A residential parking zone is coming soon to Kent’s Mill Creek neighborhood in an effort to stop Sounder train commuters from parking on the streets.
City officials had planned to start the parking restrictions last June after Mill Creek residents complained about commuters taking up spots on the streets rather than parking in the Kent Station parking garage that typically fills up early in the morning on weekdays. Commuters ride the train for jobs in Seattle.
But city staff and leaders pulled the ordinance from the council agenda in May after voters turned down a city measure to raise utility taxes to pay for more Kent Police officers. City officials were concerned police didn’t have the staff to patrol the neighborhood for parking violators.
The council, however, approved a 2019-2020 budget that included funds for a second parking enforcement officer. Kent Police are working to fill that position.
“Thanks for your patience on this matter,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said to a few of the Mill Creek residents at the Jan. 7 council’s Public Works Committee meeting. “I know it was very frustrating last spring when issues about the ability to enforce the ordinance were raised. I am pleased with the new budget that we are able to get additional resources to move this forward.”
The full council is expected to consider the measure on Feb. 5 after the Public Works Committee recommended approval of the ordinance.
City crews plan to post the parking restriction signs this spring. They will install 38 signs and issue permit stickers to residents. The signs will cost about $25,000.
Drivers park in front of Mill Creek homes and walk to catch the train because the Sounder parking garage is just west of the neighborhood. Sound Transit plans to build a second parking garage in Kent with as many as 550 spots, but that isn’t expected to be ready until 2023.
The new residential parking zone signs will go up on State, Woodford, Kennebeck, Clark and Jason avenues as well as George, Cedar and Temperance streets. Permits, which neighborhood residents will be able to get for free from the city, will be required to park on the streets seven days a week. Violators could face a $50 ticket and may be towed.
Crews also will put up parking signs with restricted hours at two other locations. Signs with four-hour limits will go up near State Avenue North and East George Street because of nearby businesses. Two-hour signs will go up at East Smith Street and Clark Avenue North because of a nearby restaurant.
City officials have said commuters could use King County Metro’s James Street Park & Ride lot, 902 W. James St., as an alternative. It’s about a 10-minute walk and buses also are available between the Sounder station and the parking lot.
Kentridge parking limits
The committee gave approval for city staff to spend about $45,000 for 75 new parking restriction signs in neighborhoods south of Kentridge High School, 12430 SE 208th St. Students park on the streets because the school parking lot fills up.
Council members didn’t take any official action to approve a new ordinance because city staff needed to find out whether the committee wanted to try to use the old King County no parking signs that are in the neighborhoods from before the Panther Lake area annexed to Kent in 2010.
The committee decided to replace the signs because the existing signs do not all have the same restrictions. The times vary because of three different codes passed by the county.
Councilwoman Toni Troutner said the city will be able to recoup the costs of the signs with parking fines.
City staff didn’t have an exact date about when the proposal would be brought to the committee.
“We don’t want to get ahead of the police department,” Public Works Director Tim LaPorte said. “We will have a new zone (Mill Creek). Let’s see how much time it takes police to enforce that and after we check with police, so we can enforce what we come up with.”
Higgins would like to see the signs go up soon.
“Let’s have those discussions as quick as we can,” Higgins said. “The neighborhood’s been waiting a long time.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with an alternative parking lot for commuters at the James Street Park & Ride.