San Marcos City Council pumps the brakes on back-in parking

San Marcos City Council unanimously voted on Jan. 3 to convert back-in parking spaces on the east side of LBJ Drive to head-in spaces.

San Marcos City Council unanimously voted on Jan. 3 to convert back-in parking spaces on the east side of LBJ Drive to head-in spaces.

San Marcos City Council is reversing a decision related to downtown parking, and some business owners hope this will change the direction the city’s downtown is headed.

On Tuesday night, City Council unanimously voted to change all parking spaces on the east side of LBJ Drive from Hopkins Street to University Drive from back-in parking to traditional head-in parking.

“Every day we have people coming in here doing the ‘I hate parking’ dance,” said Carol Powers, who co-owns the Paper Bear gift shop at 218 N. LBJ Drive, San Marcos.

Christie Maycock, who owns Christie’s Jewelers, 208 N. LBJ Drive, San Marcos, said she is “most delighted” that the city is making the change to head-in parking.

“I have people come in all the time saying, ‘I avoid downtown because I can’t back in. I would love to come see you, but I can’t find a spot,’” Maycock said.

Back-in parking first came to downtown San Marcos in 2013, when a portion of Hutchison Street was built to accommodate cars reversing into parking spaces. The city hosted a “Back-in Parking Party” in December 2013 to showcase the new spaces and educate residents how to park in them.

Although sales tax collections continue to increase in the downtown area—sales tax revenue downtown was 18 percent higher through the first three quarters of 2016 compared to the same period in 2014—many business owners have said their customers are not frequenting their stores like they used to.

“I’m sure it’s going to help everyone’s business,” Powers said. “We saw a dip in business when [back-in parking] got implemented. Maybe we’ll start seeing some of our old customers.”

Council Member Scott Gregson raised concerns about what will be done with the bicycle lane adjacent to the back-in parking. The switch to head-in parking could make it more difficult for drivers who are reversing out of their parking place to see cyclists in the bike lane behind them.

The city will consider its options for the bike lane, including converting the vehicle lane adjacent to the bicycle lane into a shared lane for cyclists and drivers.

There are currently 42 parking spaces on the east side of LBJ from Hopkins to University. The change, which is expected to cost $7,000, will not affect the number of spaces.

Back-in parking on Hutchison will not be affected.

There is not an exact timeline for when the switch will happen, but city staff said they will work to ensure the effect on businesses and traffic in the area is minimal.

“We’ll look at an off time,” said Laurie Moyer, director of engineering and capital improvements. “We’ll look at a time frame that is the least impactful [to businesses and traffic].”

Maycock said she does not mind whatever construction occurs outside her store, as long as the back-in spaces are converted.

“The minor inconvenience of construction [to change the parking] is totally worth it,” Maycock said.