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Not All Surface Parking Lots Are Secured Despite 2011 Rules

May 4, 2015 Crime, Downtown, Featured, Parking, Politics/Policy 1 Comment

In 2011 St. Louis experienced a rash a car break-ins at various downtown surface parking lots, to restore the public confidence City Hall made a big deal about a new rule to make sure they’re secure. From a September 2011 press release about the new rules:

The City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), worked together to create new public parking lot rules. The highlights are:
• Parking lots shall be attended by an employee when in operation; and
• Parking lot attendants shall be educated by the SLMPD; and
• Parking lots shall be secured when not in operation.

The City of St. Louis Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have demonstrated they are safe and secure. These waivers will be reviewed periodically.

You can read the complete Building Commissioner’s Order #1001.

On April 30, 2014 I emailed various city officials, including Building Commissioner Frank Oswald, about the surface parking lots adjacent to the east & north of my building, asking if they were exempt from this rule.  I also mentioned the poor condition of the one to the East (1601 Locust).

I included this May 2013 image of the rough paving with my email
I included this May 2013 image of the rough paving with my email

Mr. Oswald replied the next day:

Steve, These lots are not exempt. It sounds that you are telling me the one lot is used for ballpark pay parking? I will copy my staff to put this on there list to check on for compliance with order 1001. I am not sure but it sounds if you are concerned that one or both lots are in poor condition, I would appreciate you putting in a c.s.b. complaint so we have a record. 622-4800 and we can then do a property maintenance inspection.

I contacted the Citizens Service Bureau (CSB) and the next day replied to all with their report number — SR #601609.

This email I included a current pic of a car parked in the one disabled spot with the disabled marking barely visible
This email I included a current pic of a car parked in the one disabled spot with the disabled marking barely visible
And a pic of the sign for $5/day
And a pic of the sign for $5/day

One staff person replied to all:

Frank,

We have looked at lots in this area very recently and have found many lots don’t appear to have an actual physical person attending the lot. One of the big problems in enforcing Rule # 1001 is the difficulty in determining if an attendant is within 1 (one) mile of the lot. For example, an attendant for the lot at 1200 Washington could actually be at the Casino Queen in Illinois and still be considered in compliance according to the “Rule”!

Huh? How can an attendant watch a lot that’s one mile away? This lot used a metal collection box for parkers to self pay — no attendant unless during a special event. Oswald replied to all:

Ok but if we look at it 3 times in 10 days and no one is there each time I think we can conclude they are not monitoring in accordance to the policy and we should tell them they are in violation.

That was the last I heard from them on this issue. Here are some more photos:

May 2, 2014
May 2, 2014
June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014
June 22, 2014
June 22, 2014 — cars frequently pull up and block the sidewalk
June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014

Things only got worse as the months passed by, nothing changed — until November 25th — the old metal cash box was gone.

November 25, 2014
November 25, 2014 — a new concrete pad
December 2, 2014
December 2, 2014 — a worker finishes set up of the new electronic payment box,
The new electronic collection station
The new electronic collection station

The other change is the parking fee dropped from $5/day to $3/day to compete with the lot to the north of our building.

Recent photo of what used to be pavement
Recent photo of what used to be pavement collecting water
The blue Hyundai is parked in the one disabled spot -- without plates or hangtag
The blue Hyundai is parked in the one disabled spot — without plates or hangtag
Now a Cadillac is parked in the disabled spot without disabled plates/placard
Now a Cadillac is parked in the disabled spot without disabled plates/placard
Not really the fault of those drivers, the pavement marking is almost gone and the space lacks the required vertically-mounted sigh
Not really the fault of those drivers, the pavement marking is almost gone and the space lacks the required vertically-mounted sigh
The recent pic from a neighbor's balcony shows the poor condition of the pavement
The recent pic from a neighbor’s balcony shows the poor condition of the pavement, the disabled spot (far right) is vacant in this shot

Recap: poor physical condition, not secured, cars able to overhang the sidewalk, only one disabled space — not properly marked, no attendant.

This lot is owned by PHAM LLC of Wood River, Il., the tax records are mailed to a residence. The resident is Peter Heinz, principal at Cardinal Investments, Inc., of the same address. The lot is managed by Central Parking. Time to follow up with Frank Oswald and perhaps mail a letter to Mr, Heinz in Wood River IL.

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Pay parking lots are a classic case of supply and demand economics. An owner of a lot that charges (only) $5/day, and seems to be running a low occupancy rate (based on your photos), will not have a lot of revenue (pardon the pun) to pay for better maintenance, more attendants, insurance or taxes. An owner is in direct price competition with every other nearby lot, plus on-street parking, and the vast majority of parkers are way more interested in price than they are in the condition of the pavement or the striping. That said, the city’s lax enforcement and loosely-worded “rule”, while “classic”, needs to be weighed against the city’s desire to see some revenue generated and visitors accommodated. The city walks a fine line between being hard asses and nitpicking every “violation” (being “anti-business”) and “encouraging” small (and big) business owners to “do the right things”. Make things too tough on the operators and you’ll either see truly vacant lots, fenced, weedy and unused, or just vacant lots, with random, “free”, “squatter” parking, as you see in many parts of the city, outside the CBD. The solution to your issues is to charge more and see higher occupancy rates; the reality is that supply (high) and demand (low) say that ain’t gonna happen, until way more people are working and/or living downtown. Pick your poison . . .

     

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