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Should Los Gatos Continue Downtown Parking Improvement District?

Merchants and property owners in downtown Los Gatos express concern about growing lack of parking problem in the area; want parking garage built.

A portion of the Downtown Los Gatos Parking Improvement Program. Courtesy Town of Los Gatos
A portion of the Downtown Los Gatos Parking Improvement Program. Courtesy Town of Los Gatos
On Dec. 5, 1988, Los Gatos issued 25-year limited obligation bonds paid by property assessments to partially finance parking improvement projects in the Los Gatos Parking Assessment District.

Those bonds and assessments end in December of 2013.

To discuss the future of the parking district, created in May 18, 1987, Los Gatos economic vitality officials are inviting downtown property and business owners to a meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Town Council chambers, 110 E. Main St.

The meeting will give participants a chance to discuss upcoming holiday events in the downtown area, as well as possible next steps for downtown parking, the flier advertising the event said.

Staff from the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce and the town's Economic Vitality Department will be on hand to present information and answer questions.

Longtime Los Gatos resident Larry Arzie, who owns property in the downtown parking district, complained in an email to Los Gatos Patch that the parking district did not add one additional parking space to the area.

There are 11 public parking lots in downtown Los Gatos supplying 1,116 parking spaces.

There are a total of 342 parallel parking spaces dedicated along all other downtown streets: 77 spaces along East and West Main Street from Pageant to North Santa Cruz, 18 along Montebello, 120 along South and North Santa Cruz from Highway 17 to Highway 9, and 127 along all other side streets in the downtown, according to town records.

"We, merchants and property owners, have paid millions of dollars for a beautification project only, not new parking," Arzie said.

In lieu of paying into the parking district, which has helped pay for upkeep, Arzie said town officials promised that no further restaurant or additional square footage would be allowed without additional parking required.

However, he said, town management has allowed retail to convert to restaurants or bars without providing parking.

Arzie is particularly upset that parking is being allowed in the downtown when enterprises such as the Los Gatos Theatre have completely remodeled, adding a component to the business which will require patrons to find additional parking.

"The town regulations are clear that this shall not be allowed without new parking," he said. "The parking district expenses have now been paid off. Merchants will no longer be assessed hundreds of dollars a year triple net costs on their rents."

Arzie expressed disappointment that now town management seems to be wanting to form a new parking district arguing that the last one wasn't expansive enough.

Arzie urged every property owner and merchant to attend the meeting to demand from town officials the building of a new parking garage that he says was promised, but never delivered.

Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson and Economic Vitality coordinator Monica Renn didn't immediately return emails and phone calls seeking comment. 


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Eric November 26, 2013 at 08:45 AM
Along with adding parking, I wish the town would consider shutting n santa cruz from main to rt 9 and making it a pedestrian walkway ala santa row. we could finally get some outside seating for restaurants and make downtown much more desirable, maybe it would attract some business that might actually last.
kim w November 26, 2013 at 10:09 AM
Love the idea of making Santa Cruz a pedestrian walkway! We have long chatted about that. It makes no sense to drive down there. It's always gridlock and it may deter a lot of folks from coming off 17 and using it as a way to avoid the highway. We need more outdoor seating and to encourage more biking and walking to town. Merchants and the town could start a campaign to encourage such by offering discounts and incentives as well as more bike locks and bike friendly restaurants and stores. A parking garage is nice, but perhaps we should look to the future and encourage our town to be a place people want to hang out and walk in, not cruise through. It's all about urban planning. They should look to other towns that have done this.
CS November 26, 2013 at 10:55 AM
I third that walking and biking should be priorities in our downtown. Why are we approaching parking in a vacuum as only an issue for those with stores or houses in the parking area? Who is gaining community input on what is right for our town? What other transportation and growth issues need to be addressed? The accessibility and personality of our downtown is a community-wide issue and investment. We need a strategic discussion on transportation in Los Gatos. It certainly involves parking and fact that we have a uniquely walkable (and bike-able) community. That is our unique value with trails, mountains, parks and other public assets, like schools and library, all suffering from pressures of growth with no strategy on sustainable transportation. Who is responsible for the strategy?
gloria sheridan November 26, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Turning most of Santa Cruz into a pedestrian area with enhanced outdoor cafes sounds nice that that would put the traffic burden on University and, unfortunately, on the residential streets on the other side of Santa Cruz. I think this would be very unfair to the homeowners in Almond Grove and would make University untenable. I believe the town needs to look at the transportation impact of the high density residential areas they are approving, not to mention the impact these developments will have on our schools. We have an incredible gem and we need some stewardship on the part of our town officials to guide us through the next decades.
Eric November 26, 2013 at 03:24 PM
our "gem" is slowly dying compared to other towns in the area that are allowing development. campbell has encouraged new restaurants and it's downtown is booming. what is it going to take for the town council to realize the current plan isn't working? how many more stores will go out of business and sit empty or be replaced by some store that lasts less than a year? something needs to be done to reinvigorate the town. pedestrian downtown would be such an idea. for those on university - don't buy a house on a golf course if you don't want to get hit by golf balls! seriously you know what you are getting into buying a place one block off downtown.
AR November 26, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Campbell downtown has made commendable progress, and its clear that they are focusing on creating an entertainment district. Over time they may wish they had mixed in more retail. Los Gatos' downtown is not a lost cause (like Saratoga's). I'm mostly satisfied with the mix and vibrancy. I'd love to see mass transit reduce the need for vehicles enough that Santa Cruz could become a pedestrian lane, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Indeed, as vehicle traffic increases I think its time to start replacing stop-sign intersections with traffic lights. Main/Los Gatos blvd only seems congested because the flow of traffic is hampered by an outdated series of stop-sign intersections...namely College/Main, Main/Jackson. A little investment in flow control would go a long way, and would make the intersections more safe.
kim w November 26, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Another idea is to just have the street shut one day a week like Sundays as some towns do. As far as traffic flowing off through neighborhoods, they might look to Palo Alto where no through traffic signs and some islands have successfully prevented cars from using the residential streets as thoroughfares. If the street is closed, cafes, restaurants, and stores can have a lot more room to spread out like European streets. Isn't that desirable? Do we want to encourage more cars to come to our town? I think not. Let's try to plan accordingly and do all we can to make pedestrians and bikes a safer and encouraged option by the town and merchants.
Marilyn Leonard November 26, 2013 at 06:30 PM
A pedestrian mall with the ability to have outdoor dining would be great. However, that still leaves a parking problem. I've left the area several times and gone elsewhere because I couldn't find a spot to park.
Eric November 26, 2013 at 11:54 PM
parking can be solved. new parking structures could be built. but you need business that will drive revenue and taxes to pay for it. as long as the town won't let chains in it will never happen.
CS November 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM
There are options for travel. Are there shuttles bringing people from all of the new healthcare business expansion around Good Sam to downtown? There are buses taking corporate employees from Google away from our local businesses as there is no focus on actually developing infrastructure to support people working corporate jobs in Los Gatos. I'm sure all of us who have to commute hours a day to get to work would LOVE for Los Gatos to put some focus on corporate development that included a strategy getting people to/from homes and cars. Parking downtown is not the issue. The growth, personality and healthy potential of this community are.
Esmée St James November 28, 2013 at 01:57 PM
We do need a parking solution. Pedestrian malls are great but some folks aren't that physically mobile. I like the idea of a parking garage. Also like the idea of more public transit.
Bob Rosenthal November 28, 2013 at 03:38 PM
@Kim W. I like your idea of closing Santa Cruz on Sundays. That makes the most sense to me. Yes, living on Tait I would probably more traffic on Sundays, but I wouldn't find that to be objectionable After all, that would only be one day a week and I would probably get out and enjoy strolling down the middle of Santa Cruz. In fact, I remember a few years back when Santa Cruz was blocked off for one day and a street faire was held What a joy that was. And remember, every year the Fiesta de Artes causes a portion of Main to be closed for the weekend. I don't recall any complaints regarding that, and parking apparently is not a screaming problem.
Ed Dee November 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM
A possible Solution: dedicated off/on ramps to a significant parking structure at the north 40 with efficient (frequent and dependable) clean energy shuttles between north 40 and north Santa Cruz via 17/ or LG blvd. Only local residents with permits allowed (or guests with temporary passes) to drive through town (to access residences). Successful examples are: national parks, mountain ski towns (Aspen, Telluride, Zermat). If nothing changes, congestion will only increase until gridlock is the norm. It's simple math. Limited real estate, unlimited people.
Larry Arzie December 01, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Great Idea Ed! Where does the money come from to do this? In the meantime since the town created this problem by intensifying the central business district they owe us an immediate solution.
Ed Dee December 01, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Good point, Larry. Funding.... maybe a mix of revenue from non-permitted activity (traffic citations), pay to park in the structure. If net consumer volume was found to increase; local businesses could share the cost in a number of ways, and since we the town residents would be receiving a benefit in the form of reduced traffic conjestion, our permit fees could also contribute? Just exploring possibilities....
Larry Arzie December 01, 2013 at 01:47 PM
I think San Francisco and or New York photograph license plates and bill charges in certain districts at certain hours? But Santa Cruz ave. is a main artery. Please plan on attending the Tueday 8/8:30 meeting to offer suggestions.
K December 04, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Many towns have tried the closing for car traffic thing over the years with many undoing it finding it does not work well. Many examples throughout the US. So closing it one day a week? Only if you do something with that space or you will only have created a ghost town 1 day a week. Need to fill the space not just create one. Shuttles are great but - bring in fun different shuttles like the cable car ones.... make them part of the image you are trying to create. No different then an amusement park, you want to create an environment and experience. Think outside the box.... maybe create an incentive that anyone that has taken a shuttle gets a discount at one store.... look at the full 360 picture.

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