The Beverly Center will become the first Westside mall to charge shoppers for an initial three hours of parking instead of providing it free.
Starting July 21, shoppers will have to pay $1 for the first three hours and 50 cents for each additional hour, up to a $6 maximum, officials announced Thursday. Some stores will provide validation waiving the fee when a purchase is made, they said.
Beverly Center manager Keith MacRae said the new parking fee is designed to discourage non-shoppers from using the center's garage and to provide funds for other services, including a new electrical tram service.
Beverly Center is in a heavily developed area where parking is at a premium, MacRae said. The eight-story mall in the city of Los Angeles, just east of Beverly Hills, is bounded by La Cienega, Beverly and San Vicente boulevards and 3rd Street.
Demand on Rise
"We are an urban center, and the demand for our garage gets greater and greater from the surrounding community," he said.
Street parking is limited and commercial parking is expensive, prompting many non-shoppers to take advantage of free parking at the Beverly Center, MacRae said. "We have a lot of what we call 'poaching,' " he said.
"We compute that there are about 50,000 people who work within walking distance of Beverly Center," he said, many of whom park at the mall, taking up parking spaces that otherwise would be available to shoppers.
The center's 3,000 parking spaces become fully occupied at peak shopping times, with would-be shoppers driving up and down aisles looking for a parking space.
MacRae said that he anticipates that some customers will be disgruntled at first by the new parking fees, but in the long run he said he hopes they will find parking more convenient, given the new tram service and other garage improvements.
"There probably will be a certain amount of resistance initially, but we want to provide a convenient place for shoppers to park and it has become necessary to impose some controls," he said.
Managers of other Westside shopping malls were taken aback when told of the Beverly Center's decision to charge for parking, because retailers compete fiercely for shoppers' patronage.
"Retailers are facing a very tough market right now, and to go ahead and charge a person to park while shopping would only add to the problem," said John Rankine, assistant general manager at the Fox Hills Mall.
Michael F. Strle, general manager of Century City Shopping Center, said that officials there also have encountered problems with non-shoppers using mall parking, but they do not plan to institute fees.
"We are concerned about the amount of parking used by people who are going to office buildings or banks," he said. However, he said, officials believe there is a "residual benefit" to retailers because visitors get acquainted with mall stores as they walk from the garage to their destinations.
The idea of requiring store validation for three hours of free parking, or possibly reducing the free time to two hours, has been discussed but no decision has been made, Strle said.
Patricia Neill, marketing director at Westside Pavilion; Sandy Lewis, retail operations manager at Santa Monica Place; and Rankine at Fox Hills all said they have no plans to institute parking fees.
Officials at other Westside shopping centers said they are not sure how much business they might gain from shoppers who refuse to pay for parking at the Beverly Center.
Lewis said he expects it will have the most effect on customers who live midway between two centers and for whom the parking charge might be the decisive factor in where to shop. Neill said that Beverly Center's clientele comes from such an affluent sector that it will not be affected by a $1 charge.
MacRae said that several new services at Beverly Center are designed to provide quicker access from the five levels of parking to the retail, restaurant and movie levels on the top three floors of the center.
The center last week put into service its new canopied "Care-a-vans," which will roam through the garage picking up shoppers, officials said. The trams will take shoppers to the elevators and escalators that lead into the mall.
Security staffing throughout the center will be increased, MacRae said. In addition, he said, elevator operators will be provided on weekends for quicker access to the stores.
New graphics, electronic displays and improved traffic directional signs will be installed, and store directories will be provided in the elevator lobbies.