News

Parking takes center stage in downtown debate

New study shows commuters increasingly rely on public transit

Palo Alto residents and council members routinely lament downtown's worsening parking crisis, but a new study indicates that the area actually has enough spots to accommodate the recent surge in office development.

This conclusion, however, comes with a caveat: downtown's parking supply is only sufficient if the residential neighborhoods surrounding the commercial core are willing to share the free parking on their blocks with commuters.

From the city's perspective, that's a significant sticking point. At Wednesday night's review of the new Downtown Cap study -- an in-depth analysis performed by the firm Dyett & Bhatia Urban and Regional Planners that aims to measure downtown's capacity for further development -- several Planning and Transportation Commission members made it clear that the current situation, with downtown commuters filling up residential blocks during business hours, is unacceptable.

That has also been the position of downtown residents and of the City Council, which earlier this year directed staff to design a permit program that would set time limits for cars parking on neighborhood streets. The city is also looking to launch new shuttles, start a program that would encourage auto commuters to take other modes of transportation, and build new garages.

But the new study suggests the parking crisis isn't so much a problem of supply as one of preference. The study, which is being conducted in phases, stresses that downtown's existing garages remain underused. The area's off-street facilities, the study states, are "below full capacity at peak periods, with garages overall and permit spaces in particular showing significant vacancies." There are also some blocks "with a few open spaces available."

"In short, the city could improve parking with strategies that address not just new supply but better management of existing facilities," the study states. "The overall parking supply is sufficient to meet demand, if the community accepts that many downtown employees park for free on neighborhood streets."

Just about everyone agreed on Wednesday that that's a big "if." Michael Griffin, a Downtown North resident and former planning commissioner, made it clear the neighborhood has no intention of accepting any such thing.

"I think it goes without saying that it is not acceptable to the community," Griffin said.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck agreed and called downtown parking a "complex problem."

"I've been a very strong advocate of exploring parking-permit ideas, and I don't necessarily accept this notion that residents in our downtown neighborhoods have to fight hard to be able to park in front of their homes," Alcheck said.

The commission's discussion focused on the first phase of the Downtown Cap study, which is required by a 1986 law that set a limit on non-residential downtown development at 350,000 additional square feet and required the city to conduct an analysis when growth reaches 235,000 square feet. The city recently cleared the latter threshold, having added about 252,000 square of non-residential development downtown.

Even with the strong growth, parking supply remains adequate, said Sophie Martin, an associate principal at Dyett & Bhatia. She noted, however, that the parking spaces "aren't necessarily where people want to be."

"And we can only really say the supply is adequate to meet demand if we say it's OK that employees in downtown park in adjacent neighborhoods," Martin said. "Without the adjacent neighborhood parking, we start to run into supply issues."

According to the study, downtown has seen a gradual increase, though activity has "accelerated in recent years," the study states. More than half of downtown's total non-residential development since 1986 has been built over the past three years -- more than 100,000 square feet in the past two years. Downtown's vacancy rate, which stood at 9 percent in 2009, dropped to 2 percent in 2013.

Though the growth inevitably means more cars, a survey included in the study shows that more than half of the people who come to downtown Palo Alto don't drive at all. The survey, which asked 501 downtown respondents (including employees, visitors and residents) about their traveling habits, found that 44 percent of the employees who commute to Palo Alto from elsewhere rely on their cars, while 51 percent take public transit. Employees who live in Palo Alto drive to downtown alone at a higher rate (48 percent), with the balance split between public transit (30 percent), walking and biking (9 percent each), and carpooling (4 percent). Furthermore, the survey found that less than half of the people who visit downtown (but don't work there) drive alone. That rate is 32 percent among visitors from Palo Alto and 40 percent among visitors from other cities.

The study indicated that significantly more commuters than in the past are getting to downtown without using their cars. Boardings at the downtown Caltrain station are up by 51 percent since 2009, according to the study.

Even with the high rate of transit use, commissioners agreed that downtown parking is a major problem. Jessica Sullivan, the city's parking manager, said most commuters prefer to park on the streets, with parking lots as a second choice and garages as a third. This has left residents in the Professorville and Downtown North neighborhoods seething as they watch their blocks get parked up every weekday morning.

Alcheck pointed to parking as the "real concern" downtown residents have about new development downtown, "not whether we approve a few more office buildings."

The study also suggests that new development isn't the only reason for downtown's parking woes. Another is the way in which existing buildings are being used. Even though new construction accounts for less than 10 percent of the area's total square footage of buildings, much more space is now devoted to professional, personal and commercial services. Downtown is also filled with startups, which typically employ more workers per square foot than traditional offices do, the study notes.

"It is these changes in the use and building occupancy in the downtown overall that have likely contributed to increased traffic and parking demand," the study states.

In the study's next phase, existing businesses will be surveyed to determine how many people they employ and how these employees get to work. These questions also prompted the City Council to direct staff earlier this year to create a business registry, an online database that would collect such information from employers.

Whatever the numbers, commissioners agreed on Wednesday that the city will have plenty of work to do in the coming years to ease the negative consequences of growth downtown.

"I think we need to think in terms of how, in particular for people who come from far away, how to encourage them to take public transit and how to make it easier for them to take public transit," Vice Chair Arthur Keller said. "That's going to be an increasing challenge for us."

Comments

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 2:15 am

First, I support parking permits for residents. Non residents should only use and pay for public parking. When parking permits were finally issued in college terrace, we got our neighborhood back. Stanford U and Stanford industrial park employees and students are now using their intended spaces. We now can come home and have a place to park. Second, contrary to some other posts, continued development is not inevitable. We have a choice. I and other Palo Altains choose to block any further office space development. Moreover, through the business registry, ensure that occupancy rates at each building are not being violated. Last, to prevent further pressure from ABAG placing mandates 4 us to build more condos and apartments, a block on new office development is essential. Quality of life is a form of quantity that commercial real estate interests and councils seeking development revenue streams would like us to ignore. But no more. We are done. This election begins the dismantling of the pro- growth leaders o he 1980s to present.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2014 at 7:47 am

Firstly, get parking meters on the streets so people pay to park on the streets. Residents can get exemption permits but no more than 2 per residence.

Secondly, pay per hour machines at each lot and garage.

Thirdly, get some high tech gadgetry to make it easier to find where the empty spaces in the garages are.


Posted by Dave Hoffman, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 9:43 am

Why not install a parking system like the one used in downtown Redwood City? It's easy, convenient, better than installing individual meters, and could easily be expanded beyond the immediate downtown area if desired. RWC charges reasonable hourly rates for parking, and all that would be required in addition to installation of the payment machines would be the painting of numbers on the metered spaces.


Posted by Free Parking For All!, a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

The conclusions reached in this study are reasonable. Basically it sounds like people who drive and park downtown prefer to park in the residential neighborhoods where there are little or no restrictions. This is instead of parking in downtown commercial core, surface lots, and parking structures where there are restirctions on how long one can park, etc.

One solution would be to extend parking time restrictions to residnetial areas. Or start residential parking permit program for residential areas.Once this is done the City can start charging market rate for parking downtown instead of needlessly giving it away for free.

However, onstreet parking in the public right of way is not owned or the exclusive property of the house it is in front of. It is public property so personally I don't think it should be restricted to private property owners (through permit system). The ultimate solution is to charge market rate for parking (parking garages, surface lots, and onstreet and to use the revenue to support alternative to single occupant vehicle use and possibly to build more parking garages if/when needed. But, as the study points out the existing parking garages and surface lots are underutilized so there really isn't any reason to build more at this time.


Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on May 29, 2014 at 10:26 am

This shows that the solution is NOT more parking garages.


Posted by Your tax dollars at work, a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2014 at 10:42 am

Yes, we needed expensive consultants to prove AGAIN that people prefer parking on the streets rather than in dark garages. And that the garages we have are underutilized.
How many times has this been shown and proven? and obvious.
When will there be some action instead of bureaucratic spinning, time wasting and money wasting?


Posted by Question , a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2014 at 11:15 am

How about exploring a change in zoning for office space that increases the number of employees they pack in per square foot? This kind of "density increase" should trigger new parking requirements...as well as other mitigations.


Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 11:15 am

Per the article "501 dowtown respondents" were questioned. I suggest asking a broader group of Palo Altans if they avoid going downtown, how many times per week they go downtown, and when did they last go downtown b/c I suspect you will get a very different set of answers. I've gotten pretty good at strategizing when to go downtown b/c there are some businesses I like to support, but I don't go as often as I might if the parking problem wasn't as severe as it is.


Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2014 at 11:15 am

Per the article "501 dowtown respondents" were questioned. I suggest asking a broader group of Palo Altans if they avoid going downtown, how many times per week they go downtown, and when did they last go downtown b/c I suspect you will get a very different set of answers. I've gotten pretty good at strategizing when to go downtown b/c there are some businesses I like to support, but I don't go as often as I might if the parking problem wasn't as severe as it is.


Posted by Classic Palo Alto Process, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm

@Your tax dollars at work - Wants to end "bureaucratic spinning, time wasting and money wasting" on studies that restate the obvious...

and

@Annette - Wants to spend more money on revising and expanding the study by "asking a broader group of Palo Altans."

Is it any wonder why it takes sooo long to get anything down on this matter?


Posted by Richard, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm

The problem of parking in the neighborhoods is compounded by the fact that house remodels and new construction do not require sufficient on lot parking for the residents themselves. Plans for the new house next to me has parking for 1 car for a 5 bedroom house. In my experience, this will yield 3-4 less places on the street than are there now. I have been told by the city that minimizing parking on-site is typical, given the cost of lots and of housing. Add this to the construction boom downtown, increased parking needs of office space as opposed to retail and the parking shortage will only make worse what is already a bad situation. It's fine to have a booming economy, but let's address the consequences in a balanced way. I don't see that this is happening.


Posted by ugo, a resident of University South
on May 29, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Big hat, no cows. Nothing will ever get done because our local government can't agree that quality of life is more important than an increased tax base. I can't drive down my street half the time because of the constant construction vehicles and torn up streets. People constantly park overlapping my driveway. Vehicles sit in front of my house with their engines running while the drivers talk on cell phones. Jack hammers and diesel engines start in front of my house everyday at 7:30 and last till 5PM six days a week. Anywhere less than 4 blocks from University isn't a residential neighborhood any more; it is a construction site crossed with a parking lot. I like the convenience of walking to shops, the gym, etc. However, the constant noise and inconvenience that the city promotes by its inaction is going to drive me out. I don't need more studies to tell me that in the last 10 years my neighborhood has become unplayable, all I have to do is try to sleep past 7:00 or walk out and try to breathe through the exhaust fumes.

Yes, I don't own the parking in front of my house. However, collectively as a community we have the ability to control its use. I say stop voting for ANY incumbent because they are useless for doing anything about this except spending more money on studies and having inconclusive meetings.


Posted by Driving no more, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Screw it. I'm buying a bike.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm

"Posted by Richard, a resident of Crescent Park
1 hour ago

The problem of parking in the neighborhoods is compounded by the fact that house remodels and new construction do not require sufficient on lot parking for the residents themselves. Plans for the new house next to me has parking for 1 car for a 5 bedroom house. In my experience, this will yield 3-4 less places on the street than are there now. "

YES! Almost all newly built hulking homes seem to have one car garages, and from what I witness, those are not used at all. We have a LOT of cars parked on residential streets in Palo Alto, and this seems to be increasing.


Posted by Resident of Palo Alto, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I believe Palo Alto residents need convincing to leave their cars behind when they visit Palo Alto downtown. Better park and ride systems, shuttles, restricted car zones, pedestrian only areas and availability of bicycles to traverse through downtown are the tools for the residents, commuters and visitors to help eliminate the parking problem. We as residents of Palo Alto should choose to walk and bike and keep the downtown predominantly pedestrian. City should provide incentives and options to encourage pedestrianism. Over all, we need an attitude change! Unless we limit our car trips, the need for parking will keep on rising. We should be converting the parking lots into pedestrian plazas and using the parking lanes for bike lanes. Reduce the the parking and dependency on cars instead of asking for more parking!


Posted by Jane, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm

The actual residents of Palo Alto should not be penalized with cars constantly parked in front of their homes, new taxes, etc. Put the financial burden on the commuters, who come to Palo Alto to work. Let them pay a high price to park in our garages. Commuters are using up our resources and infrastructure. [Portion removed.]


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Of course the solution is more parking garages - they are wonderful.

It is a pain in the neck to have to feed meters, and will result in a lot of inconvenience and tickets, more police time, more court time, more DMV time - it's a cheap ploy to get more money from everyone.

Parking is fine the way it is. Yes, occasionally it's a pain in the butt to find a parking place, but you can always find something if it is only the garages.

The nice thing about Palo Alto is that you do not have to go through that with parking meters. I really suspect the motives of anyone who espouses parking meters.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I agree with Richard too ... the houses built here need to have sufficient parking space. When I moved to Palo Alto we lived on Guinda, and you could not even park in front of your own house at night. Now it is clear why Palo Alto did not want people to start to do that. It looks like a ghetto when you drive through a neighborhood and you see cars parked on both sides of the street end to end. It also makes crime easier.

The idea of someone who probably never goes downtown to command everyone in the city to ride their bike is ludicrous ... what a joke.

Not only that but the animosity that most people seem to display towards bikes and the poor driving skills people have in Palo Alto makes it dangerous to go bike riding in this city.


Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm

If you block on street parking in neighborhoods you can kill downtown businesses. I often go downtown with a friend to have lunch and go to a movie. We are both retired. This will often take well over the 3 hour larking in a garage. So we park in a neighborhood so that we do not have to worry about a ticket. We will not go if it means taking a bus or bicycle. We would park in a garage if there were a validation system where we could get free parking for patronizing downtown businesses. We would even pay to park,but we should be able to pay ONLY for the time parked, not have to guess and over pay to make certain we do not get a ticket.
I have lived in PA over 40 years and am familiar with most of the downtown streets. There are a very few streets where lots are so small that there is no room for a driveway for the residents to park. I do not park on these streets. Where I park the homes are large and have large lots. Most single family residence dwellers have room for a driveway in which to park. The other homes are in limited time parking zones anyway.
Those of us who shop downtown and support local businesses do not want permits in residential neighborhoods. Leave us places to park where we do not have to worry about a ticket so that we can continue to support local businesses.
No permits. No restrictions in residential neighborhoods. You live in a city. That means parking can be difficult. However, I can always find a legal place to park when I go downtown to support local businesses. Don't kill local shops.


Posted by Kay, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Thank you Ugo for your comments about the parking/quality of life issues taking a backseat to increasing the tax base, whatever the cost. That's what is underlying the lack of parking downtown. I also have a few comments about noise pollution and air pollution. With the traffic congestion, so many cars are spewing out pollution while idling to get cross town-------Churchill, East Meadow, Loma Verde,Newell, etc. It's bad for homeowners, renters, bicyclists, pedestrians, and pets. On our nice street, 4 new two-story homes have 5+ bedrooms and the City mandated 1 car garages. All these families have at least 2-4 cars which are now parked on both sides of our street. My neighbor is doing a remodel and the City Planning Dept. tried to force her to redo her driveway/garage to make it a one-car garage. Hopefully the next election we will turn out most of the Council in favor of "residentialists" who will put a stop to the overdevelopment of professional and housing developments.


Posted by Kay, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Whoops, I forgot to mention Menlo Park has kept the residential neighborhoods beautiful and clean by requiring all cars to be parked in their perspective driveways at night. Visitors can get permits to park for a few days. It would be so nice to have our lovely tree-lined street open, free of cars for all the pedestrians and residents to enjoy! Menlo Park has kept its priority livability!!


Posted by John, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm

if you work in SF you pay to park $12 to $30 per day. In Palo Alto it is $0 = FREE.
Permit/sticker the streets for residents and charge the commuters.
Wake up Palo Alto residents. Your quality of life is going into somebody else's pocket.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Great illustrative photo Veronica.


Posted by anneke, a resident of Professorville
on May 30, 2014 at 9:05 am

Goal: To build a relationship between community and business that is mutually respective and supportive.

Recommendations:
1. Each home with a driveway has a "wasted" space on the street in front of their home.
2. Utilize this "wasted" space by making this space large enough (through painting signs), so that the homeowner can easily park his second car in that space. The driveway to be used for the first car.
3. Give the homeowners without a driveway an assigned large enough parking space in front of their home (through painting signs).
4. Adopt Menlo Park's parking painting, where they provide 2 large parking spaces, a free space not to be used, and then again 2 large parking spaces.

The above recommendation would be simple to implement, inexpensive, gives homeowners some peace from the present "parking lot mess," provides downtown workers with some parking space, maintains an atmosphere of a neighborhood, and encourages mutual respect.

It takes a village!


Posted by Resident of downtown, a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2014 at 9:06 am

I live in the downtown area to be close to businesses. Our street is indeed pretty clogged with parked cars from both employees, visitors and fellow residents. However, almost all of us have driveways and garages, and I have never found it a problem to park my own car.

I realize that many of us feel very entitled to the public space in front of our houses. However, that is not the reality of living in a downtown area. There are parts of Palo Alto that are much more "suburban". If your priority is to find a nurturing environment in which to raise your car, most of Palo Alto and many of our neighboring communities offer a great car-centric environment. If you want an environment that is great for meeting people, walking to stores and restaurants, and being part of a community, the car may need to occasionally be parked in your driveway.

That's the trade-off.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 30, 2014 at 9:09 am

Maybe it's time to consider a yearly parking/traffic impact fee for business in the downtown area. The traffic is generated by people coming to Palo Alto to do business--of one sort or another. Why not require each business to contibute to a fund to mitigate this impact, based on the traffic each firm generates?

Most technology startups do not contribute in any meaningful way to the tax base, so requiring even startups that are not currently producing any revenue to help mitigate the traffic they are creating may give some of these guys reason to not locate in downtown Palo Alto--which would be a self-correcting form of traffic mitigation/management and downtown growth.

Just because a few people have managed to ccnvince some VCs to back their startup--that's no reason that they should be able to impact the quality of life of those living in the town that they chose to locate their startup.

For example, if there were a yearly traffic mitigation fee of $100 per employee--then that would generate $100,000 per year for the mitigation fund. If there are 10K employees in downtown--then that would generate $1M a year. Raising/lowering the traffic mitigation fee would generate more/less money, as needed.

Retail businesses would need a fee schedule that includes the traffic involved in running their businesses.






Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

Bru is a registered user.

The problem is that not all houses have driveways. Many do, but not all. Another problem is that virtually all households have at least 2 cars, often more.

People who live away from downtown have the use of the front of their houses for parking, service and delivery people, friends, etc to us. People downtown generally do not have that ability, and they should.

Put the downtown parking - downtown. Put it in parking garages that work fantastically. I know, sometimes I go downtown and I don't want to take the trouble to go into the parking garages, but if I cannot find a parking place, I can always find one in the parking garages.

Palo Alto has a huge spot right besides that always full parking lot adjacent the Aquarius theater. That could be made into a parking garage and service to all those businesses would be made much better.

Someday cars will go away, but in Palo Alto at least, not any time soon. Palo Altans in general are not going to be pried out of their cars by misery and pain, and they should not be. It is impractical at this point to expect people to take public transit or ride their bikes when both options have so many problems for so many people. Walking is great for those who live close enough, but if you have to make a quick trip in to eat, pick up a prescription, buy an iPad, etc, you do not want to devote hours to it, you are going to drive.

People need to wake up and see reality clearly, the car is our means of transportation and trying to push an artificial change without a detailed plan and citizen approval is against the basic nature of the people who live here and do not want it.


Posted by Goose Gander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 9:47 am

I keep making this suggestion and I don't know why people don't take me seriously. The City Councilmembers should not have their own dedicated parking spots under City Hall, because it just means no one making the rules has any idea of what their decisions really mean.

In fact, I'd love to see City staff and Councilmembers all take a 6 month no-car pledge, where they all bike to work (though, I'd love to see it in the winter when it's dark on the way home, so again, they can appreciate the consequences of the decisions they make of behalf of others). At the very least, they should give up their dedicated parking spots. They are only dedicated in the evening, but the signs effectively mean no one parks there. Why shouldn't they have to look for parking like everyone else?

Necessity is the mother of invention. Users come up with solutions. Councilmembers should give up their dedicated parking spots, and they should take a no-car pledge in the two months leading up to the election.


Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2014 at 9:52 am

Why should we spend tens of millions on new free (subsidized) parking garages when the ones we have aren't even being used? What gives anyone in Palo Alto (or Mountain View) a right to free parking downtown?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

There are so many good ideas and good posts here that are falling on deaf ears. These are from people who live, work and visit Palo Alto and use the streets and the parking. Why do we need consultants who don't live here to monitor what is going on, when people who do live here experience it and have great ideas?

Why doesn't anybody listen to the little people? We are experts in what we experience. We don't demand a high fee.


Posted by non-nimby resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

I find several consistent patterns in the commentary hard to understand:

1) Extremism: no one is asking anyone to give up their cars completely. Mr. "Goose Gander" wants Councilmembers to take a "no cars pledge"... for what purpose? Proponents of reduced driving are advocating just that: a REDUCTION in driving. This can be accomplished. It has been accomplished in Boulder, Madison, Davis, and many other mid-sized college towns. Stanford has accomplished this in the past 10 years without getting their faculty and staff to go completely "car free". Our kids in the PAUSD have steadily increased their bicycling rates over the past 10 years through education programs and investment in bike routes by the city. The discussion is about reduction. If car usage can be reduced by 10% the pressure on our downtown is reduced tremendously, and the liveability of our city also goes up.
2) Sky-is-falling-ism: based on comments, one would view Palo Alto as a city run by a kleptocracy, with out-of-control crime, impossible parking, rogue and menacing bicyclists. Any sane person visiting or moving to our fair city would see what the rest of the world does: a world-class small city with amazing liveability. The "sky is falling" cries do not make your arguments very credible.
3) Woe-is-me-ism: Bru points out that "not all houses have driveways". This is extremely rare. Something like 5% of homes. If we assume that the extended downtown area has ~1000 homes, this means that 50 people occasionally have to walk a couple of minutes from their parking space to their house. Think about this: when you drive around the downtown neighborhoods looking for a parking space, you normally find one within a couple of minutes of driving. This is then followed by a couple of minutes walking to your destination. For those 50 people, the horror of this occasional situation means that the entire city and the workers who pour their lattes will be barred from parking in an entire neighborhood.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

> If car usage can be reduced by 10% the pressure on our downtown
> is reduced tremendously, and the liveability of our city also goes up.

Numbers please. This statement is really hard to believe on face value.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 11:31 am

One question nobody is asking.

How do these streets get swept? I thought cars were not to park on streets on street sweeping day, or is that ignored?


Posted by DC, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Agree w/ "Palo Alto Native" and others - including "Your Tax Dollars" - re the idea that this issue has been studied to death, and it is time to explore and choose options to implement.

As "Richard" points out - and there's THE EXACT same problem on Seale Ave right now - more homes w/ 1-car garages means more people parking in front of their homes. AND their neighbor's homes. Right now one neighbor routinely parks 1-2 of their cars in front of our house once the construction guys have left for the day, in spite of having enough room on their side of the street to park. It is only going to get worse. Now is the time to address parking CITY-WIDE.

And insofar as construction crews go, I have asked the city why parking lots cannot be put on the old Palo Alto dump site )or other underutilized "waste space" for construction crews parking and be bussed to their job sites, a cost which is covered by the builder and an add-on flat fee for all new home builds.

I have also asked the city to provide 2 parking permits for the curb space in front of every home. I understand the space is not "owned" by the homeowner, but it should be for that homeowner's convenience and is an "expectation" for deliveries etc as mentioned above. And as an added advantage for some, if you own only one car, or - heaven forbid - you actually park in your driveway or garage and do not use your curb space, maybe you could rent it out to a neighbor who has one of these 5 BR homes w/ 1-car garage...

Now's the time to address ALL parking issues, not just put a patch on a single piece of the puzzle.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2014 at 2:25 pm

"How do these streets get swept?"

Many don't. At least, not by the city. A few owners sweep their own.

"I have asked the city why parking lots cannot be put on the old Palo Alto dump site or other underutilized "waste space" for construction crews parking and be bussed to their job sites."

Great idea. We have 100+ acres of underutilized "waste space" at the PA airport, all paved and ready for striping. This would be an excellent public-serving use for it.


Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville
on May 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Adding to DC's comment: "I have also asked the city to provide 2 parking permits for the curb space in front of every home. I understand the space is not "owned" by the homeowner, but it should be for that homeowner's convenience and is an "expectation" for deliveries etc as mentioned above. And as an added advantage for some, if you own only one car, or - heaven forbid - you actually park in your driveway or garage and do not use your curb space, maybe you could rent it out to a neighbor who has one of these 5 BR homes w/ 1-car garage..."

Clever thought and I buy into it. We have one car and no driveway or garage and used to park in front of our house before we contributed the space to developers for their use. We do have access to a space behind our home via a narrow alley and use it all the time now even though the alley is sometimes blocked and we need neighbors or workers to move their vehicles parked in the alley. If the city set aside two spaces in front of each home, we have one of those 5 bedroom homes in the area that has what seems like dozens of spaces rented out so we could have a nice income stream from renting out our two parking spaces. We would gain income, they would have dedicated parking close by, with our additional income we would spend it supporting local business, the city would have a major part of the parking solved, and with no money spent on consultants to study...and study...and study...and study the parking, the City would save consulting fees which saves tax dollars for every citizen. Talk about win-win-win-win-win! Well, except for consulting firms.


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I am not sure what part of public streets many of the posters do not understand. All this talk about designating public streets in front of homes for parking by the owners is ridiculous. The city needs to address the parking problems going on with downtown workers, but this is not a solution. Now if these homeowners would agree to pay for the maintenance of the street, I.e. The city would not pay for any street repairs then.....


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2014 at 7:50 am

SteveU is a registered user.

City hall *created* this mess when they allowed:
1) the 1 car garage residential building codes (precludes parking 2 cars side-by-side). Many (most?) families need 2 incomes just to live here. 2 cars are needed to meet the needs of commute,school,shopping.

2) 'Under parked' business construction. Jobs without meeting transit needs.

3) fee based permit parking without requiring the business to BUY those for their onsite employees (yes, paid by the EMPLOYER), thus indirectly encouraging employees to seek cheaper alternative parking.


Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2014 at 8:29 am

Dear Downtown Resident
Quality of neighborhood is also measured by the ease for friend and family to park conveniently. My friends' and family's mobility is NOT increasing with age and frankly they dont like driving around in circles looking for parking space. The issue is not limited to convenience to residents; it is the visible transformation of premium residential spaces to commercial parking lots. Worker intrusion will extend out to and over Embarcadero unless policy is changed.
The issue is irresponsible development and parking management: Commercial spaces have been and are being built without parking spaces somewhere, anywhere in the commercial zone. Here is a direct quote from the Downtown Capacity Study presented to the Planning Commission on May 28.

"Downtown parking supply appears adequate to meed demand, but only with substantial intrusion of employee parking on residential streets.

I acknowledge that some Downtown North residents feel their duty to provide residential parking spaces to the commercial core businesses. But how much? DTN residential streets are 77% saturated every working day with no limit set. In my opinion, no residential neighborhood in Palo Alto should ever provide more than 20% of its residential streets for all-day commercial parking. That is a quality standard worthy of City Council stewardship. Citzens in Crescent Park, DTN, Professorville and University South survey parked vehicles monthly and provide info to City Staff, Planning Commission and City Council. This picture is worth a 1000 words. May's map will be posted on DTN Nextdoor website today.

Icing on the cake: Look at the current impact on residential neighborhoods adjacent to the California Avenue Core which is revving up for more development. Only College Terrace neighborhood is quality protected with its long-established permit parking program.


Posted by Property owner, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm

In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the street parking throughout our residential areas, and we must accept this as the price of growth. While some of us might like to see things go back to the "good old days" when streets were less crowded, none of us would want to see our property values return to what they once were. The recent exponential increase in property values comes with a price tag. [Portion removed.]


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm

"Property Owner" wrote:
>> If you are so unhappy, then sell your property for top dollar and move to a sleepier town.

Maybe I am just speaking for myself here, but I at least would appreciate it if the editors here would throw out comments of this nature. They do not add anything to the overall discussion and the tone of them is mean-spirited and disrespectful.

First, any person who owns a house here knows they can leave, so there is no point is trying to remind them, it is more of a get out of here you don't belong type statement. But if you think about it the productive posts here are about affirming that parking is a problem or any problem and trying to figure out what to do about it. Telling someone to leave because they are explaining how a problem affects them or have an idea about how to solve it is actually the behavior we should not want in our community, or in any community, so deleting these kinds of posts would be helpful to all.

You do not say something like that if you are trying to speak productively in a town forum, which this purports to be. Can you imagine a town forum in colonial America where people speaking out against the English King and his taxes were told they can always move somewhere else. Delete it.


Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2014 at 11:31 am

1. We are all in this together.

2. I agree with with the comment just above from CrescentParkAnon, and I also believe that comments such as from Property owner, a resident from Old Palo Alto, are not useful.

3. I live in Professorville and on one of worst parking problem streets. I actually understand why the young people in start-ups and people who work in downtown businesses park on our streets. I would do the same if I were in that situation. I am afraid of dark garages and the fees for parking in the garages would take a significant chunk out of my paycheck. However, the people who live here, should also be respected, and right now, the whole parking situation is completely out of balance. This does not make for a happy village!

4. Old Palo Alto does not experience the parking problems of the people who live close to downtown, although the houses in Old Palo Alto have gained a tremendous amount of property value (possibly the most) as a result of the increase in business downtown. Nothing wrong with that, but what I wanted to point out is that it easy to criticize a situation that does not directly affect you but that does benefit you.

5. We need to work together, and find solutions that work for everyone. I never expect to get it all, and I am very willing to do my share in solving this issue. It is not that difficult.

6. Start with solutions that are easy to implement and don't cost much money.

7. This will start building goodwill amongst all, and as a result, more good ideas will be generated.

8. Palo Alto has an extremely intelligent population, and we should use that intelligence to improve every challenge we meet as a city. We need to stop this "paralysis by analysis" attitude, by constantly hiring expensive consultants to study and restudy a subject to death.

9. We have all the basics to be an excellent city, and with people working together, we can be an example for the nation.

10. It takes a village!


Posted by Christian H., a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I get it, this rich an and affluent community that lives in what every day is growing to become an ever busier downtown area feels as though the peasants who come work to make their eateries and retail establishments (Starbucks, Pete's, Servers at restaraunts and other downtown businesses) happen for little above minimum wage pay should also pay $400 or more to park in front of their homes or not park their at all because they feel entitled to the public parking in front of their house. Just another perspective to add to this conversation that is clearly not considered thusfar. You have people just trying to get by in the world and you all are concerned with the cluttered appearance of the street or having nowhere to park your 3rd 2015 minivan, I mean it is just ridiculous right? Godforbid your precious Palo Alto look "ghetto" as one poster described it. Oh no what has your lovely city been reduced to? Blast you startups, for bringing in new revenue and attracting successful talented people, blast you! Our baby boomers want to park their cadillacs on the streets in front of their house, they are entitled aren't they? They don't want crowded streets looking like East Palo Alto; oh nooooo what a sad embarrassment Palo Alto has become.
Side Comment: Hilarious how Ravenswood Shopping Center magically is considered to be Palo Alto and not East for marketing comments.



Posted by Christian Hanson, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

marketing purposes* excuse me.


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