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The Parking Grouch to Tehee: I won’t go downtown!

Road_Sign_No_Parking

Bring up the topic of Fulton Mall, and from many Fresnans — particularly those who live in the far-out ‘burbs, where streets are paved with gold, birds chirp in extravagant gardens, and every pedestrian has taken a shower this morning — you get a knee-jerk reaction:

A big long whine about parking.

Somewhere along the line, many people in Fresno and the surrounding area decided that the most important thing about a city’s downtown is that it has acres of free, flat parking. Never mind that nearly all downtowns need some sort of way to regulate parking (otherwise the people that work there would take up all the spaces). And never mind that downtown Fresno actually has lots of easily accessible parking — and priced so inexpensively that it could give a San Francisco meter maid cardiac arrest. Just read recent letters to the editor. People seem to want their parking in big, Wal-Mart-style lots. And they want it free.

My Beehive colleague Josh Tehee, in his 7 section column last Friday, tackled the topic. In this matter we’re in complete agreement: Parking is a non-issue for the Fulton Mall. There’s plenty of it, and expecting it to be free is just silly.

In the spirit of a free-wheeling discussion, I called on an acquaintance of mine, The Parking Grouch, to put Josh through the paces. He readily agreed.

The Parking Grouch: Read your piece from Friday, Josh. Let me tell you a little story. I just got back from a quick shopping trip to one of those sporting goods stores that’s big enough to be its own county. I drove right up, grabbed a prime spot right in front after cutting off a little-old lady, and I walked into the store sweat-free. No walking for me! Even if I wanted to shop at the Fulton Mall, which I don’t, why would I want to drive down there and fight for parking?

Josh: First, I doubt you’ll have to “fight for parking,” but that depends on your definition of the term, I suppose. You may have to find a meter or parking structure and you will have to pay a couple of dollars (unless it’s a weekend or after 6 p.m., during which time parking is FREE). That might be of some inconvenience, but that’s nothing unique to Fresno’s downtown.

Let’s really look at your question though, because it came with a caveat, and that caveat (the fact you don’t want to go to the Fulton Mall anyway) is what’s important. If the city ripped out the entirety of the mall and put in six city blocks worth of asphalt and free parking stalls, you’d still be complaining. But you’d be complaining about the real issue. I’d rather we skipped the whole parking thing and get to the heart of the matter.

The Parking Grouch: Hmmm. Six city blocks of asphalt and free parking stalls — that actually warms my heart. If that happened, I might even drive down there and park for a while — just because I could. But, yes, perhaps I’m being too much of a grouch.  Even I realize you can’t just raze downtown. Still, even if you could convince me to come downtown, which I’m not sure you can, it just grates on me that I have to pay for something I can get at River Park or Fashion Fair for free. (I will make a confession. In 1979, I got to my car, which I had parked downtown at a meter, about 15 minutes later than I expected. I received a $25 ticket. And I vowed never to pay to park downtown again.) But what do you think the heart of the matter is? For me, it’s that downtown is dirty and crime-ridden.

Joshua: I would refer you to my column.

Parking is a commodity based on available space, and short of paving over entire sections of downtown (not to give anyone any ideas), it’s never going to be as accessible in downtown Fresno as it is outside a Walmart.

That’s reality, not a problem to fix.

I will reiterate here: Parking is a commodity, based on space. Those stalls at River Park and Fashion Fair aren’t really free, the costs are just hidden.

But your problem with downtown has nothing to do with that. It’s that you are holding some kind of grudge, or that you think it’s dirty and dangerous. That’s fine, I guess. It’s also misguided and off topic.

The Parking Grouch: You let me know when there’s an IKEA downtown, and I might — just might — venture to park there. (Stomps off, as much as a manufactured alter ego can stomp off in a world made of pixels.)

Back to Donald: Well, I don’t know if that really helped all that much in terms of getting closer to a solution. But at least we got another view articulated on this view about downtown parking — and it’s certainly a popular view out there. In the meantime, maybe we could be extra nice to IKEA?

Responses to "The Parking Grouch to Tehee: I won’t go downtown!"

Delaine Zody says:

Parking isn’t the issue. If all that was needed was two-way traffic and free parking, then F Street in Chinatown would be a bustling street.

Bethany Clough says:

Does anybody else think this whole thing would be a lot easier if businesses/offices were more vocal about telling people where cheap/easy parking is available? I was pleasantly surprised the day Melanie from Twee told me you can park in the CVS lot for up to hour for free. I had no idea! I’ve been using it ever since. Seems like “park in the 2-hours meters” on Kern Street,” or “park for free at xyz” on web pages and Facebook pages might be pretty helpful.

JJJJ says:

Considering parking downtown is free more than its not….that would be quite the webpage.

pk says:

and….in the other BeeHive story featuring Corky Normart’s paintings of Downtown the issue of parking is the subject in one of the paintings….and in the video he speaks of it as well….
So really, it IS the issue! Try being a Juror and parking in the NORTH 40….oh and don’t park in the WRONG lot; then YOU won’t have the free parking…..
It’s all very confusing….

Bob says:

Pay for parking? Oh the horror. Typical Fresno small time attitude.

Yet another example of why Fresno can’t have nice things.

soddruntlestuntle says:

I am so tired of these hayseeds complaining about paying to park! It’s obvious they’ve never been to a large urban downtown, such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, etc., where the only ‘Free Parking’ you’ll find is on a Monopoly board at a toy store… doesn’t matter, because the only reason most of these dingbats would come downtown anyway is if there was a feedstore or a Hooters or a church.

PB says:

We recently attended a function at the old Del Webb building….no parking in the immediate vicinity due to a function at the Convention Center. We ended up parking in the underground parking at the Court House. I was petrified getting back to our car that night. Had to walk the outskirts of Court House Park. We weren’t bothered verbally, but I was uncomfortable with some of the stares we got. I am sympathetic to the plight of the homeless and the park dwellers, but I was scared. So, while there was plenty of parking it was the the coming and going that was the issue.

David says:

I love downtown, but taking a defensive attitude toward the parking issue helps absolutely no one. Parking is not simple downtown. If a downtown newbie requires a 3×5 index card stating which lots are free (for 1hr, 2hrs, whole day, etc.), which lots charge money, and which lots are open after 6 or on weekends, then nothing has been accomplished. It shouldn’t be harder to find parking downtown than it is to get a phone upgrade at AT&T, yet it is.

What’s more, comparing downtown Fresno to other urban centers (Boston, Seattle, Chicago) is a nonstarter. Unlike those cities, downtown Fresno is not a world-renowned center of business, culture, tourism, or anything else at the moment. Until it is (or that IKEA shows up), people will continue to complain about the parking. It is not unreasonable to expect to pay for parking in an urban center…but it is reasonable to expect complaints about it unless that urban center has something of value to offer.

Finally, don’t discount the fact that the only reason many people go downtown is to take care of jury duty, court business, or anything else that requires a government office. Finding reasonably priced, convenient parking in an unfamiliar place just adds a layer of difficulty to an inconvenient, stressful situation, increasing antipathy about downtown in general.

The way I see it, there are two solutions. 1) Make parking free and easily accessible, though this would require huge financing from the city. 2) Develop a coded system for downtown parking with SIMPLE rules, charges, and distinctions for each, and publicize it heavily. This would require buy-in from private garage owners.

@TheNickHaas says:

I agree with most of this. Yes, it is not nearly as easy to find out whats what without someone telling you or having to do the research, which we all know most Fresnans are far too lazy to do. And yes, for those who dont regularly come downtown, the idea of paying for something I already dont want to be there for, i.e. anything to do with the government, sounds like a crappy deal.

1. Yes, there needs to be much much more, entertainment shopping recreation etc to make the very rare instance when you have to pay for parking seem worth it.

2. Signage. Signage. Signage. There is not NEARLY enough signage and information about parking that there needs to be.

I’ve never paid to park downtown. I’m lucky enough that i work downtown, at Chukchansi park, and park for free in the H lot. (and so do jury duty-ers). But even parking underground (which im fairly certain 85% of Fresnans dont even know exists), I get easily validated after buying a drink or lunch at Club One. And if its past 6pm or a weekend, ALSO FREE.

People just dont know and/or are too lazy to find out.

DLR84 says:

parking is a small issue. but the real issue is that no one cares enough to go downtown and figure out the small issue that is parking.

if this parking “issue” was solved, does anyone really think it would be bustling? doubt it.

the hundreds (thousands?) of people who work and park downtown daily (and pay $75-$100 per month to do so) know there’s not enough there to bother going back on the weekend.

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