Scott Jones: Leader of Ace Parking

In San Diego’s parking world, everybody wants to keep up with the Joneses.

Ace Parking Scott Jones, the company founded by Evan Jones and now run by his son Ace Parking Scott Jones controls 75 percent of the paid parking lots in San Diego and rakes in revenues of about $80 million a year.

The Joneses are one of those families — like the Hahns, Fletchers and Luces — whose legacy has defined San Diego for decades. Scott’s grandfather, Albert, was a real estate developer who built the California Theatre downtown. In addition to creating Ace Parking in 1950, his father, Evan, helped shape the political and structural landscape of downtown.

“The Joneses’ fingerprints are all over this town,” says Ron Oliver, executive vice president of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. Evan Jones was a founding member of the group.

This has not been an easy burden to bear for the soft-spoken, laid-back Scott. It most certainly was not what he expected to be saddled with when he was graduated from Stanford University in 1971, a young man more concerned with Grateful Dead concerts and the Vietnam War than following in his father’s footsteps and securing a 9-to-5 job.

“It was really important to me when I got out of college that I wasn’t copping out or getting a free ride by just stepping into my father’s company,” Scott says.

But fate did step in. Around the time Scott graduated, his father landed his first parking account outside of San Diego — Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. Dad invited son to join him in setting up the parking ground crews for the start of football season. Because of his interest in sports — “and only because of my interest in sports” — Scott accepted.

“I loved it. I loved organizing it all, putting the team together,” he says.

Twenty-two years later, Scott Jones is chairman and CEO of Ace Parking. He took the title of CEO five years ago. As his father has become increasingly disabled by Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, Scott has taken the reins of one of San Diego’s most entrenched monopolies and largest private employers.

But he wants the world to know he is no Evan Jones clone, although the two do have the same pale blue-gray eyes, thinning brown hair swept straight back and teddy-bear cheeks that would make your grandmother’s fingers twitch to get a pinch of.

And they share a civic-minded commitment to the community. Scott is a member of a number of business groups, including the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the Downtown Transportation Management Association and the San Diego Zoo Building and Grounds Committee.

But he has taken the company further than his father imagined possible. While Evan preferred not to stray from San Diego (other than the Texas deal), Scott in the past few years has pushed to expand Ace Parking into Los Angeles and Orange counties, Arizona and Oregon. Scott also pushed to land more high-profile accounts, including Orange County’s Irvine Co., the Tucson Airport, Portland International Airport, the Hyatt Regency at the Aventine in La Jolla, and the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

This summer, he landed another trophy, signing up the Town & Country Hotel in Mission Valley, the first Mission Valley hotel to contract a pay-for-parking service. That brings to 16 the number of San Diego hotels on Ace’s roster.
But the biggest day in Scott’s career was Feb. 10, 1984, when he was hired by Horton Plaza to handle parking for its 2,300-space garage.

“As years went by, the issue became bigger and bigger and bigger to me: Am I here because my father paved the road or because I’m talented and capable of making good decisions?” Scott says. “The day I got the Horton Plaza contract, I felt I made it, like a curtain opening. I knew I was my own capable, successful person.”

Through it all, Scott kept his individuality. As a single father, he struggles to make time for his boys by delegating more responsibility than his father, whom Scott described as a classic workaholic.

“I want to have a life that’s not strapped to a desk,” Scott says. “I’d rather leave money on the table and have extra time for myself.”

This graduate of Point Loma High School still surfs, and he still loves rock ‘n’ roll. In fact, so far this year, he’s seen five Keith Richards concerts and one each by Tina Turner, Neil Young and Steve Miller. He’s such a Rolling Stones fan that he named his two sons Brian and Keith for two members of the band.

Scott promises not to pressure his sons, ages 17 and 12, into the family business.

“I want to handle it the way my father did, with more of a carrot than a stick approach and just create an environment that if they want to come in they can.”

The oldest, Brian, is going through his own struggle now trying to choose a college to attend — no easy feat when you belong to a dynasty. Not only did Brian’s father and grandfather attend Stanford, but so did his maternal grandfather, Malin Burnham. His great-grandmother was in Stanford’s first graduating class.
Competition Nests Up
Scott’s own struggle to achieve success for himself and his company is far from over.

“There’s a parking war going on,” says Paul Chacon, who brought Los Angeles-based Five Star Parking to San Diego 10 months ago. The former real estate broker is proving to be a parking powerhouse, lining up nine locations already, six of which were former Ace lots.

“The days where one company dominates the parking world in San Diego are over,” Chacon says. “The kind of dominance Evan built is unheard of in a city this size. Monopolies can’t last.”

So, as the economy is pinching parking prices and emptying downtown lots, Ace is facing fierce competition from Five Star, as well as five other parking firms: a franchise of Parking Co. of America; Star Parking, a subsidiary of Starboard Development; Seattle-based Diamond Parking Service; Houston-based Allright Parking; and Ampco, a subsidiary of the public company American Building Maintenance.

Add to increased competition the heightened efforts by air pollution Control agencies to reduce the number of cars on San Diego roads, which translates into reducing the number of cars in Ace Parking lots.

But Scott is in favor of corporate-mandated ridesharing and setting up satellite parking lots near freeway ramps and bus routes.

“Unfortunately, I’m in the automobile business and will be hurt by these things, and I realize a lot of businesses are against such rules,” Scott says. “But, if we don’t take action now, eventually, we’ll have stricter regulation.”

That’s Scott’s approach to dealing with impending clean air regulations. As for his increasingly competitive foes, Scott says he fights back by focusing on people — his clients as well as his 2,000 employees.

“What I’ve learned from seeing this city go through all the bank problems and real estate problems is that the one thing, the only thing, I can control is our level of service,” he says.

Scott makes it his job to keep constant vigilance over his clients, holding weekly meetings with the landlords who hire Ace.

“He’s a quality fanatic,” says Bill Wilson, general manager of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Ace’s premier account. “I’ve stood on the ramps at big Charger games with both Evan and Scott and watched them work the radios. They’re both very hands-on.”

And Scott’s compulsion for maintaining quality even follows him onto the golf course. While golfing with Scott one day, Wilson mentioned a problem with traffic flow at a football game. Scott immediately dropped his golf club and marched into the clubhouse to make phone calls to fix the problem, Wilson says.

This attention to clients seems to be the real legacy Scott’s received from his father.

Evan Jones, who turned 74 last April, has been a resident of the Casa Palmera in Del Mar since early last year. Scott recently took Wilson for a visit.

“It was so heartwarming to see them hug and see the great love that’s there,” Wilson said.

The elder Jones is beloved by many San Diegans. Councilman Ron Roberts plans to recommend that the City Council name the San Diego Concourse parking structure after Evan Jones. Roberts is getting help pulling together historical data from Scott, who says it means everything to him to be able to honor the man in whose footsteps he’s now walking — the man who is so different and yet so similar.

Evan Jones will always prefer Benny Goodman to Keith Richards, and he will always prefer a traditional office with a Persian rug and wooden desk used by his own father to Scott’s black-leather and chrome office. But the compulsive urge to treat clients as kings is something the two will always share.

Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
Author:    Van Housen, Caty
Date:    Oct 4, 1993
Publication:    San Diego Business Journal
ISSN:    8750-6890

Posted in: Blog, Historical

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