Letters to the editor: December 27, 2007
No community consensus on paid parkingI do not believe the Parking Advisory Board has obtained a consensus of the community sufficient for it to act, purportedly on behalf of the community, to adopt the Pilot Program.
I do not believe the Pilot Program identifies a significant public benefit that is sufficient to propose such a burden as paid on-street parking on the community’s residents and resident-supported businesses.
I believe the Pilot Program will harm our resident-supported businesses. I do not believe the Parking Advisory Board has sufficiently considered this potential harm in proposing the Pilot Program.
The Pilot Program should not be implemented.
Parking Meters and the End of a 350-year IdyllOne of the things that made life in Santa Fe very special when I was growing up, was the Plaza-centric nature of life there. Life in Santa Fe from about 1610 until the early 1970s was almost completely focused on the Palace of the Governors on the north side of the Plaza, on the many stores, bars and restaurants that surrounded it, and on St. Francis Cathedral, where my parents were married, where I was baptized, and where I served as an altar boy ... just a short block away. There was little commerce of note anywhere else in town, and Santa Feans did almost all of their shopping, drinking, eating, and socializing there. As kids, we played in the leafy shade of the Plaza while our folks shopped or socialized with friends and neighbors. And there was the usual collection of old farts and gracing the park benches. As teens it was where most of us had our first real dates ... usually at Santa Fe’s only two movie theaters just one block west of the Plaza on San Francisco Street. City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the U.S. Federal Court House were only a block off the Plaza. La Fonda Hotel (still) at the southeast corner of the Plaza, had the best restaurant in town and its lobby bar was where locals met for a drink. Santa Fe High School was one block off the north side of the Plaza. The old State Capitol and virtually every office of state government were no more than 4 blocks from the Plaza. When I was growing up there, until the late ‘50s, nothing was paved more than 3-4 blocks from the Plaza. A town of about 35,000 when I left Santa Fe for California in 1969, everyone knew - or was related to - everyone else. Two or three degrees of separation was a lot.
Then, in 1972 or 1973, the City installed parking meters around the Plaza, and on all the downtown streets within 3 blocks of the Plaza, and within less than a decade, our idyllic life around the Plaza for more than 350 years came to a screeching halt. By 1980, there was not a single store on the Plaza catering to the local community. The first shopping center about 3 miles away, and then another one about 7 miles from the Plaza, drained the center of Santa Fe of all local shopping. The big Safeway two blocks off the Plaza went the 3 miles out to the first mall. By 1980 they banned all parking around the Plaza, and all the stores were turned into trendy boutiques and turquoise and silver jewelry stores for the tourists. But now we have a Gap, a Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer, Ann Taylor, Starbucks, and most other brand-name chain stores around the Plaza for the tourists. The town has become an “adobe theme park,” even though it’s not that much larger than when I left in 1969 ... now about 55,000 ... almost identical in population to La Jolla.
Today, locals rarely ever go near the Plaza. Until I opened an office about 6 blocks from the Plaza in 2002 (to the amazement of my friends), we might have gone downtown perhaps once each month at most. I ran into friends during Santa Fe Fiesta a year or so ago who commented that they hadn’t even driven around the Plaza since Fiesta the year before.
The change in sociology is subtle, but that old sense of community that was so focused on the Plaza has all but disappeared. Clearly the blame is not exclusively on the advent of parking meters, but it had a huge influence. The town I grew up in and loved simply doesn’t exist any more. The buildings are still there, and more beautiful than ever, but there are no people other than tourists. For me - and many other Santafesinos who grew up there a generation or more ago - there simply is no reason to be there anymore. It’s why we sold our Santa Fe house three years ago and came back to La Jolla permanently.
We have to prevent that from happening here.
Paid parking would drive up costs in parking lots, garagesMy family resides in the Upper Hermosa neighborhood of La Jolla. As we don’t live close enough to The Village of La Jolla to walk in, our family drives into The Village for services on a daily basis, literally visiting dozens of establishments monthly.
As a La Jolla homeowner for 10 years, there is not a “parking problem” in The Village. We may have to park a block away from where we intend to obtain services, or drive around the block once, or occasionally pay to park in an existing parking lot or structure, but none of these results in a problem.
My 18-year profession in commercial real estate causes me to inherently question the motivations of commercial property owners. If the City charges for street parking, and/or creates a residents-only zone, that does create a City revenue stream. However, it creates an even greater one for commercial landlords that have parking garages and parking lot owners who rent out spaces by the hour or month. Right now, free street parking means that owners of parking garages and parking lots can only relatively charge so much, and the price of paid parking in such garages and lots in The Village has not increased dramatically over time.
However, if The Village employees and visitors have to pay for street parking in the future, then owners of parking garages and parking lots will be able to demand an immediate relative increase in their hourly parking rates above what they currently receive. Exacerbating this, landlords will also see much more demand for off-street parking spaces as all employees, and some visitors staying for more than two hours, will be forced off the street and into parking garages and lots. Thus, with parking space supply staying constant, parking garage and parking lot owners will be able to raise prices even more as demand increases from the current demand.
This is all basic economics driving this: 1) if the competition (street parking) raises its prices, the parking garage and parking lot owners can too; and 2) as demand goes up and supply does not, parking garage and parking lot owners can raise their prices even further. Consider the economic windfall to a parking garage or lot owner who has 50 parking spaces to lease, and is able to increase the parking price by $1 per hour for an eight-hour business day, Monday through Friday. That is $400 per day more in revenue, or approximately $104,000 per year of additional parking income. If that owner of the garage or lot then sells the property at a 7 capitalized value, that property owner just increased the value of their parking garage or lot by approximately $1,486,000.
I have to believe that commercial property owners, and specifically those that own parking structures and parking lots, are some of the big supporters for paid street parking in The Village, as well as for residents-only parking zones.
Paid street parking damages business owners in The Village, although most haven’t thought it through yet when you go out and ask them. There will be higher costs to employers and customers because all of the following will occur:
- Employees will be forced to pay for parking, and thus employers will have to pay higher wages to offset employees’ parking costs. This will also make hiring and retaining employees in The Village more difficult.
- Some business owners will opt to begin paying for employee parking, resulting in higher overhead costs and less profits. Some businesses may try to get by with fewer employees.
- Higher wages and higher overhead costs to businesses will result in higher costs that will get passed through to consumers and visitors.
- New on-street parking costs will result in additional direct costs to customers, or will force customers into paid parking garages and parking lots, increasing the cost of being a customer or visitor to The Village.