Downtown Parking Garage to Open Aug. 18
Facility Designed to Support Convention Center, Gaslamp, East Village,
By Pat Broderick
What sort of impact will the new Sixth & K Parkade have on Downtown parking, Petco Park, the Gaslamp Quarter and the Convention Center?
Scheduled for an Aug. 18 grand opening, the seven-story, 1,230-space, $20 million parking garage could be an initial boon or bane, depending on the length of motorists’ learning curve.
“After the games, when you have a full house, 42,000 leaving at once, there is a huge amount of pedestrian activity surrounding the parking structure,” said Bill Keller, owner of Le Travel Store in the Gaslamp Quarter. “There’s already gridlock. What happens when you add 1,000 parking garage spaces, it conflicts with pedestrians.”
So, what’s the answer?
“We need creative solutions to mitigate the problem,” said Keller, a member of the Gaslamp Quarter Association. “People will learn that the garage will be good for those coming down an hour or a half-hour before the game. They can hang out in the Gaslamp, if they come early, before the traffic hits, no problem. If they don’t try to get out within the first hour after the game, they will have a good experience. It’s the people who show up just before the game and try to leave right after the game who will have problems with the parking structure.”
But the public/private venture between the Centre City Development Corp. Redevelopment Agency and JMI Realty was never designed with Petco Park in mind.
Not A Ballpark Garage
“The intent when it was conceived was never, ever that it was a ballpark garage,” said Derek Danziger, CCDC communications director. “It was conceived as part of a plan in 1997, intended to support the Convention Center, the southern end of the Gaslamp and the East Village. We don’t want people to be misled.”
While the ballpark will undoubtedly benefit from the additional parking, motorists can expect some initial congestion, he said.
“We’re trying to watch the pattern of those flowing to and from the ballpark. It may take longer to exit the garage after the game. You’re never going to get rid of it entirely, when you’ve got about 1,000 cars.”
Ed Netzhammer, Omni San Diego Hotel general manager, is upbeat about the new garage, which includes 230 basement-level spaces for his hotel through a special arrangement with JMI.
“The garage definitely will help ease parking around the hotel,” he said, adding that his guests can expect valet parking there.
“They can have dinner, walk across the bridge and come back over and pick up their cars.”
‘More Spots Are Great’
His guests haven’t had too much of a hassle adjusting to the added hustle and bustle, Netzhammer siad.
“For the past two months, getting to and from the hotel has not been a problem,” he said, “they got it figured out pretty well. But more spots are going to be great for the community and the hotel.”
Danziger said, “We’re excited about the new garage coming Downtown.” It’s a perfect complement to parking in the Gaslamp Quarter.
“There is a perception by people that there is no parking left in Downtown, but we’re trying to be better and smarter in how we use it, to use resources better. It’s a re-education process for people to learn where the new parking is.”
Frank Alessi, CCDC chief financial officer, expects some early congestion.
Early Problems Expected
“Initially, there probably will be some problems,” he said. “It might get a little congested, until people get the lay of the land. It will be trial and error as we open the doors.
“People have been going to the ballgames for half a season and they’ve established their ways,” he said. “The new garage will change their ways. I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue or problem, once things get worked out.”
In fact, said Alessi, the parking problems may have been overestimated.
“People tend to adjust to those things,” he said. “At first, people coming in may not know how easy it is to get in and out of Downtown. When the ballpark opened, I think people were pleasantly surprised in getting in and out of Downtown.”
The garage, he said, will be used by baseball fans who plan to stay around, before or after the game, and go into the Gaslamp Quarter. “It’s not like Qualcomm, where you had nowhere else to go.”
Special events rates, which will include the ballpark, will be $10, according to Alessi.
The garage’s rate structure includes hourly rates, flat rates, day and weekend rates, even a $55 monthly rate for roof parking, and a 24/7 rate for $180 per month. But, he said, there is no way to designate any of the 1,000 public parking spaces for cash-strapped Downtown employees , or any other group for that matter.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to give it to you for $20, but everyone else for $50,’ ” he said. “The garage is financed with tax exempt bonds and it can’t be used for private purposes. It’s open to the public.”
Downtown merchants and restaurateurs, Alessi added, do have the option of buying books of stickers for validation, either for their customers or their employees. “You can divvy them up to anyone you want.”
If the rates eventually need to be adjusted, he said, they will be.
In the meantime, “We try to accommodate everyone’s needs, but you can’t always do everything for everybody. We’ll work through it and, hopefully, everyone will be happy with it. And, we hope the garage will break even at some point.”