About 40 people showed up to a meeting Tuesday night hosted by the City of Palo Alto that was held to draw feedback on a set of potential residential parking plans for the Downtown North neighborhood.
While he was careful to say that very little was set in stone, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez presented three draft concepts designed to help alleviate parking problems in the downtown area, where street parking is often taken up by downtown workers during the daytime and restaurant-goers during the evening. Rodriguez said the drafts were to gauge the community's response to several parking measures before staff presents recommendations to the City Council on a program.
The programs would work by selling residential parking permits to residents and downtown employees, imposing time limits on parking in the blocks surrounding the downtown area and setting up "buffer zones" that don't require residential parking permits on the blocks closest to the downtown area.
One of the concepts would not impose residential parking permit restrictions but instead set up areas in the neighborhood that have parking time limits, possibly with four-hour time limits, to ensure that downtown workers wouldn't be able to park the cars in the same spot for the entire day.
That plan was met with a cold reception from meeting attendees, several of whom didn't like the idea of having to move their own cars to avoid a citation.
Another idea floated by Rodriguez was that of implementing residential parking permit zones on one side of streets near downtown, with hourly parking on the other side of the streets, and a buffer zone with hourly parking in between.
Michael Hodos, one of the attendees of the meeting, said that a permit parking system that allotted spots for downtown workers have to be sure that the parking would be spread out in the neighborhood, or else workers would simply choose the spots closest to the downtown area, which would put residents who live near downtown at a disadvantage.
Rodriguez suggested a plan in which parking permits could be sold to residents for a relatively cheap rate (Rodriguez gave the example of $30). The city would then sell the remaining spots to businesses or employees under a tiered system, in which spots closer to downtown would cost more, possibly between $250-300.
Hodos also suggested that the parking plan be implemented in phases, increasing the scope gradually to gauge its effectiveness.
Many of the people at the meeting said residential parking permits would not fix what they felt was the real problem -- large downtown developments that don't provide enough parking support for the extra traffic they bring to the downtown area.
One of the attendees, John Hackmann, stressed the immense value to city that street parking near downtown posed, and said it shouldn't be given away to employees working at large developments downtown. Instead he suggested what he called "market-based approach" that auctions off some of the most valuable spots to nonresidents.
Rodriguez said considerations for the cost of implementing a parking-permit program include installing signs, setting up permits and ongoing administrative and police staffing costs. In 2009 the City Council voted to implement a Residential Parking Permit Plan in College Terrace, the neighborhood bordered by Stanford University and the Stanford Research Park. But the startup costs of that program, some $100,000, was covered by Stanford as a condition of the university's 2001 general-use permit with Santa Clara County.
Tuesday's meeting was one of several meetings on a parking plan for the area. Rodriguez said he hopes to have a permit-parking plan for the area for the council to vote on by the end of the calendar year, but said the plan would need the support of at least 70 percent of the residents, a number that many at the meeting balked at.
There will be another meeting at 7 p.m. tonight for residents in the southern section of downtown. The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.