San Diego’s controversial but well-connected Ace Parking has been around since 1950, making it one of the city’s most well-entrenched special interests. As is the case with the Evans hotel family, another influential local dynasty, Ace owes much of its prosperity to a string of lucrative leases it holds with the city and a long list of other government agencies, including the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
In 2011, the company, owned by the heirs to late car-park king Evan Jones, successfully fought off a challenge to its airport reign after staffers recommended a switch of parking management to Standard Parking of Chicago, which they said offered a better deal. After intense lobbying, backed by years of campaign and charity giving benefiting an array of city officials both Republican and Democrat, the airport’s board of directors overruled its staff and handed the contract to Ace yet again. Now the deal to run the emblematic cornerstone of Ace’s empire — the city’s Evan V. Jones Parkade at downtown’s community concourse attached to city hall — is going out for bid, and few insiders are willing to bet that anyone but Ace will again seal the deal.
According to a November 17 request for proposals, “The City is interested in obtaining management and operation services for the Parkade and the design and build to convert the Parkade to a fully automated parking facility together with the cost of said conversion to be financed by the Proposer.” The document adds that the conversion would allow “visitors to utilize self-service pay machines/stations or credit card pay-in-lane machines/stations in combination with having Manager’s staff for support during peak hours.”
The city reports that gross revenue of the parkade in the year ending this past June was $2,315,700, with operating expenses of $184,500, leaving plenty of room for upping the eventual winner’s sizable cut of the profits. The deadline for proposals is December 17. Disclosure records show that since 2006, Ace and its employees have contributed a total of $161,217 to city campaigns. Most recently, company representatives in June gave $2800 to the reelection fund of Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer; $1100 to the campaign of GOP councilman Scott Sherman; $1000 to the state Assembly campaign of Todd Gloria; and $900 to the legal defense fund of Gloria’s fellow Democrat Myrtle Cole.
(headline revised 12/16, 1:40 p.m.)