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