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Parking restrictions likely near school

Driving a car to school is part of growing up, school officials say.

So the city should allow on-street parking to take the overflow from the Bainbridge High School grounds.

“We have to be cognizant of the adolescent experience,” Deputy Superintendent Ken Crawford told a city council panel Wednesday.

But clogging the streets around the campus is both unsafe and inconsiderate, say police, neighbors and some council members.

“The main issue for me is safety,” Councilwoman Deborah Vann said. “When cars are parked on both sides of the street, there’s no place to walk or ride a bike except in traffic.”

The latter view so far has prevailed. At the urging of public works committee members Vann and Bill Knobloch, the full council will decide next week whether to curb on-street parking on residential streets next to campus, including Grow and Lovell avenues, Ihland Way and portions of Commodore Lane.

The parking issue for BHS, like that for downtown Winslow or the ferry terminal, is that there are more drivers wanting to park there than available parking places.

Crawford says it’s a situation that escalates as the year goes on, as more students turn 16 and become eligible for licenses. And once they get the license, they want to drive to school, he said.

“At some age, they don’t want to ride the bus,” Crawford said. “And I’m not so old that I can’t remember that myself.”

School board member Ken Breiland said the impetus to drive doesn’t just come from the students.

“Speaking as a parent, life is easier if the kids drive to school,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle we’ve grown into on the island.”

Until this year, parking was generally contained on campus, as students used their ingenuity to cram an almost infinite number of cars into a finite space.

But then, BHS delineated individual parking stalls. And the 300 stalls were not enough to accommodate the demand imposed by those who drove among the 1,100 students. The result: Student cars burst the bounds of campus, encroaching into surrounding neighborhoods.

“We need to apologize to the neighbors for some of this,” Breiland said. “Kids are sometimes being kids, creating unsafe conditions, and not being as polite and respectful as they could be.”

Katie Jones, parking enforcement officer for Bainbridge Police, was more emphatic.

“When the school buses drop off the really little kids on those streets, they have to navigate down the middle of the street to get home because there’s no place to walk,” she said.

Jones said students park in front of mail boxes – not illegal, but inconvenient for the post office – block visibility for neighbors backing out of their drives, and leave no room for visitors or delivery trucks.

Solutions

School officials say on-street parking is a necessary overflow valve, particularly now that the school is charging for parking permits. But Jones says on-street parking is a matter of convenience.

Neighbors have lobbied the city for parking restrictions on nearby streets during school hours.

After a recent series of meetings between city and school officials, Councilman Norm Wooldridge sought to delay a decision on posting the streets as no-parking zones.

With school out, he said, there was no emergency, and a compromise solution could be worked out by fall.

Vann and Knobloch, though, said concerns from their central ward constituents and safety problems outweighed the interests of students in “guaranteed” parking.

“I appreciate the school district’s problem, but there are limits,” Knobloch said. “As elected representatives, our responsibility is to the citizens.”

School officials Wednesday said they would look at ways to stretch off-street parking, including trying to make arrangements with the Masonic Temple to use that lot, using the parking available at Woodward Middle School with a shuttle bus, or allowing on-street parking along Madison Avenue.

Longer-run possibilities included creating more on-campus spaces either by relocating the maintenance facility located to the east of the tennis courts or converting the greenbelt between the parking lot and the Commodore neighborhood into parking.

The school will also increase the cost of parking permits to $75, limit permits to one per family and deny permits to students who live in the school’s immediate vicinity.

“Some kids walk farther to their cars than they would have to walk to their homes,” Crawford said.

Bicycle advocate Dana Berg, also active in the school PTO, said her group would communicate more specifically with parents, telling them about the parking limitations and urging wider use of alternatives, such as Kitsap Transit.

She also suggested incentives to non-driving, such as awarding PE credit for students who bike to school.

“Providing a parking place for each student should not be part of the school’s mission statement,” she said. “As things like the non-motorized transportation plan show, we are trying to change the culture on the island.”

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