Downtown Parking Structure
Design of recently approved downtown parking structure.

The Future of Redlands–Parking Downtown

Friends of Redlands has been studying the City of Redlands’ General Plan, Downtown Specific Plan and the Transit Villages Specific Plan Draft (here after designated TVSP). The parking component of the TVSP is insufficient for the success of downtown.

As TVSP states, “Sufficient parking is essential to the success of downtown.” We do not believe TVSP provides for enough parking, not only in the short term but also in the long term. The plan relies heavily on bicycling and therefore less parking will be needed for the automobile. That begs the question, “ How convenient is it for a person to carry a day’s shopping on a bicycle in 100-degree summer heat?”

For decades parking in historical downtown Redlands
has been problematic.

It is our opinion that TVSP will make the situation worse. In the TVSP, the Redlands Mall is to be replaced with apartments and the current 900-plus parking spaces (includes Citrus Ave. lot), near to downtown, will be gone. During the day these spaces are used by shoppers, store owners and employees. On weekends, and in the evening, these spaces are used for entertainment venues like the Bicycle Classic, Redlands Bowl Performances, commencement and Market Night. Where will these people park? The plan suggests that a 200-400 space parking garage be built by the developer of the mall property. This will be totally inadequate for this area.

The parking garage near the Santa Fe Station will have 167 spaces allocated to store owners, employees, and store patrons. This garage will not be convenient to the Redlands Bowl. There are two other parking garages planned: a 160-space garage next to Ed Hales Park and another on Seventh Street near the railroad tracks. Since the City of Redlands does not have the money, construction of these two garages will depend upon public funds in the form of bonding, parking fees, or higher taxes. There is no guarantee either will ever be built.

What will be the fate of current on-street parking
under the TVSP?

The TVSP states that “parking management strategies” will be used. For example, riding the Arrow commuter train will reduce the number of parking spaces needed as well as biking and using Omnitrans. Bus loading zones are to be integrated into existing street parking downtown (each loading zone will consume a minimum of 8 diagonal parking spaces). The TVSP states that “time limits combined with prices will encourage turnover” of parking spaces and “as demand for free parking spaces approaches capacity … it is reasonable to implement paid parking programs.” These programs could be in the form of in lieu fees, paid parking programs, valet parking, and parking permits.

In summary, the loss of the current mall parking cannot be made up by the TVSP parking garages and will not fulfill the TSVP’s stated objective of “sufficient parking for the success of downtown.” The current free parking downtown would end up being some form of paid parking. With the exception of the mall and Arrow parking garages the others may never be built unless the residents of Redlands are willing to support bond measures, higher taxes and a variety of parking fees.

Friends of Redlands urges the City Council and City Planning to revise the parking component of the Transit Villages Specific Plan to meet the real needs of the city.

The Redlands Mall
The Redlands Mall currently has one tenant.

The Redlands Mall

During the 1970’s the Redlands mayor decided the historic downtown area was broken and he knew just how to solve the problem. His solution was to build a mall as was being done in many other communities at that time. Powerful state laws allowing “redevelopment” were in effect and the mayor used that weapon to take a wrecking ball to all the many commercial buildings west of Orange Street and build the Redlands Mall.

The Redlands Mall had problems from the outset. It was considerably smaller than other enclosed malls built about the same time, such as Riverside’s Tyler Mall and the two malls in San Bernardino. Three different tenants operated in the anchor space at the west end of the mall; all three failed in that location.

Today enclosed malls are not what business owners and their customers want. Virtually all retail sales in the Redlands area occur in the freestanding structures north of the freeway (the Donut Hole).

The former mayor did not want a grocery store in the smaller anchor space in the east end of the mall. Yet several groceries have successfully prevailed as the east end anchor and remain successful to this day.

What about the building itself?

The mall building itself is a concrete block structure which lacks character or architectural interest. However, it is very well built and could likely last thousands of years. The mall has over 900 parking spaces plus the large underground parking. The interior has vast open spaces and very high ceilings which would allow non-bearing interior modifications. Using non-bearing walls would be an inexpensive way to transform all or part of the mall into virtually any other type of non-residential use.

Like the earlier mayor, the present mayor has ideas about how to level the mostly vacant mall and replace it with other improvements. Over the past ten years several firms have owned the mall, yet none have taken any action to make the vacant areas a viable part of downtown Redlands.

Part of the problem is that tearing down the mall and hauling it to the landfill one dump truck load at a time would be extremely expensive. More importantly, a developer needs to have a “commercially viable” end product to be able to finance and build the replacement improvements. Isn’t it time to explore “commercially viable” solutions?

"Transit Village" housing in Montclair, CA.

Know Your Housing

The state legislature of California has passed a lot of housing bills you should know about. Here’s a short summary of the most important ones.

These laws parallel Measure G. They essentially take away local control over cities, neighborhoods, and housing. They will affect housing values, water usage, sanitation systems, traffic, parking, security and established city cultures. These laws could create crowded, unlivable residential neighborhoods and large city density, creating conditions for the spread of illnesses.

AB 1482 – Rent control

SB 330 – Limits all cities’ ability to impose new building standards that drive up construction costs. It will be effective from 2020-2025. Limits downzoning, or reducing the number of housing units that can be built in a particular space. This has been proactively adopted by Redlands City Council after the defeat of Measure G.

AB68 – Authorizes a local agency to provide, by ordinance, for the creation of accessory dwelling units in single family and multifamily residential zones. Deletes ordinances on lot coverage or requirements on minimum lot size and parking. This is the so called “Granny Flat Law.” Allows for 2 additional units on a lot.

AB 113 – Authorizes $331 million from the state’s General Fund to the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund. It is a planning and zoning law that requires a city to adopt a land use plan that has a housing element. The law requires that the Department of Housing and community Development determine if the housing element is in compliance with that law. If not, a judgment can be brought against that city. If in compliance, then that city is eligible for financial assistance and incentives. The Redlands General Plan has a Housing Element.

AB 2923 – Authorizes the BART board of supervisors to rezone and BART-owned land within a half-mile of a BART station to set the lowest permissible limit for height, density and floor area ratio and highest permissible parking minimums. Local jurisdictions must then adopt conforming zoning laws.

AB 1763 – Creates enhanced density bonus options, including a potential 80% increase in base density and unlimited density bonuses for qualifying projects within a half-mile of a major transit stop. This bill has relevance to Redlands and the planned “transit villages.”

Density Bonus: provides an increase in allowed dwelling units per acre, floor area ratio or height

AB671 – Requires local governments to include in their housing plans to incentivize and promote the creation of affordable ADUs (additional dwelling units).

*SB 50 – Gives cities and counties two years to develop plans to boost development in their communities before state mandates for greater housing density takes effect. It would allow mid-rise apartment complexes near transit and fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods. This law would force cities to relax housing laws to allow for apartments where only single family homes are currently permitted. Note: * SB 50 did not pass. However, State Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) is working on similar bills, such as SB 902, that would allow triplex or fourplex projects on existing residential land.