Garage operators take parking feud to new level
Anonymous complaint accuses Star Park of improperly allowing long-term privileges
While hardly a shootout at the OK Corral, the ongoing duel between the city's two primary garage operators shows signs of reaching the 'push' stage.
An anonymous complaint that Star Park LLC is improperly allowing long-term parkers to occupy short-term spots at one of its garages was lodged with the code compliance division of the city's Bureau of Development Services last week.
The accusation was made just days before the City Council prepares to award a contract to Star Park to manage the city's six SmartPark garages Ñ which have been overseen by the Portland Business Alliance for 21 years.
Attorney Chris Thomas, acting on behalf of a 'retailer client whose identity is confidential,' accused Star Park's operators of improperly allowing guests of the nearby Westin Portland Hotel and Hotel Lucia to occupy spots for longer than four hours.
Star Park also sells an all-day pass to the general public that allows in-and-out parking at a discounted rate, Thomas said.
Such tactics, he said, violate conditions of the operating agreement that BPM Associates, which shares common ownership with Star Park, negotiated with the city in 1993.
Thomas said the garage, on Southwest Alder Street at Sixth Avenue, is zoned to accommodate short-term parkers who patronize nearby retail establishments.
Some downtown business owners have surmised that City Center Parking, Star Park's competitor, lodged the complaint because Star Park won the right to negotiate a management contract for the city's SmartPark garages.
The Portland Business Alliance had held the contract; City Center Parking had a contract with the city to oversee the garages' pay booths.
The two parking companies have exchanged legal threats and complaints since the early 1990s, when City Center Parking executives sought to block construction of the Star Park garage on Southwest Alder Street.
But Greg Goodman, whose family owns City Center Parking, said he did not instigate the complaint.
'I don't know anything about it,' he said. 'But the retail community has just been crushed. I have no idea what retailer it might be, but the retail community has gone to hell in a handbag, and they just want the parking that's promised to them.'
Thomas, who's done work for the alliance in the past, refused to divulge the complaint's source.
'My client is worried about repercussions, frankly, so I'm under specific instructions not to say who it is,' he said.
Barry Schlesinger, president of Star Park, said he's skeptical.
'In my opinion, it does come from the Goodmans, or someone aligned with them,' he said.
Schlesinger said the complaint 'is an attempt to take away the focus from where it ought to be: on the contract that's hopefully ratified on Thursday. And we plan on managing those garages for the best interest of the city of Portland.'
Noted land-use attorney Steve Pfeiffer is representing Star Park on the matter, Schlesinger said.
The alliance draws about 30 percent of its yearly revenues from the contract. Under the new $6.5 million agreement, Star Park would provide janitorial, management and security services for six SmartPark garages.
The city and Star Park would operate the garages with the African American, Hispanic Metropolitan and Philippine American chambers of commerce.
Jackie Phillips, a Bureau of Development Services spokeswoman, said the complaint is unlikely to affect the council's vote on the garage management contract.
Four of the five city commissioners told the Tribune earlier this month that they would support awarding the contract to Star Park.
Thomas said the complaint was 'completely independent' of the Star Park contract issue.
He said the matter relates specifically to spaces not being set aside for short-term visitors who patronize such nearby businesses as Kitchen Kaboodle and Meier & Frank. Star Park, according to the complaint, uses flaggers to wave long-term parkers into the facility.
Scott Brooks, general manager of the Westin, 750 S.W. Alder St., said the hotel uses the garage for overnight guests' cars, a convenience allowable because the garage is otherwise empty at night. Schlesinger said the practice is well within the city's operating agreement.
Managers of the Hotel Lucia 'reserve(d) comment' on the issue.
Cory Richins, manager of Kitchen Kaboodle at 535 S.W. Sixth Ave., said few customers have complained about being unable to find parking in the garage.