Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to drive away local customers

I find it troubling that nearly all of the candidates for mayor and city council of Carmel are endorsing some form of paid parking. And this time, they're not only talking about putting up meters or ticket kiosks in the business district, but along the beachfront as well.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I can't think of any more effective way for Carmel to drive away local customers than to adopt paid parking!

City leaders are attempting to soften the blow by saying that Carmel residents would be exempt; they'd get a special bumper sticker immunizing them from the parking police. They forget, however, that the vast majority of local shoppers live outside the one square mile Carmel city limits. Local shoppers live in a much larger territory stretching from Marina to Big Sur. Those of us who live in this area shop in Carmel because we like to, not because we have to. Is Carmel really prepared to risk losing all of us? Can Carmel's resident-serving businesses survive on city residents alone? 

Carmel needs to remember the competition. Almost every shopping area from the Carmel River to the Salinas River provides free parking. Residents in the unincorporated areas surrounding Carmel will almost certainly take the money they now spend in Carmel to the shopping centers at the mouth of Carmel Valley. Residents of other areas on The Peninsula will skip Carmel altogether and go to Monterey or Pacific Grove. I certainly would! Why would I want to shop in Carmel when I can park free anywhere else? 

If Carmel adopts paid parking the remaining resident-serving businesses there will shrivel up and die. Tourist-serving shops will thrive, because after coming all this way to see Carmel tourists will pay the price. This is exactly what happens on Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, the only other areas of The Peninsula that don't provide free parking.

So if Carmel wants to become just another tourist trap like Cannery Row, the surest way accomplishing that would be to adopt paid parking!