The Columbian / Associated Press

Main Street's marijuana traffic packs the parking

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Main Street Marijuana has drawn more visitors — and more traffic — to Uptown Village.

Some businesses say they’re happy to see the pot shop’s success, which has given them a new influx of customers, but a handful of residents near the shop say they’ve been plagued with inconsiderate out-of-town drivers who sometimes park directly in front of private driveways.

And it looks like things are just going to get busier as more businesses and a new apartment building enter into the equation.

“There’s definitely a growing concern about the lack of parking,” said Michelle Brinning, owner of Cellar 55 and a member of the Uptown Village Association. “The neighborhood is growing. There are more businesses, and that brings in a certain amount of traffic.”

The city of Vancouver parking management plan, developed with the Uptown Village Association, was created in 2006. Back then, peak parking activity along Main Street between 17th and 25th streets was 70.6 percent occupancy at 1 p.m. on a weekday.

The plan noted that if peak parking rates got closer to 85 percent occupancy, the community and city will need to look at new options for the area. Brinning said she thinks anecdotally the area is already there. And the city and Uptown Village businesses plan to meet and talk about the problem at the association’s meeting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow at Vancouver Pizza.

“Anecdotally, I would say we’re at 85 percent, just on the feedback from other merchants that are there,” Brinning said. “I think some will tell you it’s 105 percent.”

Another component of the 2006 plan is that Vancouver Parking Services doesn’t patrol the area. The agency comes in to enforce parking rules only when somebody lodges a complaint through its line at 360-487-8653 or on its website at

“If we receive a complaint about something, we’ll dispatch somebody to the area, but we have no active patrols,” said Mike Merrill, the city Parking Services Manager. “That’s part of the plan agreed upon in 2006.”

The city agency hasn’t done a study of maximum parking occupancy in the area since the 2006 plan, he added.

John Carroll, a resident in the area, said he thinks there should be a larger parking enforcement presence along the street. He was once in favor of the pot shop’s joining the area, but after seeing the traffic issues, he’s not so sure it’s a good fit, he said.

“The situation has changed dramatically,” Carroll said. “People from Oregon are coming into our neighborhood, parking illegally, and then taking their marijuana back to Oregon, also illegally. They park in front of our driveways. People are smoking pot in their cars, sometimes, as well.”

Carroll blames the store and thinks it should do something about the situation. But it’s not up to businesses to enforce parking regulations in the area.

And on its own, Main Street Marijuana has tried to address the problem where it can, said Ramsey Hamide, the store’s owner.

The shop recently added six parking spots in its back lot for customers, trying to relieve some of the pressure. And the store has a sign on the front door asking patrons to use those spots.

“We definitely have a direct impact on this area,” Hamide said. “But in some ways I think it looks worse than it is.”

Even when traffic is considerably busy, people can usually find parking within a five-minute walk or less from the store, and there’s almost always parking on Broadway and Washington streets just a few blocks away, he said.

Joel Mulligan, manager of Everybody’s Music, the record shop next to Main Street Marijuana, said the traffic issues are well worth the trade-off in new visitors to his store.

“Growth is something we’ve been wanting to do in this area for a long time,” Mulligan said. “It’s always been about growth here, and I’ve lived here for a long time. Now that we have that and we have extra foot traffic, everyone’s complaining about parking. But really, it’s certainly better than Portland’s parking. Maybe you can’t park exactly in front of the store you want, but I think there are easy solutions to that.”

Hamide said he thinks adding parking enforcement patrols in the area might be a good fix.

“We’ll see vehicles parked in 2-hour spots for days at a time,” Hamide said. “It’s inconvenient. I think if the city would actively enforce the parking here it would help.”

Chris Jochum, owner of Urban Eccentric, a clothing store that recently moved down the street to its new location across from Main Street Marijuana, said she isn’t sure whether the pot shop has done anything — either positive or negative — in terms of adding new foot traffic for her business. But she said she does notice that the pot shop draws a lot of out-of-town visitors into the area.

“People have complained about parking since we’ve been here, but I haven’t seen a huge problem,” Jochum said. “The Uptown Village Association has been really proactive about getting businesses and employees to not park on Main Street.”

The 2006 plan also encourages business employees and owners to park away from the 2-hour spots lining Main Street in Uptown — noting that those spots are first and foremost for customers visiting the area to shop at local stores. Side streets, on the other hand, are first and foremost for residents and their personal visitors, the plan notes.

There aren’t a lot of places where new parking lots or structures could go in the area, but Brinning said Uptown Village hopes to look at an array of options to help address the problem.

“As an organization we have to work on a solution,” she said. “We need to work with nearby residents, businesses and the city to figure out a plan. I look at it as a sign of the times, and that’s not entirely negative. It’s a sign that our business community is growing.”

Source: The Columbian / Associated Press