Scheduling key to PEAK and neighborhood

City officials are hoping a shared scheduling system set to begin a few months before PEAK opens will finally bring order to the chaotic parking and traffic situation at the high school, district campus and surrounding neighborhood.

The proposed Boys and Girls Club youth center, called PEAK, has sparked a debate over land use in the surrounding neighborhood and accentuated the current parking and traffic problems in the area.

When the Mercer Island School District and the city begin using a coordinated scheduling system for the various uses of the district campus, the focus of the reservation system will be on parking.

According to Curt Brees, Parks and Recreation operations manager, and Amber Britton, the city’s facility scheduler, the software the city has to schedule use of its fields and community center could be adapted to manage the limited parking at the district campus. However, the school district has traditionally used their own separate ways to schedule classrooms and its other indoor facilities.

The city and the school district currently share the software the city has used since 2000, called CLASS, to schedule the high school field. That software is capable of scheduling the proposed new facility, Britton said.

“It’s basically used to prevent overbooking,” said Britton. “It’s color coded and if there’s an event scheduled at the community center that requires all the parking spots then an administrative hold can be put on the other rooms so they are not scheduled and the center is not overbooked.”

“CLASS gives you the tools to see if there’s enough parking available when scheduling events,” she said.

While there have been concerns over the potential impacts on the parking situation once the Boys and Girls Club’s proposed youth facility PEAK is built, the current parking areas are often overused and spill over into the surrounding neighborhood. A lack of parking management has had direct impacts on the current campus tenants.

Youth Theater Northwest executive director, Ben Keylin, said the theater currently has the same right as all the other tenants. They can use the parking lot but they are not allowed exclusivity, meaning they are not promised or reserved any spots. He also said the lack of enforcement is an issue. There are often several cars parked in the lot for weeks at a time with for sale signs in them.

“Right now the parking lot is sometimes the site of a disaster, especially on the days we need it most - the weekends,” Keylin said. “I’ve had people call me and say they just didn’t make it to the theater because they could not find anywhere to park. On Friday Saturday and Sunday we’re usually busy. And that’s 39 weekends of the year.

“There’s no parking management now. I’d like to see some kind of monitor, somebody with some sway,” Keylin said. “I’ve heard all kinds of suggestions but it’d be nice to see a master plan or some plan other than the catches catch can. If we’re lucky, then maybe we’ll get a better system because of PEAK. I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

In addition to the main tenants of the campus, there are surrounding facilities, such as the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and St. Monica Church and School, that could potentially schedule an event at the same time as a campus tenant contributing to the parking and traffic crunch.

Liz Dodd, the associate superintendent of business services for the school district, said the new scheduling system will allow the school district to ensure that major events won’t coincide with one another. That way the parking demand is managed without reserving or assigning spots to certain tenants at certain times.

“This will allow us to ensure that opening night at the theater is not scheduled with a swim meet at Mary Wayte Pool or a CHILD parent’s night,” Dodd said. “It’s going to be used to prevent overlapping events.”

The city is allowed to schedule the high school field because it agreed to help fund the renovation for access in return. However, the school district still has first priority of the field, Dodd said, and it typically schedules events three months in advance. The city can fill in the gaps. Field use is then awarded on a first come first serve basis to the general public.

“The one that reserves first wins,” Britton said. But Brees added there are guidelines that allow certain types of reservations to be entered first. For instance, city programs get priority over private renters of the gymnasium at the community center. Once Parks and Rec. has scheduled all of its events, the schedule is offered to the general public, first come first serve, Brees said.

Dodd said the district is not fully confident that the city’s system will be capable of scheduling operations for the entire campus and all the tenants.

“The city system works fine for scheduling outdoor events,” Dodd said. “But there are more obstacles for using that system for indoor events, mainly the coordination of all the tenants.”

While the city may put an administrative hold on a smaller room at the community center when the large Mercer Room is scheduled for a major event, the businesses and organizations at the district campus are allowed to operate when another tenant has a major event scheduled. They just won’t be able to schedule coinciding major events.

Daniel Johnson, CEO of King County Boys and Girls Club, said the Mercer Island club currently uses a scheduling person and the club will probably hire someone for a part time position to manage PEAK’s scheduling. He also said the club recognizes the importance of a coordinated scheduling system. Adding a Boys and Girls Club scheduler would mean there are three people responsible for preventing parking disasters. Ann Meisner does the scheduling for high school events and Britton for the city.

Brees and Britton said the software could work under whatever parameters are necessary to ensure tenants could be operating without conflict.

“It can be used to track parking at the campus based on the lot’s capacity,” Brees said. “CLASS could be adopted to meet that need to schedule the use of facilities and then schedule the parking.”

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