City Park: The San Francisco Treat
October, 2011In 1953, brothers Nicholas and Stephan Leonoudakis opened their first parking lot in the area of San Francisco now known as the Embarcadero Center. Also according to the company history posted on its website (www.cityparksf.com), “once the success of that first lot took hold, the brothers were in full pursuit of a dream – turning under-utilized properties into safe, efficient and profitable parking facilities.”
Stephan, a practicing attorney, drafted the company’s first lease for parking operations that would charge 50¢ for all-day parking. Shortly thereafter, San Francisco Parking Inc. (dba City Park) was born.
Over the next nearly 60 years, City Park would develop a high-performance operating model designed to deliver high-end valet and transportation solutions for the top office, hotel and commercial properties throughout San Francisco.
The company’s core philosophy from its inception had been to embrace a local family business/boutique model to be the absolute best at parking system operations, with a laser-like focus on San Francisco exclusively. As a result, City Park has become the No. 1 provider of parking and transportation shuttle services in the Bay Area, with more than 650 employees, 75 properties and a fleet of 120 “green” buses.
Its client list has grown to include a variety of top companies, including dot-com leaders such as Google, Facebook and Genentech. Its parking properties serve an extensive array of Class A office facilities with facilities such as Union Square Garage, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Garage and the Music Center Concourse Garage. Twenty five-star properties (including the Four Seasons, Fairmont, St. Regis and St. Francis hotels) and event parking for the San Francisco 49ers round out its business relationships.
A key strategic initiative fueling City Park’s growth over the years, the company says, has been its dedicated commitment to learning and incorporating the core values necessary for delivering five-star customer service. As a part of this effort, the company hired a Human Resources “customer service” expert with 15 years of experience in the hotel industry to help adopt and train its team to deliver outstanding service at the five-star level. The company notes it now serves 20 of the 30 five-star properties in San Francisco with its ongoing site and managerial service culture in place supporting its top hotel clients.
City Park says its progress also has been tied to an ongoing investment in implementing state-of-the-art technologies to provide the highest levels of accountability in the cash-centric parking business.
“As a cash business, it is critically important to produce documentation on every transaction and to audit, audit and audit,” says Vice President and General Manager Chris Leonoudakis. “Our ‘best practices’ targeting technology initiatives have included fully automating self-park garages, installing pay-on-foot facilities with credit card ingress/egress, and most recently, introducing control room technology providing one-person oversight of up to five self-park locations at one time.”
The company says that “the foundation of its success has been rooted in its hiring of the best and the brightest people throughout its operations, including marketing, financial and administrative support. It has recruited top industry leaders from all over the country,” the company says, “with more than 135 years of senior management skills to keep our organization focused on continuous improvement programs and a strategic plan that contribute to our exponential growth year after year.”
CEO Tim Leonoudakis is President of the San Francisco Parking Association (SFPA). Its mission is threefold: (1) to advocate for the parking industry with city government to hold the line on parking taxes, congestion pricing and legislation that may adversely impact the industry; (2) to work closely with the labor unions to ensure a fair, level playing field for all operators; and (3) to promote the highest performance standards within the parking industry.
“Green initiatives” head up City Park’s most recent strategic effort, the company says, as it has rolled out a fleet of 120 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to provide shuttle services on the Google, Facebook and Genentech campuses. The state-of-the-art coaches have onboard Wi-Fi connectivity and related digital amenities.
City Park says its “green” culture includes installation of EV charging stations at 10 hotel and office properties in San Francisco and building a field of solar collectors atop company headquarters. (Its CEO drives the first Chevy Volt in San Francisco as his official commute vehicle.)
Having established what its executives call “a high-performance company culture that includes the most skilled people aligned and focused on the key strategies embracing top technologies and five-star service,” City Park’s family-owned business continues to expand operations by being awarded new locations each year and has become, its executives say, “one of San Francisco’s largest providers of professional parking services.”