After several weeks of the Red Sunset Merchant Association (RSMA) waiting for a response from city officials regarding suggested improvements to the valet parking situation, the city has concluded their recommendations on valet parking management will not be implemented.
RSMA Board Member and Parking Chair Karla Cooper of American Chariots auto brokerage firm spent over a year meticulously interviewing affected merchants and area patrons to determine how best to improve downtown valet parking for all.
“The parking system is an effective one that is well utilized and an important part of the businesses but some merchants are not happy with having the spots in front of their stores. Customers complain that if they are stopping for a moment to drop off a watch that needs repair or a pre-purchased pick up it is a big inconvenience to find a short term spot. We simply suggested a few minor changes and we were encouraged by city officials last year to do so.”
Outgoing RSMA President Amy Donner agrees. “The city told us at the time that any reasonable suggestions would be granted, we sent reasonable suggestions. For example, take away the valet in front of OMG Burgers and use the one in front of Old Lisbon only at night. It made Beverly Kagan Jewelers very happy because the lunch valet was hurting the business and Old Lisbon did not need it at that time.”
Other area merchants in agreement with the suggested modifications to the valet system include OMG Burgers, Dan Marino’s, Town Kitchen and Bar, and Nikita.
Cooper, who has been a downtown merchant for 26 years now, says she has personally witnessed the area growth and hoped that through the RSMA (a group of business owners with a vested interest in downtown commerce) they could work together with the city to modify the system slightly to make it more effective.
Cooper adds, “In those late morning, early afternoon hours on the weekday from 11am to 1pm no one can park in the valet for a short term visit to the area and I’m sorry but we do not need three separate valets mid-day on a Wednesday. We were simply trying to streamline the process to make everyone happy.”
Adds Donner who was President of the RSMA while the initial meetings took place last year: “The valet companies are awesome. The merchants want the service and our survey confirmed that. We were simply hoping to work together to make minor tweaks.”
Since the original meeting of the RSMA and city officials last year, changes in code enforcement management have taken place and the police department is now in charge according to Code Enforcement Director Carmen Baker.
Baker explained, “We mainly deal with obstructions to the right of way in our department and not necessarily valet issues beyond signage. There are still plenty of parking spaces in the city. You just might have to drive around a bit to find them.”
Baker also explained that bagged valet spots are rented and that whether or not they are actually in use at the time or not, the city continues to receive revenue for those spots. “Those spots are rented and pre-paid just as if a car was parked there.”
Chief of Police Orlando Martinez de Castro sent a letter recently to the RSMA declining implementation of their recommendations. They thanked the group of business owners for their efforts and said they look forward to continuing to work together however “after careful consideration we feel that the current valet operations in the downtown area are the best option for the City of South Miami and its merchants.”
Chief Martinez de Castro goes on to say: “It is my belief and that of my staff that parking in the downtown area at best is precarious and that the valet system provides greater efficiency, which allows a greater number of patrons to visit our downtown area. We believe that presently the elimination or reduction of any valet services at this time would have a negative impact which will eventually reduce our availability to provide parking spaces for visitors and patrons.”