By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
Attention Hilo parking space hogs: You’re being put on notice.
In an email sent to downtown Hilo business owners, the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association has announced an expansion of its efforts to curb illegal parking.
HDIA President Jeffrey Melrose wrote in the letter that the organization fields “regular concerns from merchants and customers about the availability of parking spaces near local businesses in downtown. The issue we hear most often is that some businesses or their employees are parking in 2 hour stalls and staying all day.”
According to Hawaii Police Department Lt. John Briski, business owners have been talking with the Community Policing Division for some time now to try and come up with a way to address illegal parking.
“People don’t realize that the businesses are dependent on the very limited amount of parking that they have,” he said. “We’ve received a number of calls from different businesses that requested we come out and speak to owners of vehicles in regards to complaints.”
However, he said, the police department does not currently have an officer specifically assigned to patrolling downtown Hilo’s parking spaces. While Briski couldn’t say how many parking citations have been given out in the downtown Hilo area, he added that general patrol officers have the ability to ticket illegally parked cars, but often must respond to higher priority calls before they can take time to handle parking complaints.
With the police department’s limited resources taken into account, the business owners have decided to try policing the parking problems themselves, using what they call “A Friendly Parking Reminder.”
Business owners are being encouraged to keep an eye on parking in the area and to leave one of the reminders on vehicles that habitually violate the two-hour limit.
“The stall you are parked in has a time limit of 2 hours,” the slips of paper read. “This area is reserved for customers, which are essential to the long-term vitality of businesses in downtown Hilo. Please park in the 8 hours stalls located on the makai side of Kamehameha Avenue or make arrangements with your employer to secure a private parking place in one of several private lots in downtown.”
According to Alice Moon, the HDIA’s executive director, business owners have repeatedly complained about employees or owners of nearby businesses who regularly use the two-hour spaces to park all day long.
“It all comes down to common courtesy,” she said. “Parking has been a problem downtown for decades. Parking meters were removed in the last 15 years to encourage more business. But the parking situation now has required us to try various things.”
Moon did not name specific individuals, but she did say that there are some well-known, “regular, habitual violators” who park in the stalls of neighboring businesses instead of parking in longer-term spaces further away.
She added that there are several private parking lots in and around downtown that offer spaces for between $30 and $70 a month.
The new self-policing parking effort is an attempt to remind business owners and employees that in the end, they are only hurting themselves by taking up spots that could be used by customers.
“You can’t have more customers … if they don’t have parking,” she said.
The letter sent out to downtown businesses added that in the instance that repeated reminders to violators fail to work, business owners may email the HDIA at firstname.lastname@example.org with the vehicle’s license number and car description.
“We will pass your note on to the county parking enforcement officer to follow up with an enforcement action,” Melrose wrote.
The HDIA’s parking enforcement plan is “an experiment that we will run until the end of July,” Melrose wrote. The program will then be re-evaluated, he said.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.