A sign inside the Santa Monica main parking structure office tells the public of the Central Parking System being the new facilities operator. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — The cars are still going in and out, the attendants are collecting fares from drivers as usual, but there’s something different about the 29 public parking facilities in Santa Monica.

That’s because of a recent change in the management of all the city-owned garages, which are now run by Nashville-based Central Parking System after City Hall’s contract with its operator of five years, Parking Concepts Inc., ended this summer.

While little appears to be different on surface, the new management company said it’s looking to institute a few changes meant to increase efficiency.

These changes include introducing more credit card usage from the pay stations, simplifying the payment process and providing more extensive training for all employees in order to improve customer service. Jerry Skillett, the vice president of Central Parking, said that the equipment upgrading has already commenced.

“Those garages are real important to all the residents and everybody who visit the city of Santa Monica and so making sure that they’re clean and secure and people can get in and out of the facilities quickly is real important because they help support all the area businesses,” he said.

Skillett said he is also working on relations with the Bayside District Corp., a private/public management company in Downtown, where it concerns the maintenance of the garages. Bayside recently began heavy duty cleaning of the parking garages, starting with Structure 4, using revenue from a property-based assessment.

City Hall opened the bidding process to find a manager for its network of parking garages late last year, receiving responses from five different firms, including PCI. Three firms were interviewed in the spring and one was later approved by the City Council.

Central Parking System’s contract will run for three years with two one-year extensions, all averaging about $5.5 million per year. The cost is expected to be offset by the parking structure revenues, Don Patterson, the business and revenue operations manager for City Hall, said.

The contract covers parking facilities and lots in Downtown, the Civic Center Parking Structure, Santa Monica Public Library, Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica Pier and all the beaches. Also included is the new bike valet program.

They altogether total about 15,000 parking spaces that generate a combined $15 million in annual revenue, according to Central Parking System.

Patterson said Central Parking was selected because of similar experience in managing garages for the city of Long Beach. The company manages about 2,400 garages coast to coast, including at Burbank Airport and LAX.

He added that the customer service training program, close involvement in local operations by the company’s management team and the financial soundness of Central Parking made it an attractive candidate.

In addition to the day-to-day operations of the garages, the firm will be responsible for mechanical maintenance, including the elevators and all of the equipment.

“They are responsible for being able to implement and manage cash handling policies and procedures,” Patterson said. “We look to them to proactively provide recommendations to improve cost effectiveness and efficiencies of operations.”

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