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Businesses blast proposed parking restrictions downtown

Original post made on Jul 30, 2013

As downtown residents continue to clamor for the city to do something about the recent disappearance of parking spaces on their blocks, business owners are lining up against the most commonly proposed solution -- a permit program that would limit the time non-residents can park in residential areas.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 9:16 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by EF, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

The parking problem is caused by years of City parking exemptions granted to downtown development projects. Not by residents with two cars. And the parking shortage is growing very rapidly as more parking-exempted PC developments are completed.

The university south group has estimated that it's worth $210,000 to a developer not not have to build a parking space; and using those square feet for tenant space instead.

The current downtown parking shortage is 901 cars, according to the City. That's a 901 x $210K = $200 million windfall for a handful of downtown developers -- so far.

This is about money, pure and simple.




Posted by time to privatize, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

If the land developers are so worried about parking, they should band together and build a privately-funded parking lot. Charge downtown workers whatever the market will bear to park there. Tax-payer subsidized public parking is so last century.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:17 am

Just got back from visiting friends who live in a downtown area. All the front yards in that area have been paved over by the residents so that they can park. They also have residential parking permits and often use the limited street parking so that their guests can park on their front yards. If you buy in a downtown area, you must realize that parking will be an issue.

Saying that, Palo Alto must do more to help the parking problem. Many times people do not want parking permits because it does not suit their occasional all day parking needs.

We must get all city lots and garages to have pay per hour machines and get parking meters on all downtown commercial streets. Redwood City does this for small change and I can always find parking in downtown Redwood City.

We should also get a free parking lot in the Baylands and regular shuttles to and from at 30 minute intervals. Getting all day workers to park for free outside downtown area can be done if they have a means to get to their jobs.

We must think outside the box. Building more garages and expecting workers to buy monthly permits isn't working. Time to think of another plan.


Posted by a tip, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

Here's a tip. Caltrain has cheap all-day parking. Park at a Caltrain station near your home and catch the train to downtown Palo Alto, then walk the couple of blocks to your destination. Even with the train fare, this is far cheaper than the market cost of building more parking lots. Employers - get with the program and buy your employees train passes.


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

Whole Foods rents its building from Keenan, so no surprise here.


Posted by SR, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

Blaming the residents for having too many cars and using their garages for storage is pitiful. Plus, I don't actually know anyone who does that. Around here, parking spaces are so precious, everyone with a driveway and a garage uses it for parking.

The real problem is decades of allowing huge office buildings with too few parking spaces - not just one or two here and there, but hundreds and hundreds. Plus the downtown color zones which drive workers into residential neighborhoods.

Packed parking garages and streets are symptomatic of the packed roads when people try to get into or leave downtown. Parking causes traffic into residential areas. Lots of traffic.

There are many approaches - some to reduce parking demand and some to increase parking supply. The days when communitites had the space for unlimited free parking are gone.

Plus, Palo Alto won't perish. I just got back from Cambridge, UK, where there is no free parking in the city center whatsoever. That's right - none! All parking is resident permit or pay. There are 4 satellite parking lots with bus service that bring people in and the bus isn't free either, but its cheap. Cambridge is also the most vibrant city in the entire south-east of England, teeming with people, shoppers and workers, all day and most of the night.


Posted by James Hall, a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

Why not follow the lead of Stanford - which has the same intense parking problem. Enlist all downtown businesses (and DEVELOPERS AND BUILDING OWNERS) in a program which will offer to reward all those employees who do not come by car with points leading to quarterly payment? Index it based on the number of workers or other employees in or on each property. Stanford's option including train, buss, walking etc and the reward is based on the distance traveled. Good plan!


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

>We should also get a free parking lot in the Baylands and regular shuttles to and from at 30 minute intervals. Getting all day workers to park for free outside downtown area can be done if they have a means to get to their jobs.

Not a bad idea, in general. Specifically, put that shuttle lot on the undedicated parkland that the anaerobic digestion (AD) zealots now have under their control. A lot more CO2 will be spared from the atmosphere, if a shuttle lot is put there, compared to the AD industrial plant.

>Here's a tip. Caltrain has cheap all-day parking. Park at a Caltrain station near your home and catch the train to downtown Palo Alto, then walk the couple of blocks to your destination.

Another good idea.


Posted by ken , a resident of Professorville
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

A couple of points about the business petition against residential permit parking: I have to give them credit for chutzpa – they say, "The problem is that residents have more cars than the property was designed for" - da, yes Professorville is a National Register Historic District." What about the uses occupying commercial buildings that have no parking – building once used for low intensity uses, now filled with 20 to 30 high-tech workers? They are causing the problems, not us. Most of the owners signing the petition were service businesses who should be joining with the neighbors to fight the City who is granting exceptions, violating the zoning rules, ignoring environmental processes and approving uses & projects that do not have parking – like the latest proposal at 240 Hamiltion.

One of the owners, Chop Keenan, is also known as the "Parking CZAR," a so-called leader in charge of the downtown "Parking Committee" but he has done nothing in that role except to lobby for more free parking for himself – and he has gotten it time and time again. Forget the employees, forget the other businesses, forget the residents – me, me, me, free, free, free.

Get real, the residents, your customers, didn't cause this problem – your friends the commercial property owners (who also escalate your rents) and the City that allows too much development without adequate support - they are the problem. Some call it institutional corruption. You already have 2-hour restricted parking for customers (enforced free by the City), you just want a free place for your employees to park, that you want us to subsidize with the livability and safety of our homes. Really?


Posted by ken , a resident of Professorville
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

A couple of points about the business petition against residential permit parking: I have to give them credit for chutzpa – they say, "The problem is that residents have more cars than the property was designed for" - da, yes Professorville is a National Register Historic District." What about the uses occupying commercial buildings that have no parking – building once used for low intensity uses, now filled with 20 to 30 high-tech workers? They are causing the problems, not us. Most of the owners signing the petition were service businesses who should be joining with the neighbors to fight the City who is granting exceptions, violating the zoning rules, ignoring environmental processes and approving uses & projects that do not have parking – like the latest proposal at 240 Hamiltion.

One of the owners, Chop Keenan, is also known as the "Parking CZAR," a so-called leader in charge of the downtown "Parking Committee" but he has done nothing in that role except to lobby for more free parking for himself – and he has gotten it time and time again. Forget the employees, forget the other businesses, forget the residents – me, me, me, free, free, free.

Get real, the residents, your customers, didn't cause this problem – your friends the commercial property owners (who also escalate your rents) and the City that allows too much development without adequate support - they are the problem. Some call it institutional corruption. You already have 2-hour restricted parking for customers (enforced free by the City), you just want a free place for your employees to park, that you want us to subsidize with the livability and safety of our homes. Really?


Posted by Anne, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

We should be so accustomed to this problem by now, and know that the city council serves the developers ( who may or may not actually live in PA) and NOT the citizens of the city of Palo Alto.


Posted by Grace, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

Chop Keenan is ravaging downtown Palo Alto for his own monetary gain. Why does he have such power over the city council? He gets whatever he wants, at the expense of Palo Altans. Why does he wield such influence? He must have some monetary relationship (sophisticatedly hidden) with some members of the city council.


Posted by KEN , a resident of Professorville
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:19 am

GENNADY

Have you had a chance to check our the true value of the TDR exceptions routinely granted to downtown development. The parking district credits amounts to much the same - a free gift to commercial development that is not providing parking for the employees expected in their new buildings.

Also worth checking on how the residences approved as part of these projects are actually used. At least a 50-50 chance they end up as more space for employees to work, at high densities.


Posted by TDR, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

FYI - TDRs are not "exceptions". They are part of the code, as integral as set backs and height limits and use limitations


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Gee, what's the problem. The City keeps telling us no one drives cars and that the dense developments won't add a single car to our pristine streets. Let's just cut a few more lanes of traffic so the non-existent cars can back up for a few more miles.

Seriously, check out the horrible mess around Town & Country.


Posted by Cuchulain, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Many people in Palo Alto use their garages for storage or office space, because many people in Palo Alto are living in houses too small for them, and they cannot afford to size up without leaving Palo Alto. In addition, for the last 15 years, new houses built here often have one-car garages, even for a five or six bedroom house! Some houses are being built without the traditional driveway in front of the garage, so if the garage is being used for storage, etc, the cars are parked on the street.


Posted by anon, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

This isn't exactly breaking news. The businesses sent their letter to the city on the 8th of July. Why is this a story today? What prompted you to do the story today, rather than when the city got the letter?


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 30, 2013 at 1:58 pm

This is a case of the "chickens coming home to roost".
Year after year we have seen all kinds of developers getting away
with building an insufficient number of parking spaces for their buildings. No matter what the purpose of the building was, there would
always be some bogus rationale for why only (truenumber - X) parking spaces were going to be enough. It never was.

What would one expect from such process?


Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

The business letter about residential parking is not only chuzpah, it has a major error. The intrusive residential parking is NOT caused by their customers. Customers do not park on the neighborhood streets all day. Once a car settles in this area, it is here for the day. Further, many homes in the area, like ours, were built in the late 1800's, early 1900's and have no garages, no driveways. And not all of us have two or more cars. When we bought in this neighborhood, it was not a parking lot, nor was it a parking lot for many years. Living near downtown in an historic district should not come encumbered with a penalty. If it doesn't bother you that areas of the city are being had by developers because you believe in NIMBY, then you have no empathy for other Palo Altans. I live nowhere near Maybell, but went out of my way to sign their petitions because I believe residents have aright to protect the essential character of their neighborhoods.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Ray - I recall parking in residential neighborhoods near downtown trying way back in the 1980s. There were many employees of businesses, PAMC, etc. who didn't have permits. I understand that it's worse now, but it wasn't exactly a parking Disneyland when I was growing up.


Posted by PA, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

So many of the parking spaces in my neighborhood go to all of the construction work
being done on homes in the neighborhood. All of the small homes are bought up and
then torn down. The current project in my neighborhood has been ongoing for over
a year. Each work day, 5-10 cars are parked because of the home re-model. I bet many
of the people complaining about lack of parking, are the people doing the building!


Posted by question, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm

It seems to me that developers are sometimes granted parking exemptions for downtown buildings based on the intent to purchase TDR's. Has anybody ever followed up on this to see that the developer
actually did obtain the TDR's?


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The tone of this letter from the businesses is outrageous. First the businesses demanded color code parking, time limits on parking in the core of downtown. Next their tone in their demands is that they are entitled to the parking in front of residential neighborhoods; and that residents are to blame for the parking problems for owning a car.

City staff has been complicit in all of this - look at the encouragement they gave for the Lytton Gateway project, a severely underparked project, and the encouragement they gave for the 27 University, 10 story buildings proposal.

And our City council is either supportive or befuddled.

We have an election next year, and we need to elect to council people who put the residents first. Get rid of Scharf, Shepard & Price. Klein is termed out. And don't pass any extensions to term limits.


Posted by resident for sustainability not growth, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I support the comment above. We need to find a slate of candidates for city council who will support the residents of Palo Alto. They need to stop this massive development craze, demand full parking paid for by developers and, appoint people to the review boards and hire city officials who will require that development follow the zoning laws.

Sustainability (not growth) will allow us to improve what we have instead of constantly trying to play catch up while the city crumbles.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2013 at 8:39 am

This is what happens when your city government turns its back on land use planning, zoning,design control, and pushes development
with incentives, bonuses, exceptions and lets developers drive the
process. To have this happen in such a high-profile place like Palo Alto, with its rich history and legacy, and unique qualities, is truly shocking.


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Maybell will have 47 parking spaces for 72 units. Where will the rest of the cars go?


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2013 at 11:39 pm

EF - nicely argued. Carpetbaggers in Palo Alto????


Posted by Free Parking!, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

If anyone is interested in a good read on the topic of parking check out Donald Shoup's book "The High Cost of Free Parking" published in 2011. It even references Palo Alto. Book Description below:

One of APA's most popular and influential books is finally in PAPE, with a new preface from the author on how thinking about parking has changed since this book was first published. In this no-holds-barred treatise, Shoup argues that free parking has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems.


Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for cars than for people, and why American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production. But it doesn't have to be this way.


Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking - namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary. Join the swelling ranks of Shoupistas by picking up this book today. You'll never look at a parking spot the same way again.


Posted by voter, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Yes, I have learned to park all of my cars in front of my house rather than in my garage as a defensive measure. If these spaces are left open then the cars that park there are usually a terrible eyesore, they don't leave for days, trash is left in my flower beds and cigarette butts litter the side-walk. The good news is that it can't get any worse than it is in Professorville as parking is at 110%+ - with cars parked well beyond the stop signs and visibility is impossible . . . serious accidents waiting to happen. It is a disaster.


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