Downtown's parking pains have been aggravated in recent years by new developments and a strong local economy. On Monday night, the City Council is scheduled to consider a wide range of recommendations for improving the situation. According to a new report from the city's Chief Transportation Officer Jaime Rodriguez, some of these recommendations rely on new infrastructure — garages and bike corrals — while others center on technological solutions, such as parking apps and a garage system that allows users who wish to park beyond the three-hour limit to pay for extra time. Still others target the city's zoning laws.
Rodriguez is recommending that the city conduct a full analysis of downtown's recent and expected development and consider the parking strategies that would be needed to support these buildings. The "Downtown Cap" study, which would cost the city up to $150,000 and would take about six months to complete, is also required by the city's zoning ordinance. In 1986, when the city revised its zoning code, it created a limit of 350,000 square feet on new development in downtown and specified that the city would have to re-evaluate the cap when development reached 235,000 square feet. The four-story Lytton Gateway project at Alma Street and Lytton Avenue, approved this summer, pushed the city close to the cap. A proposed mixed-use building at 135 Hamilton Ave. would push the city over the cap.
The city also plans to pursue a separate study to evaluate downtown parking garages and consider an attendant-parking program at these garages. The study would also consider the feasibility of building a new parking structure at one or more of five parking lots: Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street; Gilman Street; High Street between University Avenue and Hamilton Avenue; High Street between University and Lytton avenues; and Urban Lane between University Avenue and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
The study will be partially funded by a $60,000 contribution from the developers of Lytton Gateway.
"The results of the study will be used to determine whether the city should pursue construction of a new parking structure using its own local funding, enterprise funding to build a parking structure in conjunction with additional office facilities, or to pursue a private partnership with land developers to help build a parking facility," Rodriguez wrote in the new report.
New garage technology should also be evaluated, Rodriguez wrote. By installing "control gates," the city could regulate the number of cars entering and exiting the garages and collect revenue for those seeking to stay beyond the existing time limit of three hours. Staff proposes to introduce this technology at the Bryant Street garage, though the Alma Street/High Street garage could be an alternative site.
Other proposals that the council will consider aim to make life easier for drivers of electric vehicles and bicyclists. Staff is proposing adding six new charging stations for electric vehicles downtown and up to five stations around California Avenue. These would supplement the four charging stations that would be included as part of Lytton Gateway. At the same time, staff recommends additional bicycle-parking stations downtown.
The bold proposals aim to supplement a series of less dramatic parking adjustments that the city has recently made. Among them, the city now allows monthly renewals of the parking permit (before, renewals were offered on a quarterly and annual basis) to address the under-use of parking garages.