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 email@example.com.