Valet Parking

Tremont House valet drivers work in front of the hotel in Galveston on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

The Galveston City Council was justified in its skepticism about a valet parking ordinance that appeared on the agenda for a vote, apparently out of nowhere, last week.

The proposed ordinance outlines creation of a valet parking license, which would require businesses to pay an annual fee and set standards about how many public street spaces operators could use.

City council members unanimously decided to postpone voting until the new year over concerns and confusion about the ordinance’s application.

“We clearly need to workshop this,” said District 3 Councilman David Collins.

Workshop sessions are where council members, administrators and other stakeholders dig into issues, consider consequences, ask and have questions answered, or at least identify questions that need answers.

Collins was right that this one could use some of that, raising, as it does, numerous questions in need of answers.

The first of those very well might be how this ordinance became an action item without having been through a workshop in the first place.

Another is what problem exactly is the ordinance meant to address. It appears from the discussions at last week’s meeting that it would apply to pretty much nobody operating valet parking now, but might become relevant if there were to be a spike in valet operations.

The city marshal’s office apparently put the item on the agenda and the proposed ordinance argues that “regulations pertaining to valet parking have been requested as a needed service in the City of Galveston.”

The justification, cast, like a lot of governmentese, in subject-less passive voice raises questions such as who has, and how many whos have, been requesting this ordinance.

The biggest problem, however, is that the ordinance appears to give business owners, through valet operators, a special deal on parking their customers in metered public spaces.

The ordinance appears to propose allowing valet operators to pay a $750 annual permit fee and $250 for each public parking space they used, rather than feeding the meters like everybody else must do.

Obviously, the ordinance would apply mostly in the island’s downtown, where most of the public spaces are metered and where parking fees are a perennial sore spot among both residents and visitors.

So, another question is whether the annual fees would make up for revenue the city lost by not collecting hourly fees.

And there’s a deeper question of cost associated with this idea. How much ill will would granting downtown business owners a special deal on downtown parking cause among the voters who early next year will be asked to consider reauthorizing the seawall parking program?

It was, after all, downtown business owners who demanded the parking fees in the first place.

She probably wasn’t thinking about the coming seawall parking sun-set referendum, but District 1 Councilwoman Amy Bly’s words last week apply anyway.

“It just sounds like a recipe for disaster,” she said.

Mayor Jim Yarbrough also was correct in arguing business owners wanting to use metered public parking spaces should pay the daily rate

A final question is why valet operators would need to use public parking spaces at all, existing as there are numerous private parking lots that are near empty at night.

Why not strike a business-to-business deal for those and leave the public spaces for the general public?

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

Editor

(10) comments

Brian Maxwell

Michael, PLEASE READ THE DRAFT ORDINANCE. The proposed ordinance PROHIBITS valet parking cars on city streets and requires that they be parked off street in private lots and garages. The only space on the street referenced in the ordinance is spot required for the valet stand (pick up and drop off).

This has nothing to do with circumventing paid parking. It is an ordinance to allow local businesses to extend available parking offsite to their customers which actually creates more parking in areas where limited parking exist.

If you watch the meeting, the city Marshall actually explains all of this as well.

As far as the workshop, if you watch the workshop, the city attorney mentions this was inadvertently left off the agenda and suggest that they may wish to defer or discuss further.

Thanks,

Brian Maxwell
City Manager

michaelsmith Staff
Michael A. Smith

Brian,
I did read the ordinance. Among other things it says — "A license holder shall not use public metered parking spaces other than what is stated in the license issued by the City." So you who's right? You are it?

Brian Maxwell

That is for the valet stand. Read down. It requires cars to be parked in lots or garages. It was discussed in the meeting.

Brian Maxwell

This is almost a carbon copy of an ordinance used in other cities. It was actually drafted to keep valets from parking cars on the right of way......which is occurring now.

Brian Maxwell

The thought is we give up one or two spaces (and they pay for them) so a valet operator can receive the cars and then park them on private property offsite. It keeps people from parking in neighborhoods, increases parking capacity in crowded areas and strictly enforced the valet stand itself limiting the space you reference in your comment to 15 minutes. No way you can read it and infer that we will be allowing valet parking (the actual act of parking) in metered spaces.

Brian Maxwell

It actually goes further to require any applicant to provide:

(10)  the location of off-street parking to be used in connection with the valet operation and a signed agreement or other documentation that indicates the applicant has a legal right to park vehicles at that location, the number of parking spaces allowed to be used and describing other terms and conditions applicable to the use of the off-street parking location.

Rusty Schroeder

I agree with the concept of this plan, I have seen valets cone off a city block in Houston's downtown entertainment district for "valet only". Meanwhile the public has to go find a parking garage and walk 1/2 mile. The Grand has a parking lot, but on nights with a performance it is almost impossible to find a spot close to Mama Theresa's. I have parked on the street on the other side of American National and worry about my car or truck getting broken into while dining. I don't like worrying about things while eating my pizza and manicotti. :)

Don Schlessinger

I can’t see a problem with the hotel having a valet service and reserving three or four parking spaces. Seems to me they’ll want the 24 hours a day 365 days a year. I do see a problem if they get off without paying what the rest of us are required to pay. No reason for me or my neighbors to subsidize a hotel that is as profitable as the Tremont, and they should be happy to pay the full price.
Is someone in city government receiving a kickback for the discount?

Steve Fouga

On the bright side, it's cool that Galveston has parking issues. It means people value the venues they're trying to park close too. They're still issues, though, and I'm glad somebody's addressing them. [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Curtiss Brown

What Brian said makes sense to me. What Michael says indicates to me he doesn't know what Brian is saying. On any city block every space next to the curb, except spots in front of fire hydrants and at corners to preserve driver sightlines, are city parking spaces. One would think that a business that provided valet parking might encroach on one or more of those spaces simply for the purposes of loading and unloading valet parked cars. To me, that is what this ordinance does.

I might be wrong. I am not an expert here. But I really doubt anyone is stealing from anybody.

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