City set to rule on Professorville parking permits

Palo Alto City Council to consider a pilot program for historic neighborhood with a parking shortage

Professorville residents might soon get more muscle in their irksome tug-of-war with downtown workers over parking spots in the historic district -- a parking-permit program that would limit visitors' stays to two hours.

The permit program, which the City Council will discuss Monday night, is the city's response to years of complaints from the residential neighborhood adjacent to the bustling high-tech scene of downtown Palo Alto. Unlike other downtown neighborhoods, which generally have two-hour parking limits, Professorville currently doesn't have parking restrictions. To make matters worse, most houses in the neighborhood don't have garages. So when downtown employees park their cars on the Professorville streets to avoid time limits, residents find themselves without a spot.

That, however, may soon change. Over the past year, the city has been meeting with representatives from Professorville and downtown and surveying residents about a potential new permit program. Last month, survey respondents overwhelmingly favored the new program, with 83 percent saying they support a trial permit program and 17 percent saying they oppose it. City staff planned to recommend adopting the permit program if more than 60 percent of the surveyed residents agreed.

The permit program would apply to an area roughly bounded by Addison Avenue to the north and Lincoln Avenue to the south, between Emerson and Bryant streets. It would also include the block of Addison between Bryant and Waverley streets. The time limit would apply on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The city would give away one permit per household in Professorville and allow additional permits to be purchased for $50. The city would make two-thirds of the for-sale permits available only to residents, while the rest could be purchased by non-residents.

Staff proposes to begin the trial period in August and to consider the results in spring of next year.

"The trial period will allow staff and the community to measure the response to permit sales, the impact on neighborhoods outside the RPP boundaries, and citation revenue to help estimate the long-term RPP permit costs," Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez wrote in a report.

Some residents heralded the new program as a sorely needed solution to Professorville's parking woes. Matt Mealiffe, who lives on Addison Avenue, wrote in a letter to the council that he had some concerns about the restrictive boundary of the proposed permit area. But he said he and his fiancee strongly support a permit program in their neighborhood.

"The parking crush from living in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown Palo Alto is -- without question -- the most negative factor in our daily existence in Palo Alto," Mealiffe wrote. "It is also -- admittedly -- the only thing that drives us to anything resembling local political activism."

Not everyone agrees with the city's approach. Some area residents and employees complained in letters to the council that the permit area is too small and that the city's solution would only shift the parking problem to other areas. Donald Barr, a Stanford University professor and affordable-housing advocate who lives in Professorville, wrote a letter to the council urging it to reject the proposal.

"It is clear that street parking during business hours has become a scarce commodity in many neighborhoods of Palo Alto, including ours," Barr wrote. "Parking on city streets is a common good, shared by residents and workers alike. I believe it is your job to develop a process that allocates that scarce good fairly and equitably. The current proposal does not do this."

The residential parking-permit program is one component of Palo Alto's broader drive to make downtown parking easier and more efficient. In recent months, the city revised its policies for downtown garages to encourage workers to park in these underused structures rather than on residential streets. Changes included converting the fourth floor of the Bryant Street garage from regular time-limited parking to permit parking and introducing a new monthly rate ($45) for parking permits. Previously, the city only offered annual or quarterly permits.

The strategies appear to be bearing fruit. According to the new report from Rodriguez, the occupancy of parking structures increased during the noon peak period, with an average 20 percent increase in parking-permit usage.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

This idea is not going to fix the problem, just shift the problem.

We need machines for hourly parking at all city lots. The monthly permits are not going to help someone who needs to park all day once a week, or everyday for a week, or just a once off visitor.

Get machines at all the lots, not just some of them.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

I would add to Resident's comment that it would make sense to implement both a parking machine program, as well as a residential paring permit program.

Otherwise we will still see people who will want to avoid paying for parking, no matter the convenience or relatively low-cost of the parking machines.

Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

What parking problem?

Last I looked, downtown was right by the train/bus transit center. According to City Hall dogma, downtown workers take transit to work; they don't drive.

Don't those people at 250 Hamilton believe their own snake oil?

Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

look at us, we view the world solely in terms of what is helpful or unhelpful for ourseleves

Like this comment
Posted by ResidentsFirst for parking
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Residents in Palo Alto needs to have rules about business/commuters and where they park. They need to have payments for parking. The garages should have low amt of money for certain amount of hours. Longer, get a ticket. Residents should have spaces for 1 or 2 spaces near their home or condo, for visitors.

Like this comment
Posted by Crooked Politicians
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Palo Alto City Hall is corrupt. Kickbacks, contracts to family members, money for their political campaigns. Throw them all out.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jul 13, 2012 at 6:48 am

I live in the University South neighborhood (between downtown and Professorville) and have never been surveyed.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jul 13, 2012 at 6:49 am

While it's true that most Professorville houses don't have garages, most DO have off street parking.

Like this comment
Posted by voter
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 13, 2012 at 11:28 am

This doesn't begin to address the problem of the extremely unsafe congestion of the streets north of Embarcadero. Parked cars are routinely jammed into every inch, even beyond stop signs. It is nearly impossible to cross any street without being half way out into the street to see oncoming traffic. When you inch your car out to see, you take your life into your hands as the cross traffic speeds by, glaring at you. Most pedestrians and bicyclists are oblivious and are going to get run over! It is a big, fat mess. Maybe the city will be forced to address the issue on a macro basis when it is sued due to its negligence in its faulty, or should I say, non-existent planning.

Like this comment
Posted by Chatsworth
a resident of University South
on Jul 15, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Oh gee, what a wonderful idea - move the problem to adjacent areas. Talk about a NIMBY solution! It will just make parking in the University South neighborhood that much worse. Or is that the general idea, to simply throw the problem over the fence into a less worthy backyard?

If people park in Professorsville because of two hour time limits elsewhere, then simply get rid of the two hour time limits. Alternatively, the two hour street parking time limit could also be imposed in Professorsville. Better yet, build another parking garage. Some realistic city planning would be helpful. It worked in downtown Mountain View.

"The parking crush from living in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown Palo Alto is -- without question -- the most negative factor in our daily existence in Palo Alto"

So you move into a crowded downtown area, a place known for scarce parking, and then complain about people parking on the street? How brilliant...

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm

@Chatsworth - the proposal is what you suggest - add a two hour limit in Professorville, during the day. Permits will let residents park all day. It isn't such a big deal.

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

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