Fri08222014

News

Parking pains: Main Street merchants take issue with enforcement during streetscape project


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Downtown merchants complain that San Antonio Road construction hurts business.

Two Main Street merchants say the San Antonio Road streetscape project has been bad for business.

Spot Pizza manager Jeff Gilmartin and Italian Delicatessen owner Tamara Sloan told the Town Crier that the ongoing construction project – located directly behind their respective businesses – is driving customers away because fewer parking spots are available near their shops.

Specifically, Gilmartin and Sloan noted that some customers have endured long searches in Plaza 3 and on nearby streets. Prior to the start of construction Jan. 7, city officials announced that approximately 50 spaces in the plaza would be unavailable during the 90-day project.

“We have a lot of people coming in for pickup orders who ask all the time, ‘What’s going on and when will it end?’” said Gilmartin, who added that the lack of parking has also impacted his pizza delivery drivers.

Making matters more difficult, he said, is that the city continues to enforce the plaza’s three-hour time limit, unlike some parking areas during the First Street streetscape construction in 2011-2012.

On that front, Gilmartin said one of his customers recently received a citation for double parking on Main Street “out of desperation.” He added that the customer circled the plaza and Main Street for several minutes in search of a space with no luck.

“I don’t think he’ll be back for pizza here,” said Gilmartin, who added that occasional construction-related closures of the plaza entrance closest to San Antonio Road and Main Street are hindering drivers.

“I think they should give a break to all of the customers,” he said.

Sloan added that the absence of spaces taken up by the streetscape project is causing a parking ripple effect in the plaza. Spots typically used by her employees prior to the project, she said, are now taken up by customers, and vice versa.

“My main concern is that I just don’t want my customers getting ticketed. It’s irritating, because they can’t find parking,” said Sloan, who stressed that on-site construction workers have been “awesome” in their interactions with merchants.

Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum said she’s sympathetic to the merchants’ concerns but believes that relaxing parking enforcement might not be the solution.

She noted that regulations relaxed during First Street streetscape construction resulted in most spaces being occupied by anyone but customers.

“Employees ended up utilizing the closer and on-street spaces instead. … Time limits benefit customers because they ensure that the spots will turn over and become available,” said Kleinbaum, adding that she previously advised merchants to encourage their employees to park in less-impacted plazas.

Kleinbaum noted that the project, which she estimated would take another two months to complete, is simply forcing some – like nearby employees – to temporarily change their parking habits.

“I believe we have plenty of parking in the lots,” she said. “And I really strongly believe that if we suspend time limits, it’ll make it even more difficult for customers to park.”

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