Stevenson Street Abandonment Headed to Council Jan 17

by Mike Van Houten / Dec 17, 2023

UPDATE 12/22/2023 - The developer has uploaded revised street operation plans for Stevenson Street. You can find the revised plan below, at the bottom of this article which gives more parking spaces to the public. 

Developers want the City of Reno to abandon Stevenson Street between 1st and 2nd Street, granting the developers the rights to build private and public angled parking on the street instead of parallel parking, and converting the street to a one-way thru-street for vehicle traffic from from 1st to 2nd Street. 

There were previous plans to develop this into a green space between two residential projects flanking Stevenson Street, but the Reno City Council back then had concerns about maintenance of the green space and public access/right of way, so they denied it, citing it would be a good candidate for their new tool, Development Agreements. But the idea fizzled out at some point during that internal process...and then came back a couple years later as a proposal to abandon the street for angled parking instead

Now it looks like it is finally making its way back to the City Council again January 17

Below is an image of the concept for the abandonment and subsequent plans by ECI Riviera 1 & 2 LLC, whom I think are the folks who developed Mod and Mod II. 

So here's my hot take. Street abandonments are final. There's no going back. I'm not even sure if legally, stipulations can be tied to a street abandonment, unless it's tied to a Development Agreement, which is why the city council the first time, wanted to go the development agreement route for the prior abandonment. I believe, if memory serves, their thinking was/is items like landscape maintenance, sidewalk mainrenance/repair of public easements/rights-of-ways of the gren space, could all be finalized in the Development Agreement so it could be legallyb ound, and not just taking the developer's word for it that they will do this or that. 

To be balanced let's look at both sides. The applicant does raise two valid points that the street is a one-block street that terminates on both 1st and 2nd Street, and that they do plan on allowing one-way thru access. The street would look better with some landscaping as well. It's actually a solid concept for increasing downtown parking, IF all the parking were dedicated to public use. This is a project the City of Reno should be doing, but probably can't afford. 

However the 'pros' for me stop there. There are currently by my count, 23-ish parking spaces on Stevenson Street. You can see in the photo below, taken on Sunday December 17, every public space on the street is full. I stuck around for a bit and watched traffic. The five I saw who parked while I was there, walked over to the church on 2nd and Arlington. So, it was being used as auxillary parking for downtown venues. 

The developer's concept proposes 70 pull-in parking spaces with 12 of them being public access, and the remainder being for private use (the developer's use). 

On a surface level, I do have an issue with handing over city-owned property to a developer that would otherwise probably cost the developer a few million to purchase on the private market, for the developer's private use sans 12 public spaces. Beyond that, we have learned over and over again that once the city abandons a street, the deveoper is not bound to then use it in the way they described during the abandonment process. It's their property, they can do whatever they want with it. Even if we did like this concept and were ok with it, there's nothing, to my knowledge, binding the developer to actually follow through with these plans. At least, not in the traditional street-abandonment sense. That's why this should be put in a development agreement, so legally binding stipulations could be applied to the developer that yes, he will keep this a one-way street and yes, he will keep public parking spaces for x number of years. 

Second, I'd be more inclined to support this if it were an even swap of spaces. If there are currently 23-ish parking spaces on Stevenson Street, and this concepts ups that to 70, then keep 23 of the spaces public instead of 12. Boom done, even swap. The developer still gets a gain of 47 spaces without paying a dime for the extra property. 

But on an even higher level, is it a bit silly to be talking about giving up public assets for a project that didn't plan for enough parking spaces of its own? In a downtown environment where parking requirements for projects are eliminated to help spur dense development...yes. Yes it is silly. 

But nonetheless, I'd be inclined to support this if: (1) it was included in a development agreement that the developer pay for the maintenance of the added landscaping, keep Stevenson Street open as a one-way thru street for x number of years, and maintain 23 public parking spaces, or however many are currently available on Stevenson Street, as an even swap, and the developer gets to keep the remainder. 

UPDATE 12/22/2023

The developer has uploaded a revised plan for Stevenson Street's operation, which you can find below. 

Stevenson Street Abandonment 
Proposed Operational Characteristics (between City of Reno & applicants on both sides of Stevenson Street)

  • This a “Partial Abandonment” meaning thru public access will be maintained in a one-way fashion with a public ease easement in favor of the public.
  • There will be 33 angled parking stalls on both sides of the street (per abandonment exhibits). So, there are 66 spaces total.
  • Applicants will fund and construct the new Landscape islands and street trees (per exhibits).
  • Applicants will fund and complete the new parking, signage, and striping plan.
  • Public Parking Spaces: 20 spaces total on the south end of the block (closest to 1st street and the river)
  • West side:  There will be 12 spaces on the west side of the street for public use.
  • East Side: There will be 8 spaces on the east side of the street for public use.
  • The city will install meters as they see fit to benefit the public for all of these 20 spaces.
  • The west side petitioner/applicant to control remaining 21 spaces on the west side.  These spaces will be metered or signed for short term parking (2-hour limit or less intended).  When development of the adjacent property occurs, that may result in driveway cuts for access and the number of spaces is reduced accordingly. The city will be party to this in the design and approval process.
  • East side: ECI will manage the 25 spaces for their multi-family uses with signage that effectively states “Parking by Permit only” or something suitable. These spaces will be restricted to permit holders, i.e. residents and neighbors who are required to have a permit to park there.  ECI will issue and manage these permits to promote sharing by residents/neighbors.  ECI plans to give permits to Father Chuck and to the John White law firm, to help them with their parking needs.


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