Valet Parking

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

The editorial in this space Wednesday overstated the number of metered public parking spaces at issue in a valet parking ordinance Galveston city staff proposed and the council last week postponed voting on until the idea could be hashed out in a workshop session.

The editorial argued 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,” the editorial stated.

“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.”

The argument was based on two lines in the proposed ordinance and comments from city council members who also had questions and concerns about the ordinance.

One line was this: “A license holder shall not use public metered parking spaces other than what is stated in the license issued by the city.”

The other was this: “space usage within the designated area or district service area — $250 per space.”

City administrators objected to the editorial Wednesday, saying the ordinance wouldn’t allow valet operators to essentially rent public parking spaces for their customers, as we had implied.

The “public metered parking spaces” mentioned in the draft ordinances meant only one or two spaces immediately adjacent to a valet parking stand, administrators said Wednesday. Those could be used so valet customers could pull out of the traffic lane while waiting to be served.

We could still argue the ordinance would give private business owners a special deal on public parking spaces, but not nearly on the scope that Wednesday’s editorial posited.

It is true, however, that one or two spaces for a valet stand here, and one or two there and there and there, could soon add up to a lot more than one or two public spaces occupied by valet customers.

We argue the editorial overstated the number of spaces at issue because the proposed ordinance is extremely vague and open to interpretation about that, and stand by the editorial’s main argument, which was the proposed ordinance raised a lot of questions that needed answering before the council voted.

That said, city administrators Wednesday made a case that such an ordinance would benefit the public as much or more than private businesses. They argued, for example, that each car parked by a valet would mean one less driver looking for street parking.

Likewise, valet parking would be a welcome amenity for many members of the public.

City administrators also argued that the ordinance was necessary for the city to keep valet operators from parking their customers’ vehicles in unmetered spots in neighborhoods, as one or two apparently are doing.

The bottom line is that the ordinance isn’t necessarily bad, but it is unclear. For example, if the intent is that no valet operator would ever be licensed to use more than one or two public spaces, the ordinance should include words to that effect.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(12) comments

Don Schlessinger

Why is it that the State of Texas will not allow a property owner, paying taxes on the island isn't allowed discounted parking but the Tremont can? Doesn't seem fair to me.

Joe Flores

Right !!

Brian Maxwell

Because the Tremont is not on the Seawall where the state laws apply?

Don Schlessinger

So Brian, island residents parking fares can be discounted legally, right? In that case let island property owners buy an annual ticket for downtown parking. Since a majority of downtown workers live over the causeway, they wouldn't be eligible for discounted fares. Give us locals a break.

Brian Maxwell

Downtown parking was implemented at the request of downtown businesses to make parking available to them. If we have discounted or free parking to residents, those that live downtown would take all of the spaces defeating the purpose of paid parking and not allow parking for our downtown businesses. Pretty much why most every city with downtown commerce and limited parking have paid, metered parking. And most downtown workers don’t live across the causeway. Many if not most are local students and many of them live downtown too.

Joe Flores

right again ...

Joe Flores

Totally agree Michael... more clarity but public paid parking should not be part of the deal.... check out the block on Sunday morning at 8:30 in morning !!! paid parking downtown 7 days a week is a no brainer ....have a mo' bettah day !!

Don Schlessinger

Brian, how many people working downtown are property owners work downtown? If a person working downtown doesn't own property, pay property taxes, he/she doesn't get the discount. You might agree that City of Galveston employees, UTMB employees come from over the causeway, they would not have the benefit of discounted parking. Again my idea eliminates anyone who does not pay property taxes.

Brian Maxwell

That solves nothing because the primary issue are the people who already live downtown who take up the spaces. Would they not be residents under your plan and then qualify for cheaper or free parking and then the downtown businesses would still have no parking?

And I will day again that in almost every business and restaurant that I I go into downtown, most of not all of the employees live on the they to would have the free or discounted spaces, taking spots from the businesses.

Again, the city doesn’t /didn’t want to charge anyone to park. This was done at the request of downtown building and business owners who want it. They know their business models and apparently feel the risk of charging everyone is not adverse to their business.

When the goal is turnover, discounted or free parking of any kind is counter intuitive to the purpose.

Charlotte O'rourke

I can understand not giving free unlimited Downtown parking to residents, but I really don’t understand not giving discounted hourly rates. Notice waived transaction fees for residents in parking plan below.

“With proof of residency, registered Miami Beach residents will enjoy the discounted hourly parking rate of $1.00 per hour at on-street meters, off-street meters and garages.

Additionally, residents are provided a discounted monthly rate at garages of $70.00/month plus tax. Please note that there are waiting lists for garage monthly permits. To place your name on our waiting list, please call 305.673.7505.

ParkMobile has also agreed to waive transaction fees for registered Miami Beach residents when used for payment of on-street, off-street or garage parking.”

Florida also allows different resident versus nonresident parking rates for beach parking. Go figure ....

Charlotte O'rourke

I would like to see more programs and discounts that encourage residents to live and shop downtown and elsewhere in Galveston.

As to this specific ordinance, it appears to have potential, and I’m glad it is being explored.

Don Schlessinger

OOPS, you might agree that many City of Galveston employees.

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