- 18th Street Enhancement Project
18th Street Enhancement Project
The City of Atlantic Beach is enhancing the 18th Street beach access parking area to address residents’ concerns of congestion and nuisance activity. The initiative complements the City’s aim to beautify the community’s beach accesses.
By all accounts, the number of 18th and 19th street beachgoers has increased steadily through the years. On most days throughout the year, the public parking area is orderly; on many, days, however, the area is crowded with vehicles and traffic is heavy. Nearby neighbors say the behavior of many of the people who park on 18th Street often ranges from drunken to criminal, creating safety issues and detracting from the otherwise residential nature of the neighborhood.
In 2018, the City Commission rejected a recommendation from the ad hoc Pedestrian and Parking Safety Advisory Resource Committee for parallel parking, and asked the committee and staff to examine other options that would result in no net loss of parking and could improve conditions.
In September 2019, the City Commission allocated $125,000 for 18th Street improvements in its Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, which was approved following two workshops and two public hearings. Before the budget allocation, the City Commission and administration received substantial input from residents throughout the City. Much of that input came via the Parking and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Resource Committee.
The City Commission reviewed various proposals to address concerns and nuisance activity at April 2020 and June 2020 workshops, among other meetings. Particularly due to divergent interests in the community, the City Commission and staff – with residents’ helpful input – are attempting to determine the best course of action moving forward.
Public access and minimum number of required spaces
The beach belongs to the public and the public is lawfully entitled to have access to it. While some residents in the area have advocated for the reduction of public parking on 18th Street, others say that doing so would not be in the public’s interest.
Further, the City’s current Comprehensive Plan states, “the City shall maintain all beach parking … and reduction in the number of public parking spaces available at beach accesses shall not be permitted unless such eliminated spaces are replaced in equal numbers and within similar proximity to the beach.”
Perhaps most substantially, millions of shore protection dollars are funded through a cost-share partnership with the City of Jacksonville and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Full eligibility of cost-share funding in AB is jeopardized if the City does not maintain at least 44 public parking spaces (or the equivalent thereof) at 18th Street.
March 31, 2021, Beach Parking Inventory Analysis
The City Engineer and Community Development Department updated the beach parking inventory and recalculated how these parking spaces translates to FDEP cost-share funding for beach renourishment. This specific-purpose inventory was completed to assess the City’s public beach parking in the context of FDEP cost-share funding eligibility for beach renourishment authorized by the Duval County Shore Protection Project
August 2020 Enhancements
To address nearby residents’ concerns about safety, congestion and garbage, City staff implemented some low-cost, City Commission-directed 18th Street enhancements in August 2020. The measures -- which represent some of the ideas recently proposed by a consultant -- are the latest in an ongoing effort to improve the quality of life for residents and beachgoers, alike.
On the south side of 18th Street, the parallel vehicle parking spaces have been replaced with a pedestrian path, bicycle racks, and golf cart/low-speed-vehicle parking spaces.
On the north side of 18th Street, two areas have been established for (1) additional garbage containers, and (2) to enable people to keep a safe distance from traffic before and after exiting their vehicles.
These measures mimic some recommendations made by a consultant in June; the work was performed by Public Works Department staff.
Please note that the 18th Street changes implemented this week will be carefully evaluated by city staff and, particularly, the public. To provide your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. As we demonstrated by implementing these changes, we are listening!
Also, please note that the City is taking a phased approach to this initiative, and additional 18th Street enhancements are forthcoming. Among the desired outcomes of this initiative is a change in beach-goers’ behavior; in particular, it is hoped that more people will opt to walk and bike to the beach.
Full eligibility of state cost-share funding for shore-protection projects in Atlantic Beach requires that the City maintains the equivalent of at least 44 public parking spaces at 18th Street. According to the state code, four bicycle spots are equivalent to one automobile parking space. The City remains well within the 18th Street parking eligibility requirements for cost-share funding.
City Commission review
Following deliberations by the former Parking and Pedestrian Safety Resource Advisory Committee, proposed 18th Street enhancements have been discussed and/or reported on at these City Commission workshops and meetings.
Action the City has taken since 2017 (updated September 2020):
The City of Atlantic Beach latest 18th Street beach access parking area safety enhancements – a security camera system – is in place. This initiative was requested by residents who live in the area.
Here is additional action at the 18th Street beach access parking area the City has taken to address concerns of congestion and nuisance activity:
- Security cameras
- Eliminated seven parallel and two pull-in parking spaces without jeopardizing the City’s shore-protection cost-share eligibility (see coab.us/973/18th-Street-Enhancement-Project)
- Installed a walking path
- Added bike racks and golf carts/low-speed-vehicle parking
- Added safety areas for beach-goers on the north side of the street.
- Added trash containers
- Installed no-parking signs across Seminole Road
- Posted an electronic sign board
- Limited southbound traffic on Ocean Grove to thru-traffic during peak times
- Assigned police volunteers and lifeguards to direct traffic
- Cited illegally parked vehicles
- Increased police patrols
- Relocated the shower from beside the Beach Avenue/18th Street roadway
- Reduced the public parking sunset from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Action the City is considering due to safety, congestion and other issues raised by nearby residents:
- Paid parking
- Timed seasonal parking
- Security lighting
- Improving the parking area’s aesthetics by landscaping and adding trees
- Widening and aesthetically improving the beach walkover
Additional action the City has considered:
- Reducing the net number of spaces to fewer than 44, the minimum number allowed for federal shore-protection funding
- Adding parking on Saturiba Drive
- Altering the traffic pattern
- Sidewalk or painted pedestrian path on the north side of the road
18th Street history: The number of parking spaces has remained consistent since at least 1971
1971: The Jacksonville Planning Board reported that there were 54 parking spaces at the 18th Street beach access.
Circa 1990: The Florida Department of Natural Resources and City of Jacksonville reported that there were 51 parking spaces at the 18th Street beach access.
2004-Present: Aerial photos from 2004, 2008, 2011 and 2020 indicate that there are 51 parking spaces – 44 perpendicular spaces (including two handicap spaces) on the north side and seven parallel spaces on the south side.
FDEP reporting error
It was recently discovered that the City of Jacksonville-FDEP cost-sharing agreement contains erroneous information pertaining to the number of required 18th Street public parking spaces. FDEP has provided a formal letter apologizing for confusion and confirming that parking spaces at 18th Street are counted for shore protection.
Following are links to various documents pertaining to the 18th Street beach access parking area.
Duval County shore protection
Duval County beach property owners and visitors have been the beneficiaries of federally funded shore protection projects for decades. Most recently, following back-to-back Northeast Florida hurricanes, the City of Jacksonville and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District expedited beach clean-up, land and sea surveys, contracts, and construction work along the Duval County beach shoreline, including Atlantic Beach.
The goal of engineered shore projects is to reduce risk and promote coastal resilience. Shore projects help to reduce the damages - economic, environmental, infrastructure, human health and safety - of tropical storms and hurricanes. Thousands of residents and businesses in Duval County benefit from these shore project because storm events erode the beach rather than destroying coastal infrastructure. Coastal communities with engineered beaches have historically fared much better than other communities as proven by numerous studies.
Along with providing economic stability and opportunities, shore protection projects also have inherent benefits in restoring critical habitat for shorebird and marine turtle nesting.
The first Duval County project shore protection project was in 1978-80 and since then, sevent principal beach renourishment and dune restoration projects occurred, in addition to periodic placement of sand dredged from navigation projects.
For more information
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