Yakima’s Plaza – From The Court of Public Opinion To The Court Itself
Will a lawsuit over the loss of parking spaces deep-six Yakima's Downtown Plaza project? The group which calls itself PDP for Preserve Downtown Parking apparently feels the need to otherwise "remain anonymous" (now why would that be?) have hired a Seattle area attorney to present the legal threat/promise to the Yakima City Council.
They say they have secured funding for legal action if the plaza project doesn't stand down. So why not show yourself and be counted? The Yakamanians who represent over 9 and half million dollars in private funding for the project are recognized and on the record, why not you? Shouldn't all those who worked on behalf the project know who stands against them?
As the next phase of plaza debate proceeds, its important to remember that hundreds of Yakima residents showed up in the early planning stages for the plaza. They attended numerous public meetings, exchanged ideas the planners, shared opinions, voted on options, locations & amenities. Downtown revitalization experts called it a significant and representational community participation. All that time, energy, effort and personal involvement seems forgotten but those who were there remember the excitement, the hope and promise of a vibrant, active, beautiful downtown plaza.
Parking and safety were important issues in all that early conversation. One of the nation's preeminent parking consultants was brought in to assess the actual physical on-the-ground parking conditions. Changes were suggested and made. In the end, experts in the field concluded that Yakima didn't have a problem in any reasonable sense of the phrase "parking problem. If anything, they determined Yakima has a walking problem. But that too was tested and polled and the numbers showed that on average, most people would walk two blocks to attend an event of interest.
Health and age related issues aside, maybe that's not you. Maybe you just don't want to walk. Maybe you don't care about what experts call reasonable on a national scale. That's OK, you have the right to be you. But for planning purposes, you need to know where your opinion fits on the "what's reasonable" scale. So what if I don't want to walk up to two blocks? What if you want to park in front? We're a small town and you're used to finding a spot, maybe even YOUR spot? What if you don't want to deal with another's version of change? That's fine. But is that point of view a fair blueprint for the future?
Baseball Legend Yogi Berra is credited with once describing a restaurant as being so crowded that nobody goes there anymore. Ok that's impossible but you get the idea. With popularity and progress, there will be pressure on parking. The more success that the downtown generates, the more people will want to come. What restaurant, or theater or store wouldn't like to have the problem of a waiting list? To be so good, so popular and ultimately deliver on the promise so well that you are seen as well worth the wait? That kind of place will be a success-- with a parking problem.
So is a packed parking lot a problem or a sign of success? I guess that depends on the personality of our community and what you see as an acceptable level of success. Is the status quo enough? Maybe it is? Ask our seniors, but then ask our young people. Ask our business community and then ask our recruited new business professionals, Ask the old guard and then ask our visitors and tourists. Look to the past and then ask our future.
Some people will participate in a community process others while others will not. Some people will gripe, complain and posture without taking part in the process and others will not.
Some people will walk two blocks, each step in excitement and anticipation of the good times the destination will provide. Others will see a short walk as too much hassle and will choose to stay home. Both decisions are fine for the individuals involved. Now let me ask you this. If you are tasked with building for the future. If you are hired to look for progress, more options, more opportunity, revitalization and renewal, which point of view drives the course you pursue?
You can't be the same and be different at the same time.
But all of that has brought us to where we are now. Now there are 40 year old ordinances, legal documents, historical court decisions and different interpretations of what words or phrases mean all bubbling in the plaza stew. Both PDP and the City both believe their interpretations are correct.
May the best version of the future for Yakima win.