Parking Plight Causing Downtown Blight

Guillaume Bienaimé, former Executive Chef at Marché, writes a letter to Rich Cline, Menlo Park Mayor, about the how the parking situation downtown could be contributing to the amount of empty storefronts.

Dear Mayor,

I am writing to tell you a story.  I have worked in Menlo Park for over seven years and have paid thousands of dollars in parking tickets.  Yesterday, my car was towed as I was legally parked on University drive and visiting the doctor with my newborn son. My friend, who lives across the street from where I was parked, pleaded with the police to not tow the car and that he would pay the $600 I owed in parking tickets right then and there.  Of course they refused to listen and performed their protocol.  Unfortunately I had just sent in my DMV registration that morning, paying all but three of my remaining tickets in doing so.  I had the check copy and my DMV registration, but the police department still considered it a valid tow.  So I paid the $465 needed to get my car out and the remaining balance of the tickets.

I understand that I “am responsible for paying my tickets…” But the simple fact of the matter is, that regardless of your ridiculous parking policy, people who work and bring business to your city don’t deserve to be treated this way.  Why am I paying the police department $200?  Who sets the prices for the towing companies?  I felt violated and quite frankly robbed of my hard earned money.  Do you know what it’s like to have to move your car every two hours at work?  To have your employees do the same?  Do you think that increases productivity in the workplace?  Yes, I know I can pay $600 for a parking permit that will allow me to park behind Trader Joe’s.  But that’s about the same amount I pay in parking tickets, and I don’t have to walk three blocks to go to work.

This is only the end to a longer story.  When I became executive chef of Marché, two years ago, I really tried to reach out to the community and become part of Menlo Park.  We opened on Mondays, then for lunch and then on Sundays as well.  Although I would never blame the closing of Marché on Menlo Park, I do know that some of my regular customers who came in for lunch, got ticketed and never returned for lunch at Marché again. 

I am sure I am not the only person who has complained to you about the constraints of your parking policy.  Marché is no longer open for business, so it will not be a problem for me.  I think you should think long and hard though about the future of this city.  How many more businesses need to close before you take responsibility for this ghost town?  Perhaps you are simply happy to have Subways, Quizno’s and other chain restaurants serve food out of a bag by people getting minimum wage.  I would hope that Menlo Park would have been a bit more progressive than that.  Look at San Carlos, a bustling downtown, with thriving restaurants, wine bars and eateries.  It is possible, but not if you keep treating business owners like they owe you something.

Thank you for your time and good luck.

Guillaume Bienaimé

Amanda Sorenson September 02, 2011 at 01:48 AM
I've worked on Santa cruz Ave for 14 years now ( and I'm only 28). I have plenty of unpaid tickets , because I can't afford them!! Just got my car registration bill, its 974 dollars because of all those tickets. That's up from last years 700. I do my best to move my car every 2 hours, but because I am working with customers, I can't always make it on time! It's horrible that the only other options are to park blocks away in front of someone's home, or pay 600 a year for a permit. How much money do you think we make!? Worst of all, the horrible job you did years back on the parking lots have made accidents a very common occurrence. My parked car has been hit 3 times now from people trying to back out. Guess what? they never stop and leave a note. I had my car repaired the first time, it cost 1,000 dollars. I say YOU owe me.


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