City to launch permit parking in College Terrace

New program would limit parking to two hours for drivers without permits in Palo Alto neighborhood

College Terrace residents starving for parking spaces in their bustling Palo Alto neighborhood may soon see the gridlock ease along their neighborhood curbs.

After almost nine years of complaints, studies, debates and petitions on the issue, the City Council Monday night recommended instituting permit parking in the residential section of the mixed-use neighborhood adjacent to both Stanford University and Stanford Research Park. The council voted 7-0 to direct staff to draft an ordinance creating a residential parking-permit program for the congested area, where in years past the city has put in street closures and roundabouts to discourage cut-through traffic and speeders.

Vice Mayor Jack Morton was absent, and Councilman John Barton recused himself from the vote.

The program would only apply to those blocks where more than 50 percent of the households support opting in. It would allow unlimited parking for permit holders while restricting parking for visitors to two hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

More than a dozen neighborhood residents spoke to the council on Monday night, while dozens more wrote e-mails and looked on from the Council Chambers seats as the council deliberated. About 20 residents stuck around until the 11 p.m. vote and gave the council a round of applause after the decision was made.

The council, for its part, agreed that the program was a long time coming. Too long, in fact, said Councilman Larry Klein, who's been hearing about residents' parking woes for most of the past decade. The start-up costs for this program, estimated at $100,000, will be paid for by Stanford University – a condition of the university's 2001 general-use permit with Santa Clara County.

In July 2007, the council directed staff to find a suitable parking-permit program for College Terrace. On Monday, Klein said that given the availability of the funds, the city should have been swifter in implementing the needed changes.

"Somehow, we should've gotten this done long before nine years," Klein said Monday.

But so far, the ordinance would affect only about a third of the neighborhood's 63 residential blocks. In February, the city sent out petitions to College Terrace residents asking them whether they would support the parking program. Only 21 blocks had a majority of residents voting "yes."

Since that time Facebook moved into Stanford Research Park, further exacerbating the neighborhood's parking pains.

On Monday, staff and some neighborhood residents suspected that some of the opponents of the permit program might come around. Colin Mick, who lives on Hanover Avenue in College Terrace, said he and a group of residents are surveying 22 of the 39 blocks who didn't opt into the system.

Mick said 13 of these blocks had a majority of residents interested in joining, while one had a majority opposing the program. Surveys of the other eight blocks are in progress.

Staff proposed giving those blocks that haven't replied to the city petition until Sept. 30 to opt in. But the council, at the urging of Klein and Councilman Greg Schmid, voted to keep the deadline flexible, thereby allowing other residents to change their minds.

Most of the neighborhood residents who spoke at Monday night's meeting urged the council to adopt the program. Susan Rosenberg, a member of the College Terrace Residents Association's board of directors, said the board strongly supports the proposal, but asked city officials to launch the program sooner.

"The neighborhood is ready for a solution," Rosenberg said. "The College Terrace Neighborhood Association board and the project advisory committee believe your approval for the residential parking-permit program -- with the timeline expedited -- will provide the neighborhood with a much-needed relief."

Staff and neighborhood residents attributed the parking shortage in large part to the neighborhood's proximity to Stanford's graduate-student housing. Many students choose to park their cars at College Terrace and walk to the university rather than pay parking costs. College Terrace resident Brent Barker said the parking problem needs urgent attention.

"I think Facebook, the university and all the neighbors agreed that the only way this will be resolved is through permit parking," Barker said. "It's urgent, it's needed and, hopefully, we'll get it."

But another resident, Bill Ross, urged the council not to segment the issue into blocks, but to address it "consistently throughout the Terrace." Councilman Sid Espinosa also proposed applying a permit program to the entire College Terrace.

"I think the patchwork approach is nonsensical," Espinosa said.

But his proposal failed to get the five needed votes and failed 4-3, with Greg Schmid, Pat Burt and Larry Klein dissenting. The council then agreed to implement staff's proposal only in the blocks that opted in. Each vehicle in these blocks will receive a residential permit and each household will receive two annual guest permits. Permits will cost $25, but day permits for guests could also be issued for a $2 fee.

Klein acknowledged there were many different approaches the city could have taken with the permit program. But he said it was important to move the project forward before the College Terrace neighborhood loses its faith in the city.

"I think it's time to move and not have another six-month or two-year program when we think about how many ways we could do this," Klein said before the vote was taken.

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Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 7, 2009 at 12:22 am

Good news. And Kudos to Stanford for picking up the tab for the start-up costs.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 7, 2009 at 8:19 am

Well, that's good; now all those other neighborhoods begging for permit parking will be able to apply. This decision has set a precedent.

Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 7, 2009 at 9:33 am

"On Monday, Klein said that given the availability of the funds, the city should have been swifter in implementing the needed changes.
"Somehow, we should've gotten this done long before nine years," Klein said Monday."

This is the typical double talk we get from our elected officials. If Klein felt that way why did he not work to get it implemented earlier?
He could have spent more time working on that and less on his "climate change" pipe dreams.
Our elected officials never seem to be able to take any responsibility for lack of action or action gone bad (HSR endorsement , for example)..

That said, this whole plan is a bad precedent for the city. Now the floodgates will open for every other neighborhood to ask for permit parking. Of course, College Terrace always seems to get what they want from the city. I would love to see just a fraction of the traffic calming measures on San ANtonio Road that are present in College Terrace

Like this comment
Posted by Etaion Shrdlu
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2009 at 10:49 am

Obviously, the blocked streets and traffic circles are insufficient, and the parking permits will cost money to properly enforce. How about extorting more money from Stanford and turning College Terrace into a gated community? Other communities could follow, and Palo Alto could become the Balkans of California.

Like this comment
Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Marvin wrote, "That said, this whole plan is a bad precedent for the city. Now the floodgates will open for every other neighborhood to ask for permit parking."

Imagine a fairly new city....the neighborhood don't have sewers - instead, they use septic tanks. Now imagine one neighborhood getting sewers because the funds were made available from a nearby development's 'impact fees'.

That situation is comparable to what happened last night.
Permit parking may not be a necessity, but in an urban, highly car-dependent landscape, it is extremely helpful and beneficial.

The sooner neighbors demand permit parking, the higher their quality of life.

One more important item - permit parking has its annoyances as well as its costs. I'm not sure neighborhoods will be as unified as College Terrace in seeking permit parking.

I've got to go along with Nora - kudos to the neighborhood, the City, Stanford.

Oh, one last thing - one woman's testimony last night was superb - she made a road trip to all Bay Area universities to report on the ubiquitous permitted parking streets adjacent to universities.....what a smart thing to do!

Like this comment
Posted by Realistic
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I think this program makes a lot of sense for Palo Alto neighborhoods -- like College Terrace -- which have CLEARLY demonstrated that non-resident parking is a problem. I applaud the City Council for making the right call, and for not delaying implementation any further.

I would like to know what other PA neighborhoods have this problem too.... I can probably guess "Downtown" and part of "Professorville". But I would also bet that the residents in those areas are not nearly as unified as College Terrace residents who I understand are unusually close knit and active (probably due to the smallness of College Terrace).

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Thank you to the city council for implementing this.

As for other neighborhoods clamoring for permit parking, College Terrace has some unique problems being bordered on three sides by Stanford. We have no say in their policy making concerning parking fees for graduate students and staff, yet are geographically defenseless against the flood tide of their fee "refugees." Stanford needs to take responsibility for this and not just shuck off their unwanted commuters to the periphery.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 7, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I wonder where all these cars will park now? Perhaps near Cal. Ave. or just the other side of the RR tracks so that they can walk to Cal Ave and get the Marguerite.

I am just saying this because these cars are still going to come and will still have to park somewhere. I reckon the problem will just move to some other neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Marguerite rider
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Probably not at Cal Ave. The Marguerite going from there is only once every half hour. The one that goes through Escondido Village is more frequent than that.

Like this comment
Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 7, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Unsafe and unlovely as they may be, highrise parking structures built by employers and the city are probably a longer term solution. Who knows; build them at the edge of the city and add bus service to get commuters to their destinations.

But cars will migrate as the permit system ousts them from one neighborhood to another. Who knows. The guy who races your for the parking space at the front door of the 24-hr exercise club may be walking 20 minutes from a parking space to work!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Can you please publish the blocks that have the majority of voting "yes"?

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Web Link

The above link shows the blocks that voted "for" permit parking (in black). Those blocks that did not reach the 50% (plus 1) threshold, are now being petitioned to opt in, since the original poll was done before Facebook moved in.

BTW, I voted "for" the permit on my street, although it failed to obtain a majority. My view is that all blocks in CT will sign on, as displacemnt fills their streets.

There are, currently, many empty parking lots/spaces in the SRP. Stanford and Facebook should be able to work out a deal with other companies to rent those spaces, using shuttle buses, where appropriate. .

Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 8, 2009 at 9:16 am

I'm surprised that more of the streets didn't vote for the permit parking solution. Anyone know why? And I agree with Mr Espinosa about the piecemeal approach being nonsensical. Since it's likely, as someone pointed out, that other streets will follow suit once the parking moves to their non-permitted streets, shouldn't we expect that more council time/city resources will be taken up in the future with requests to extend the permit policy?

Southgate has an intermittent related problem when football season and other major events are happening at Stanford. People going to the events park -- every which way -- in Southgate, a neighborhood that already has too many parked cars for safety on its narrower streets. When parking gets crowded on those streets, it's nearly impossible to get in and out of one's driveway, not to mention that no emergency vehicle can get through the neighborhood.

For a while, Stanford employees staffed blockades at the entrances to the neighborhood, requiring people to show their drivers' licenses with home addresses before admitting them. Residents could give the names of friends coming into the neighborhood to the staffers. Now all they do is put up the sawhorses to discourage non-resident parking, which of course works not at all. It seems this is another instance in which Palo Alto should require Stanford to make arrangements that will reduce impact on city residents.

Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 8, 2009 at 9:27 am

Susan--The football games occur 5 or 6 times a year. I am not sure what other events you refer to that generate such overflow parking.
I think for the those few days you can make do with the saw horses or if cars are parked in a dangerous manner call the police.
Stanford has made plenty of arrangements to deal with football day parking. I do not think that Stanford needs to do anything more Anyway, Palo Alto is making big bucks on those days,piggybacking off of Stanford, from visitors etc. I think the city is not that worried that a few residents are inconvenienced for a few hours 5-6 days a year

Like this comment
Posted by Marguerite rider
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

Thank you, Don, for the web link. What a surprise that cars will need permits to park all along Stanford Avenue. Why? Especially near Amherst and Bowdoin there are not many houses, and it seems quiet along there. Maybe the residents had some opinions about the people who were parking there.

That this area is going to have permits should be troubling for Stanford because across from it is-- dare I say it?-- an area where permits are not required.

But then this whole thing may not play out well for Stanford.

Like this comment
Posted by nice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2009 at 11:45 am

Marguerite rider, I'd love the opportunity to vote for preventing others to park on my street. Although we have a drive with space for 4 cars, it would be wonderful if we could keep the street clear. Nice to know that all we need to do is get 51% and we can lock out block down.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2009 at 11:48 am

What happens on street cleaning days? Are there violations for parking or does the street sweeper sweep the middle of the street most of the way as in other neighborhoods?

Like this comment
Posted by Marguerite rider
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Nice, what I think you are saying is that the residents along Stanford Avenue did not necessarily think the people parking there were objectionable but just jumped at the chance to have the street cleared of cars other than their own. Is that right?

Actually I am a rider and not a driver because I wanted out of all that goes along with driving and parking. Once I had heard (in a Menlo Park City Council meeting) residents objecting to the cars of strangers leaking oil onto the pavement of their streets... that was it. I'm sorry for all the people caught up in the car mess and throwing off their "problems" to the next neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm

The essential problem with parking spillover from Stanford is the 'no new net trips', even if Stanford grows. It is very logical to follow the dots: Stanford will incentivize its own students and workers to not come onto campus; these displaced people will park next door, in CT; CT will complain; CT goes all the way with permits; Stanford people will park in other neighborhoods, including riding bicycles up to 2-3 miles away, or they they will park and ride shuttle buses; other neighborhoods will demand permits. The permit enforcement costs for Palo Alto will run into the hundreds of thousands of $$ per year, once all the neighborhoods opt in.

Stanford will come up with a logical compromise, namely that it be allowed to grow and be freed from 'no new net trips', if it agrees to build parking garages (above or below ground). This solution will be accepted by PA. Then we will all be asking ourselves, "Why did we force ourselves into all this?".

Like this comment
Posted by To Don
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Your note is probably rhetorical, but in essence, it is because of the certainly or lack of certainty in the logical flow.

City council members are certain that a "no net trips" policy helps their careers and helps them sleep at night. But they're not as certain how bad the neighboring problems will be, or whether or not the groups will organize well enough to cause a change, or whether if they permit one neighborhood, the extra parking will be more diffuse in the neighborhoods bordering that one.

Like this comment
Posted by nice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

LOL! So, a block gets parking permits because only one person bothered to return the vote. No quorum required: Web Link
This gets better and better. I don't even need to canvas any of my neighbors.

Like this comment
Posted by fait accompli
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Web Link

"The city council on Monday voted 7-0 to start Palo Alto's first residential parking permit program, which will prohibit non-residents from parking for longer than two hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The program, whose startup costs will come out of a $100,000 parking mitigation fund set up by Stanford University, will go into effect in September."

Like this comment
Posted by Friendly Neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2011 at 11:47 am

CTRPPP update and opinion after 2 years of implementation -- the ordinance as written essentially punishes people who do not have driveways to park their cars. I wonder how many of the residents that voted for the RPPP, have driveways? Certainly all of them. It needs to be revised or I will not be voting for this program again.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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