Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 22, 2010

Parking-permit program a success, residents say

College Terrace streets open up as nonresidents seek to avoid fines

by Sue Dremann

A long-awaited parking-permit program in College Terrace is finally relieving residential woes, according to residents.

A two-hour limit for street parking in the area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays has been instituted, along with a new pilot program that allows residents to purchase a license and park on the street for longer than the limit.

Residents who live between Stanford and California avenues and west of El Camino Real could opt into the pilot program on a block-by-block basis. Of 704 addresses in College Terrace within blocks opting into the program, 447 addresses applied for the permits, according to Shahla Yazdy, the city transportation engineer overseeing the program. Enforcement began in December.

Residential streets in College Terrace were overrun with parked cars and traffic from Stanford University and employees at Stanford Research Park prior to the permit program, residents said.

The city issued 147 citations from Dec. 7 to Jan. 6 for overtime parking, Yazdy said.

Neighborhood leaders said they are mostly pleased.

"It's like night and day," said Susan Rosenberg, secretary of the College Terrace Residents' Association, who lives on Stanford Avenue at Dartmouth Street. "Once the grace period was over, nobody was parking there. It's very successful," she said.

Brent Barker, Research Park observer for College Terrace, said that parking has improved on side streets adjacent to the industrial park, but that more must be done.

"There is a sense of relief. There are still a lot of visitors, but there is a sense of hopefulness," he said.

Parking lots that were once relatively empty on the Facebook campus are now well used, he added.

"The two-hour limit is forcing people to park in the lots. Most have picked up on the spirit of it. They want to be good neighbors and comply," he said.

Facebook's recent announcement that it will move half its employees to another building with a parking lot could also reduce parking pressures, he said.

Diane Finkelstein, chair of the "working group," a citizen task force that works with the city on the permit program, said people are mostly pleased but that some hot spots still need to be worked out.

"There are still some concerns about Facebook. We haven't put our finger on it yet. They seem to get an inordinate amount of visitors," she said.

Zoning issues could also be contributing to some problems in the Lower Terrace, she said.

"We're still concerned about the CN zone," she said, where the neighborhood borders a retail area. One side of a side street near El Camino Real is part of the program, but the commercial-building side is not in the program, she said.

"We're working with the city to work out the bumps," she said.

Finkelstein said the pilot program is being subsidized in part by $100,000 from Stanford, as mitigation for impacts when Escondido Village was built. Residents are concerned the $15 a year they currently pay for permits will go up when the subsidy runs out — and they don't know by how much, she said.

In theory, revenue from citations is supposed to cover the additional cost, but the working group is concerned it might not be enough, she said.

But the program has created at least one fringe benefit: many parents who transport their children to Escondido Elementary School are less harried, she said.

"It's easier for parents who drive kids to Escondido to find a space where they can stop for a short time to pick up their children. You don't see people in front of fire hydrants or blocking intersections. It has opened things up," she said.

A program evaluation will last into April, after which the results will be reported to the Palo Alto City Council, Yazdy said.

But parking problems are only getting worse in adjacent neighborhoods, Evergreen Park residents said. Evergreen Park, which is across El Camino from the research park, experiences considerable overflow parking by employees, according to David Schrom, neighborhood association president.

At a recent Architectural Review Board meeting, at least one resident wanted a parking-permit program for that neighborhood, according to Yazdy.

The city evaluated nonresident parking there 10 years ago, when there was a midday average of 200 vehicles parking on neighborhood streets, Schrom said. Early discussion about including Evergreen Park in the pilot parking-permit program was dropped, he added.

"This is one of those things where I wonder why they failed to take a more integrated approach," he said on Monday. "I want some city employee to call me up on Tuesday morning and I want the study to be offered to us straight up."

Some residents say they have heard anecdotally that people who used to park in College Terrace are now parking in Evergreen Park to avoid fines.

Schrom said there isn't any hard data to prove that theory, but that parking has gotten increasingly worse in recent years. Common sense dictates the problem would not be eliminated by instituting the program in one problem community only, he said. That's something even his 10-year-old pointed out, he added.

"If you essentially destroy a parking lot for several hundred people they are going to go somewhere else," he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by College Terrace watcher, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 22, 2010 at 7:15 am

College Terrace does not care about the problems that Evergreen Park now has--it is all about College Terrace and their selfish needs. They get what ever they want from the city and to hell with the other residents of Palo Alto.


Posted by Parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Completely agree that it's been like night and day. Kudos to Shahla Yazdy, the city transportation engineer overseeing the program, for being so responsive.

It's really hard to imagine that people who used to park in College Terrace are now parking in Evergreen Park (are people actually willing to walk cross El Camino Real for that purpose?), but maybe I'm wrong.


Posted by CTresident, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

Not all residents of College Terrace are happy - it's been a success only for those people living near Facebook and Stanford. For the rest it's an added cost and burden for something that was never a problem. Clearly it hasn't been a success when they had to raise the cost of a permit to $40 + $25 for guest passes this year. Seems like a massive failure to me. For some residents on my block the cost is over $200! And the few blocks not on the program have seen little or no increase in parked cars. Seems like there was some fear-mongering going on by residents in parking-limited areas. Wonder when the city will wise up to this...


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Evergreen Park also experiences the employees of the businesses along El Camino parking in their neighborhood. I know at least one business, dentist Dr. Mulcahey, tells his employees they can not use the parking lot designated for their building, that they must park in the neighborhood instead. Its seems like a business should be expected to have enough parking for its employees and customers when they build their building.

Seems like much of Palo Alto could use a parking permit system.


Posted by A Barlas- CT Resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Yes, the cost went up to $45 a permit and $25 for guest permits. My guest took off with my permit so after signing an affidavit and paying another $25 I was able to replace my guest permit. I was told that "if i lose it again, it is just too bad".
Unfortunately our block attempted to opt-out with more then a majority of signatures but an unhappy neighbor pointed out that an ordinance cannot be just undone and another round of 'official' postcards went out, with signatures and deadlines required. So I am told, this time there was no majority opposing the permits. Hmmmm, last time I walked up and down my street and chatted with folks, I only found a couple of folks that were ok with the permit program. And most of them parked in their driveways, so they had no need for the permit anyway. For the past 20 years I and many of my neighbors have parked in front of our homes with no problem. I feel this permit parking is a disaster and a waste of time and money. Surely there is more important uses for $100,000!


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