Letter to the Editor: Westfield Decision to End Free Parking Unfair

Westfield Century City will start charging customers for parking sometime in 2013.

Editor's Note: This letter to the editor addresses Westfield Century City's decision to end free parking. Read more about this story here.

Recently my neighborhood just north of Westfield's Century City shopping mall learned of a quiet agreement between the Westfield and the L.A. City Planning Commission to allow parking fees rather than offer the current three hours free parking.

An email survey of homeowners living within 500 feet of Century City shows that no one living in the neighborhood received notification. The proper procedure is for Planning to notify by mail adjacent properties affected in sufficient time to comment, and then to appear at a formal hearing at the City Planning Commission. 

Years ago, Century City Shopping Center had a variety of parking charges, all agreeable to shoppers. Entry before the normal store hours required payment. However, the food market validated with purchase. The theaters also validated, as they required a longer time frame. We had either two or three hours free parking during store hours. 

In the early 1980’s the office buildings in Century City raised their prices and all surrounding residential neighborhoods were inundated with office workers wanting free parking. This was about the time that permit parking came into existence. Even crime decreased following permit parking. Then an agreement was established with an adjacent homeowner group for three-hour free parking. It became part of the Mall’s Conditional Use Permit.

Since the economy downturn, Westfield says it is finding that nearby office workers are parking early mornings – exiting with a U-turn just before the three-hour limit and returning to park and go back to work. Therefore they want to penalize the shoppers for those who do not shop but want to benefit from free parking. 

Suggested solution: Have only one entrance/exit open before normal store hours, probably Century Park West. Offer two-hour validations to those shoppers for the few stores open earlier, i.e. Gelson’s Market, Apple classes, and the few restaurants. Then during normal store hours, offer two hours free parking with a special arrangement for the theaters to validate for "x" number of hours. 

Parking survey of comparable areas of shopping:

  • Beverly Hills residents voted last year to have two hours free parking at city lots. Three newer structures have one hour free parking.
  • Westside Pavilion: First three hours free parking, third and fourth hours $5 each – more for longer hours.
  • Santa Monica Place: Two hours free before 6 p.m. - flat rate of $5 after 6 p.m.
  • Westwood Village Broxton (a city Lot) offers first two hours free between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. There are charges of $1.50 for each additional 20 minutes - maximum charge is $9. After 6 p.m. there is a $3 entry charge.
  • The Grove offers one hour free - no validation required. Followed by one to thre hours for $3 then $3 plus $1 each 15 minutes to a maximum of $24.
  • Beverly Center charges $1 for the first four hours - $2 each additional hour with a $10 maximum.

Remember, this is a shopping center first. I feel that it is an imposition to charge for entry to Westfield where patrons spend money in shops, restaurants and at the movies. Paying for the privilege of spending money doesn’t sound right to me.

—Carol Spencer, vice president of the Comstock Hills Homeowners Association, corporate secretary of the Westwood Community Council and member of the LAPD West Bureau Traffic Committee.

Want to submit a letter to the editor? Email meredith.skrzypczak@patch.com.

Chris Cusack September 27, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Gawd... Seriously? It's unfair? An Imposition? I have the solution. Go shop somewhere else, Carol. It is a private business, and the last thing any business needs is more regulation. Westfield will try this and if it works for them, then thay have been able to monetize an area of their business that costs serious dollars, security, parking employees, etc. If the new charges drive customers away, then chances are they will have to look at their decision and possibly change it. Carol, I don't think we should have to feed the la city meters. Hell, I've already paid the taxes on it. It's and imposition and it is not fair.
C. Brooks September 28, 2012 at 03:10 AM
My concern is how they're solving their alleged problem by passing the buck onto the surrounding communities, which have nothing to do with their problem, and trying to turn a profit on top of it. Yes, it's a private business, but it's generally a good business policy to act in a neighborly fashion. I live in an area where street parking is by permit only during the week, because once upon a time the lack of free parking in CC drove workers and mall customers into the neighborhoods around it. The permits solve the problem to the extent, but they are a nuisance, and we'd all rather not have to rely on them. For the most part there's no such restriction during the weekend, but then there was free parking at the mall, so it wasn't as much of a priority. That was then. I don't believe that Westfield should have to suffer its policies being abused, but the path they've chosen has take them from victim to villain. When they should have said, "The problem is these office workers. How do we solve it without impacting our customers or the surrounding communities?" they decided to go with the solution that was most in their short term financial interests and to get it done in a shady, secretive manner that sidestepped public comment. Consequently they will lose whatever local support they've managed to attract over the years. Let them think on that the next time they want to change the rules for some future development.
Chris Cusack September 28, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Wow! So, as your thinking goes, Westfield is becoming a villain and bad neighbor because they are enforcing their stated parking rules by simply charging a parking fee, and because of that fee, the freeloaders who are breaking the rules will now spill over into the surrounding neighborhoods? Who has the responsibility to provide parking for the office workers? Westfield? or the companies in Century City? I would say the companies in Century City. Should they not be forced to provide parking for their employees? Maybe employees should take the bus. Will someone please explain to me, why Westfield needs to or needed to put their decision before the public for comment. It's their garage, are they not free to do as they see fit with their property? The City must be pleased; additional tax revenue just landed in Tony Villar's lap. Century City shopping center is not the catch all parking lot for the area. It was never meant to be public parking for the other structures. They are merely demanding the end of the abuse and are taking steps to that end.
Carol Spencer September 28, 2012 at 07:43 AM
Chris Cusack, I probably will shop somewhere else - Westfield will loose out to the surrounding stores and malls that they are competing with - Remember the economy has not yet rebounded from the 2008 recession. The Australian owners should go back to the practice that worked before they bought Century City per my suggestion above and solve their problem of others parking and not shopping!
Carol Spencer September 28, 2012 at 07:56 AM
C Cusack, do you work for Westfield? Opinions of shoppers nearby is that it would be nice for Westfield to return to prior practices that were friendly, yet solved their problem of free loaders. I do agree with your comments about Century City high rise employers needing to offer reduced rate parking for their employees - especially the minimum rate people. And as for your suggestion to take the bus, Busses are not exactly convenient for everyone - north south transit means riding east to downtown to connect with busses that take you to your destination - up to a 3-hour ride each way. We need better choices - the subway and more N/S direct choices
Minoter September 28, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Westfield Malls throughout the city (and much of the world) provide free parking for its patrons. When any development is created, it goes through a City approval process. Since the CC Mall years ago agreed to a provision for free parking, they had to go back to the City to change it. Notices to surrounding neighbors is part of the process even though it is a private business. Westfield can work to solve its parking "intruders", but it obviously hasn't been a priority for them. It appears that they prefer to get their problem solved by their own customers. I've never even seen a sign saying "Patrons Only- Violators will be fined or towed".


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