August Walnut Creek Mayor's Message
Jul 31, 2015 09:18AM ● Published by Jennifer Neys
Walnut Creek Mayor, Bob Simmons
by Robert Simmons, Mayor of Walnut Creek
Did you know there are over 10,000 parking spaces in our downtown that are located on private land and made available for public parking? This number doesn’t include parking spaces on private property that are not made available for public parking, and it doesn’t include the approximately 3,000 parking spaces owned by the city (on-street metered parking, garages, and surface lots).
Moreover, when the Broadway Plaza garage at Broadway and Newell is completed in November 2015, there will be an increase of over 800 spaces from before the Broadway Plaza remodeling began, and there will be 3,275 parking spaces at the three Broadway Plaza garages alone. This means the total number of publicly available parking spaces will be nearly 15,000!
So how did it come to pass that there are so many publicly available parking spaces in our downtown? In the late 1990s, it was clear there weren’t enough, and there was no public land upon which to build another public garage. There were complaints about parking on private land, as different property owners treated the public differently. So, to address both issues, to give private property owners the incentive to open their lots to public parking and to provide a mechanism for handling complaints about parking, the city adopted an ordinance in 1999 that enabled private property owners to charge for parking, to provide a mechanism for enforcing it, and to provide a procedure for seeking administrative review of a parking fee invoice. Unfortunately, not very long ago, the California attorney general issued an opinion that questioned the statutory authority for such an ordinance.
So, the City of Walnut Creek became the sponsor of legislation to provide this statutory authority, which Assemblymember Bonilla introduced on our behalf. Bonilla and I testified on two occasions in support of the legislation, as it is a critical component of the parking inventory in our downtown and for downtown parking in many cities. All of the votes, in both the assembly and the senate, were unanimous in support of the legislation. By the time you read this, we will know if the governor has signed it. (This sentence will change next week depending on whether the governor signs the legislation)
The legislation is balanced because it has several important provisions to protect the public. A city must first pass an ordinance authorizing a private parking lot program. The ordinance must require: 1) the private property owner clearly post signs with readable language that states violators may be subject to a parking invoice fee, 2) the parking invoice fee must include language describing the administrative review procedure in which the parking invoice fee may be contested, and 3) the invoice must clearly state it is not issued by the City of Walnut Creek. Finally, the private property owner is prohibited from contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles for the purpose of having DMV use its authority to collect unpaid invoices. Instead, after conclusion of the required administrative review, the private property owner may seek recovery in Small Claims Court.
So, when parking on private land in our downtown, read the signage so you know whether it is okay to park there and the conditions that apply to parking at that location. Next month, I will write about some of the exciting technological changes affecting parking.