Editorial: Possible solutions to the parking dilemma
Next to street and highway gridlock, one could argue that finding asphalt rectangles in which to squeeze our cars causes more rage than anything except, say, getting fines for doing same.
South Lake Tahoe is no stranger to the dilemma. In fact, parking in our popular tourist destination — especially in the summer — is perhaps worse than in most cities our size.
And squabbling merchants don’t improve the situation.
Seems Gary Wyles, who owns Cowboys & Indians in Marriott’s Heavenly Village, has taken to court South Lake Tahoe’s city manager and a parking patrol company the city oversees.
The company’s “parking Nazis,” as some customers call them, roam the adjacent Village Center — home to Raley’s Supermarket and Drug Center and Neighbors Bookstore, among other businesses — searching for cars that have exceeded the lot’s two-hour parking limit.
If caught, customers eclipsing the time period receive $50 fines. Furthermore, Wyles contends, customers attempting to escape the Village Center for adjacent Heavenly Village are periodically confronted by parking officials telling them they’ll receive the above-mentioned fine if they leave the lot.
Wyles doesn’t begrudge the Village Center’s right to control parking, but contends the parking attendants’ “strong-armed, aggressive, threatening behavior” drives away customers not just from his business, but from shops on both sides of the street.
A painted crosswalk on Heavenly Village Way spills customers from the Village Center parking lot almost to Wyles’ front door.
Wyles recently filed his suit in small claims court against South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens and High Sierra Patrol, the Carson City-based company that enforces Village Center parking restrictions.
He won the case, receiving an award of $100 plus $70 in costs, according to court records. Wyles was seeking $3,000 in his suit. The city has appealed the ruling; the case is scheduled to be heard on Friday by Judge Jerald Lasarow in El Dorado County Superior Court.
“We don’t believe there’s any legal basis for any monetary award,” South Lake Tahoe City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo said last week.
The monetary award is symbolic, of course, but sends a strong message: Threatening behavior by parking attendants will not be tolerated.
But customers specifically wanting to shop in Heavenly Village have another option besides taking chances with Village Center parking patrollers.
The city parking garage on Bellamy Court — off Heavenly Village Way — is the best bet, though it’s not cheap.
The garage charges $1.50 per half hour for parking, up to $20 a day, although validations are available from Heavenly Village Cinema and many shops. Customers have complained, though, that some Heavenly Village stores won’t validate parking unless they buy at least $10 of merchandise.
A Tahoe Daily Tribune story in late August reported the city had lost an estimated $16,554 in revenue from its parking garage in the preceding seven months. The city financed and built the $9 million garage as part of the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project, which encompasses Heavenly Village.
Wyles contends Village Center parking enforcement is a ploy to get more cars into the city’s parking garage, thus generating more money for the city. Ploy or not, that could be the end result, but at $1.50 a half hour, most patrons will park at the Village Center until they find a ticket on their windshield.
And that’s problematic for Village Center shop owners, who have a right to protect their investments. If their patrons can’t park, merchants lose business.
But how often during our main tourist seasons is the Village Center parking lot devoid of cars?
In fact, it’s usually jammed.
And sure, some of those car owners are hightailing it across the street to Heavenly Village, but most of them are spending their money at Raley’s or Neighbors or any of the other shops that encircle the parking lot. They must be: At the height of the tourist season standing room’s a premium in many of the shops.
So who’s really losing?
Customers, of course.
Park for more than two hours at the Village Center and return home potentially $50 lighter. Park in the city parking garage and pay an unseemly $1.50 per half hour for the privilege and hope you’ll find a shop to validate your ticket.
First: Can the parking Nazis.
Hire retired South Lake Tahoe residents to patrol the Village Center parking lot. Probably fewer customers will be nabbed for parking infractions, but the goodwill generated by empathetic enforcement officers will more than make up for lost revenue.
Second: Offer spots in the main Village Center lot that specifically allow customers to shop anywhere they darn please.
Third, from Heavenly Village Cache Store Manager Luciana Mingoti-Azila: Convince the city to offer free parking in its garage after 5 p.m.
That would draw people who want to drink or eat after work and then shop, Mingoti-Azila said.
Fourth: Provide enough public transportation so shoppers don’t feel the need to drive their own cars.
South Lake Tahoe offers many appealing places for customers to shop. Let’s make it easy for them.
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