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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Brand Boulevard Parking Overhaul Sparks Controversy

Chances are if you’re an outsider visiting Glendale, you’ll end up on Brand Boulevard. The thoroughfare is home to restaurants, theaters, bookstores, boutiques and, of course, The Americana at Brand. When Caruso Affiliated opened The Americana shopping complex in May, Glendale suddenly found itself one of Los Angeles County’s it-destinations. Everyone from businessmen to soccer moms to high school students to celebrities such as Nicole Richie patronize The Americana. Just six months after the complex opened, the city of Glendale implemented metered parking all along Brand Boulevard, a move that will help the city cash in on Glendale’s new popularity. According to Public Works Director Steve Zurn, the parking meters will generate between $500,000 and $700,000 in additional revenue annually. Concern for city business owners prompted Glendale to begin charging for parking, he went on to say. “The business owners along Brand had asked us to consider putting in parking meters because there was not enough of the shorter term (parking) turnover,” Zurn said. “A lot of people were parking for long periods of time taking up valuable space in front of their businesses.” Businesses such as the popular Porto’s Bakery, JAX Bar and Grill and Massage Envy are some of the establishments that were affected by Glendale’s free parking, said Elissa Glickman. She is on the executive board of the Downtown Glendale Merchants Association and serves as the associate director of Glendale Arts, the organization that manages the Alex Theatre, also on Brand. During business hours, there was a two-hour time limit on the free parking on the boulevard, but Zurn said that all too often people continued to park there well beyond the time limit, and the city lacked the resources to ticket the many violators. Although Glendale is enjoying a renaissance of sorts thanks to the launch of The Americana, the city’s shift to metered parking has been years in the making. This rules out the idea that Glendale is attempting to capitalize on The Americana via metered parking or trying to weather the recession with the financial boost such parking will generate, Zurn said. “We actually started talking to the merchants probably five years ago when we first broached the subject, when we were talking about redoing Brand Boulevard,” Zurn continued. According to Glickman, business owners were instrumental in having Glendale install metered parking. “The Merchants Association for probably the last year-and-a-half has been working very closely with the city to get the metered parking at Brand Boulevard,” she said. “The conversation about the meters didn’t come from a place of ‘we need to generate more revenues.'” Some of the revenues the city will generate from metered parking will go toward providing more city services and hiring additional employees to provide those services. While the meters are in effect all day and much of the evening,6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,at $1 per hour, they are not very expensive. Moreover, Glendale’s major parking garages have shifted their rates and now offer 90 minutes of free parking. Many establishments in Glendale, such as the Alex Theatre, offer validation for patrons who park in lots, allowing them to pay just $1 for four hours of parking. In the coming months, the lots located just off of Brand will have pay stations for parking. Despite the variety of parking options in Glendale, there has been grumbling about the adjustments made by the city. “Change is never easy, and there are a lot of people who are frustrated by the (metered) parking,” Glickman said. “The negative feedback we’re experiencing is a lot of growing pains. People are not accustomed to change.” While some residents and visitors to the city are upset that they now have to pay for parking, others find the meters confusing. The machines accept credit cards rather than coins and require users to input a parking space number. Particularly, there have been reports that monolingual Armenian and Spanish speakers have had difficulties with the meters because the instructions are printed solely in English. Given this, the fact that The Americana at Brand recently began offering free weekday parking may well be taken as a blessing for those unhappy with the meters on the boulevard. Zurn, though, isn’t worried that the free parking at The Americana will undercut the revenues Glendale will make from metered parking. “The use of the meters and the use of the garages has been very, very successful to this point,” Zurn said. Jennifer Gordon, vice president of events and public relations for Caruso Affiliated, said that The Americana planned to offer free parking from the outset. “It was part of our business plan to experiment and offer free parking during this time. It’s been extremely well received by the customers and the tenants.” Free parking isn’t offered at The Grove, however, the Los Angeles shopping complex Caruso Affiliated owns. Gordon wouldn’t say how long free parking will be provided at The Americana. She said that information was confidential. Gordon was equally vague when asked whether the recession played a part in The Americana’s decision to offer free parking. With retail sales falling, fees for parking give people another reason to stay at home rather than hit the stores. “We market the center 365 days a year,” Gordon said. “We change according to the time, too. We change or modify our plan to accommodate the needs of the community.”

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