Death by Parking - Chapter 3 – It begins.
When the elevator doors opened and I recognized my old CO, I hope the look on my face wasn’t one of shock or recognition. He was 10 years older, but there was no doubt. I was facing the man who took that girl into the back room in that bar in Korea a decade ago.
Many a building has made its mortgage payments based on the parking income.
He smiled, said “excuse me” and stepped out of the elevator. I stepped aside and he walked off toward the S and J Offices. I guess Ray Stevens had a meeting he neglected to mention. I wonder what that was all about. Maybe he didn’t know about the meeting either.
I got in the elevator and pressed the ‘lobby’ button. One problem was solved. Cosner didn’t remember me. Or he was a better actor than I was. I would ask Stevens’s assistant Barbara about the reason Cosner was meeting Stevens when I dropped by tomorrow. She seemed to know everything that went on at S and J Properties.
In the meantime, I would have a chat with a couple of friends who might know a bit about C-Park and my buddy Cosner. I went back to my office and pulled out my rolodex. My first call was to D. C. McGuire. D.C. was an old friend I had met during that parking caper a few years ago. He was retired but now back in the business, and if anyone knew Cosner, he would. I made the call and he agreed to meet me for drinks (it would be plural if D.C. was involved) at the Cinegrill in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
We were meeting early and the jazz the hotel was most famous for would be starting later. We would have a quiet drink and a chat about parking. I doubted that Bogie would show up. He dropped by Musso and Frank and some of the other watering holes in Hollywood, but only when I was alone.
D.C. came in dressed in California Casual. Light cotton pants, docksiders, and a golf shirt with the logo of his club, the Rancho Park Course on LA’s west side. D.C. is an avid golfer and spends much of his time off on the links, or in the clubhouse at the 19th hole. He has been in the parking business for decades, and what he doesn’t know, doesn’t exist. He sat down at my table and waved at the waiter.
A few minutes later a scotch and soda appeared in front of him. He took a sip, sighed, and then looked a question at me.
I told him what I was doing and needed some background, not only on Cosner and Co., but parking and its relationship with developers in general.
“Parking and Development have always had a close relationship, Paul. Often the parking operator owns the land that the developer needs for a project. They then cut a deal which includes a provision that the operator will run the new project’s parking in perpetuity. Everybody wins.
“The reason that parking operators get a seat at the planning table very early on in the project’s life is that when real estate agents begin to lease out the building, they tend to cut deals in the first few years of the lease. That means that revenue can be pretty low and when the developer goes to the bank for a loan, he has to show he can meet the payments. That’s where parking comes in.
“If the parking operator projects a healthy income for the first few years, it can make up for the lower lease rates and the bank is happy. Many a building has made its mortgage payments based on the parking income.
D.C. had finished his first drink and signaled for a second. I was fine.
“It’s also true that developers don’t think much about parking except that they need it. The operator can act as a consultant recommending equipment, checking plans to be sure turning radiuses are large enough, recommend curb cuts that work with the surrounding traffic. Operators are usually in the know about all that stuff. Plus, it’s to their advantage to build the best garage possible, after all, they are going to be running it for a long time.
“Operators develop relationships with builders and owners so they can be in on the initial planning of the project. They know the rules set down by the city and how to work within them to make a project work.
D.C. rattled the ice in his glass. Another scotch and soda was on the way. I felt I had better ask about Cosner while D.C. was still clear headed.
“Ah, yes, the famous C-Park and its fearless leader Larry Cosner. I have to say that I’m surprised S and J hired them. That developer is pretty straight, and let’s just say that Cosner has been known to bend a few rules. He started up after he returned from Korea and grew a little more quickly than I would have expected. The word on the street is that he is “connected.”
D.C. put his finger against his nose and pushed it to the left. I knew exactly what that meant.
“Frankly, I have been trying to figure out how he got the deal with Stevens at S and J. He usually goes with Rapid Park. There must be more to this than meets the eye. What do you think, Paul?”
“I have no clue, D.C., I’m only just getting started. Give me a few days to sniff around and I’ll let you know, at least as much as I can, client confidentiality and all.” D.C. nodded, finished his drink and left. I sat there for a few minutes nursing my single malt and sure enough, Bogie showed up and sat down across from me.
As usual, the famous actor said nothing. He just helped me to focus on what I was going to do. Look, I’m not crazy. I know he is just a figment of my imagination, but somehow, he shows up when I need to think clearly. After a few minutes he faded into the background, and I paid the tab and walked back to my office. I picked up my car and drove home.
The next morning at 10 I was standing beside Ray Stevens’s assistant’s desk. She told me to sit and wait a minute. She made a couple of phone calls, then got up, picked up an envelope and her purse, and indicated that I should follow her. She took a hard hat with the S and J logo on it off the coat stand. We went downstairs and into a coffee shop on the first floor. So far, she hadn’t said a word. I decided she would when she was ready. The coffee arrived without ordering it. There was cream and sugar on the table.
“I have put out the word that Mr. Stevens has hired you as a site inspector. That will give you access to everything at the project, including all contracts and building plans. This envelope has your credentials and some background information, at least as much as I could find, on C-Park. The hard hat will give you creditability. I have to tell you that the path Cosner took to get this deal was unlike any other. He worked through the builder who had already been hired and had written into his contract that he would recommend the parking operator. Those contracts are hundreds of pages long, and frankly, we missed it. If I had met Mr. Cosner before the deal was done, I would never had recommended him. There is something about him that doesn’t fit in with how we do things here.
“The boss is very concerned, and between you and me, trusts you to find out what is going on and figure out a way to unwind it. Cosner showed up unannounced yesterday, and Mr. Stevens didn’t see him. I was able to schedule an appointment for next week. I think you should attend that meeting. Oh, and Mr. Stevens told me to tell you that there is a retainer in the envelope and if you are successful, there will be another of equal amount when this plays out.
She stood up, smiled, and walked out the door toward the elevators.
I peeked into the envelope. There was a note saying that I should turn in my invoices and expenses weekly. There was also a check made out to Paul Manning. I couldn’t get the stunned look off my face. Stevens must really have been worried. It was for $5,000, half a year’s income for a guy like me.
To be continued…
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