BOCA RATON, FL--Valet parking is nearly ubiquitous in Boca Raton — at the mall, movie theater, restaurants.
That has brought complaints from patrons who say valet parking takes up all the good spots.
To get a handle on it, the city is proposing new valet parking regulations that would allow businesses with more than 50 parking spaces to set aside 15 percent of spots for valet parking as long as they're not the prime spaces.
Locations with valet parking would have to get city approval and submit a valet parking plan that identifies the type of valet service that would be provided, the location of the valet and self-parking spaces, the location of pickup and drop-off areas, a traffic circulation plan and the number of employees operating the valet service.
Setting aside spaces for valet parking would be prohibited if a property has fewer than 50 parking spaces except under special circumstances where businesses share parking.
The proposed law makes sense to Boca Raton resident Debbie Baron.
"So many places you go to, a good percentage of the parking lot is cordoned off by the valet," she said. "All the up-front parking should not be reserved for the valet. You're almost forced to use valet if you don't want to park a distance."
It's particularly frustrating, she said, when no cars are parked in the valet area during slow periods: "It's dead and you see all these spots blocked off."
Now, valet operators are allowed to block off parking only if the property has more spaces than required by the city. So if the city approved a business with 100 required parking spaces, none of those spaces can be restricted for valet or other reasons.
Valet companies that were blocking off required parking were violating the law, according to city officials.
Under the proposed change, none of the required parking could be reserved, once a plan is approved by the city.
"Just about every restaurant in town wants to provide valet service to patrons," said Jorge Camejo, city development services director. The proposed law "gives them a method and guidelines to gain approval from the city."
Many of the complaints about valet parking concerned the Cinemark Palace 20 movie theater, previously Muvico, on Airport Road, and Town Center at Boca Raton.
But those two locations have worked with the city to improve their valet operations. The mall has significantly less than 15 percent of its parking set aside for valet parking.
Cinemark moved much of its valet parking behind the theater, but some valet parking remained in the front because of its proximity to the drop-off area.
"We agreed it made sense to allow a portion of the front area to be used for valet," Camejo said.
At the Shoppes at Boca Center, valet parking takes up no more than 4 percent of all parking during the day and no more than 9 percent at night, said Rick Cuseo, owner of DRC Services, which provides complimentary valet parking at the shopping center.
The goal is to provide the right balance between valet parking and self-parking, he said.
But the operator uses prime locations for its valet parking as well as the garage. That cuts down on the time customers have to wait for their cars and makes sure traffic doesn't back up in the shopping center.
"We've found this is the best set-up," Cuseo said. "In Boca, we have a special clientele. You really want to accommodate them as much as possible. If businesses tell them to wait 10-15 minutes for their car, they're less likely to come back to that location."
Also under the proposed law, the valet service couldn't set up in travel lanes or the public right of way unless it reached an agreement with the city and paid a fee.
Similar proposed rules would apply to locations with more than 50 parking spaces that want to reserve 10 percent of parking for tenants and employees.
The City Council will have a public hearing on the proposed law April 13.
Copyright 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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