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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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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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