The Ups and Downs of Valley Fair’s New Pay Parking Scheme

The sky is falling at the corner of Winchester and Stevens Creek Boulevard. Or at least that’s what it might sound like after the Westfield Valley Fair announced its “controlled parking” plan, as my colleague George Avalos reported this week.

The shopping center on the border of Santa Clara and San Jose will charge for long parking starting February 8, which should come as no surprise to anyone visiting the mall. The equipment, though unused, has been installed in Valley Fair’s garage for more than two years and is being activated to deter people who park there for work or traveling to Mineta San Jose International Airport. Huh.

As someone who spent more than an hour in a Valley Fair garage traffic jam in November, anything that eases congestion there is welcome. The first two hours are free, and audiences watching a movie at the Showplace ICON Theater can get a recognition for a four-hour stay. After that, you’re probably paying less than you’d pay for a latte at Starbucks: a buck for each additional hour, up to $10 daily. And if you’re spending 10 hours at a mall, parking may be the least of your worries.

But a head-scratcher is that Valley Fair also plans to charge employees as little as $3 per day, or $40 per month, to park in garages. Mall stores can buy passes for their employees, and given that Valley Fair reports sales are doing better now than they were pre-Covid, you’d think they could afford to do so. If they don’t, their employees—many of whom are probably at or close to minimum wage—have the “option” to do so. I think the other option is taking the bus, which is really out of your pocket before you figure out the gas and other vehicle expenses.

Workers paying for parking in the Bay Area is not unheard of, but it usually happens when employers don’t have their own parking and have to contract with garages. (When Mercury News moved to downtown San Jose in 2014, it benefited from the city’s incentives, which provided 160 parking lots in the city’s garage for four years and half price for the fifth year, but the deal ended Is.)

In any event, it would be worth seeing how the system works. Will people having trouble with their tickets lead to an exit jam? Will VTA’s 523 – or Valet Parking – become more popular? Or will it be a seamless change that goes unnoticed by most people, including employees? I’m hoping for the latter.

Candidate Candidate: “Valley Politics” begins its eighth year this month with a one-hour special featuring the four leading candidates for this year’s election for San Jose mayor: Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose City Council member Dev Davis, Matt Mahan and Raul Perlez.

Terry Christensen, a professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State, interviewed each at their homes in December and asked them similar questions on key topics, their political upbringing and their response to critics.

“If you’re not familiar with any of the candidates, here’s your introduction,” Christensen said. If you already know some or all of them, here’s a chance to compare their positions on issues including the housing crisis, SB9, homelessness, managing Google’s Downtown West project, charter reform, and more. “