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City strikes down parking exemptions

Original post made on Oct 21, 2013

Caught in a tug of war between angry residents and pleading developers, Palo Alto officials sided with the former on Monday night and agreed to strike from the city's books a list of provisions that have long allowed downtown builders to "underpark" their projects.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, October 21, 2013, 11:29 PM

Comments (35)

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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Progress... Keep up the fight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2013 at 2:05 am

What a disaster. STILL no mention of metered parking, And if there is a residential permit system, will it allow residents to sell their permits to downtown parkers?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:17 am

> "The proposed ordinance is an unfair and one-sided approach,"
> Morganroth said.

Wonder if Ms. Morganroth believes that it's unfair that she has to provide any parking at all?


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Posted by More-Parking-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:19 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by Klein and Kniss - Friends of Developers
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

Klein has never before spoken about being "fair to people". He makes speeches about how he needs to follow the law. He has a legal obligation... Well, now that the law protects the best interest of the people that live and vote in Palo Alto, he wants to be fair to developers.

Kniss actually cast the sole vote for developers and against the staff recommendation and the best interest of the residents. Remember that when she runs for office in 2016.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

My god! Palo Alto is bitching about a "parking crisis" but at the same time is fighting all efforts to modernize Caltrain and mass transit in general (remember VTA's bus rapid transit plan that Palo Alto also shot down). Does that sound like hypocrisy anyone?


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Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:27 am


Good job city council! Represent the residents. We have enough of developers trampling on residents' quality of life in the past.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:07 am

If you mean modernize Caltrain via stealing money from the over-priced (and hopefully doomed) HSR project, then yes that makes sense.

No one was for VTA taking away 1 of the 3 lanes on El Camino. No one.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

My god! Palo Alto is bitching about a "parking crisis" but at the same time is fighting all efforts to modernize Caltrain and mass transit in general (remember VTA's bus rapid transit plan that Palo Alto also shot down). Does that sound like hypocrisy anyone?


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Posted by Pablo
a resident of University South
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Well, at least this is a small step to address the over-development and parking problems. For those who feel that voting against Measure D will somehow ameliorate these problems, please think again. Our problems are caused by excessive commercial development, not increased affordable residential development.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Palo Alto better be prepared for the consequences of it's regressive 'more parking' demands. Even Los Angeles has learned the mistakes of it's former ways. Is Palo Alto ready to see some historic buildings flattened along University to make way for new parking lots? San Jose thought new downtown parking lots were the "wave of the future" 60 years ago and look where that led them!


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Posted by More OR Less
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

This city needs either more parking, or far less development. period


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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Oct 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm

$60,000/parking spot seems low. I'd gladly pay $60,000 to purchase the spot in front of my house.


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Posted by So sad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Kniss wore her true colors, supporting developers all the way. She always has, it's worked for her.
I was surprised Klein didn't have a conflict of interest, his law firm, Thoits, is at 285 Hamilton.
I feel bad when multimillionnaires cry. They will have to pay a few extra thousands that will cut in to their million$ in profits. boo hoo.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

if Palo Alto demands more parking it better be prepared to sit in it's own filth.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:32 am

@southbayresident.

Good point. Do you support resident permit parking + $10 / day parking fees for commuters?

That combination would be fair to residents and commuters, but doesn't seem to make the business community very happy. Assuming we'll have office workers in downtown PA, how do you recommend getting them in and out for the next ten years while we wait for an unscheduled Caltrain upgrade to happen? It's not a political win to toss resident's quality of life under the bus to accomodate commuters.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

Councilman Klein says the City needs to take regulatory risk out of commercial real estate development. He goes so far as to argue that the City's "integrity" depends on it. There is so much wrong with this that it is impossible to even respond - you don't even know where to begin. Yet three members of the Council agreed with him.

The "grandfathered uses" provision which is still under review granted
a parking exemption for the new office building/penthouse at 524 Hamilton
because a cleaners formerly occupied the site. Yes, we better be careful
about prematurely and unnecessarily and arbitrarily eliminating this
provision. Crescent Park can still handle more overflow- I think.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

There has to be a realistic approach to find a solution to this.

Parking for $10 in a garage or on the street is wrong if Caltrain lots are $5 per day and there is no way to check if the drivers are Caltrain riders.

Likewise, there is no way of knowing if the cars parked on the street are not Caltrain users either.

If we must insist on free parking for the first 2 or 3 hours, then so be it, although I don't agree with this. Parking for small change is not a big deal to most people as loose change is often kept in cars anyway. For longer than that, easy all day pay per hour parking must be invoked to make any sense of anything. Parking meters can be on all downtown streets and yes if residents want exemption stickers then they should be able to buy/acquire them but if they have driveways and garages then they should use them. They live near downtown and that should be the price they have to pay to live in downtown. I see nothing wrong with parking exemption stickers for residents but not that they should have priority parking.

Apart from the parking meters on streets, we need pay per hour machines in all city garages and lots even if the first couple of hours are free. We also need to look into satellite lots near the Baylands athletic fields, and the utility lots with frequent shuttles to downtown.

Our shuttles need to be much more comprehensive around town getting all our kids to their various schools, not just some. The shuttles should also have affordable (loose change) fares, and yes there should be free passes or multi ride discounts for seniors and schoolchildren.

Start thinking of how to address the problem of how to get the cars parked, not try to think of how to raise money or how to make the cars go away.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:24 am

I have never understood why the city shuttle system is responsible for getting children to school. Everywhere else that you look, school districts are responsible for school buses, not their respective city government/budget.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kniss neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:45 am

Yes indeed, remember when you go to the voting polls that Liz Knizz is pro developer and not interested in protecting the citizens of Palo Alto. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:53 am

Kniss and Klein are not pro-development. Klein even voted in favor of eliminating the parking exceptions. How can you change the rules in the middle of the game on developers who are just following the city's rules and laws? If change is needed, make it. But don't change it mid-way, or in some cases at the end of the game, and say that the city's integrity would not be effected.


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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I sincerely appreciate your action on the exemption issue Monday night. No step forward is perfect for everyone, but I think the vote was the best outcome for the overall commons.

In particular, I want to recognize the hard work of City Staff. Drafting and presenting ordinances in such as way that Council can take action is an art form as far as I am concerned.

Now we all can move on to solutions which
1. reduce solo driving,
2. add parking garages but only when absolutely necessary and
3. slow down mad dash developments which aggravate the imbalance between parking space supply and demand.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kniss neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm

To Commonsense:
You can and should change the rules when you realize that a prior code is not working or was wrong to implement in the first place. And yes, you should change the law midstream when the code (lack of parking) will negatively impact the citizens of Palo Alto for generations to come. The developers were taking advantage of a na´ve city council and planning department, and they knew it. Hopefully their gig is up. It is time for Palo Alto City Hall to smarten up and protect the citizens of Palo Alto from greedy developers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Investment entails risk in a market economy. Commercial real estate
is no exception. Regulatory risk is one aspect. The parking exemptions which have no justifiable rationale and huge negative impacts on our community should have been rescinded years ago, with increasing pressure the last year to do so. The developers are not being blindsided here. The community simply cannot absorb more negative effects of these giveaways.
And for that matter, the Council is not discussing a building moratorium.

After more than 25 years of parking exemptions, this is not changing the rules midstream, as Councilman Klein argues. This is changing the rules in the 11th hour to save our City if it is not too late already.





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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:19 am

@Anonymous,

Yes, I absolutely would support a resident permit parking system + $10 / day parking fee for commuters. Why should public parking be free? Rarely is public transportation free. It's time for all governments to scale back the disproportionate subsidies they have always given drivers at the expense of all other transportation modes. Not only do roads and highways NOT cover their costs but neither does free parking.

@Resident,

For the $5 Caltrain parking vs. $10 in a garage issue Caltrain could designate certain parking spots for those with monthly parking permits only and make the purchase of a monthly parking permit contingent on the purchase of a monthly pass for Caltrain. Maybe Caltrain could change their rates to $10 a day also at just the Palo Alto station. Stanford Shopping Center could also start charging for parking during the weekdays in designated "commuter (non-shopper) lots". I am sure some commuters are already parking there but they do so at the risk of their cars being towed. Plenty of people would happily pay $3 to $5 a day for peace of mind their car is not being towed. Parking rates could be cheaper there to account for the "inconvenience" of walking a bit further than usual. I would say that handily beats building new satellite parking lots by the Baylands and a new shuttle bus system to bring the people in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:23 am

Mayor Scharff is positioning himself for his re-election campaign in 2014. Don't be fooled that he's interested in serving the public. He just needs our votes so he can help his developer friends and clients maximize their profits at our expense.

Scharff's Council voting record shows that he has voted for all three PCs during his tenure: Edgewood Plaza, Palo Alto Bowl, and Lytton Gateway. He has worked with his fellow council members and staff to deliver "dream zoning" (his words in 2009 campaign) and maximum profits to developers. Now that the voters all over Palo Alto will not tolerate this betrayal of our best interest, Scharff is suddenly willing to take baby steps to fix the huge traffic and parking shortages he helped create.

Scharff has publicly stated that parking and traffic are limiting growth, so he is working to "fix" those problems. That way we can grow more. Given his past record, it's a sure bet that his "fixes" will benefit developers at the public's expense. An expanded shuttle will push parking intrusions into further out neighborhoods. As it is currently designed, the Residential Parking Permit Program is just a way for the city to generate revenue from residents and workers for what is now free parking, while not providing substantive relief to residents.

Scharff is a real estate attorney and developer. That is who he really represents!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

South Bay Resident

I like the ideas you have too. I am not sure if Caltrain can charge more for parking in Palo Alto than at their other stations. But I am not sure if I like the idea of monthly parking passes being linked to monthly rail passes unless there is still plenty of available parking for those who are not monthly commuters. Half the problem with parking in downtown area is because there are so many people who want to park occasionally all day and unable to do so. Making that difficult at Caltrain lots would not help.

I like the idea of getting some of the underused Stanford Shopping Center lots used for all day parking for a cost. Not sure how much Stanford would be on board with this, but it is certainly worth approaching. There is plenty of weekday parking there, although I am not sure if that would count during the holidays.

Out of the box innovations must be tried to make a difference to the parking permits and more garages being touted.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:53 am

@Anne
The Council is not just positioning itself for upcoming Council elections
but the immediate Measure D in front of us, which is not just about
Maybell as we know but is a referendum on the direction of the City
as a whole and they know they are in big trouble. In this context, backed against the wall, the Council votes to take away absurd developer incentives years too late as the City tries to grapple with the parking
mess we are in, but also in a City which has suffered a permanent reduction in quality of life and a drastic transformation and destruction of the character and ambiance of the City.





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Posted by Anneke Dempsey
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

It is all about balance. The present severe parking problems in Professorville are not caused by employees working at stores or restaurants downtown. We have lived here for 20 years, and we never had a problem until developers started to build office buildings without adequate parking. We now have start-up companies crammed with employees sitting at long tables, one block away from our homes,on streets where there is only 2-hour parking. As a result our neighborhood has become their parking solution.

Parking is a cost of doing business. Moreover, Palo Alto is called a city, not a "worky" or a "developy," and we are Palo Alto's citizens. We have a city staff and a city council, whose primary function is to hear the citizens and bring about solutions that are balanced.


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Posted by Newly minted cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

"That to me is a rock solid question of our integrity," Klein said. "Are we going to be fair to people?"

A rhetorical question with a simple answer: It's never bothered you before, why start now?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Newly minted cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

"That to me is a rock solid question of our integrity," Klein said. "Are we going to be fair to people?"

A rhetorical question with a simple answer: It's never bothered you before, why start now?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Newly minted cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

"That to me is a rock solid question of our integrity," Klein said. "Are we going to be fair to people?"

A rhetorical question with a simple answer: It's never bothered you before, why start now?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Newly minted cynic
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

Bug alert! Sorry, please delete two of those repeats and this when you see it. I posted to the story, and it put the comments here without my knowing it. But the story still says to post there and asks people to be the first to post. Nothing happens there hen you post, though, the comments go here. I did not knowingly repeat myself!


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Posted by Interpreter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

@Newly minted cynic
"Are we going to be fair to people?".
Translation: "Are we going to be fair to developers?" That's been the top priority and focus of the Council and staff the last 10+ years so we have to assume that is what Councilman Klein meant.But he should have been more
precise. Because as we know the residents have been shafted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm

There is very little about development in Palo Alto that is humorous, but to hear the complaints from wealthy developers who have been getting a free ride at the expense of residents is almost funny. Complaining about "moving the goal posts during the game" is not the best defense since moving the goal posts for projects under review is precisely what "review is all about. No matter if defining review as a noun or transitive verb the applicable definition of review is the same, "a formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility of instituting change if necessary."


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