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The Beehive Asks: What’s your take on parking and downtown dining?

With the upcoming Fulton Corridor meetings in mind, I caught up with some changes to the downtown restaurant scene.

If you plan to bring up restaurants at the meetings, check out the whole story. You’ll read about

Our friends at Fresno Famous picked up on the recurring parking theme and responded with this post: Downtown + parking = come on, seriously?

Yes. Seriously. Every time I’ve reported on downtown restaurants, the parking issue comes up.

For example, lack of parking bedeviled the old Cheker’s Melting Pot on the Tuolumne side of the Warnors Theatre. Former owner Ken Patterson told The Bee in 2007 that customers “drive by and if they can’t find [street] parking, they will drive by a second time. But that’s it.”

Another of Cheker’s owners, Raffy Chekerdemian, remembers those parking issues today. “As much as people wanted to support and be loyal,” he says, “I can understand why people wouldn’t want to go through the hassle and get some lunch.”

“I personally liked the whole downtown experience,” Chekerdemian adds. “If I were at Kern and N streets, where people can actually walk, I think I would still be downtown.”

It’s telling that Civic Center Square comes up repeatedly in my conversations. Instead of just more parking lots, it seems we need better integration of offices, retail and parking in an attractive outdoor setting. Civic Center Square supplies all of this, giving restaurants two streams of customers:

  • those who are close enough to walk to a restaurant, grab lunch and get back to the office in 30 minutes
  • those who can drive and park in, say, the lot behind the Galleria.

What do you think? Do you want more parking throughout downtown? More campuses like Civic Center Square? Or something else?

Responses to "The Beehive Asks: What’s your take on parking and downtown dining?"

Abe Lopez says:

Maybe some way-finding signage. There’s a parking lot across the street from the old Checkers spot.

Chris says:

Parking is an issue for business in general for Fresno. It is a mindset here, stripmall mentality. For a large part of the population if there is not a parking spot on the same block as the destination, it is no longer their destination. If you don’t agree, just take a look at the most popular shopping, dining and entertainment areas of the city.

Let me give you my honest opiniong of why I avoid downtown,

Number 1 reason- panhandling- they are agressive down there, they will follow you until you give them some change, and if you dont they get angry, and there are people sleeping just about everywhere, I know they dont have much of a choice but typically they are drunk or something, this is just by my own observations cuz I see them stumbling or have a brown bag bottle next to them

2. parking- its not that I cannot find it, its just that I dont want to keep having to feed the meter every few minutes and I dont always carry change

3. lighting, its creepy out there at nite and with the panhandling it makes it even worse

melanie says:

Parking should be like every other city. Free after 6pm, Sundays and Holidays. There should not be an “Except during events.” How am I supposed to know there is an event going on? Also, in major cities, it doesn’t matter if there’s an event, if you are lucky to be there early and score a spot, then so be it.

I will say, one problem I have noticed is that sometimes entire strips of parking, especially in front of banks, where there should be 15 min only parking, they are taken up by cars with handicap placards that are parked there all day. Probably employees of nearby business, but then it makes it impossible for people to patronize those businesses. I don’t think that’s a City problem, I think that’s something that should be addressed between employers and employees.

Michael says:

Panhandling is an issue throughout the city. If panhandling is an issue for you, just say “no thank you” when you are approached. Every large city has pan handlerss. Fresno is a large city.

Joan Obra says:

I agree that parking is an issue in general, but it’s more than just a strip-mall mentality. It’s a result of our predominant car culture.

For example, when I lived in New York, I never drove. Why battle insane Manhattan traffic, then drive around looking for street parking, or paying lots of money for a parking garage when there were other good options?

Because the subway system is excellent there (meaning, it’s cheaper than driving, runs 24 hours and has lots of stops), it’s far easier to hop the subway and walk than drive. Add an abundance of taxis and it’s very easy to get around. And yes, there also are the buses, although I didn’t really need to ride them.

Our reliance on cars here feeds perfectly into the strip-mall mentality. To me, it makes more sense to accept this mentality when shaping the future of downtown Fresno, instead of lamenting that people think this way.

Now, I’m not saying that we have to raze downtown Fresno and turn it into a giant strip mall. That would seriously suck.

But, when it comes to say, Fulton Mall, I understand the argument for opening it up to a lane of traffic. Keep wide sidewalks, install the shops, restaurants and entertainment at ground level on either side, and build some diagonal parking in front of them to complement strategically placed parking lots or garages.

Or break up Fulton Mall into smaller versions of Civic Center Square, with parking lots around a campus-like area to encourage walking.

Or some combination of both of these concepts.

Of course, some of you will disagree — and others will have suggestions to improve these concepts. If you guys have other ideas, please share them with us. I’d love to hear them!

Lisi says:

I have never felt that the panhandlers downtown are aggressive at all. Maybe they have a rule about girls. Come to think of it I have never even felt scared downtown, day or night. I do however really wish our panhandlers would work for it a little, play a guitar or paint themselves silver or something.

Heather says:

I have to agree. I get hit up for change far more often in my north Fresno neighborhood than I do downtown.

Jeff says:

Here is what I have learned over the years about parking meters and parking lots in general.

1. Metered parking at night: The meter maids (now there is a politically incorrect label) or the parking vultures (if you prefer) who write tickets because you didn’t pay the meter, (and because you didn’t park in the designated space provided, had expired tags, etc.) I have learned that if you park at a meter and feed it till 8:30 pm that the chances of getting diminish greatly.

2 Paid parking: The underground parking lot near the courthouse is free if you leave after 6 pm. And when it comes to parking, it pays to be late. As an example: if you are going to a Grizzlies game, parking is usually free if you show up at 7:30 pm. Most paid lots become free lots if you don’t mind missing part of whatever show you are attending.

@The Real Dave:

Regarding panhandling: I am approached more in north Fresno than I am downtown, and I spend more time downtown than in north Fresno (Shaw northward).

Parking meters range from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on where you park. So where are you parking where you need to go out every few minutes to feed the meter?

From my experience, you clearly don’t go downtown very often, particularly at night.

Chris says:

I am not originally from Fresno. I am from a city that has no parking other than parking garages… It worked fine, it did not keep people from filling every restaurant and shopping in every store. The difference was…. 90 minutes free and $.50 every 30 minutes thereafter with a maximum of $5. They had a parking garage or parking lot every two to three blocks. I know this doesn’t help those that are working downtown, but it may entice some to venture there.

I worked downtown for many years and it cost me a lot of money in parking ($60 for a parking space + lots of change + a few parking tickets a month). I do not go anywhere near there anymore unless absolutely necessary.

I think ripping up those stupid meters and making a change to how parking garages/lots charge would do a whole host of good for businesses that struggle down there.

Chris says:

Actually I take all that back… Seriously, how long has everyone been talking about Downtown Revitalization… About as long as it takes most cities to complete it and bask in its glory!

Bryan Harley says:

There is more than enough parking in downtown Fresno. I agree with Abe, in the least, we need better wayfinding. But more importantly, Fresnans just need to get over parking right in front of an establishment and get used to parking in a garage or down the street and walking. That’s what downtowns are like.

Bigj7489 says:

Just another reason why they should forget about it. Especially with no money in the coffers to pay for it

ninesrok says:

I used to go downtown a lot and was somewhat proud that it wasn’t a problem. Now I have a hard time finding my way around Chavez Adult School and the hospital. But those are both really good things, so I’ll keep trying. I always loved the mall, but thought we needed to work on the backs of the stores, which was where the parking lots were. Hot, dirty, ugly, hard to tell where you were in relation to where you wanted to go. Went down to Frank’s Place last weekend. Finally parked in the KJWL lot, but wasn’t too sure I wouldn’t find my car behind locked gates when I came out. I guess the idea of one lane of traffic and a little diagonal parking might help get people up close enough to see what’s there, and then there does have to be some parking. Having lots at some distance with shuttles might work. And how about open-air shuttles, maybe on a cable car model. If you’re dressing for the weather anyway, it’s actually easier not to have to take off your coat or put one on.