JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- First Street in Jacksonville Beach has, for years, been a busy weekend hangout, but controlling the crowds has become even more of a challenge recently.
After speaking with his downtown area supervisors, Police Chief Pat Dooley thinks he knows why.
At a city council meeting Monday, he blamed part of the problem with crowd control on First Street's brand new design.
"It's creating a very positive environment for cruising which is something we're trying to deter right now."
Since 2007, $5.5 million has been spent redeveloping the area, and part of that money went to new parallel parking spots along First Street. Dooley says those spots, between Beach Blvd and 4th Avenue North, are causing congestion during peak tourist times.
"They're parking out into the street a little bit further because there's no clear delineated spaces there."
The unintended result, Dooley says, is slower traffic, and drivers interacting with pedestrians. Dooley thinks blocking the parking spots on weekends, from 8 PM Friday throgh Sunday night and on holidays could help.
But Faried Elchaer, owner of Habibi Mediterranean Restaurant on First Street disagrees. While he admits cruising is common, he doesn't think it's a problem. He says business owners can't afford to lose valuable parking on busy weekends.
"You can't control everyone, there's going to be a few bad eggs, but for the most part everybody's doing a fine job keeping everything family friendly, so I think it's fine the way it is."
Mayor Charlie Latham tells Action News he is open to all ideas, but is not convinced modifying parking along First Street is the answer. He says he plans a ride-along with Dooley on Sunday to see the problem firsthand.