Parking Lot B located between 4th and 5th streets on the Promenade. Photos: Jason Ruiz
After a request from city council in August to continue work on improving the downtown parking situation, an update on the renovations and improvements made to parking facilities showed a cleaner and safer system, as the city has increased staffing, security and maintenance efforts.
Director of Public Works Ara Maloyan revealed the updates made over the past few months to the parking structures in downtown, in particular lots A, B and C, which immediately surround the City Place shopping center. Security has been expanded to 24 hours a day, seven days a week instead of the previous Monday through Friday model that only covered business hours.
Additionally, new signage, updated pay kiosks and landscaping have helped improve the exterior aesthetic of the structures, while increased staffing and cleaning schedules have helped to keep the inside clean.
The previous pressure washing schedule called for quarterly cleaning, but has since been increased to once a month.
“This increased cleaning schedule is in line with the cleaning practices at the aquarium parking structure also managed by Central Parking,” said Maloyan.
Maloyan added that Central Parking, the management company for the city’s downtown lots, has added a “parking ambassador” to help with the customer experience including arranging the escorting of customers to their cars during evening hours.
“This ambassador adds another set of eyes and ears on the garage and attends to customers throughout the day,” Maloyan said. “The ambassador assists customers with any problems they might encounter with the garage and is in frequent contact with Platt security, which patrols the garages.”
The updates and improvements were initiated by a request for the initial study by members of the council in November 2014. First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez was joined by coauthor Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal in requesting the study and subsequent follow up, delivered Tuesday night.
Gonzalez applauded the efforts made in improving the parking experience in downtown, including the recent incorporation of the city’s website to include information about the location of lots, parking rates and access to purchase monthly permits. She said a focus of the city should still be on marketing and getting the word out that parking in the downtown area does in fact exist.
“As a councilwoman of the First and just working in the district for six years people will say ‘there is no parking in downtown,’” Gonzalez said. “I keep telling them there is parking in downtown, you just have to pay for it in some cases.”
Funding for the improvements has come from a variety of sources, including excess meter revenue from the recently installed smart meters in downtown. The city council voted in December 2014 to earmark any excess meter revenue for the first two years to address capital improvement projects for downtown parking improvements. So far, those revenues have provided about $70,000 in funds to pay for improvements, half of which has been reportedly spent to pay for the improvements already completed.
It’s estimated that revenues generated by the parking garages themselves will offset the increased security and and maintenance costs, but future capital investments may require the city council to allocate other funds to help finance them. Future improvements to the lots including the inclusion of LED lighting, cameras, surface repairs and additional painting is estimated to cost over $500,000 per parking structure.
The city has partnered with major users of the facilities like Molina Heathcare and other stakeholders like the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) to assess the needs going forward in the improvement process. DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian said that over the course of the last decade, the dynamic of the parking situation has changed from one of merely having enough spaces to now ensuring a proper experience for the customer. Like Gonzalez, Kojian said the work completed is a good start, but more can be done to improve parking in downtown.
“Vice Mayor, you might remember that we’ve moved this conversation about downtown parking from a lack of inventory 10 years ago, to now it’s more about the customer experience,” Kojian said. “It’s about marketing the asset that we have, it’s about the first and last experience a customer may have coming into our downtown center. And to us, that’s very, very important.”