By editorial board • 

Alter parking garage to fully tap potential

There is a tool McMinnville has in spades, although may not utilize as much as it should. It was key in the renovation of Alpine Avenue, and should be put into play again as the city seeks to improve conduct at and usage of its downtown parking structure. 

That tool is creativity.

In the parking study recently presented to the council, a major suggestion was upgrading the structure to gain full benefit. For many years, it has been unattractive to motorists but attractive to vagrants, who turned it into makeshift living quarters and, worst of all, a convenient outdoor latrine.

On Tuesday, Councilor Remy Drabkin mentioned a memo previously presented by Police Chief Matt Scales about using environmental and design elements to deter crime.

The technique is known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. The five concepts of CPTED are design, natural surveillance, access control, signage and graphics, and natural territorial reinforcement. 

A plan is underway to create a code of conduct for the structure that will formalize what is acceptable and put everyone on notice through signage. That’s a good first step, but by itself won’t solve McMinnville’s parking structure issues.

CPTED was not a practice when most parking facilities were created, thus they were erected with no provision to deter of crime. They are often dark, with many shadowy corners, making surveillance difficult.

However, there has been much research completed on adding elements to enhance the quality of life in parking areas. At the top of the list in most studies is lighting.

This may require installing new fixtures and enhancing existing ones. It may also include painting the dark, grimy cement walls a bright color — say, white or light blue. 

Implementing CPTED theory into parking design is, unfortunately, more expensive when undertaken retroactively. But it’s far cheaper than building a new structure, as the city’s parking consultant pointed out. 

Some who take refuge in the parking structure do so respectfully. Other homeless people have taken to indecent behavior in the area. Regardless, something must be done to clean up this piece of public property so it can be used for its intended purpose.

Ultimately, of course, places capable of sheltering the displaced homeless must be developed. Otherwise, we are just moving the problem to a new location.

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