Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
This holiday season, downtown Los Altos shoppers won’t have to go far to find an open parking space in city lots – they can just hand over their keys.
The Los Altos City Council voted unanimously last week in favor of a joint effort with the Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce to offer a trial valet parking program for downtown holiday shoppers.
Prior to the vote, LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway told the council that approving the trial parking program would be a gesture of good will toward merchants impacted by ongoing First Street streetscape construction last year.
“We do feel that if we offer something like this, it might be an incentive for those customers who were turned off or might not be willing to return to the downtown for the holiday season this year, that they might reconsider,” she said.
According to a city staff report, the concept was proposed during the Oct. 4 meeting with downtown merchants as part of the Downtown Parking Management Plan.
“Several merchants mentioned that parking is very impacted during the holiday season,” the report stated. “During the 2011 holiday season, when there was construction downtown, cars were queuing up in the plazas during the peak hours waiting for spaces to become available. The merchants are concerned that customers may avoid coming downtown during the 2012 holiday season as a result of their past experiences.”
Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum told the council that initial bids from third-party valet parking companies pegged the cost of the parking program at approximately $7,000.
The city agreed to contribute $3,500 toward the program, with LAVA ($2,500) and the chamber ($1,000) funding the remaining costs. The program is tentatively scheduled to run 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14-24.
Kleinbaum told the Town Crier that the idea behind the program is “to keep it simple,” pointing to downtown Los Gatos’ holiday valet parking as a model to emulate.
Los Gatos shoppers drive to a centrally located valet parking lot within a short walking distance to downtown stores, she said. Similar to Los Gatos, Kleinbaum noted, the goal is to provide shoppers with an easy alternative to circling downtown parking plazas for a parking space during the holiday shopping season.
“(The city of Los Gatos) chose one central lot because shoppers know they can get parking there,” Kleinbaum said. “We want something central (for shoppers) here.”
With that in mind, Kleinbaum said Parking Plaza 5 – located between Main and State streets behind Starbucks – is the “lead option” for the program.
Additional program details remain in the works, she added, including whether to charge for the service or offer it for free. The staff report noted that LAVA suggested a charge of $3 per customer as a way to “discourage (downtown) employees from using the program.”