Vons' parking leaves some customers, merchants flustered

A camera-shy Modern Parking employee patrols the lot at the Girard Avenue Vons store.
A camera-shy Modern Parking employee patrols the lot at the Girard Avenue Vons store.
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A camera-shy Modern Parking employee patrols the lot at the Girard Avenue Vons store.

By Pat Sherman

As the seasonal influx of tourists approaches, public parking in The Village is becoming even scarcer.

Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in the area around the Vons grocery store on Girard Avenue, where adjacent merchants say the grocer’s parking management has led to a scarcity of spaces and created headaches for their customers.

A little more than a year ago, Vons' management began placing orange cones in 28 spaces along a wall at the east end of its main parking lot, which abuts a row of retail spaces and a Thai restaurant. Signs have since been posted to further designate the spaces as reserved for Vons' employees.

Though Vons owns a portion of the lot and rents the rest for its use, neighboring merchants say reserving such prime spaces for Vons employees, who could park in the lot in back of the store, amounts to unfriendly business practices — particularly for older La Jollans who cannot walk as far.

Vons store management referred questions from the

La Jolla Light

to its corporate office. Though Vons’ public affairs manager Carlos Illingworth said Vons employees “are directed to park in the back lot and the front lot is only to be used for overflow employee parking,” during several visits to the store last week all of the front employee spaces were occupied, while the back lot was less than half full. The rear spaces, while occupied by several cars with placards identifying them as Vons’ employees, is designated via signs as customer parking.

“What should happen and what does happen are unfortunately not always in alignment,” Illingworth responded, via e-mail. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will work to remedy it.”

A little more than a year ago, Vons also hired Los Angeles-based Modern Parking, Inc. to monitor its lot and assure that it is only being used by Vons’ customers, and that vehicles do not remain there beyond the posted two-hour parking limit.

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Vons employees are parked along a wall adjacent to neighboring businesses.

Rose Lapuz, owner of Thai Pan restaurant, said her customers have complained about heavy-handed enforcement by Modern Parking attendants.

“A lot of my customers say they’ve been shopping at Vons all their life and they (Vons) won’t even let them park there (long enough) to come pick up their food-to-go,” Lapuz said. “They’re not happy for the way Vons treated them.”

Lapuz, who recently put her restaurant up for sale, said she believes the parking enforcement has hurt her business to some extent.

Mario Sandoval, who owns a jewelry store on Fay Avenue, said many people who park in the lot for 10 or 15 minutes to visit an adjacent retailer have been doing their shopping at the Vons store for a decade or more. Even though they may not be shopping at Vons that day, Sandoval said he feels it is unfriendly of Vons to hassle customers when they may only be visiting a nearby business for 10 to 15 minutes.

“Even if they come and they go across the street to get something, they do their grocery shopping at Vons,” Sandoval said. “Sometimes (my clients) want to come see me and the person that’s guarding the parking lot gives them a hard time because they’re parking for 10 minutes.”

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