If you built it….

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If you built it….

Dammit, they will come. The merchants in Westwood, a shopping area in LA, are having a meltdown over parking. The city built a garage on Broxton Avenue in Westwood. It is hidden on a one way street and most people visiting the village can’t find it. Two hours free and $3 flat rate after 5 PM.

The first thing I would do if I were concerned about parking in Westwood is that I would put up some signage that directed people to inexpensive parking on Broxton. The second thing I would do would be to form a parking district and subsidize parking in other private structures in the area. Each merchant puts some money in a pot and pays for parking for visitors to the area. There are a number of parking garages that sit empty a block or so off Westwood Boulevard. These are business people who have to charge for parking to pay their bills. After all, we all know that there is no such thing a “free” parking. Somebody has to pay for it.

The merchants are complaining that “free” parking in nearby (5-7 miles) shopping centers attract folks who would otherwise come to Westwood to shop. Let’s review the bidding:

Beverly Center — $1 per hour to park

The Grove – 1hour free, then $3 flat for the next three hours

Century City Shopping Center – 3 hours free, then a flat $7 for 3 and one minute up

Santa Monica – 2 hours free until 6 pm then flat $5.

At the Grove and Century City, theaters and some stores validate. It would not be possible to do dinner and a movie in 3 hours. But the fact is that there is a charge for parking. In Santa Monica, during the week, the structures are basically empty during the week, before 6, and jammed after 6. Makes sense. So people actually pay $5 to park in Santa Monica. At Century City, they have a validation program. People actually pay to park at Beverly Center and most do at the Grove.

Yet all these places are booming destination locations. Westwood, on the other hand, is not. Merchants blame parking. I really wonder if its lack of free parking, or simply lack of convenient parking, or is it that no one really wants to go to Westwood. I mean why would you go there?

Where are the great sidewalk restaurants (subway, McDonalds, and the like are certainly available), where are the trendy shops, where is the people watching, where are the upmarket 15 screen cinemas? Oh sure, there are movie theaters, the old style where you sit behind Mazie with the big hat, and one is “down there,” or three blocks away, or whatever. Where are the promenades for strolling and window shopping, with benches and street vendors? All the centers I mentioned above have all that, and more. These places have built it, and frankly people come. Century City, The Grove, Beverly Center and Santa Monica have all been completely renovated within the past few years, most within the past year. They take advantage of new technology and ideas to make their centers attractive and destination locations.

Santa Monica invested in its infrastructure and its downtown is absolutely booming. People drive from all over southern California to visit the four block promenade now with its shiny new shopping center at one end. No one talks about parking. The Grove is a great spot with Nordstrom’s, high end Apple Stores, great restaurants, and 15 screen stadium seating theater. Likewise for Century City. Why the hell would I want to go to Westwood?

The area needs to clean up its act. Period. If you build it they will come, parking be damned. As usual, parking is a scapegoat for lack of vision and investment.

JVH

 

 

 

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. Seems like there is a model for fixing the place up. Howabout charge for convenient parking and use the proceeds to fix the sidewalks and plant street trees? Kind of like Pasadena.

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