Jul 29, 2014
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Towing Ousts Cyclists, Carpoolers at Foothill Crossing

The daily, relentless parking enforcement at two busy shopping centers in Los Altos and Cupertino is aimed at changing the habits of all-day parkers who displace paying customers.

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Word is out.

Park too long at Foothill Crossing and Homestead Crossing and you may have to shell out as much as $450 in towing fees.

The bustling shopping centers in south Los Altos and Cupertino, 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 the 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 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 encouraed 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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