Guest Writer Taimi Dunn Gorman has been a Fairhaven customer since 1973. She was a founder of the Colophon Café in 1985 and a past president of both the Fairhaven Association and the Fairhaven Village Association. She helped create and named the “Fairhaven Village Green,” and created the “Fairhaven Ladies of the Evening Society.” She wrote the bestselling book, “Haunted Fairhaven.” She and her husband are “Builders of Bellingham” recipients from WWU, and she received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Fairhaven Association. She's written hundreds of customer service and business-related articles. Taimi is as passionate about Fairhaven’s future as she has been about its past. She also contends she will be one of the people standing in the rain trying to figure out parking machines, along with many others.
Once upon a time, before cars, condos and corporations, a poor woodsman came upon a hungry elf in the forest. The kind woodsman shared his last crust of bread. In return, the elf gave the man a goose, saying that if he cared for her, he would become wealthy.
Although the woodsman thought the elf was nuts, he accepted the goose, figuring it might be dinner for his impoverished family. The goose was so beautiful though, they kept her, and in the morning, they were rewarded with a golden egg. Each day after, she produced a valuable egg, and their days of poverty were gone.
Soon the family had all they ever wanted, but one egg a day wasn’t paying for things as fast as they bought them, and oddly enough, the town money lenders didn’t consider a stupid goose a good investment.
The woodsman, not being a rocket scientist, decided he could get all the eggs at once if he killed the goose. Inside there were no eggs.*
Hundreds of years later, a village named Fairhaven began killing their goose, only much more slowly. One might say their “goose is being cooked” on low heat. It has become a victim of its own success. If you haven’t yet heard about the new parking changes in Fairhaven, you’re not alone. Computerized metered parking has come to Fairhaven. A bean counter’s dream was hatched by the city of Bellingham.
I’ve been frequenting Fairhaven since I entered WWU in 1973. It also happens to be the year of the very first “Fairhaven Business District Study” formed by the city of Bellingham. Since then, there have been flocks of committees, proposals, and parking districts. I should know. I co-founded the Colophon Café in 1985, when many buildings were still boarded up and Mill Street was a gravel road. A boom was on its way.
Ten years ago, the City Council directed the Bellingham Public Works Department to form a committee to study the “perception” of the “lack of parking” situation. The Fairhaven Neighborhood Plan stated that through a magical thing called “parking management,” Fairhaven traffic could be reduced by 20%-40%. Although a few Fairhaven business property owners were included in this decision, no one directly asked the business owners if they were prepared to lose 20%-40% of their customers. It appeared merchants didn’t have the nerve to ask their employees or condo neighbors to park somewhere besides the front of their businesses.
Since 1994, 32 new buildings have sprouted up on every vacant lot once utilized for parking. The city requires one parking space for each 1 to 2-bedroom condo, and 1.5 car spaces (1/2 a car?) for more than 3 bedrooms. This leaves nearly every unit with a car parked on the street.
In a Fairhaven Merchant Zoom meeting on October 13th, 2021, (14 in attendance), rather than addressing new parking plans, Public Works reminded us lazy folk that we should take the bus, walk, or ride a bike. This alternative fairy tale of transportation has never gone well with the over 60 crowd, the disabled, and families with dogs, kids, and groceries, or anyone trying to get to work on time.
When Bellingham Public Works Director Eric Johnston was asked directly how much these 47 meters cost the city or how much they might expect in revenue, the pause was significant and a regurgitated worm of “we don’t know” was offered up. At no time did he mention that they ALREADY HAD THE METERS.
On October 27th, 2021, the city website magically noted that the computerized meters were originally purchased for downtown Bellingham before it was discovered they didn’t really need them. Instead of taking up space in a warehouse, the obvious resting place for them was Fairhaven. After all, it’s an easy thing to pull one over on the poor, seniors who can’t figure out their cell phones, and students who can’t afford pay parking while they wait tables for minimum wage. These people probably likely wouldn’t notice the upcoming meters until it was too late.
I began protesting the meters immediately. Residents and business owners sent letters to the city. I was informed by a City Council member that a vote on the meters had been pushed to Spring of 2022.
Despite the promise of a delayed decision and gathering more public opinion, the latest parking regulations were posted after a sudden 9:00 a.m. vote on January 24th by the Public Works Committee, rather than out in the open at a City Council meeting. There was no publicized agenda. Two out of three letters already received by the city were against the meters.
From Monday to Saturday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, customers are now punished for visiting Fairhaven. The cost is $1.00 per hour, slated to increase over time. The fee for an expired meter is $30. Hundreds of employees have no alternative parking, except for one permitted block on McKenzie Avenue (which sold out immediately to condo dwellers to avoid paying their garage fees). The meters range from 8th Street to 13th and from McKenzie Avenue to Knox. To avoid the cost, Fairhaven employees will be parking on neighborhood streets.
They plan to raise the rates as time goes on. This is only the beginning of the cooking of the goose, called “Progressive Parking Rates.” The video of this plot may be viewed online. Apparently, the City Council doesn’t think $1.00 per hour is a lot for most people to spend, even if they can figure out how the meters work on their cell phones.
These meters will NOT generate money for Fairhaven or future parking. It will become a bureaucracy that simply pays for itself to manage. In other words, the meters will encourage customers to leave Fairhaven as quickly as possible, or not visit at all. Gone are the days of leisurely lunches, followed by a stroll or shopping.
After the goose was shoved in the convection oven, and the meters in place, the Fairhaven Association and Parking Task Force pulled their heads from the sand and wrote to the City of Bellingham, reminding the city that they had conveniently forgotten their promise to identify and create new parking spaces before implementing paid parking.
Fairhaven got along just fine for a hundred years without parking rules. Poor planning all the way around has created an untenable situation. Since the meters went in, Fairhaven looks like a ghost town. Everyone is complaining.
My doctor is in Fairhaven, as are my physical therapist, clothing stores, bookstore, greeting card & gift store, jewelry store, and most of my favorite restaurants. I shop in Fairhaven rather than spending online and giving money to guys who like to shoot themselves into space, while thanking their poverty-stricken employees for paying for it.
As the goose bakes slowly, the meters are now installed and surprising Fairhaven visitors who didn’t expect them. An option might have been to sell the machines and begin working on alternative parking for employees.
The current recommendations to ride the bus or ride a bike are fabulous if you are 20, single, and live in San Diego. I am 66 and often use a cane due to arthritis and other issues. I don’t want to spend my Social Security on a parking space…even if it is in Fairhaven.
* Many other stories contain geese that lay golden eggs, though certain versions change them for hens or other birds that lay golden eggs. The tale has given rise to the idiom 'killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,’ which refers to the short-sighted destruction of a valuable resource, or to an unprofitable action motivated by greed.