New Westlake is site of parking snafus

Along line of cars crawls down the narrow lane of Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City. Some drivers try to turn right, others left, and still others get pulled into a four-car jam — all in hopes of getting a parking spot in the newly revived mall.

With the arrival of stores such as Verizon Wireless, Good Feet, Miki, Starbucks and Burgermeister, Westlake has become a regional destination. But with popularity comes serious parking problems.

“It’s always bad here,” said Dana Bauer, a San Francisco resident who came to Westlake to shop at Trader Joe’s. “I was ready to give up, but then I finally saw a spot. As bad as this one is, though, it’s a dream compared to Trader Joe’s on Masonic.”

Changes at Westlake are due to its new owner, Kimco Realty Corporation, which purchased the shopping center in 2002. Kimco is building a 644-space garage, scheduled to be completed at the beginning of next year, to resolve the parking issue. Kimco officials did not comment on the current parking situation.

Kimco’s solution is a problem for retailers on the western side of the mall that are obscured from view by the five-story garage. Banana Island restaurant, the only retailer without a second entrance on the interior of the mall, is relying on regular customers and those curious enough to follow signs saying “Banana Island restaurant open during construction.”

“We are losing business, sometimes almost 40 percent,” Banana Island manager Stefanie Vongprachanh said. “Sometimes they turn off water or electricity and it’s very noisy.”

Despite the hardships, however, Vongprachanh said Banana Island will not move.

“Maybe if customers can park easier, it will be better, but we don’t know,” she said, looking at the giant concrete structure. “For now, I feel like I’m living in Manhattan.”

The change at Westlake is one of many since the mall’s groundbreaking in 1948. Georgette Sarles,who opened Georgette’s hair salon in Westlake 46 years ago, calls the latest expansion and its parking problems the mall’s “growing pain.”

“There is another flavor coming in — a dismissal of mom and pop stores and the takeover of the corporate world,” said Sarles, who serves as president of Daly City-Colma Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve done a fantastic job, the décor is beautiful, but one of the biggest problems is parking. Parking was never a problem before. Westlake is a formidable regional center now, but there are signs of growing pain.”

“The garage should help,” she added.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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