By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
DORAL, FL – If you live or work in Doral, you have probably faced several problems related to parking. Perhaps you are often unable to find a parking spot; you find yourself tired of people not complying with parking regulations or of the chaos created around the most problematic areas.
The reasons behind this are multiple, although most people agree that the difficulty to park is a natural consequence of the city growth, the overpopulation, and the public transportation system that many consider inefficient.
But as our intention is not to focus on the downside of parking but rather create productive conversations around the topic, Doral Family Journal spoke with community members, city representatives and competent authorities to get a bigger picture of the situation and analyze how can we as residents work towards bettering parking.
Limited spots, overpopulation and disrespectful behavior
For many people, parking in Doral is quite a challenge. This is the situation of Doral resident, community activist, realtor, and health insurance consultant Isabel Martin, who claims the main problem regarding parking is that some businesses operate in places where there is not enough parking space.
For Martin, this is especially clear in churches where oftentimes the amount of cars arriving exceed the capacity of the place. “People end up parking on the street and blocking main avenues,” says Martin.
Erika Montero, a Doral resident for 8 years and owner of Soy Cyber Mujer and Doral Kids Ideas websites, has a similar opinion. “Many places have so little space that people start becoming creative and park anywhere,” states Montero.
But how do residents think this problem can be solved? For Isabel Martin, a starting point is fining companies that violate parking regulations. “I think before granting a permit to, for example, a church, it should be calculated the impact of such church on the city considerating the possible number of parishioners and the land capacity,” adds Martin.
Erika Montero believes that the problem lies in the fact that the city is not accessible to a pedestrian crossing. “It is practically impossible to move without a car, and if everyone requires a car to move around, parking spaces get depleted,” says Montero. For her, increasing the number of spots allowed for parking in the most problematic areas could be a solution to this.
According to communications, public relations and digital marketing specialist Lilia Pozos, who has been living in Doral for two years, the lack of parking spots lead many residents to not only park in prohibited areas but in zones that are further away from where they are going.
“Some shopping centers collapse so much that it is necessary to park in front of another mall. If the parking lots were larger or other lands were enabled to park in that area, people would not have to move,” says Pozos.
But for her, this is not the only problem as she believes the public transportation system makes the situation worse. “I know we have a trolley, but I think there should be other options to move by walking. In Brickell, for example, there are metro rail, buses, and scooters, so people don’t need a car all the time,” states Pozos.
According to Isabel Martin, another problem that impacts parking is that sometimes more than one family lives in a residence. “Due to the high cost of rent, people make these arrangements and condominiums are not prepared to grant seats to so many people,” explains Martin.
On the other hand, she is concerned by the amount of people parking in areas for disabled use. “I think the Police could review handicapped decals with more detail to make sure that those who own one really need it because I know people who have obtained decals illegally,” states Martin.
The conversation with the City of Doral
Given the general discontent about parking in the city, City of Doral Public Works and Planning and Zoning departments answered some of the community’s concerns.
Regarding the little availability of parking spots, the Public Works Department stated that the main drawback is that public parking has currently no time restriction, which happens for instance in the Downtown area.
“We have no ordinances that restrict the use of on-street parking, so people can park for as long as they want with no fees or penalties. We want to incentivize people to park for short periods of time so that there is more vehicle turnover,” explains Rita Carbonell, Public Works Transportation Manager.
One way to enforce this is through parking meters. This measure is part of a study that the Public Works department is currently putting together with the purpose of improving parking that will be presented to the Mayor and the Doral Council in October. If approved, we would have parking meters in the Downtown area.
In addition to this, there is also the problem of little availability of parking spots in shopping centers. In this regard, Rita Carbonell explains that many areas in the city that nowadays have parking problems were approved under the county’s jurisdiction when Doral had not yet been established as a city.
“Those zones followed Miami-Dade criteria many years ago when the city was not fully built. As the city is being built, those implementations become too old for the growth is having,” explains Carbonell.
According to Javier González, director of Acting Planning and Zoning, the allocation of parking spaces made to each shopping center is based on square footage and land use.
“The only way to approve the construction of more parking spaces is if more square feets are built in a certain place. We cannot control the success of a business, as it happens with restaurants, that attract a great number of visitors,” says González.
However, the department maintains a list of uses for each shopping center in order to help the area have more balance with respect to parking. “Every time a new business wants to operate, we analyze whether its use would improve or worsen parking,” explains González.
Regarding the parking problem in some churches, Acting Code Compliance Director, Edgard Estrada, says all businesses and places that come to the city must have an occupational license and a certificate of use before opening to the public.
“When they are operating without these documents, the department sends a violation notification and opens a case that can involve paying a fine. But we don’t open cases just because parking becomes a difficulty ”, says the professional.
According to the expert, the problem with churches is that many are built-in warehouse zones that are not enabled for that use. “A lot of them begin to operate without having the corresponding permits,” says Estrada.
Given this scenario, what alternatives does the city propose? According to Rita Carbonell, the city recognizes that parking is a challenge in Doral, which is why she will recommend building public garages controlled by the city in the study she is preparing for the Mayor and the Doral Council.
On the other hand, the department will also propose to implement an ordinance that bans parking in warehouses areas where public space is currently being invaded; and it is also thinking about granting parking decals in surrounding public areas to residents who lack space for parking inside their condominiums.
Law enforcement and education
Doral Police confirmed that will be reinforcing parking laws more than ever. “We will write citations to those who park in areas for disabled people, in front of ‘no parking’ signs or that obstruct traffic for parking in non-permitted zones,” said Fatima Nuñez, Doral Police Patrol Captain.
Regarding the practice of obtaining decals for handicapped illegally, the Police explained that they had not received complaints in this matter, but do constantly monitor that those who park in disabled areas have the corresponding permits.
It should be noted that according to Nancy Gómez-Fernandez, Doral Police Captain in charge of support services for the department, each handicapped decal has a number that corresponds to the driver. This means that each decal is for personal and non-transferable use.
We must remind residents that the most expensive fines related with parking are for parking in disabled areas without having a permit ($ 253 dollars), as well as in areas aimed for the mobility of disabled people that have diagonal white lines ($ 153 dollars).