Two new parking lots at East Palo Alto's Woodland Park Apartments have opened, offering 90 new spaces that will hopefully combat a problem that has plagued residents across two city borders.
Equity Residential, the Chicago-based firm that owns more than 1,800 residential units on East Palo Alto's west side between U.S. Highway 101 and Woodland Avenue, announced the parking lot completions on Wednesday. The company constructed a 42-space lot at Scofield Ave. and 48 spaces on Euclid Avenue.
Equity purchased the massive quantity of units in 2011 and began reducing the vacancy rates from 70 percent occupancy to mid-90 percent, according to a company spokesman. That increased the number of vehicles, since many households own more than one car. Woodland Park comprises 101 individual buildings with 1,812 apartment units ranging from studios up to four-bedrooms. The various buildings making up the property were built between 1912 and 1969, covering approximately 49 acres.
Residents of Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood began feeling the brunt of the parking shortage when Woodland residents sought parking refuge on Palo Alto streets along Newell Road and adjacent streets. They petitioned the City of Palo Alto for, and won, an overnight parking ban and residential parking-permit program.
Palo Alto's City Council approved the ban and program in August 2013, leaving East Palo Alto residents to park several blocks away from their homes. That prompted then-mayor and current East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica to demand accounting of parking spaces in the area in order to better inform a solution to the situation.
Equity said in a Sept. 5 email the company had 1,960 parking spaces available at Woodland Park when it purchased the apartments, and that at the time the number remained the same.
"Woodland Park was developed at a time when car use and parking needs were significantly lower than they are today. When we acquired the property in 2011, allocating funds and identifying locations in both the northern and southern sections of the community that could accommodate additional tenant parking was one of the first priorities of our capital improvement plans. We are very pleased to deliver the completed structures today," John Hyjer, first vice president of Investments for Equity Residential, said in yesterday's announcement.
"Not only are we delivering the much needed convenience and safety these lots provide our residents, but we are also helping alleviate a long standing neighborhood issue," he added.
The parking lots cost nearly $600,000 to construct and feature energy-efficient lighting. At least half of the spaces in each lot are covered carport spaces, Hyjer said.
Equity spokesman John Halloran said there will be a fee for the spaces, but the amount has not yet been decided. But "sign up for the 90 new spaces is on a first come, first served basis, for which there is a waiting list already," he said.