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Valet Parking on Washington Avenue in 6th Ward

December 30, 2006 Parking, Politics/Policy, Transportation, Valet Parking 18 Comments

My flight arrived a good hour late last night but despite being tired a group of friends were waiting for me at the Gelateria at Washington & 14th. So I stopped by downtown on the way home.  Where to park? Yes, Copia has the 1100 block nearly vacant. Lucas Park Grille has almost half of both sides of the 1200 block of Washington as well as several spaces on both sides of Washington in the 1300 block.

After circling the block and deciding I wasn’t going to pay $5 to park in the lot to the north of Washington Avenue for a 20 minute visit I moved a couple of illegally placed orange cones from the 1300 block of Washington Avenue. Looking around I could see that Lucas Park Grille’s valets had a good 10 spaces sitting empty at 9pm — plus the spaces in directly in front of the restaurant. I was already parked and on the sidewalk when the valet started running up to my car, “Don’t start with me” I said in a grumpy mood from traveling all day. He said something which I don’t recall exactly and I said, “Show me the permit, I’ll be in the gelato place.”

I returned about 30 minutes or so later to find a Saturn parked only inches from my rear bumper and another car in front equally close. They had purposefully blocked me in. OK, I was a smartass and perhaps deserving of such treatment? Fair enough. The valet comes over quickly when he sees me, with permit in hand. The other spaces, by the way, were still vacant.  He points to the address: 1301-19 Washington Ave. Indeed, they were given a permit to conduct valet parking at that location. However, they conveniently ignore the rest of the permit which indicates the area is only for the purpose of drop-off and pick-up — that cars must be moved to an off-site location immediately, and that cones or other items are prohibited in the public right of way. I should mention as a side note, in the 1100 & 1200 blocks they have begun using meter covers that indicate no parking, tow zone rather than the cones.

When I point out the conflicts on the permit the valet tells me he is simply doing what his boss tells him to do —- to keep all these spaces empty so if they get busy they can “stage” cars there. I’ve had others tell me the reason they want to take as many spaces as possible is it forces people to use the valet service so the valets can collect as many tips as they can. Of course, Lucas Park Grille is not the only establishment open in this area yet they certainly act like it. The reality is they simply take these spaces because the city’s street department willingly issues permits for seemingly as much space as the valet companies request.

The McGowan Brothers are the owners of Lucas Park Grille and have this to say on their development website:

We will continue to strive for the protection and safety of our streets and the development of adequate parking facilities for visitors and residents alike. McGowan Brothers Development Corp. will only recognize success when the Washington Avenue district is a thriving community where everyone who lives, works or visits can share in its rewards.

Their actions speak louder than their words. Their valet contractor, Midwest Valet, agressively takes away parking for visitors as the expense of the liveliness of the street. Having blocks of nearly vacant parking gives the appearance of nothing happening, not a good message to communicate to visitors be they from the county or from outside the region.

Contact information for the direct players involved in this caper, please contact them to share your thoughts:

My headline included the 6th ward. Yes, I intend to make this a campaign issue. I’ve personally discussed the valet issue with 6th Ward alderman and candidate for the President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed. I’ve had more conversations with Lyda Krewson of the 28th Ward, who indicates they are proceeding on an ordinance to be introduced this session. Still, my requests to revoke all permits except those directly in front of an establishment have been ignored. I’d like to see a 3-space limit until the Board of Alderman pass a more comprehensive ordinance.

For those that don’t know, this stretch of Washington Avenue is not represented by one person, not even two, but three aldermen. The 1100 block and East is in the 7th Ward represented by Phyllis Young. The 1200 block, where Lucas Park Grille is located, is in the 5th Ward where April Ford-Griffin is the alderman. The 1300 block plus all the blocks to the West past Jefferson are in the 6th Ward. [Note: yes Richard, I double checked the ward boundaries]

As alderman in the 6th Ward Lewis Reed has not introduced any legislation to address the issue relative to valet parking. As a candidate for the President of the Board of Alderman will he now take a stand? Will current President of the Board of Alderman take a position or continue to remain silent on the subject?

We have three candidates running for Reed’s seat in the 6th Ward, what are their positions on valet parking specifically and the rejuvenation of the western length of Washington Avenue in general. With 19th Ward Alderman Mike McMillan about to take the oath of office to become License Collector a significate portion of St. Louis’ downtown and mid-town will be in the hands of new legislators. Quite a bit is at stake and we certainly don’t need aldermen in these two wards that will play games that keep out good urban development. Neither are, to my knowledge, has a comprehensive plan.

One last note on the valet parking. They said last night that the police ticketed my car, yet I had no ticket. The valet indicated it will be mailed to me. I love the concept of a city that will ticket a citizen for parking in one of 10 or so empty spaces being held hostage by a single business while patronizing another business. You’d think someone like the St. Louis Downtown Partnership would step in to help manage the overall parking in in the downtown area. But, if you knew how the organization was managed you would not have such expectations. Let the Partnership CEO Jim Cloar know what you think of their hands-off approach to valet parking downtown.


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. anon says:

    See Steve?

    Isn’t all this much more interesting than Dublin, CA? Welcome home, and Happy New Year!

  2. GMichaud says:

    It is interesting that you note that all of the parking spaces are empty. These business owners don’t seem to understand they are creating a dead street and hurting themselves as a consequence. People don’t want to drive up to an empty street to visit an establishment, a place of entertainment or dining. They want street life, the feeling something is going on. I mean how dull of a town does St. Louis look like with empty parking spaces all over what’s suppose to be the hottest street in town. Instead St. Louis looks like a hick town.

    One or two places for valet parking should be sufficient for any business on the street. It is a reasonable amount of space. It is a public street. All businesses in the area, as well as the community have a right to those parking spaces.

    It is hard to believe that such a minor issue cannot be handled in a timely and sensible manner by the city. Is this another instance of giveaways or special favors for insiders?

    It has to go back to the question of what kind of Downtown should St. Louis have? Vibrant, full of people, with activity around the clock, or should downtown become some sort of exclusive enclave that has barren streets and exclusive entrances?

    Nor would I discount the possibility that this is being done in conjunction with the five dollar parking lot. They have a lot to gain in this. (An investigation of the parking business would no doubt turn up some interesting tidbits).

  3. Tim says:

    Related to the valet parking issue, but in the CWE, the valet parking on Maryland between Euclid and Kingshighway routinely places cones in the road and they drive irresponsibly. They do park in a nearby garage, but when they are returning cars they cut off traffic that has the right of way on Maryland. Further, they often do not have enough space to pull all the cars up to the curb at once, so they stop in the middle of the road impeding the flow of traffic.
    As a resident of this area, it is extremely annoying to try to navigate this area on my way home.

  4. Marti says:

    For a city government who claims to value downtown parking (enter the Century Building) they sure are blowing this issue off. Clearly many cooks in that kitchen but it seems like a worthy issue to sit down together and work it out. Might take someone making the first call but I know it is possible.

  5. ATorch says:

    Bravo for keeping on top of this issue. Early last year some of the above mentioned places were even taking parking spaces that were not on/in their permits; we had work to do on a building (on Washinton) and could not even find a place in front of ‘our building’ to un-load materials because they were over-taken by illegal valet-parking! I have decided to boycott Lucas Park Grille for this particular reason and encourage others to do so too, they have ruined the exact thing they sought to create!

  6. Luftmensch says:

    The wife and I also went to Gelateria last night around 10PM and the parking situation was preposterous — thanks to the Lucas Park valets. I’ll gladly email the folks you mention, but I think you should also get the owner of the ice cream place and other small business people to pressure the city. It’s their businesses, after all, which get hurt by this nonsense.

  7. Valet parking is lazy. If someone cannot park their own car then they shouldn’t travel to the scary city. We have already built one too many parking garages for the County and Ex-Urban residents. That is all they get if they don’t want to pay taxes and reside in the City!

  8. Craig says:

    Duckworth, I’m guessing (based on this latest post and the blatant idiocy of previous posts) that you don’t have a girlfriend and have never had one. Women don’t like to walk block upon block in high heels when they’re going out for a nice dinner or drinks. Valet parking is a nice service for the restaurants/bars to provide.

  9. High Heels? says:

    If walking is such an issue for these women then their boyfriends/husbands should drop them off and park the car….Or maybe Craig is just dating women who don’t like to walk because of their weight problems. Just stirring the pot here.

  10. john says:

    Welcome back … to the condition of being MAIFUD! (pronounced may-feud”). This is what happens when one re-enters the “StL Zone”! I would have hoped that this silly episode would have ended with this year, but like most problems here, they seem to never end.

    M stands for myopia (a problem for both the public and its leadership) which is the inability to see into the future and enunciate a clear and positive vision. A stands for autocentric customers which insist on having readily available parking. I: The idiocy of allowing these imbalances to continue. F: Favoritism is the preferred commodity of exchange here while finger pointing is the preferred form of governing, especially with divided government. . U: Unaccountablitiy is a favorite as businesses are allowed to bully and poor leadership is automatically reelected. Lack of oversight is the local media which cannot risk alienating the last standing advertiser. D: The public here is in denial as they prefer to brag about what’s right but ignore what requires needed attention. The typical response is to blame the messenger and not the message.

    Understanding this phenomena is easy as is its formula: Myopia + Autocentrism + Idiocy + Favoritism + Unaccountability + Denial = Depopulation with all its negative trends and fallout.


  11. Jim Zavist says:

    One, it’s up to city government to fix this – until it becomes a priority, not much will change. Private citizens arguing with individual valets is not effective, wise or productive. Abuse of public assets by private companies should be a priority – why it’s not makes for much speculation, but little in the way of true facts. The good news is, with an election coming up, it should be made a campaign issue since it represents, on may levels, the challenges facing St. Louis’ political system.

    Two, it’s not just a St. Louis issue. Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood uses a through traffic lane for their valet operations, forcing passing southbound drivers to use the left-turn lane!

  12. Margie says:

    John, that’s so complicated but so true. Two years ago, when I lived in the 10th Street Lofts and owned an art gallery at 10th and St. Charles, I got MAIFUD over and over. I just didn’t know what to call it. Case in point relevant to this thread: it took months to get the valets on 10th street (serving the Renaissance ballroom events) to stop DRIVING THE WRONG WAY on 10th street from the parking garage to Washington to save the time of dealing with one-way streets. The powers that be — the hotel, the valet co., the police (who issued the wrong-way permit!), DTSLP, my alderwoman, etc. were completely unresponsive for months–yes, months– as I pointed out the utter danger and reported the many near-miss headon collisions and near-miss pedestrian tragedies (including one early on where I walked out of the garage, looked in the direction of legal traffic [coming from the north] and then almost got mowed down from the south). The permit required the valet co. to cone off one lane for their wrong-way travel, but that didn’t alert pedestrians of what was going on, and after a little while they didn’t even bother coning all the time, so it was a free-for-all.

    Anyway, I finally wrote the risk manager of the hotel and offered to testify for plaintiffs in any civil suits that arose from the inevitable crash or pedestrian death/injury. Don’t know if that helped, or if common sense finally infected someone else in the downtown food chain, but the practice stopped soon after. Meanwhile, it added to the heap ‘o evidence that I was not dealing with a functional system.

    I live in Chicago now.

  13. Jimmy James says:

    “You’d think someone like the St. Louis Downtown Partnership would step in to help manage the overall parking in in the downtown area. But, if you knew how the organization was managed you would not have such expectations. Let the Partnership CEO Jim Cloar know what you think of their hands-off approach to valet parking downtown.”

    I think this is a huge point. People demand more parking downtown and many fear parking downtown due to a lack of knowledge. Sure having a few PDF maps is nice, but downtown is sorely in need of some comprehensive pakring planning. Planning that would include use of new technology to provide updated counts of avalible parking spaces at key downtown lots, the modern parking meters you talked about before, an most importantly a consideration of a parking/ transportation zoning regulations in downtown that encourage the development of multiple methods of access (biking, walking, car, lightrail, streetcar, bus). Maybe this should be your campagin issue. Come up with a plan (good school project) and make it an issue at the local level.

  14. joe b says:

    Time to step up to the plate on this issue, Steve. Grab a couple of friends and head there with your cars and take up half a block. Hopefully, you’ll all get tickets and come court time you can contact the mainstream press and they can do a story. In Stl Politics, that’s the only way to get things done.

    [UrbanReviewSTL — LOL, I thought I had been stepping up to the plate over this!  Yes, I think it is time for people to reclaim these spaces with thier vehicles.  Get there before the valets do and see what happens.  This coming Friday is “First Friday” when many galleries and stores are open late.]

  15. “Grab a couple of friends and head there with your cars and take up half a block”
    Party at the Maroon Westfalia! I’ll stock up the fridge and charge the deep-cycle, we can cook up some Jiffy-pop and watch DVD’s, or maybe have us a WI-FI Quake party or somethin’. room for 4 downstairs and 2 in the “loft” upstairs. Leave the petchouli at home, the MonsterBus is a non-Hippie zone. 😉

  16. joe b says:

    Ok, you’re in the batters box. In addition to that half baked idea, I will suggest the following quarter baked idea:

    Have some of the other biz’s in the area that are affected request valet permits-whole block permits. Who says a coffee shop can’t have valet parking?

    Hell, have anybody that owns a storefront request one of these.

    Precedent has been set by allowing all these spaces.

    If all else fails, as a last resort you could get sneaky and figure out a way to sabotage the cones with some sort of yucky substance so when the valets move them….

  17. oakland says:

    Valet parking is lazy. If someone cannot park their own car then they shouldn’t travel to the scary city. We have already built one too many parking garages for the County and Ex-Urban residents. That is all they get if they don’t want to pay taxes and reside in the City!

    Tell that to people who live in other “scary cities” like NYC and Chicago, where valet parking is sometimes the only way to get parking within half a mile of your chosen establishment. We should count ourselves lucky if there are so many destinations and visitors that available street parking is ten blocks away. It makes it worth it to kick a valet a couple bucks to go pack cars like sardines somewhere in a lot they contract with, if they handle that process responsibly. Better to have a lot of cars densely packed rather than a big parking garage, no?

    Washington Ave in St. Louis has neither the need for you to park ten blocks from your destination nor does it have responsible valets.

  18. Mark says:

    The parking issue is not an easy fix. I work downtown and the parking is horrible. I was just downtown on Friday at 6:00 p.m. to deliver some promotional material at various businesses, most on Washington, but all the cones were already out, and I found a meter on Tucker. I know the meters run until 7:00, and I only had a quarter on me, period. That gave me ONLY 20 minutes, I hustled and 22 minutes later I am back to my car, with a $10.00 fine. I then drove to Olive, pulled into totally empty loading zone directly in front of where I was going, put on my flashers, and a meter maid apperared from the alley, “Move your car this is for deliveries only.” “I AM delivering these flyers to this address!” “Dont insult my intelligence and move your car!”, she said.
    –This time of night, even on a Friday, the side streets were deserted, with most drivers well on their way to the ‘burbs. I did get approached by 6 different fellows asking for money, food, cigarettes…(I can’t imagine being female and feeling safe.)
    –I live and work here, but yet I felt so unwelcome, like I was a criminal. OK, so maybe I am a criminal, after all I let the meter go 2 minutes over, I’ll take that.
    –Also, I do agree about the valets having too much space, and the streets looking empty, when the Rockwell convention was here, their motor coaches came down Washington, and quite a few of the guests were shocked to see such a “dead town”.
    –I went to the Pageant to a sold out show last Thursday, the street parking was all taken, buses, cars, people everywhere. I found a place close to Pageant within 6 minutes, due to many lots, and the new garage across from Tivoli, and I didn’t see one Valet. My Kansas City guests were amazed at the excitement and life on Delmar! It gave me hope that with planning and some better ideas these problems can be worked out downtown.

    [UrbanReviewSTL —  Thanks for sharing!  Yes, I have to make sure I keep change in my car for the meters.  Hopefully we’ll get the more modern type being tested on South Grand so that those of us that don’t have coins handy can still pay the parking fee.  Of course, the ones on Grand don’t accept bills which is a major shortcoming in my mind.

    On one hand I like knowing parking enforcement is out and about even after 5pm.  Still, as you indicate, people think we have a dead downtown.  In fact, it often looks dead especially at times when it should not (Friday & Saturday).  The loop, by contrast, always looks more lively.  How it is that folks like Downtown Partnership CEO Jim Cloar, Deputy Mayor Barb Geisman, or Alderman Phyllis Young don’t jump all over this issue is beyond me —- this is hurting downtown’s image.] 


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