Westfield UTC to charge for parking after 2 hours

Westfield UTC shopping mall will soon charge visitors who park longer than two hours, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report. The change will take effect sometime in early 2018.

The reason, a mall exec said, is that some motorists park at the mall all day for free with no intention of shopping there.

“Others have been the beneficiaries of our 5,000 parking spaces for decades,” mall manager Ryan Perry reportedly told attendees of a UC San Diego retail real-estate conference last week. College students and nearby businesses were blamed.

“We were shocked at how many friends at the IrvineCo. (offices) are parking on our site,” Perry said. “P.F. Chang parks in our lot. UCSD students love to park at UTC and go to school.”

Perry added that the new rules restrict parking “in a thoughtful way.”

The only exceptions cited were for members of 24 Hour Fitness, who will receive three free hours, and ArcLight moviegoers, who will receive four. (This suggests that these tenants will issue validation stamps altering the standard parking tickets.)

It’s not known how much parkers will need to pay per hour after their free time expires. A Westfield UTC spokeswoman claimed she was “unable to provide responses” to this and other questions by press time.

While the new limitation will make it easier for mall patrons to find parking, it may curb business from those who like to spend all day browsing Macy’s or ice-skating, then grabbing a bite afterward. (The rink, owned by Westfield UTC, was not listed as an exception to the two-hour free parking limit.)

“I’m pretty annoyed,” said 20-year-old Elissa Cope of San Diego, speaking from an SUV parked in the mall lot while enjoying a bowl of Sloan’s Ice Cream (her favorite). “If I want to hang out in the mall, then I shouldn’t have to worry about having to be on a time schedule to be back in my car.

“Why can’t they at least make it four hours free for everyone?” Cope added.

A new five-level parking structure is slated to open this month as part of a $600 million mall expansion. However, a portion of Westfield UTC’s original lot is now where a 300-apartment residential development is expected to open in 2019.