A few thoughts on the Sgt. Jasper PUD parking spin

Puddle of PUD

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Many residents from Harleston Village and South of Broad turned out for last week's public meeting on the Beach Company's redevelopment plans - PAUL BOWERS FILE PHOTO
  • Paul Bowers file photo
  • Many residents from Harleston Village and South of Broad turned out for last week's public meeting on the Beach Company's redevelopment plans
The fight over the proposed Sgt. Jasper PUD isn't my fight. In fact, I really don't care too much about it.

That said, I do take a particular delight in seeing the Harleston Village-South of Broad neo-NIMBYs losing their collective shit because of an expected influx of new neighbors, if only because it's fun to watch the well-to-do get in a tizzy. 

But as much as my middle-class miscreant self enjoys a bit of 1% schadenfreude, the anti-PUD crowd has a point: parking is going to suck and traffic is going to be a constant mess. (Thanks to the PUD, an additional 200 new residential units will be added to the area. Some could have only one occupant, others two or more, so figuring out how many people the PUD will bring to the area is difficult to quantify.)

All of this is why I can't stand the spin coming from the PUD's developers, the Beach Company, and particularly the PR sharts proclaiming that the new mixed-use complex will actually decrease traffic. Or as Paul Bowers reported last week:
Scott Parker, the urban planner working for the Beach Company, says that in the broader picture of the peninsula, increasing the housing stock within walking or bicycling distance of major workplaces — including the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina — means fewer cars coming and going from the suburbs every day at rush hour.

"Any time you're talking about new development, most people are concerned about congestion," Parker says. "When you say some new development is coming, it means more cars, which means it's more difficult to move around. And the reality with the Jasper is it's actually the opposite. New development means less cars, because when you have folks that are living here that are working in these locations, they don't get in their car to go to work. So literally you're taking cars out of the system."
In an interview with The Post and Courier's Frank Wooten — who wrote a markedly lucid and somewhat funny column for a change — Parker spat out the same bit of walkability-spin again:
As for concerns that the project would intensify motor vehicle traffic, DesignWorks co-founder Scott Parker, who’s working with The Beach Company on the plan, offered this counter-argument:

“The more people living there, the less people will be driving to work.”

Before dismissing that notion as scary and confusing, consider Parker’s expert assertion that residents of the new Jasper would be within walking and biking distance of the medical district, the King-Broad business district and the College of Charleston.
That’s all well and good if downtown Charleston actually was a hub of corporate activity. Aside from MUSC and CofC, downtown’s biggest and primary industry is the service industry, which is centered on tourism and food and beverage. Chances are, these folks won’t be able to afford what we’ll assume will be the PUD’s sky-high rents. And aside from a small murder of daddy-money bros and co-eds, plus a few MUSC and CofC employees, the PUD will largely be the home address for folks who simply want to live in downtown Charleston.

Now, those folks might be young professionals in the Holy City's burgeoning tech industry, but if they are, they'll still likely get in their cars everyday and go to work. So once again, traffic will increase.

More likely, Harleston's newest residents will be empty nesters looking to downsize into a life of forever vacay leisure — and they'll be bringing their cars along with them. And with no jobs, they'll be looking for something to do. Obviously, you can only tour graveyards downtown for so long, so you can guarantee they'll be driving in and out of PUD parking all day long.

And don't even get me started on the folks who'll park on the street, residential parking permit or not. Even if they don't do it over-night or the like, you can guarantee there will be plenty of folks who do it here and there because it's convenient and really, officer, it was only for like five minutes.

So anyone who is arguing that the PUD will actually reduce traffic and not impact parking, please stop. No one believes it. Not for a second.


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