More restaurants making Nob Hill’s parking situation worse

(2 min read)

By Stephanie Guzman, Reporter for Albuquerque Business First:

As with most urban areas, Nob Hill has had a perceived parking problem for decades.

But with more restaurants opening in Nob Hill along Central Avenue, the long-expressed parking complaints by business owners and nearby residents are getting louder.

This comes at a time when more restaurants have taken over traditional retail spaces, such as Matanza, which took the former Savvy Boutique, and theforthcoming Jennifer James restaurant, which will replace Elsa Ross.

In general, it's understood by planners that restaurants and bars take up more parking spaces than traditional retail stores because they typically have more customers and employees. Yet new restaurants and bars coming to Nob Hill don't have to create new parking areas.

"There are 13 restaurants in one block that have zero parking. I don't think it's fair," said Steve Paternoster, the owner of Scalo Northern Italian Grill.

Paternoster said his restaurant is located in the Nob Hill Business Center, which has its own parking lot in front and an additional parking lot on Silver Avenue. He said his employees have a hard time finding parking, so he rents 10 spaces from a nearby church and four spaces in a different parking lot for his employees.

City Councilor Pat Davis, whose district covers Nob Hill, has heard similar stories from both restaurants and retailers.

Davis said before he was elected, an ordinance was passed that requires property owners to have one parking space for every six seats in a restaurant. This was also supposed to slow down the growing imbalance between retailers and restaurants in Nob Hill.

However, the city hasn't enforced the ordinance the way it was intended to be used, Davis said. That's because the city's zoning code doesn't require property owners with buildings before 1967 to create more parking spaces, since those buildings were developed before the city's first zoning code was put in place. This essentially exempts all of Nob Hill, unless the property owner adds more than 200 square feet.

"As Nob Hill transitions into a restaurant row, retailers are rightly complaining that restaurant customers, that stay longer and there are more of them, are taking up more spaces," Davis said.

A city analysis of restaurants on Central Avenue between Girard and Carlisle boulevards shows there are 25 restaurants within seven blocks, taking up nearly 99,000 square feet. The study doesn't account for new restaurants opening, nor restaurants in Nob Hill not located directly on Central Avenue.

The analysis found during peak times, such as Friday night dinner service, Nob Hill could see more than 3,400 people, counting both customers and employees. A parking analysis from 2010 says there are 3,029 parking spaces available in Nob Hill. While not every one of the 3,400 people will drive their own car, and some will take public transportation, the 3,029 parking spaces are meant for both restaurants, retailers and other businesses.

"The analysis of restaurant patrons and employees indicates that for the restaurant sector alone, there is not enough parking," the memo read.

New Mexico restaurants generate more than $3 billion in sales annually.