and provides the meters and accompanying parts. The contract is up for a three-year renewal in June.

Downtown Roseburg Association Executive Director Susie Johnston-Forte said the Park Smart team “has been working diligently to get more consistency across the board.”

“There’s been a lot of turnover in this organization. We are being much more proactive in managing parking downtown,” Johnston-Forte said.

Both Johnston-Forte and Park Smart Operations and Business Manager Keri Geise have been in their roles for less than a year, and both said they are still learning.

“One of the reasons that this is coming up a lot is (Geise) and I are new and we’re trying to get a handle on how it works,” Johnston-Forte said. “It was really clear that there was a lot of misuse of parking downtown and there’s a finite amount of it.”

In the contract, Park Smart is required to keep “written reports on all complaint phone calls or on-street complaints to officer on duty.”

Geise hasn’t taken any complaints to the city. People simply come in every day and voice their complaints at her desk, she said.

“All the complaints we’ve received, we’ve been able to handle in our office,” Geise said.

Geise said she is doing her job to make sure people follow the parking rules downtown.

“We’re just following our contract,” Geise said. “We have an obligation and it wasn’t being met to the full extent. A lot of it was turnover because nobody was really here. You have to be here more than three or four months to memorize the vehicles and know what’s going on.”

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at jpolcyn@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Business reporter

Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at the News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

(6) comments

nr77

The parking garage downtown has always been creepy and filthy. If they razed it and had an open and well lit parking lot along with some retail store to replace Rite Aide or Safeway it would be a lot more inviting to come downtown. Parking tickets are $50 and the meters are very old, many not working right. As local people, it seems like the city concentrates on money coming in more than providing service. We are also tired of hearing about the "new" staff.

pwchoices

That downtown parking structure has been a source of problems from day one. Never really used for parking except by businesses by force of the city. The number of arrests and citations given to homeless transients that "park" themselves in the parking structure is quite high. It's been a couple of years since my family even went down town and parked. The homeless population has just exploded in Roseburg and seeing people sleeping on the sidewalks on Jackson Street just keep us away from downtown.

DanGrover

Well maybe you should consider being more open minded? So what if people are sleeping on the sidewalk, are they bothering you? Or is just a eye sore? Are they supposed to be like everyone else with a big white diesel truck going out getting drunk and racing their trucks through downtown harassing the homeless with their high beams? Because if you ask me they're the ones acting recklessly, and risking everyone's lives.

pwchoices

When transients and homeless people defecate on the sidewalks and streets. When they urinate in public on the sides of building. One recent example of was the women just squatted and urinated in the middle of the sidewalk. Yep, that bothers me. Yes the homeless are an eyesore. These people are a public health hazard. And people who think this is OK and just the "new normal" are part of the problem.

DanGrover

What does the trash in the parking garage have to do with the parking? Is the trash obstructing the parking spaces? what's a shifty charcter? Someone with a backpack makes you feel unsafe? Or is it profiling and hatred towards the homeless people?🙄

Amcconne

Park Smart has been run by the Downtown Association since 2012 (6 years) not 2.
Contract was up for renewal last June as well but the city decided to intervene with the downtown association (resulting in my firing) when I kept asking them how they spent the 47,000 the DRA was giving them. Which at the time was 40 percent of the revenue.

The city would NOT provide new meters as we all know the meters downtown are ancient.

I find it funny the DRA hasnt taken any complaints to the city as the DRA is to be an advocate for merchants and it is the city's municipal code they are forcing.

Also if they are "handling all complaints" then why is this article being written. Obviously they are not handling it very well.

If the DRA read their contract they would know they are REQUIRED to introduce themselves and let people know the parking rules downtown.

They have a database where they send letters to business owners, they could use that whether they are new or not

As for being new, 6-8 months we could aee a little more productivity. The new card is getting old at this point and is not an excuse in my opinion.

My recommendation as it was in April 2017. Was for the city to run their own parking program and house employees. Since at the time they were only interested in being involved when it came to issuing parking favors to some without even contacting the Park Smart Program.

Also while Park Smart enforces the municipal code. Why do all city employees get free parking in a lot that Park Smart has to patrol?

Favors, and 47k. That is the city's care about parking and that's where it ends. But Park Smart is ok with that, and will just have to be left to get the heat from the public because the city has washed their hands and they are too weak to stand their ground.

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