Friday, August 29, 2008

OPINION: Parking Meter Fee Hike Undercuts S.P. Revitalization

By Linda Alexander

Yes, the city needs to raise funds and yes, we must all do our part. However, this dramatic increase of 400% in historic downtown San Pedro will have a devastating effect on our businesses.

Downtown is the only shopping area in San Pedro with parking meters, yet another reason for shoppers to avoid downtown.

Although San Pedro is poised to become a prosperous area, that time has not arrived.

One Los Angeles city manager was quoted as stating that the increased fees would encourage drivers to utilize city parking structures. San Pedro is still without a parking structure despite calls for construction.

Business owners have endured a significant reduction of parking spaces in the past few years. Higher fees will open up spaces because customers will not come.

It is difficult to comprehend why, in newspaper articles, parking fees are compared with Hollywood, Pasadena and Santa Monica. San Pedro is far from that level of economic activity at this time.

I suggest that the fees be increased gradually over a period of five years. That should give enough time for us to realize the economic improvement which so many in our town are moving to create.

If the fees have not changed in 17 years during many periods of solid economic growth, they can wait now during this general downtime.

Linda Alexander is a San Pedro consultant to small businesses and non-profit organizations. This commentary is adapted from a recent letter she wrote to Los Angeles city officials.


John Mattson said...

To the editor:

Re: Linda Alexander's Editorial

Business owners are correct in saying that something needs to be done about downtown parking; however, the situation has long been awful with the old lower fees. I doubt that lowering them would help. One current problem is that individuals (including some, not all, shop owners and their employees) use cheap parking spaces, and sit on them all day, feeding the meters as needed, meaning that customers have nowhere to park. What IS needed is a holistic solution. Business needs short-time parking close to their locations for customers who, we hope, are constantly coming and going. Employees and owners need parking farther away from their businesses so that close parking is constantly available for customers. As it is now, cheap parking is only available to the select few who get there early.

What IS needed is moderate-cost parking near businesses for customers with strict time limitations so that these turn over regularly for new customers.

What IS needed is low-cost or free parking away from businesses for owners, employees, and longer-term shoppers. This can be aided with shuttles. It is much like airport parking. I shuttle all the time at LAX and Long Beach airports because I know it is cheap, safe, and the shuttles run every 10 minutes. It is expensive to park close, there are drop-off and pick-up areas, and you can almost always find parking to fit your needs. We can do the same if the City of LA will just help a little.

The immediate reaction against higher fees is not the solution. Higher fees are part of the solution. They discourage long-term “squatting,” and they can pay for enforcement of time limits. But we need to get all the other parts right as well.

John Mattson
San Pedro

Anonymous said...

Sorry John, but you've got his one wrong. I don't know why you assume business owners and employees park on the street and put in a quarter every hour, but, anyway, that isn't the case.
A parking task force of Ben Schirmer, Caroline Brady (then at CD15 office) and myself identified sites for employee parking and had the city institute some 10hour parking for employees.
I am surprised you think that its OK for a city that has invested nothing in parking for its tax-paying retailers should now fleece their customers for more cash. Other cities, (that are well run), have created parking structures for their citizens. As usual the Harbor area has been ignored by city hall, which is why most of LA City is a third world ghetto, whereas Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Irvine, etc. are thriving and attracting more investment (and raking in tax dollars from their retail establishments).
This concept is too radical and intelligent for those who run the City of LA.
What we really need are some people with leadership skills at City Hall who care about their constituents. Don't hold your breath.

Anonymous said...

there is public parking at the centre street lofts

Kara McLeod said...

Sure, there's supposed to be public parking at Centre Street lofts. Do you see any signs that say "public parking" to direct people to it or is the builder passively discouraging the use of the parking for non-tenant businesses?

Anonymous 10:10, I think you are making John's point. You both agree that more low cost or free parking is needed and it's completely without merit for you to say he is advocating the city "fleecing" customers. That's not at all what he's saying.

We all know that LA City isn't raising the meter prices to, as they claim, "encourage the use of city structures." Clearly, we don't have any. By the way, many municipal structures are not free. LA City is raising the price to fill the budget gap, plain and simple. However, in our case, it may have the unexpected benefit of increasing street parking turnover and giving us a solid argument, the city's own argument, to get more structured parking. There is still a way to make this meter increase a win for downtown, just not the win people expected.

Observer said...