Retailers and restaurant owners at Westfield Valley Fair shopping mall are circulating a petition against a new paid parking policy.
The shopping center’s parking program, scheduled to start Feb. 8, would charge people working at Valley Fair $40 per month or $3 per day, which adds up for those earning a minimum wage. A petition has already garnered more than 1,000 likes on Instagram and 364 signatures on a live document.
In the petition, workers said it’s unreasonable and unsafe to expect them to walk off-campus where parking is free or end up with a major dent in their earnings for using their car to commute to work. The shopping center has 8,400 parking spots.
“In order to ensure a safe workplace, we demand you give free parking permits to all levels of mall employees,” the petition said.
According to a statement from Westfield Valley Fair, located at 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd. in Santa Clara, the controlled parking plan was created to ensure “customers have the convenient parking access they deserve.”
Westfield Valley Fair management told San Josè Spotlight the new controlled parking plan is part of a broader security measure to prevent people from leaving their cars at the mall. The mall operators said spaces are taken up by individuals who park at Valley Fair and work elsewhere. They also claim individuals are using the mall’s parking facility to avoid long-term parking fees when traveling out of Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Petition writer Antonio Garcia, a supervisor at Diesel clothing store, said the parking pass would net the property owners about $51,000 per month from employees, based on industry analyst IBIS World’s estimate of six employees per store.
“These parking fees are not about regaining control of parking,” Garcia wrote. “The employee-paid parking passes are the result of greed by mall management.”
The petition threatens to have its supporters downvote the mall on social media sites like Yelp starting on Feb. 15 if their demand is not met.
Store owners and managers learned details of the planned parking program during a Westfield Webex meeting on Jan. 18.
In utter disbelief, followed by anger, Garcia distributed a paper petition to stores in the mall that same day and posted a live petition on Instagram two days later.
“For the mall to say it’s up to them or us to pay is not right,” Garcia told San Josè Spotlight, referring to employers and employees having to pay parking fees.
Garcia said mall representatives suggested ridesharing or public transportation for those who didn’t want to pay for a parking pass, but this increases exposure to COVID and added expenses for employees working at the mall.
Viet Ngo, owner of Vietnamese restaurant Vietnoms, objected to Westfield’s lack of discussion with tenants. He said many previously submitted questions, including his, were not addressed during the online meeting and the chat function was disabled. To express their feelings, viewers used the thumbs down and crying face emotes.
Ngo said it’s “deeply insulting” to expect those working during the pandemic and generating revenue for the mall to have to pay for parking and that the mall could have at least offered a couple of free parking passes per store.
“It’s not a fair policy,” he told San Josè Spotlight. “It’s not helping the tenants or customers.”
Ngo said he will pay the parking costs for his full-time employees, but can’t afford to pay for all of his part-time workers. He said the added expense would be hard for small mom and pop stores and doubts larger stores with many employees would pay as well.
Although Ngo could see customers paying for parking, he doesn’t think workers making minimum wage should have to, especially when the mall isn’t very busy and there are plenty of parking spaces available.
According to Westfield company research, about 80% of customer visits last under two hours. After the two hours of free parking, guests will be charged $1 per hour with a maximum daily rate of $10. Movie theater patrons will receive validation for four hours of parking.
Ngo said he wouldn’t advise his employees to park at Santana Row as he doesn’t want to clog its parking and heard it might be adding its own pay parking program.
He’s concerned the cost of parking might lead to employees leaving. One part-time employee asked him about transferring to Vietnoms’ downtown location.
Garcia said he will absolutely lose employees because of the parking fees. He is still waiting to hear from Westfield management about the petition. He hopes management will change its position and make parking free for all employees. He’s grateful and proud of everybody who’s signed the petition.
“It’s awesome to see people stand up and unite,” he said.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]