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Santa Rosa Plaza owner unveils pay-to-park program

The Munoz family of Nicole and Eduardo with their children Sophiya, 1, Ethan, 5 and Addyson, 4, prepare for an evening of shopping at the Santa Rosa Plaza, Thursday Feb. 16, 2012. Officials with Simon announced that the corporation will start charging for parking at Santa Rosa largest indoor mall. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

By KEVIN McCALLUM and CATHY BUSSEWITZ
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The 30-year run of free parking at the Santa Rosa Plaza mall will end this summer.

Officials from Simon Property Group distributed letters to merchants and city officials Thursday announcing a new controlled-parking program that will charge people up to $9 per day to park in the downtown mall’s five garages.

The program will allow shoppers to park for free for 90 minutes. Any portion of the next 90 minutes will cost $2. Four hours will cost $4, up to six hours will cost $8, and more than six hours will cost $9. Overnight parking will not be permitted.

Mall officials expect the program to free up spaces that are routinely occupied by drivers who park at the shopping center while they work downtown.

“We’ve realized that we were lacking an amenity for shoppers, and we were trying to work on a solution,” said Kelly Hartsell, regional vice president for Simon Property Group.

But some worry that eliminating the last inventory of free parking downtown will hurt employees and give people one more reason to shop elsewhere.

“I’m very, very concerned that they are making a big mistake,” said City Councilman Jake Ours. “I don’t think this is going to serve them well in any way, shape or form.”

Simon should be trying to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to come downtown, and if they charge for parking people might just head to Coddingtown, Ours said. Several mall customers and employees agreed the program would have a negative impact.

Justyn Delbridge, 21, sells appliances at Sears, and said it often takes him 90 minutes sell an appliance.

“A lot of people who come in to shop are shopping at multiple stores, they’re going to need more than 90 minutes,” he said.

On Thursday Keith Moore, 40, parked in a Plaza garage and headed to his job at Banana’s, a nearby music store. He said the mall was within its rights.

“It’s tricky. It’s their parking,” Moore said. “But we’re all going to have to find a new place to park.”

Before the mall opens at 9 a.m., hundreds of the Plaza’s parking spaces are occupied by employees of other downtown businesses, according to the letter sent to City Manager Kathy Millison.

“It’s about 400 spaces,” Hartsell said. “It’s amazing, the number of spaces that were taken.”

The Plaza has 3,000 parking spaces.

The mall studied shopping behavior and determined that shoppers spend an average of 68 minutes at the mall, so the average shopper should not be impacted by the change, Hartsell said.

A parking agreement signed in 1978 between the city and developer Ernest W. Hahn, Inc., stipulated that parking would be free for shoppers unless the mall got city approval to begin charging. But that agreement could be terminated if either the city or the mall changed its parking policy, Hartsell said.

“When the city went to paid parking years ago, that was the change in policy that made us able to move forward and terminate the agreement,” Hartsell said.

Last year, after the plan was first proposed, city officials were barraged by critics, especially downtown businesses worried about the impact on employees and customers.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares urged the Simon Property Group to hold off while the city studied the relationship between its parking policies and those of the mall.

Part of the problem has been the city’s parking rates drive people into the mall’s garages in search of free spaces, Olivares said.

“It turned out to be a confusing and complicated issue and something that we didn’t have control over,” Olivares said.

City Attorney Caroline Fowler said there is “not any contractual legal remedy for the city to stop them from moving forward with charging for parking.”

Olivares said he spoke to Hartsell Wednesday and urged her to be sensitive to what a controversial issue parking is in the city. She agreed to work with the city on days when there are large special events downtown, and to make adjustments to the program if necessary, such as to the 90 minute limit, Olivares said.

He said he didn’t share Ours’ concern about the plan being bad for business. It is just as possible that shoppers will like the increased availability of spaces near the entrances, which is the mall’s goal, he said.

“It think it’s too early to really judge what the long term impacts will be,” Olivares said.

The mall is the largest downtown employer, with 120 businesses employing about 1,500 people, according to David Gouin, the city’s director of economic development and housing.

“We want to make sure the Plaza thrives, and if their tenants feel this is the best option to manage their parking and it would be good for business, we have to trust their decision,” Gouin said.

Each retailer will receive parking access cards for their employees, and the program will begin this summer, mall manager Laura Kozup said in a letter to merchants.

Over the years, the mall unsuccessfully tried various ways to deter downtown employees from parking in the lot, such as installing chains across exits.

“We finally gave up on chains two years ago because people would get out of their car and undo the chains, or drive right over them,” Hartsell said.

The mall will install a system of gates controlling access to the garages, and shoppers will pay at kiosks or at the exits, Hartsell said.

Preliminary work should begin in March or April, she said. She declined to give a revenue projection for the program.

She noted that the per-hour rates increase the longer someone parks, making the city garages a more cost-effective option for non-shoppers.

The city charges for parking in its five garages and 10 surface lots. The rate in garages is 75 cents an hour with a maximum daily rate of $8. Monthly garage permits cost from $62 to $140.





30 Responses to “Santa Rosa Plaza owner unveils pay-to-park program”

  1. Steve Klausner says:

    Pay to park? That’s why God invented the internet.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. Wendy says:

    I feel for both sides of this issue. I would not mind paying for parking if the parking lot was well maintained and safe.(how many spaces are flooded or have a down pour of water over them?) Don’t forget the early morning walkers? The mall is set up for them to come in early. If the point is freeloaders, would it not be a good idea to have free parking for shoppers alone. Have your receipts time stamped and during that time it is free. Do employees pay to park? At the pay rates they receive, can they afford to park? Good luck everyone.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  3. fair is fair says:

    I am happy to pay for parking when the Simon group returns the tax payers money that was invested into the mall.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. Jim Bennett says:

    Local Politics:
    Answer; because we have an ICLEI aherant local government.
    By definition, that means they are anti-automobile.
    Using common sense will just give you a head ache.
    Parking is a way to sabotage the use of cars, they use it to great effect.
    Notice all the shenanigans with parking downtown?
    Take away 20+% of it with the round planters, the ‘parking kiosks’-they hired an ICLEI parking consultant for that move, their studies probably show 8% won’t even be able to figure it out. Then the recent reduction on 3rd St..
    They’d like to block the whole downtown traffic flow by filling in the square too.
    A government within our government.
    ICLEI.
    Makes many of us want to ask…
    THE QUESTION.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. Missy says:

    I won’t be shopping there when they start charging that’s for sure. Why is this a good business decision Simon Malls?

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  6. Local Politics says:

    HOLY COW!!! W H A T is the problem? There is plenty of parking -so who cares why people park there. Even if they are not mall employees or customers- WHO CARES? Maybe they will buy something as they walk THROUGH the mall on their way home. The mall has TONS of empty parking spaces- so until the mall is oVERFLOWING with cars- who the he** cares! Stupid- I will never shop at the mall if they start to charge parking. OBVIOUSLY nobody has looked into malls that tried this. I have seen plenty of malls look like Coddingtown that do- EMPTY boarded up businesses – look at Mervyn’s (who is that right?). In SF they tried that and people stopped shopping – why PAY TO SHOP> Crazy- well actually now that I think about it- I would love to see them charge 25.00 or 50.00 to park- so they would close their doors quickly and end up with an empty building – scratching their heads wondering “what happened.” Then those crazy city leaders – long gone of course- would look back and shutter in their boots hoping they don’t get sued for reckless leadership.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  7. Money Grubber says:

    Mockingbird:

    Seriously. Do you actually think anyone cares that you do not go to the mall?

    One mere disgruntled “activist” with nothing else to do in life other than try and demand that other people conform to HIS demands?

    As for RE-development money, care to post some facts regarding your claim ?

    I know you can’t.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  8. Liz says:

    Lets remember around 30 years ago the city was given this property on the agreement that they would never charge for parking.
    Way to break a deal Simon and city. Not cool!
    You will loose what few shoppers you do have, and kill downtown even further.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  9. Vinyl Rules says:

    @J.R. Wirth
    How is such filth allowed on this forum? Your words are racist, and contribute nothing to this dialogue. Rather, they detract from it. What do “poor immigrants” have to do with a change in parking policy?

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  10. Joe Public says:

    Simon Properties is a business not a non-profit organization, why are people crying because they’re losing a freebie? Oh yeh, this is Sonoma County, land of the progressive liberals, all of life is supposed to be free. Anyway, if you don’t want to pay what is being required by the owners of the property don’t shop there, for over 90 minutes anyway. Quit griping about how you’re not going to shop there, do you think anyone cares if “you” are not going to shop there? I forgot again, you’re a progressive liberal, you think it all revolves around you. If someone is really there to do business and it takes longer than 90 minutes $2 is not a lot of money. The one thing I might recommend to Simon’s would be to think about, if someone makes a purchase over a given amount then parking for them is free, have the business stamp the parking ticket like at the movies.

    F.Y.I. for those progressive liberals out there; when life is free for you, someone is picking up the tab. I know you don’t care but it makes me “feel” good to remind you.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  11. J.R. Wirth says:

    It makes perfect sense for a mall in California to charge like this. Poor immigrants sit in the mall all day just for the free air conditioning while their kids play in the kids area. They just sit there pregnant on the bench all day because it’s nicer and quieter than the apartment they share in Roseland with three other families.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 11

  12. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    For those who think the Downtown Mall is private, please remember they got redevelopment money from OUR TAXES. That means the mall is OUR INVESTMENT.
    I can tell you I rarely go to the mall now. If I have to pay I won’t go at all

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 8

  13. Local Politics says:

    REMEMBER – GORIN AND SAWYER ARE NOW RUNNING FOR COUNTY SUPERVISORS.

    EXACTLY WHY WE DON’T WANT TO ELECT THEM- FIRE THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 7

  14. Money Grubber says:

    To the crybabies who think that they should be able to park for free on someone elses PRIVATE PROPERTY, have fun driving to some other location !!!

    I suspect the crybabies are the ones who sit around the mall doing nothing and buying nothing to begin with. NO loss to the mall.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 11

  15. Money Grubber says:

    City Councilman Jake Ours claims the mall operators are making a ” mistake. ”

    Tell us, Mr. Ours, what is YOUR expertise to make such a statement ?

    What JOB SKILLS do you have that enable you to outsmart the people who actually operate the mall through job experience and training?

    Your political position means nothing.

    What JOB SKILLS do you pretend to have to make your case? None, I suspect.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  16. Jim Bennett says:

    From what i understand, that wasn’t the deal 30 yrs. ago.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  17. Joe says:

    The mall just needs to do what the businesses around the SRJC area do, have violators cars TOWED away! Put up signs to warn them, and you know who they are if they are there before the mall opens, so put a note on their car warning them that they will be towed next and then no more warnings, TOW. Why should all others that shop at the mall have to pay for these people that want to get free parking!

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  18. good one says:

    Ok, force me to go to Corte Madera to shop. It’s such a different experience, you can go from Ross to Nordstroms within a mile or so. And parking is free, service is good and the drive is georgous. Really, how many times a year do you really need to shop?
    When you do, why not go where you and your money is welcomed?

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 5

  19. CL says:

    Take the money you would pay for parking and go to Walmart and by yourself something, the parking is free and they sell pretty much the same merchandise anyway! LOL
    Most of the time the mall is just as ghetto as Walmart anyway.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  20. Teresa says:

    This is almost too funny. I have never heard of a mall charging for parking.

    Expect a lot of stores to close, 9.00 is pretty steep, anything is. It is a mall.

    And as or shopping in downtown Santa Rosa, what a joke, barely any parking, then you charge for parking. It is not a happy fun family event.

    You got it right, take that money Santa Rosa, get all you can.

    It is much nicer to head to Healdsburg anyway.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 5

  21. Dan Drummond says:

    I’m having trouble figuring out why Simon is the bad guy in this case. They are a private business. Why are they somehow obligated to provide free parking downtown when the city several years ago decided to charge for parking? I understand there may have been an arrangement when the mall was built to provide free parking, but that was premised on the city doing the same. When the city changed its policy, that left Simon (or its predecessor) offering the only free parking downtown. That hardly seems fair.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 11

  22. Nottobeknown says:

    I prefer Coddingtown to shop at. Maybe after they start charging for parking the business will slow down and some of the shops will move over to Coddingtown.
    I dislike the downtown because of the traffic, the ‘bangers that hang out’ and the same merchandise over and over again. I understand that Simon owns both malls and that is the largest problem. They get rid of the good stores and keep the ones that are everywhere.
    I don’t mind driving farther north for a more relaxed atmosphere.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  23. PacificGroveTerry says:

    Boy did I get out of Santa Rosa just in time!! All the places to park in Monterey and Pacific Grove are FREE!!!! Even downtowns and the shopping center.
    Yep, Santa Rosa has done themselves in by letting the Plaza charge for parking.
    Oh and City Councilman Jake Ours, do you know who owns a lot of Coddingtown?? Simon, the same people that own the Plaza and the Petaluma Outlets. Those places are next on the paid parking lists I bet!!

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  24. The Hammer says:

    There is absolutely no encouragement by the city to shop in it. All the jerks, and there’s a lot of them, in City Hall can think of is how to create new fees and ways of charging its residents to load up the coffers. There’s a reason Wal-mart is so successful. Free parking and the best prices around. Can’t beat that! A lesson to be learned.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 5

  25. Michael says:

    The Mall owners finally standing up to the freeloaders. I say Bravo!!!!

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 21

  26. Patrick says:

    Add one more reason to not shop in Santa Rosa. As far as cities in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa is the worst when it comes to just about anything. Glad I moved from that armpit of a city long ago.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 6

  27. Pete Davis says:

    Another nail in the collapse of the downtown Santa Rosa. I wonder how well the Plaza is doing financially? If the owners want to drive more shoppers away, this is certainly a good way to do it.

    There are no first rate stores in the mall now. Why would shoppers want to continue to drive there, pay to park and shop in stores selling the same goods as WalMart only for more money? Parking is free at WalMart.

    Parking is free in the other cities of Sonoma County.

    Good one, Santa Rosa, you have shown your leadership in stupidity once again.

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 8

  28. sue says:

    about time the people who works down town pay up, I past by the parking lot everytime I go to work and at 8:00 am most of the stalls are already taken. I have no issue with paying for parking at the mall most of the time I’m in and out in less then an hour.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 15

  29. John Lennon says:

    Now the fake liberals in Santa Rosa will have to pay their fair share to park downtown!

    Next , the need to charge around spring lake. Make the Fake liberals pay

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 12

  30. truth in news says:

    Anyone want to start the count down till the City of Santa Rosa figures out a way to “aquirre” the money generated by the parking fee?

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 7

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