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Towing Ousts Cyclists, Carpoolers at Homestead Crossing

The daily, relentless parking enforcement at two busy shopping centers in Cupertino and Los Altos is aimed at changing the habits of all-day parkers who displace paying customers.

Word is out.

Park too long at Homestead Crossing and Foothill Crossing and you may have to shell out as much as $450 in towing fees.

The bustling shopping centers in Cupertino and south Los Altos, next to the Foothill Expressway and Interstate 280, have long been a meeting place for bike riders, car-poolers and just about anyone needing a convenient place to park.

The problem was, shoppers were having a tough time finding a space to park, said Gary J. Leith, the property manager.

On June 25, after providing merchants and their employees with parking passes, and leafleting cars over the weekend, the management began towing.

A lot. Every day. Three, four times a day.

More than a week later, the count was nearly up to 30 cars. A security guard makes the rounds all day, so towing has taken place mornings and afternoons.

The two commercial areas enforcing the towing are the Foothill Crossing shopping center on the Los Altos side, and the Homestead Crossing center on the Cupertino side. The centers are both owned by Harrington Properties and the parking lots are connected. The property where the Wells Fargo Bank and Starbucks sit between the two, is not affected.

“We noticed someone checking the cars,” said Jennifer Henn, who brought her family from Oregon to visit her sister in Los Altos. Henn had just gotten a French manicure along with her daughters and nieces, at Kayla’s Nails, a salon in the Homestead Crossing commercial strip.

The towing was all the talk, Henn said. “It’s a big deal.”

She understands, however, the difficult situation with having non-customers competing with customers for parking space.

Kayla’s owner Terri Thien said the lack of parking often made her customers “so mad they even wrote letters.” Now into the second week of towing, spaces have opened up, and it’s been easier for people trying to come to her shop.

Still, it hasn’t been an easy transition. One of her employees got towed last week because she forgot to display her permit. She worries her customers who were previously mad that they couldn’t find parking might get mad if they get towed, too.

“We certainly don’t enjoy the towing process all,” Leith said. “We find that 95 percent of them were parking there for fishing trips, all-day hiking, Giants games and the like.”

Leith said all the entrances have been posted, and there are additional signs all throughout the shopping center with the 90-minute enforcement information. The newer signs also put people on notice that if they park their cars and then leave the premises without their cars it will be grounds for towing immediately, he said.

“We do need to free up the spaces that are there for our customer who are shopping there,” Leith said.

Shoppers who are using multiple businesses are encouraged to stay longer than 90 minutes to shop, but, just as in many downtown areas, they will need to pay attention to the time and move their cars to a new space, Leith said.

Some businesses such as the nail shop and the Retreat Salon have been provided guest permits to lend to customers who are receiving services that take more than 90 minutes and can't move their cars, he said.

“People were always running late and stressing because of the parking situation,” said Hyacinth Julio, the manager of Retreat Salon. “Sometimes I couldn’t find parking."

Back when Steve Jacoubowsky first opened up the Chain Reaction bike shop in 1993, the center was much sleepier, he said. Parking was easy. Even before he moved there, people were already using the lot to meet up and go elsewhere. With Foothill Produce, Rite Aid and Trader Joe’s, it’s become a busy center, however. People would park on the end of the aisles to make their own parking space. Or they would leave.

“Customers would call us and say they had to go somewhere else.”

That's changed, he said, looking at the open spaces near his store.

By Tuesday afternoon, security guard Andres de la Torre said there had been only one tow.

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Pam Marino July 05, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Now they need to find a way to penalize people who ignore right-of-way rules at the entrance to the parking lot by Trader Joe's, and people who stop and wait for spots at the front, causing cars to dangerously back up onto Homestead Road. There should be a rule that if you want to park up front, you have to loop around to the back, and stack up in the other direction, in front of Foothill Produce and Rite Aid. My pet peeve, however, is when people at the stop signs in the parking lot think people coming in off of Homestead have a stop—or when the Homestead people think they have a stop, when they don't!
Chris Zhang July 05, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The problem is not people park their cars for too long. The problem is greedy commercial developers try to squeeze out as much retail space as possible at the expense of customer parking.
Susan July 05, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Shame on you, Harprop, Inc. Property Management. You gave only a 3 day notice before you started towing away your "valued customers" on a Monday morning -- at $450 a pop?! (Note: My uploaded PDF notice differs from the other uploaded notice.) And who knew we have been "leaving the premisses" to go to Starbucks? If anyone was towed, they have every right to be upset because the paltry 3 day notice did not share the status of the bank or Starbucks – or provide a phone number to call for clarification. Last week, I witnessed one car getting towed, and it was flat out creepy the way they made quick work of it. The tow truck raced hurriedly through the half empty parking lot to the anxiously awaiting security guard. I'd be curious to know if Harprop receives a percentage of that $450, and/or if the security guard gets a commission. I also wonder how many times the security guard has stood by watching cyclists unload, gear up and ride away before calling his tow truck buddy.
John Bartas July 06, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I fully agree with Chris, and would like to point to a second culprit - the city planners that let the center be so overbuilt. I live right up the street, and when I moved here parking was abundant. Trader Joes, the whole Wells Fargo building, and the space housing Peet's had not been built - it was all parking, and just enough. Each time they expanded the retail space they tore up parking. Of course the owners lined their pockets at the expense of the community and their renters - that what unscrupulous landowners do. But what about the city officials that let them do this, time after time, year after year, even as the problem became glaringly obvious? I have to suspect some of those officials later took money from developers to run for public office. As the city now plans for a new round of growth it's up to us citizens to go down to city hall and prevent them from creating a mess that requires armed guards on every parking space. The Patch and city website posts dates & times of planning meetings. Now it's up to us to go down there and make our selves heard.
Frank Geefay July 06, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Many parking issues at overcrowded parking lots throughout Cupertino could be alleviated with a free Shuttle Bus system which would allow shoppers to park at a convenient and not overclouded parking lot and take a free shuttle to their shopping destinations elsewhere. This would help spread out the parking load more evenly throughout the city and make situations like this, where towing is necessary due to non-shopper parking causing parking overcrowding conditions, unnecessary.
AJ July 11, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Although the problem did need to be addressed, as others have stated, this was not the answer. Seriously, if there are open spaces now, consider that you have not only lost all-day-parkers, but "valued customers" HAH - that are not going to take the chance of parking too long, such as ME. My life is already complex enough without having to worry about complete asinine BS like this. And like the customers are going to bother with having to repark?? Are you kidding?? Just shop elsewhere. Simple solution. What a frickin' headache. It appears to me Harrington Properties is not intelligent enough to come up with a more appropriate answer. I, for one, a long time customer of SEVERAL shops in that center, for MANY years, and who had certainly felt the frustration of not being able to park, will nonetheless, no longer be shopping at this center. I'll be damned if I am going to walk out from a shop one day to find my car towed because I parked too long in one spot - at that point, I would feel left with no choice but to bring these folks to court, and again, I do NOT need all that BS - so I will shop elsewhere - and I might add, pretty amazing that Starbucks is included in that 'leaving the premises' - completely unacceptable. True too, that they ever allowed the place to become overbuilt with insufficient parking is a testimony to greed incarnate and if that's what developers/planners/some merchants choose, then they can reap the consequences too.
Pam Marino July 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Wow, AJ, it seems pretty extreme to stop shopping at the center all together, and punish those establishments you've patronized all these years. Especially now that all-day parkers will be gone making the parking situation more tolerable. I can't think of a single time I've needed to be at that shopping center for more than 90 minutes. I'm at that center two or more times a week to pick up food at Trader Joe's and Foothill Produce, drop off or pick up dry cleaning, shop for items at Rite Aid, grab coffee at Peets, or pickup a sandwich at Subway (I sorely miss dinners at China Shuttle!). Occasionally I get my nails done at Kayla's. I've put up with the bad parking situation because I like those stores and the employees and owners. I'm not going to comment on the shopping centers' owners, but I do support not allowing all-day parkers to clog up spaces. I would have preferred a 2-hour limit, but as I said before, I don't think I've ever needed more than 90 minutes.
AJ July 11, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Wow, Pam, it depends on the individual, obviously, and it is merely easier for me to shop elsewhere. I don't believe that is an earth-shaking decision. It is no inconvenience to ME to shop somewhere else. If the inconvenience of shopping elsewhere outweighed the parking restriction anxiety, then obviously, I would continue to shop there. I also do not believe in supporting what I feel to be wrong approaches to problems. There are other ways this could have been solved. While it is great that the decision to shop there still works for you, it is important to realize that what works for you, may not work for all. I believe I was quite clear in my explanation that I did not appreciate the clogged parking either. And the merchants I have a problem with, regarding overbuilding, would be those such as Trader Joes, Rite Aid, the large chain stores in there, not the private merchants.
Pam Marino July 11, 2012 at 09:47 PM
A.J., I wasn't suggesting that what works for me works for everyone. I was illustrating why I don't need more than 90 minutes, and why I will continue to shop there and support the merchants. I was suggesting that to stop shopping there all together is a bit harsh, especially for the smaller merchants that did not create the situation. Parking for shopping centers and commercial districts is a complex problem with ties to cities' economic vitality. Chains, merchants, and center owners will always put pressure on cities to allow as many cars as possible, and city planning commissions and councils will always feel not only that pressure, but also the pressure to create as vital a local economy as possible for the overall health of the city. My guess is a busy shopping center with parking issues is probably more desirable to city leaders than having a dead center that brings in no revenue, and creates a neighborhood black hole, sucking the energy out of the community. Should Los Altos have allowed Trader Joe's in that spot? That was a good question. However, it's there now, I'm glad it's there, and I'd rather work on a solution to how we can all successfully use the lot. The centers' owners took a stab at it, and obviously we're not all happy with how they went about it.
Pam Marino July 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
P.S. For those that stop shopping at the center, I know of folks who stopped a long time ago who will probably resume shopping now that there might be some spaces opening up.
Susan July 12, 2012 at 12:42 AM
This isn't downtown LA; it's a neighhood shopping center on the outskirts of suburbia. I'd like to know what motivated Gary J. Leith to tow my neighbors instead of issuing warnings or parking tickets. Thirty towed cars in one week @ 450 ea. is $13,500! Hey – Gary – who got all that money?!
Jeff M July 12, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Gotta love all the garbled outrage and ludicrous accusations here. The shopping center is not a public parking lot. It is private property that was paid for to provide business customers with parking. Who the hell is so self-entitled that they object to the enforcement of that?
Susan July 12, 2012 at 01:24 AM
You're missing the point, Jeff. It's not what you do, but the way that you do it. A $450 penalty on 3 days warning? You don't think that's a little heavy handed? I've never heard of such a thing. Have you?
Jeff M July 12, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Yes, I have, harsh though it might seem. First, there are legal provisions for a private property owner to call for a tow if the proper posting has been done. However, there is no legal provision for ticketing on private property. In a public lot you can be ticketed, but in California private property does not work that way. Second, they did put up a ton of signs and did courtesy leafleting for three days. How long should it have been? When as a driver are are you not accountable for ignoring signs? How long should a car be allowed to sit in violation before it is the right time to tow? Third, non-enforcement for more than a short courtesy period after the posting is grounds for protest that the policy was not enforced consistently/fairly, and that the actual date that enforcement began was not understood. Sort of the same thing you are saying. If you don't enforce it, then it is hard to defend property rights (such as parking restrictions), and there could even be a complex web of liability in some cases. If you research this, you will find that the property owner has to do everything by the book and is held accountable for improper towing. Not to mention the obligations of the property owner to the tenant businesses. Why are you putting the burden on the property manager, who has met his responsibilities, when it is the non-customers usurping the lot that are the problem? Oh, and the towing company gets all the money; that was certainly a mindless accusation.
Susan July 12, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Dear Jeff. That center has been dead as a door nail for at least 45 years, so I'm "putting the burden" exactly where it belongs: the property manager. He had a choice to put warnings on cars for more than 3 days. Instead, he towed away his "valued guests" at $450 a pop! If that's your definition of a valued guest, welcome to Cupertino, now go home.
Jeff M July 12, 2012 at 05:45 AM
The exchange is amusing anyone who reads this, no doubt. Did a few current facts offered against your outrage comprise stepping on your toes? I guess you absolutely can't be wrong or off base, so I must be. Sorry for the inconvenience. Sorry that your friends who were not entitled to take up the customer parking got their cars towed after three days of posted signs and leaflets on cars. That can't be their fault. And the property manager clearly had no legal or business restraints that prevented him from leafleting cars for 90 days (would that be enough?). I would suggest that before you make a public complaint and snarkily accuse someone of gouging the towed car owners for his own benefit, that you: Check your facts (this is the big one) Check your tone Check your ego Oh well, too late. But I will be happy to start shopping there again, at several businesses, now that it will be halfway reasonable for customers to park. That shopping center might have been quiet for a long time, but for the last six or seven years the parking has gotten progressively worse and had recently been nuts. So thanks to Gary for making a difficult, but overall a good move.

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