By Edwin Folven, 6/14/2012
Ordinance is Pending That Would Tighten Regulations
Parking can be so difficult to find in Hollywood that valet service has become a standard at many business. But valet companies remain unregulated in the city of Los Angeles, which has no laws in place to ensure valet drivers are licensed, or whether valet companies have business permits or are insured.
Councilman Eric Garcetti, 13th District, first proposed a valet parking ordinance in January 2009, which was approved by the city council that December. The City Attorney’s office drafted an ordinance, which was presented to the city council last July, but some details had to be addressed, and it is now pending in the council’s Public Safety Committee. The latest turn came within the last few weeks, when Garcetti’s office brought together members of the Hollywood business community and representatives of city departments to try to iron out the final details, such as how the law would be enforced, and who would issue the permits. Garcetti and members of the working group are now hoping that the law will be in place sometime before the end of the summer.
Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Business Improvement District (BID) and the Hollywood Entertainment District, is part of the working group that was charged with the goal of getting an ordinance in place. She said the initial idea was for a pilot project along the Cahuenga Boulevard corridor, between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, where one valet company would serve all of the businesses in the area. Morrison said there are currently five different valet companies serving the many restaurants and bars in the area, as well as one operator who just sets up shop there from time to time. She said it is unclear what arrangements they individually have with the businesses. Many valet companies pay a fee to the owners of nearby parking lots to park vehicles. The owners of parking lots are required to get an auto park permit from the city, but valet companies are not currently required to obtain any special permits.
“It’s amazing [people] just pull up and hand their keys over to someone,” Morrison said. “On Cahuenga, we have five companies attached with nine businesses, and one company that just shows up sometimes on its own. Anyone can just show up and plop down a kiosk and an umbrella and can start parking cars.”
Garcetti said he hopes a citywide ordinance will be in place soon.
“The valet ordinance will help us address safety concerns as well as neighborhood issues such as valets who park in residential communities,” Garcetti said
Garcetti’s Deputy Julie Wong added that an ordinance would limit the number of problems that can currently occur. Some of the issues include the hiring of unlicensed valet drivers, whether background checks should be required, and who — the business or the valet company — is responsible if theft or damage occurs to a vehicle.
“There is no real system for tracking or enforcing problems with valets in Los Angeles,” Wong said. “There are all kinds of things occurring that we are hearing about. Currently, it’s all up in the air.”
City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, is also eager to get an ordinance in place, according to Christopher Koontz, Koretz’s planning deputy. The councilman helped launch a “universal valet” program on 3rd Street that has been in operation for the past three years. Under that program, the 3rd Street Business Association contracts with a valet company to allow customers of multiple businesses to drop-off or pick-up their vehicles. Koontz said the program was created after the Beverly Connection near 3rd Street and La Cienega Boulevard was required to create parking for the surrounding businesses as part of an agreement to receive permits for a renovation project. Koontz added that the 3rd Street program is still in the pilot stage, and officials will examine whether to make it permanent at a future date.
“The [valet parking] regulations are very weak, and we don’t do a good job of enforcing what we do have,” Koontz added. “[Councilman Koretz] is very supportive of an ordinance and is frustrated it has taken almost three years now. Someday, hopefully soon, there will be an ordinance in front of the council.”
The City Attorney’s office has recommended in its draft ordinance that valet companies obtain a Master Valet Parking Operator permit from the city, and obtain temporary permits for all valet parking locations. The draft ordinance would require applicants to identify the name and location of the parking lot where the vehicles will be parked or stored for the businesses served. It would also require that the companies perform background checks on all employees, and require them to wear standard uniforms, including safety vests.
Ben Romdhane, a supervisor for Global Parking Services, one of the companies that operates on Cahuenga Avenue, said he believes the valet companies should be better regulated. He said his company has a business permit with the city and is insured, and that all his valets are checked to ensure they have driver’s licenses. Romdhane added that his company pays $2,000-per-month to the owner of a parking lot near the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards to park vehicles there, and charges $8 for each vehicle parked. He added that there is an agreement between the businesses and Global Parking Services to operate on Cahuenga Boulevard, but that the businesses do not pay any fees.
“With any parking lot, any company, you have to have a permit, or you would be operating illegally,” Romdhane said. “But a lot of valets don’t get [business] permits, and they don’t get shut down. It’s because they don’t have the manpower to do it.”
No hearing date has been set for a review by the Council’s Public Safety Committee, but Wong said it is anticipated soon. Morrison said the ordinance can’t come soon enough.
“It’s another case where the city cannot enforce its own laws,” Morrison added.