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Valet Parking; An Issue Addressed by Other Cities but Ignored by St. Louis

valet - 1Valet parking continues to be a problem in the City of St. Louis. Along Washington Avenue, Locust, Lindell (near Compton), Mississippi and on Euclid valet companies are abusing permits issues by the street department. These firms, predominantly Midwest Valet, are pushing the envelop to the point where they are killing the street life in areas where they operate. For example, on Washington Avenue across from Lucas Park Grille they routinely take 4-6 parking spaces which are held until a nice car comes along. This happens despite the permit indicating they use of the spaces is strictly for bringing cars in and out — that cars must be moved to private parking spaces immediately.

The problem we have is the street department is really ill-equiped to address this issue. The city has no valet parking ordinance so streets director Jim Suelmann is basically winging it by issuing these permits. While I appreciate him trying to make due it is really no way to run a city and certainly not a way to deal with an issue that could potentially harm emerging districts. His response to me with respect to violations has been to call the police. I think the police have more important things to spend their time on than trying to keep valet companies from violating weak permits. The Board of Aldermen needs to pass a comprehensive ordinance regarding valet parking.

I did some quick research and found this issue front and center in many cities struggling with overly aggressive valet companies attempting to take over their streets and public parking spaces:


From the City of Miami Parking Authority web page:

The City of Miami, in conjunction with the Miami Parking Authority, established a new Valet Ordinance in October, 2004. This ordinance covers the operation of all permanent valet stands within the City of Miami established for restaurants and shopping centers, as well as those created for special events and other one time uses. Operators are now required to submit a formal application that is reviewed by various City Departments, and is administered and reviewed by the Miami Parking Authority.

The actual ordinance (pdf) includes a number of things worthy of consideration for St. Louis. First, they must submit a site plan showing where they will have the drop-off area as well as their desk and key holder. In addition they must show proof of having sufficient off-street parking for all vehicles — on-street parking is prohibited.

They address the issue of “ramping” — the drop-off and pick-up of vehicles:

The public on-street/curbside parking spaces, metered or non-metered, shall only be used for ramping of vehicles. Ramping of vehicles shall consist of allowing the customer to enter or exit a vehicle and to turn it over to or retrieve it from a valet parking operator employee. Ramping shall only be permitted and operated in the public on-street/curbside spaces provided by the department for ramping. There shall be no storage of vehicles in the area used for ramping. A vehicle will be considered stored if it remains in the ramping area for more than ten (10) minutes. Ramping spaces shall not be blocked by any type of sign, structure or other type of object. These spaces shall not be cordoned off by any type of signage, rope or barrier of any kind;

The give the valet company the use of 60 feet (roughly 3 spaces) to perform this operation. This leaves the remaining spaces free for the general public.

Scottsdale, AZ:

The City of Scottsdale recently held an open house to train local valet companies on their new valet ordinance. Their website on valet parking includes a link to the actual ordinance (20 pages) and the application materials (10 pages). Here is how Scottsdale defines the valet parking zone:

The valet parking zone shall be no less than sixty (60) feet in length. The valet parking zone shall be no less than ten (10) feet and no more than twenty (20) feet in width. A valet parking
zone located on Scottsdale Road shall be no less than twelve (12) feet and no more than twenty (20) feet in width. The valet parking zone shall not be located:

(a) Closer than thirty (30) feet to the intersection of any two (2) or more streets;

(b) On any of the roads identified as unavailable on the map specified in section 16-573; or

(c) Within one hundred (100) feet of another valet parking zone which is on the same
side of the street.

Cambridge, MA:

The City of CAmbridge doesn’t waste a lot of words, their short and sweet valet parking page gives you the basics. Here is a bit of their provisions:

E. If there is a parking meter (s) at the valet space (s) the applicant will be responsible for covering the parking meter (s) during the hours of valet operation. The bag used to cover the meter (s) shall be approved by the Director.

F. The cost for valet space shall be $20.00 per year per foot of curb required to operate the service safely between 6 P.M. and midnight on the days required.

G. No charge shall be assessed for the use of this valet service on the public way.

So, a 60 foot space would cost $1,200 per year. Taking 10 spaces, as some of these companies in St. Louis are doing, would cost $4,000 per year. What is interesting is they specifically indicate no fee “shall be assessed” if the valet is operating in the public right of way. This makes sense if you are going to take away public parking spaces you should not be profiting but instead be providing a service.

Palm Desert, CA:

All of these provisions, including the City of Palm Desert, talk about violations and consequences:

Routine inspections and field observations will be conducted by Public Works and/or Code enforcement staff to insure compliance with the regulations set forth to apply to valet parking
permit tees. Violations found will be recorded for reevaluation and possible revocation of the permit.

Others mentioned above go into detail about fines for non-compliance. I like the idea of checking to ensure that permits are being followed. Imagine the building department issuing a building permit but then not performing inspections to ensure it was followed. If the street department is going to issue valet permits they need to be able to inspect for compliance.

Austin, TX:

The City of Austin has a pretty detailed ordinance covering most of the basics, it can be read on pages 123-133 of this PDF document.

Other Cities:

From an article on valet parking from White Plains NY:

In Boston, time limits on how long a vehicle can be parked waiting to be parked are set. Beantown requires records to be maintained for each car parked; permits are issued for one year, and renewable. As of November, 2003, Boston charged $40 per linear foot of curb space used for the permit, and $150 per sign for a five year period.

For example if one parking space was 20 feet long and “Cheers” used 10 spaces for their “holding queue” the fee would be $8,000 a year. Plus the restaurant and business would have to pay the establishment where they were parking the cars if they did not have their own lot or were using a city lot.

Reading Boston’s valet parking permit regulations indicates White Plains has to look at creating valet parking areas where the cars are eventually parked; perhaps consider shared valet parking zones, and insurance issues. Boston does not allow parking at street meters.

When Palo Alto enacted a Valet Parking ordinance in 1999, the fees were similar to Boston’s: $450 permit application, $74 annual permit renewal; $220 short-term permit; $35 per space per week for on-street parking spaces (for the valet parking zone); $150 per valet parking sign fee and a $30 penalty for unauthorized parking in on-street valet parking spaces.

When Santa Monica was drawing up their ordinance in 2001, they recommended $1,750 per valet location, and a space use fee of .50 per hour of valet operation annualized upfront. Santa Monica projected a $50,000 revenue from the 17 operations expected, and that was 5 years ago. They also opted for a uniform rate, so motorists could not congest traffic by “shopping” for the least expensive valet rate.

In Houston, valet parking regs were enacted in 2003. Businesses there must apply for a valet zone permit for $100 a year. Valet companies in that city which operate the valet parking for businesses that offer it must pay $1,000 the first year and $750 each additional year. Houston also requires the valet companies operating the nightly drop-offs and returns to maintain liability coverage of a minimum of $300,000, and perform a criminal background check on their “Kookies.” (Remember Edd Byrnes as the Parkboy on 77 Sunset Strip?)

In the mile-high city of Denver, they have a most specific ordinance which can be read at www.denvergov.org/parking_Management/template311681.asp. The ordinance allows the valet offering establishment two meter spaces (40 feet) for their valet zone included in the excise and license application fees. And Additional meter spaces for more than a 40 foot zone are purchasable for the annual meter time request for one year upfront about $2,500 back in 2001 when the ordinance was enacted. This is in addition to the fees the establishment will have to pay for the private parking area where the cars will eventually be parked.

The issues are many: hours of operation; method of operation; how much of the street is given over; insurance; who parks the cars; where they are parked; the routes the cars take to and from the valet zone; signage; licensing fees; and potential revenue and enforcement penalties for violations.

The City of Denver has a very nice 2-page summary of their ordinance. This helps the public and the operators know what to do and expect without having to read through a lengthy ordinance written in legalese.

valet - 2Clearly this is an issue that cities all over the country have faced and addressed. I’ve been writing about valet parking abuses in St. Louis since February yet I’ve not seen any new or proposed ordinance coming out of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. I volunteered my time to assist the city streets department in drafting some guidelines for valet parking but I was given the brush off.

Along Washington Avenue the valet parking woes are spread across three wards in a three block area! The 1100 block of Washington where Copia takes nearly 300ft for car parking is located in the 7th Ward (Phyllis Young). The 1200 block where Lucas Park Grille and a club take up a considerable percentage of the block is located in the 5th Ward (April Ford-Griffin) and finally the 1300 block where Lucas Park Grille spills over as well as the bar/club in the 1400 block is located in the 6th Ward (Lewis Reed). Other abuses in the 6th Ward include valets at 1111 Mississippi. On Olive on either side of Compton you get valets doing things such as placing orange cones in the bike lanes. One side of Compton on the south side of Olive is Reed’s 6th Ward while the west side of Compton along Lindell is in the 19th Ward (Mike McMillan). Heading west to the West End things are more clear — Euclid and Maryland is squarely in the 28th Ward (Lyda Krewson).

Our aldermen, in my view, don’t think much beyond their ward boundaries so the idea of them working together on a city-wide solution just might be a bit too much to expect. Other cities, somehow, manage to get beyond ward boundaries and develop solutions for their entire city.


Grand Opening, 8 More Miles of St. Louis’ MetroLink Light Rail System

IMG_4537.jpgMetro & elected officials kicked off a series of ribbon cuttings this morning at the Forest Park Station in the City of St. Louis. This station was part of the original 1993 alignment but it was completely rebuilt to serve as a transfer station where the line now splits off to the airport vs. Shrewsbury.

I managed to stay ahead of the train and make it to a number of station openings: Forsyth, Brentwood and Shrewsbury. Below are videos taken at these openings. Interviews with a number of officials look and sound great but unfortunately they are not sync’d with each other (I can’t complain as YouTube is free). Many thanks to Pete at ArchCafe for giving me guidance on converting the clips from the camera format to Apple’s Quicktime Format (mp4) so the sound is sync’d.

You can also look at my photos from the opening on Flickr.

As you will learn in the videos this corridor has been held for more than a decade, awaiting this use. Also, the ribbon cutting was not done by a big pair of scissors but at each station they had ribbon that broke away as the train pulled in.

Arriving at Forsyth Station in University City

This is the big circular hole in the ground and yes, this is University City — barely! A local band was playing before and after the train arrived, keeping the crowd entertained. A number of vendors set up on the sidewalk just outside the station. One managed to block the artsy bike rack.

… Continue Reading


Update on Recall Efforts in the City of St. Louis

With all the election stuff of late it has been easy to ignore the various recalls that are going on in the City of St. Louis, a lot of angry voters out there displeased with their aldermen. The issue is not political infighting but development practices.

Freeman Bosley Sr., 3rd Ward:

Via Antonio French on PubDef: The recall is on hold pending an August 21, 2006 court hearing. It seems the recallers are challenging the legal authority of the Board of Elections to allow the subject of the recall, in this case Freeman Bosley Sr., to obtain affidavits from people to have their names removed from the recall petition. If the judge rules in their favor they will have sufficient numbers to place the recall on the ballot. This could be huge with widespread implications for other recalls.

Bosley has been a destructive element in his ward, choosing to unnecessarily raze many buildings and ruin street patterns. New construction has been decidedly suburban in character. Frankly he just seems too out of touch with what a city should be. He seems hell bent on destroying everything that makes the ward interesting, all in the name of progress. He has had his 17 years in the spotlight, time for some fresh urban-minded thinking.

Joseph Roddy, 17th Ward:

Roddy, who’s father was alderman for many years, inherited this ward. While Roddy can brag about the millions (billions?) of dollars of investment within the ward what he cannot do is argue that it has bettered the ward from an urban & livability perspective. BJC parking garages are costly but do not improve the area.

It looks like recallroddy.com was registered in May 2006 but no active website exists.

Jennifer Florida, 15th Ward:

Back in 2001 I really liked Florida, she was very involved in saving the South Side National Bank and she wasn’t about to let politics and ‘development as usual’ allow the building to be razed for a Walgreen’s. I was very impressed and worked to help get her elected. Today I feel betrayed. Did I misjudge her or did she change? Perhaps some of both.

In talking to several of those with the Florida recall effort it sounds like they are all re-energized following the elections on Tuesdays. Volunteers worked the polls in the 15th Ward to collect signatures. Many voters were eager to sign the petition although others were not so willing with her standing nearby. With more elections in November, March and April it looks like the volunteers are determined to stick with the recall as long as it takes. When the new McDonald’s begins to rise on Grand and we see the shuttered old McDonald’s this might attract some new interest. When she tries to push through the senior housing with little public input on the site plan, land use, and such the voters may finally get fed up.

Despite what the political machine may be saying, I am not “behind” these recalls. Do I support the recall of Florida, Roddy and Bosley? Oh yeah! But I am not orchestrating these efforts. I know many of the people running the recall against Florida and have offered them my opinion on things when asked. I am hosting recallflorida.com on server space that I have but I am not creating or posting any content — that is entirely up to those doing the recall. To those working to recall Bosley and Roddy I will make the same offer to you — free blog & email hosting.

I’m also willing to talk to potential candidates for aldermen in the city’s even numbered wards, the 14 seats that are up for re-election in March 2007. This doesn’t mean I will support just anyone challenging an incumbent. On a personal level I like a number of the current aldermen but I question the urban understanding of all of them. Who knows, I might actually support an incumbent or two. I will offer an “in-kind contribution” of web & email hosting to those I chose to support. Democracy is best served when we have more than a single choice of candidates.

– Steve


Commentary on Maryland Plaza in West End Word

maryland plaza - 45.jpgThe new issue of the West End Word is available and it includes a commentary on Maryland Plaza by yours truly. Here is the opening paragraph:

Maryland Plaza, the continuation of Maryland Avenue between Euclid and Kingshighway, probably ranks as the most controversial street in all of St. Louis. Not even the costly and lengthy transformation of Washington Avenue a few years ago can compare. Maryland Plaza has a good 35 years worth of controversy.

Pick up a copy this week or read it online. What do you think of Maryland Plaza? Add your comments below and/or send an email to the West End Word editor.

For more images see my gallery of 40+ photos on Flickr.

– Steve


Preservation Board to Review Proposed Changes to Forest Park’s Government Hill

The St. Louis Preservation Board reviewed a radical proposal at their June 2006 meeting (see post). The board at the time deferred any recommendation to Forest Park Forever and instead asked them to reconsider the concept. And it worked.

Last week I heard about a special meeting of the Preservation Board being called to consider the revisions. On Saturday morning I ran into Board Chair Timothy Mulligan at Soulard Market and he wanted to make sure the public was aware of the meeting.

The prior concept can be seen in the June 2006 report and the latest design can be seen here.

It is hard to make out the new design from the images in the PDF agenda but the description from the staff is helpful. One key part is making the area ADA compliant without regrading the entire hillside:

The revised design incorporates accessibility features in a manner that blends these features into overall design of the space rather than designing the space around the accessibility features. The accessibility features are now made a part of the landscaping and have gentle slopes that do not require ramp treatment—an accessible route with a slope of less than 5% will be integrated into the design of the rooms. The accessible paths will not be visible from Government Drive because the revised plan no longer involves extensively regrading the hill.

The meeting starts at 4:30pm this afternoon at 1015 Washington, 12th floor.

– Steve