- 18th Street Enhancement Project
18th Street Enhancement Project
The City of Atlantic Beach is planning additional enhancements to 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 an April 2020 workshop. 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.
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.
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, the prevailing sentiment in the community is that doing so would not be in the public’s interest because it restricts access to the beach.
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.
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.
Action the City has taken since 2017:
- Reduced the public parking sunset from 11 p.m to 9 p.m.
- Added trash containers
- Relocated the shower from beside Beach Avenue/18th Street roadway
- Increased police patrols
- Cited illegally parked vehicles
- Assigned police volunteers and lifeguards to direct traffic
- Limited southbound traffic on Ocean Grove to thru-traffic
- Posted an electronic sign board
- Installed no parking signs across Seminole Road
Action the City is considering due to nearby community input:
- Paid parking
- Timed seasonal parking
- Security cameras
- Security lighting
- Improving the parking area’s aesthetics by landscaping and adding trees
- Aesthetically improving the beach walkover
- Reducing the number of parking spaces
- Swapping some vehicle spaces for bike parking
- Installing a sidewalk
Action the City has considered, but rejected
- Reducing the 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
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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