Parking Mirage

City pretends that parking garage next to stadium is not a favor to Colangelo's Diamondbacks

Additional parking--as many as 4,500 more spaces--was needed for the stadium, city records show.

The next month, city staffers met with the Diamondbacks and county officials to discuss parking. Notes taken by a city official at a March 28, 1994, meeting indicate that county and Diamondback officials said they "expect 1,500 [parking spaces]" from the city.

The notes also show that the city believed it could pay for the parking structure and any related retail development with Phoenix Civic Plaza's bonding authority.

For years the city had estimated that a parking garage for the new science museum would hold about 1,000 cars. But the 1,000-space estimate was really nothing more than a wild guess. City Manager Fairbanks says the city never knew how big the science center parking garage needed to be.

"I don't think anybody had ever established a size," Fairbanks says.
That's why, Fairbanks said, the city hired Kaku Associates of Santa Monica, California, in 1994 to conduct a study that would determine the size for the science center parking garage. The study was to exclude any parking demand generated by baseball.

Kaku concluded in May 1995 that the garage needed to have 3,200 to 3,500 spaces.

"That's when we set the number," Fairbanks says.
But documents obtained by Greyhound Bus Lines during condemnation litigation reveal that the size of the parking garage was determined only after city officials changed the study's parameters.

In fact, Kaku Associates had concluded in several early drafts of the study that a parking garage was unneeded, if the impact of baseball were ignored.

"If the baseball stadium is not built, it would be difficult to justify a parking garage of any size within the study area in general," Kaku Associates wrote in a February 1994 report.

When asked about the early drafts of the study, Fairbanks seemed to transform from a city manager who had all the parking answers to one who knew almost nothing.

"Oh, I have never seen that," Fairbanks said.

The city responded to Kaku's conclusion that no garage was needed to meet the city's parking demands with a flurry of letters and memos to the consultant, court records show.

The city has refused to comply with New Times' public-records request to review all written communications between city officials and Kaku.

Court records, however, show that the city changed the parameters of Kaku's study after receiving the early drafts. The changes came in two areas:

First, the city reduced by nearly half the downtown area that Kaku could consider as potential parking space for the new science museum and cultural events at Civic Plaza. The city justified this narrowing of focus by claiming museum patrons would be unwilling to walk more than two blocks from a parking garage to the museum. The reduction in the study area forced Kaku to report as though a 1,500-space, city-owned parking garage on Jefferson Street did not exist--because that garage was located slightly more than two blocks from the science museum.

Second, the city included optimistic numbers on increased parking demand in its new study parameters. Those numbers projected a doubling in the number of people attending events at the Civic Plaza over the next decade. The city also required Kaku to include in its calculations of parking demand a proposed downtown aquarium. The aquarium never got off the ground, but Kaku had to take into account its projected increase in daily parking demand.

These new city requirements reduced the supply of parking in the downtown area, while increasing parking demand. Under those new parameters, the consultants concluded that the city was in need of a huge parking garage--regardless of whether the baseball stadium was built.

City economic development director David Krietor relayed the good news to deputy city manager Ray Bladine in a June 6, 1995, memo:

"The conclusions of the consultant's analysis are that upon completion of the museums, there will be a parking deficit of 1,300 to 1,600 spaces."

The parking deficit increases to 3,000 to 3,500 ten years down the road, Krietor added. Krietor estimated the cost of the garage would be $25 million to $30 million.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the source for paying for the project would be the Civic Center Fund, the same borrowing mechanism identified during a March 1994 meeting between city and baseball officials.

The stage was set. To get on with its parking garage, all the city had to do was to force Greyhound Bus Lines to move.

The city council ordered city staff to begin condemnation proceedings in July 1995. The city didn't expect too much of a fight. After all, Greyhound Bus Lines was leasing the bus terminal from Dial Corporation, which owned the land beneath it. Dial Corporation has invested at least $10 million in the Diamondbacks; its chairman, John Teets, is a general partner of the team.

But Greyhound Bus Lines wasn't going to pack up quietly.

The city filed a condemnation suit against Greyhound last October. The bus line countered, saying it wanted to stay downtown and suggesting that the city consider building a combination bus terminal and parking structure on the current Greyhound site.

That proposal went nowhere.
The bus line then asked the city to approve the relocation of its terminal to another downtown site--a site where the city plans to move its city-bus transit terminal. Once again, the city rejected the proposal.

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