The History of Blue Zones

ALM Zona Azul MeterToday’s article takes a look at how the Blue-Zone, parking system slowly grew along Almuñécar streets… and not without opposition.

There was a time when there was no Blue-Zone parking in Almuñécar. It was also a time when there was abundant surface parking, barring July and August. There were no underground car parks because, well, they weren’t needed. But Ex-Mayor Juan Carlos Benavides decided to bring in this pay-to-park system… and the rest of the Costa Tropical soon followed.

Back in the 70s and 80s the average Spanish family owned two dwellings; their home and a holiday flat on the coast. At a time when few wives worked the household budget got along just fine with one salary coming in. Housing was cheap and going out to eat was cheap, too, meaning that Granadinos could afford to buy a flat on the coast and stay their whole month off there, braving the traffic jams on the old N-323 to get to the coast.

Almuñécar was smaller, too; the P-4 didn’t exist and there was little between the mouth of Río Seco and Chinasol, so you didn’t really need a car once you had arrived. Our visitors in the summer months would park up, put a cover over the car and leave it there parked on the street. And that’s another thing! All the new blocks that went up along Velilla didn’t have their own underground parking…

Now, our Benny has never been a fan of the residents of our provincial capital, known on the coast as Sanitex (a brand of bottled water that they purchased in the city and brought down). They also had a reputation for being ‘tighter than a duck’s arse,’ best summed up as: one Coca Cola and five straws, a constant demand for tapas and a chiringuito table occupied remorselessly.

Yet, Almuñécar would have withered on the vine without these faithful holidaymakers; a seaside town of empty restaurants and out of work construction workers. However, Benny wanted something different; he wanted ‘class tourism’ and once stated, referring to the citizens of Granada, “If you don’t like it, don’t come!”

Benny set about doubling Almuñécar in size, turning its sports facilities into an attraction in themselves, including a stadium, an inside, heated, swimming pool, padel courts and a plethora of smaller football grounds and not to mention the water park and aquarium. He fought for and got a new and better-equipped medical centre and three underground car parks.

But if he stepped on your toes doing it, hard luck. It was this, ‘I’m going to do it; don’t get in the way’ attitude of Benny that made him simultaneously the most loved and hated politician in Almuñécar’s democratic history.

ADZ InmoTropical BThis bred a darker side to Almuñécar; one in which you looked over your shoulder if you criticised his doings and lowered your voice – you never knew if a Patapollo (Benny supporter) was listening in and it would get back to the Mayor’s office. This was Benny’s town and if you didn’t like it, shut up or leave. Nobody got hurt, but if you were running a business, the outlook was bleak with plenty of visits from the town-hall inspectors.

So that was Almuñécar prior to the introduction of pay-for-parking. The parking-hogging, covered-over, Granadinos cars were  the excuse for introducing the Blue-Zones: pay up or be towed away. Not many Almuñequeros complained about that, because in the case of El Paseo de Reina Sofía, block residents had underground parking but would leave them on the road in front of their flats because it was too much bother to park them inside.

Slowly Blue Zones spread along all the beachfront paseo and right into town… and then came the underground car parks and the systematic eradication of all surface parking that was not covered by a Blue Zone. The Avenida de Andalucía, which had parking along both sides along its whole length, lost the lot to wider pavements for example.

Avenida de Europa was one of the last main thoroughfares to lose its free parking and be swallowed up by a Blue Zone… hence, today’s Looking Back article – have a butchers!

(News: Almunecar, Costa Tropical, Granada, Andalucia)

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