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February 21, 2010

WC Parking Chronicles Part 1: A reader’s confession about how a valet parking situation pushed him over the edge

A reader e-mailed me a couple weeks ago with his story of frustration about encountering many empty valet-parking designated spaces in an otherwise packed downtown lot. This reader sounds like a normally sane, rational person (unlike yours truly), but this particular situation, on a Saturday afternoon, made him mad and lash out in a way that caught him by surprise.

Before I let this reader explain his story, I wanted to let you know that his story prompted me to request a copy of the online Downtown Parking Customer Survey. It was a survey of people of who, work and visit in Walnut Creek. Nearly 400 respondents participated in this survey, and 237 of them shared their personal opinions on the parking situation. In reviewing those opinions, I determined the top gripes amongst people who had them. I then did an e-mail Question and Answer about those gripes with Kish Rajan, a City Councilman and co-chair the Downtown Parking Task Force, which was formed in response to concerns about parking. That Question and Answer is in the post below.

I should note that one of those top gripes had to do with valet parking, specifically just the sort of thing that hit a raw nerve with this reader. Not all respondents were negative in this survey; indeed, a fair number said they were satisfied with the amount of parking in downtown. But, I couldn’t find any respondents saying they liked the valet parking program, instituted by the Downtown Business Association. It is available in different garages, is run by a private company, Signature Parking, and costs $5 to $7.

Here is this reader's story. He had his meltdown in the garage off Duncan Street, a location for one of these Signature Parking valet stations:

Now, please note that I have been very supportive of the parking situation in WC in general considering the four big, free parking garages downtown. However today I flew off the handle. This afternoon, as I turned the corner where Starbucks is, I noted there were 40 spots available in the garage, and entered happily knowing there'd be a spot available. Soon however I noticed cars backing up, while cars were exiting as well. Hmm, I wondered why all these people were leaving at the same time. Eventually I rounded the last corner, and hit the highest level outside. And that was where I noticed cars doing u-turns well before the end of the lot. I figured people didn't want to park outside as it was drizzling at the time. So when I finally get to that point, I noticed it was blocked off for valet parking. And by the way, the valet parking there was empty.


So that's what happened the 40 extra spots I thought. I was about to do a u-turn, when I decided to take a mini-stand, got out of the car, and proceeded to kick each of the valet parking signs down in a fit of anger at what happened. I then did the u-turn, and when I reached the bottom I found a 20-minute spot which I took. When I got out of the car, a young man who worked for the valet company approached me and asked me why I did that, something like, "why are you making my job hard for me man?"


So I proceeded to show him the 40 spots which show available, and he replied that that's not his problem, and I shouldn't have done that. I told him it wasn't anything against him personally, but he should tell his manager to get the "available" sign adjusted because a lot of people wasted way more time than he had putting the signs back up.


The issue of why the city of WC even allowed that huge valet section to be taken out of service instead of public parking is a separate issue but which also should be addressed. And as a formerly happy WC shopper who has been quite satisfied with the parking situation, well, let's just say that has changed, and if this continues I'll be sure to remind people to avoid WC if possible because of the lack of parking.
 
The city is also inviting the public to a talk this Thursday evening, co-hosted with the City of Lafayette, by a UCLA professor to discuss the concepts of his book The High Cost of Free Parking. Donald Shoup is a professor of urban planning, and he will share his ideas about parking policies as they relate to the economy, the environment, and urban design.  The talk starts at 7 p.m. and takes place at Lafayette's Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd.. Although the talk is free, it would be a good idea to let organizers know you want to attend so that they can reserve a seat: (925) 299-3201, or lmartin@lovelafayette.org.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

If this is all your reader did, knock over the valet parking signs, then he showed far more restraint that I might--had I come across the same scene.

I get frustrated seeing the valet parking in lots, like for restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and Flemings. Or street parking taken up for valet parking.

Jojo Potato said...

It's the street parking taken by the valets that drives me crazy. Heh, I paid to have that street built and now a perfectly good space is coned off for the benefit of some company? Five or seven dollars means a lot to me so I don't go downtown much but for publicly funded facilities I deserve the right to compete equally for them. That guy should have tossed all the signs over the edge.

Anonymous said...

I love using WC as an example of bad parking policy - if anyone will listen.

Most City Planning Codes require that developed commercial property have parking. This is not private parking - it is required parking and it belongs to the public, required in exchange for the property owner's privilege of doing business in our community. It is not to be reserved for just that property's businesses, or sold by valet services.

This minimum parking capacity is required for the benefit of the overall success of all businesses in the community. Businesses should require their employees and owners to park outside of the downtown. They will see how many spaces are freed up for paying consumers.

Then we won't have to kick over your signs, or go someplace else to shop.

Anonymous said...

That's why I don't shop Walnut Creek.

Anonymous said...

"That's why I don't shop Walnut Creek."

That's the way I am leaning these days too.

I can't believe they would take 40 public parking spots and basically give them away to a valet company. That's just nuts.

Anonymous said...

"I can't believe they would take 40 public parking spots and basically give them away to a valet company. That's just nuts."

This just goes to show the stupidity of the arguments here. The parking garage at Broadway Pointe is not a public parking garage.

Instead of being thankful to the owners to let the public park in that garage up to three hours for free people complain.

I find if funny how nobody here wants to shop or dine in Walnut Creek but complains about no parking. You don't need parking if you don't want to be downtown. I shop and dine frequently in downtown and have no problems with parking of course I'm not too lazy to walk a couple of blocks or if I want convenience I pay for valet parking.

Anonymous said...

1:10 pm

"Instead of being thankful to the owners to let the public park in that garage up to three hours for free people complain."

The owners of Broadway Pointe have the parking spaces available as a result of City Code which requires a certain number of spaces per square foot when development occurs or a fee to the City's parking fund to compensate for lack of spaces.

Parking spaces are not provided by property owners because of charitable feelings towards shoppers.....they are required to and do so in the hopes of luring shoppers into their establishments.

Arguments and opinons with which you do not agree are not stupid and name calling does not accomplish anything productive.

Anonymous said...

1:35 you might want to show me where it says free and to patrons who do have no intentions to use their establishments?

Anonymous said...

2:52 pm

Obviously it doesn't have to say 'free' etc.....the code just requires that a certain number of parking spaces be allocated for a certain number of square feet of building space.

One would hope that everyone who is able bodied would park in one spot and visit as many stores as possible from that one parking location.

LeftCoast said...

Anon at 1:35 p.m.

I wish you would step out from behind your anonymous cloak and just own up as to who you are in terms of signature parking or one of the other parking outlets.

Anonymous said...

LeftCoast,

Boy are you wrong on this one!

I have no association with any parking entity that does business in Walnut Creek and in fact have very negative feelings about how they operate. The numerous spaces reserved on the streets for valet parking service really irritate me.

I also get especially upset when I see just how much money these operators give in campaign contributions to the 'chosen' candidates at each election cycle. And we wonder why they are given good service at City Hall!

I very seldom shop in downtown Walnut Creek anymore because I find it frustrating when I am unable to find a convenient parking space near to the stores I would like to visit.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that there will be those who say that I should be willing to walk a couple of blocks.....well, while I am not eligible for a handicapped parking permit, I find it physically difficult to walk any great distance to shop. My solution? I shop mainly via the internet which is much more relaxing, convenient and in most cases cheaper.

No one should be critical of me in the parking discussion because my presense downtown is not an issue.

ANON 1:35 PM

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:35

If you are not handicapped but find it physically difficult to walk a few blocks downtown you should really do something for your fitness level.

Also I think you make some very strong allegation that local politicians are being "bought" by contributions from valet parking operators. Please support your allegation with facts.

Anonymous said...

I hope that someone out there knows how the valet thing really works. Obviously, a private garage can do whatever it wants with its spaces, but what about the spaces on the street that are marked for valets. Do the owners of those restaurants pay the city for the use of the spots or are monies collected by the valets turned over to the city?
I seem to recall from somewhere that it's illegal to make gifts of public assets ---which parking places certainly are.
Oh, and isn't it about time for the pro-growth mavens to begin posting about how WC has no parking problems whatsoever?

Anonymous said...

ANON 7:18

Don't be so judgmental. My fitness level is just fine thank you very much as I do water aerobics daily and ride a stationery bike daily.....it is my knees that are shot due to arthritis hence, walking is painful and difficult. I will have them replaced someday but my doctor would like me to wait a couple of years due to my young age.

I do not have a handicapped sticker because I believe that this should be reserved for the truly handicapped. I have noticed that many stores do not have handicapped parking very close to them so even that wouldn't help me.

As to the 'allegations' about politicians.......just follow the money trail....ever wonder why the candidates who are not on the 'inside track' in Walnut Creek never receive donations from developers and parking business owners and their employees???

Anonymous said...

Annon 1:35

You said: "I also get especially upset when I see just how much money these operators give in campaign contributions to the 'chosen' candidates at each election cycle."

But it is clear that you are unable to provide just a shred of evidence in support of your statement. Sorry but "follow the money trail" is not evidence. Since you can't name a single donation by a single parking lot operator to a singe chosen candidate, you have lost any credibility.

By the way the same with your earlier statement that you don't qualify for a handicapped parking permit and now say that you can't move because of arthritis in your knees and that you believe that handicapped parking should be reserved for the truly handicapped. Again your story changes at 6:33 you were not eligible for handicapped parking while at 9:33 you claim you don't want to take advantage having a permit over the "truly" handicapped. As if having shot knees making walking painful and difficult would not be a true handicap.

Anonymous said...

To clear up the payment issue and the rights to the property -

valet spots that are on the street (at metered spots) must be paid for by either the restaurant, the retailer, or the valet company. additionally, to obtain the spots, the aforementioned party must obtain an encroachment permit from the city of walnut creek. the city issues the permit (discretionally) and then bills the said party.

valet spots in the parking garages are typically part of a lease agreement from either the retailer or restaurant. the spaces are part of the lease and thus are offered to the valet company to allow parking for customers.

in most cases, the retailer or restaurant which hires the valet company deems it profitable to have such a service. otherwise they wouldn't bother. so as many arguments as there are against valet parking, there are still clearly enough people using the service to turn a profit for both the valet company as well as the retailer or restaurant.

JJ

Cristie Rosen said...

nice

www.goldparking.co.uk

Jenna Catlin said...

found it interesting. inquire well before hiring any parking facility. you need to be fully aware whats going on all around you. Cheap car parking Manchester