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And It Started With a Parking Lot ...

A debacle over a downtown parking lot has left businesses, customers, city and land owner frustrated.

A single chain stretches from one side of the driveway to the other. The parking lot that Campbell residents and visitors had used for nearly 11 years (and were ticketed in) was closed suddenly on July 1.

Both residents and local businesses were left in the dark, and customers were left circling for parking.

The city of Campbell and Xavier Sanchez, the lot's owner, came to an amicable agreement on the use of the lot as temporary parking about 11 years ago, when the Second Street Parking Garage was first being built.

According to Sanchez, the first year, the city only paid the taxes on the lot, a little more than $200. The following year, he asked for market cost to rent the lot, about $2,000 a month, and the city agreed. Over the years, that amount fluctuated between $2,000$2,500. Then, last year, Sanchez was asked to lower the amount by 10 percent.

The money the city was paying a month for the 30-car parking lot along Campbell Avenue, next door to , was about $2,200 a month and coming out of Campbell Redevelopment Agency Funds.

“When we started to see the writing on the wall, with redevelopment funds, we asked for a pretty substantial lowering of the lease, and he (Sanchez) didn’t agree,” Kermoyan said.

Redevelopment agencies throughout California are seeing huge cuts to their operating budgets, because of the state's budget deficits. Most agencies throughout the state, possibly even Campbell's, will be out of business come Oct. 1.

On May 25, the department sent Sanchez a letter stating the city would be discontinuing its month-to-month agreement.

"It has nothing to do with the city’s lack of desire to provide additional money," Kermoyan says.

Sanchez, however, says there's more to the story.

"When I was approached by the city to lower the rent, they asked for a 50 percent reduction," Sanchez says. "They asked me how I'd feel about that, and I asked, 'How would you feel about taking a 50 percent pay reduction?'"

Needless to say, the reduction was not met, and the parking lot was closed.

Sanchez has, however, agreed to allow , which are shown on the side of the wall of the parking lot, to continue.

"I’ve always been very cooperative with Campbell," Sanchez says. "I’m fair, but I’m not a nonprofit organization."

Now What?

Sanchez, the city of Campbell and various local merchants came together this month to try to come up with a solution. The was the host of this meeting.

"The chamber is trying to broker a deal between the city and Xavier, or between the surrounding merchants, hoping that reasonable people will come to reasonable conclusions," said Chamber Executive Director . "I think everyone involved agrees that having a chain that says private property is not good for anyone. We’re just trying to come up with creative solutions but as of yet, we haven’t been terribly successful."

Neighboring merchants have also attempted to find a resolution to the problem, because their customers use the lot.

"Wayne (owner of Therapy) was cooperative with me," Sanchez said. "He suggested a coalition of merchants to pay for the monthly rent, and the city would pay liability."

So where is the disconnect?

The city, for its part, said it just could not afford to spend money on the property any longer and encouraged Sanchez to consider developing it.

"We’ve always started with the understanding that the parking was a temporary purpose," Kermoyan said. "The city's Master Plan encourages development along Campbell Avenue that would help foster our retail and pedestrian experience of walking down an interesting street."

If he chooses not to develop at this time, Sanchez can still reopen the lot for parking but would have to apply for a conditional use permit from the city.

Sanchez, however, says that this is not the time to start a development.

"In this economic collapse, to develop a property, someone has to have stainless-steel testicles," he said. "I play more to the chest. I’m a retired fire captain. And I don’t take wild chances.”

He said that although developing the lot is not off the table for him, if he does develop, he wants to tear down and rebuild his corner with a three-story structure: underground parking, street-level retail/restaurants and top-level condos/lofts.

"That’s a real smart development, because eventually, those two parking garages are not going to be enough," Sanchez says. "Campbell is like a mini Los Gatos, with better location. It’s just a matter of time.

"You need to develop so that you are really utilizing the land," he said. "With this, you would have three layers of taxes."

Besides regular parking in a centralized location, the lot in question also provides a place for vendors of the Campbell Farmers Market to park, unload, and so on, and is frequently used throughout the year for local festivals, including and Oktoberfest.

"Mr. Sanchez has been very gracious in the past to both DCBA and the chamber," Collins said. "Always agreeable and easy to work with. The advantage of this lot is that it is a central spot. Oktoberfest will continue; we will just have to reformat."

Until an agreement can be reached by all parties, however, the chain will remain intact.

"The thing is, I think they [the city] were a little short-sighted," Sanchez said. "They think that they don’t need that parking, but if you make it harder during troubled economic times for people to spend money in your city, they’re going to go elsewhere."

Joe Hernandez July 29, 2011 at 10:33 PM
What? We have a parking problem downtown? How can that be when the City Campbell (except Mike Kotowski) just voted to revise the city parking requirements in May because there was PLENTY of parking downtown? That's strange...wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Check out the replay of the council meeting at: http://cityofcampbell.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=93
RSmall July 31, 2011 at 03:44 AM
I'm truly disappointed that the city just let the parking lot close without notifying businesses and the rest of us. This is a small town and we have two newspapers plus the Patch.....I didn't hear anything about this until it closed. Now we have a problem with a large Graffiti mess since it's no longer being used. I have to say that it was nice for Mr. Sanchez to let the Sundown Cinema still have their shows on Friday nights.
Mayra Flores de Marcotte August 01, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Thanks for the comment and insight, RSmall. Do you have any suggestions on how this issue could be resolved?

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