Professorville parking program rejected

Palo Alto City Council shoots down plan to impose parking time limits in historic district

Professorville residents looking to reclaim the parking spots on their streets from downtown employees will have to cope with status quo for at least six more months after the City Council shot down Tuesday morning a proposed parking-permit program for the historic Palo Alto neighborhood.

The permit program intended to defuse the tension between Professorville residents who have long decried the lack of parking on their streets and the downtown workers who often park in the neighborhood to avoid the two-hour time limits prevalent in other parts of downtown. A group of residents has been clamoring for such a program for more than a year, claiming their quality of life has been affected. They've said they can no longer find parking close to their homes, many of which are so old they have no garages.

But after a long and winding debate, the council decided at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday not to rush into such a program. Council members voted 6-2, with Gail Price and Sid Espinosa dissenting, to scrap the permit-program proposal and to pursue a broader and more comprehensive strategy for solving the problem of inadequate parking downtown.

The broader analysis of the downtown parking scene will include consideration of new public-parking garages and new methods to increase use of existing garages, including valet parking and different permitting processes. The council also directed city staff to analyze technological remedies such as gate controls, parking-space identification systems and zone changes.

In shooting down the permit-program proposal, members argued the process for developing the program hasn't been open enough, that the proposed pilot area is too restrictive and that the program wouldn't solve the problem but merely shift it to a different neighborhood.

"This is moving around a problem," Mayor Yiaway Yeh said. "And my greatest concern is that a lot of the neighbors who are not in the zone would be negatively impacted for whatever time duration we'd have the program."

The pilot area proposed by staff would have been bordered by Addison Avenue to the north and Lincoln Avenue to the south, stretching between Emerson and Bryant Streets, along with a block of Addison between Bryant and Waverley streets. Time restrictions would have applied on weekdays between 8 and 5 p.m. Staff proposed the program after six months of meetings with a self-selected working group of neighborhood residents and downtown employees.

But while some Professorville residents endorsed the plan, many of the speakers at the council meeting voiced major reservations about the staff proposal. Robert Steinberg, a local architect who lives in Professorville, was one of many to argue that the time limit would only push cars to another downtown neighborhood, frustrating those residents.

"What assurance can you offer to neighbors of the parking program that our streets will not be recipients of those displaced cars?" Steinberg asked. "I hope there is a consensus among our council that kicking the can down the street would not be a satisfactory solution to the problem."

Don Barr, a Stanford professor who lives next to the proposed pilot area, argued that the process hasn't been transparent enough and urged the council to keep Professorville streets open to all comers -- residents and workers.

"Parking on city streets is a social good that belongs to all the people of Palo Alto, residents and employees alike," Barr said. "Residents have no more right to a space than workers."

Others disagreed and urged for staff to proceed with the trial, which would have lasted between three and six months. Ray Dempsey, speaking on behalf of a group of Professorville residents, urged the council to pursue the trial program. Dempsey said the program has received support from many residents both inside and outside the pilot area and called it a "short-term step to providing relief to a wider area."

"It's important to understand that the pilot is not a solution but a test case for a solution for broader activity," Dempsey said.

Downtown developer Charles "Chop" Keenan also supported the plan, though his endorsement was more measured. The experiment, he said, would at the very least provide staff with some information about parking.

"It's a fragile parking ecosystem that can't take radical disruption," Keenan said. "We are supporting the staff report. It's been a long process. We don't know how it's going to turn out, but we'll know more in six months."

Councilwoman Price agreed, supporting both the trial permit program and a more comprehensive solution

"Clearly, a more aggressive, a more comprehensive plan is really important," Price said. "Along those lines, I feel for us to really be comprehensive, we do need to do a trial as one element of a comprehensive approach."

The broad analysis will be funded by a $250,000 contribution from developers of Lytton Gateway, a mixed-use development at Lytton and Alma streets that the council approved earlier this year. The contribution was targeted for parking analyses and was included in the "public benefits" package the developers had to provide in exchange for the city's approval.

Planning Director Curtis Williams said the parking study will also include consideration of zone changes, given all the changes downtown has seen in recent years with new developments and different types of office uses. The analysis of parking demand is particularly timely, he said, given the recent trend of offices becoming denser.

"We do have parking ratios for office use that probably at this point deserve to be re-evaluated," Williams said. "We're seeing office occupancies that tend to be considerably more than one person per 250 square feet. The old model isn't holding up the same way, so it's appropriate as part of this to look at those ratios."

Staff will return to the council in six months to report on the progress of the parking study and early findings.


Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 6:20 am

Definitely a first world problem. If anyone feels frustrated, remember the people in the world with REAL problems and REAL issues to worry about, then try to justify your frustration...its difficult.
"I know there are massacres going on in Syria, and my heart goes out to the thousands of children orphaned by revolution in Rwanda, but I can't find a parking spot in front of my multi-million dollar mansion.
Sometimes I have to park a block away!!"

Just a little perspective for this "problem" some may feel exists.

Like this comment
Posted by Logic is as Logic Does
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2012 at 7:48 am

James, your logic is impeccable. Whenever you have a problem, just remember the REAL problems in the world. Your driveway is blocked? Big deal. Some people have no driveways. You were burgled? Other people have it worse. Armed robbery? Shrug it off, it's worse in Africa. Your job was outsourced? Think of the jobless in Lower Slobbovia.

Unfortunately, your wonderful and exemplary logic is a useful tool for exploiters and oppressors right here in the first world. And even though parking problems don't rise to such a level, it's not an entirely bad idea to take care of the things that bother you even if they're not world shaking.

Just a little perspective...

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2012 at 7:57 am

Another expensive time wasting study??????

How about a simple pay per hour machine in every city lot?

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Logic, you jumped from a minor inconvenience of not being able to park, right to ignoring violent crime and complete financial uncertainty. Definitely more major problems than not being able to park in front of your house. I'm surprised you didn't bring up murder.

I'm not talking about ALL problems, just not being able to park in front of your house, You had to stretch way too far and still missed making a salient argument contrasting the issue(and only the issue) of not being able to park in front of your house, and the fact that there are bigger problems in the world, like being robbed or laid off or..Hey! you just made my point. :)

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:32 am

Streets are, and should remain, public....period.
If you don't like living across the street from Stanford, move.

Like this comment
Posted by former professorville resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

neighbor from another community - the parking problem has nothing to do with Stanford, employees of various businesses in downtown Palo Alto use the neighboring streets as parking lots instead of paying for parking downtown. In addition, most businesses do not provide adequate parking for their employees so they are forced to park in residential neighborhoods. This problem also happens in other parts of Palo Alto where businesses deliberately do not build large enough parking lots and instead instruct their employees to park in the neighboring residential areas.

Streets are public, but in many cities there are residential parking programs to allow the residents at least some of the parking just for them. Many homes in Downtown North and Professorville are old enough that they have no off-street parking and the owners and/or residents can only park on the street. This is a particular problem for older people who can not walk far or families with small children. Simply coming home with a load of groceries should not be an ordeal where you are forced to park blocks away from your home.

Certainly there are larger problems in the world and even in Palo Alto, but this is an issue which affects people on a daily basis.

Like this comment
Posted by Logic is as Logic Does
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

James, are you shocked, shocked that I jumped from parking problems to crime? You would never do such a thing, I'm sure. But wait--was it you who made the giant leap from parking problems to massacres in Syria? Or was that some other James masquerading as you?

I'm so relieved that you will allow us to complain about crime, although burglary does seem inconsequential compared to a massacre or children being orphaned in Rwanda. Are you SURE you, or other illogical people, won't try to deflect our criticisms of issues by claiming they aren't REAL issues?

The salient argument here is that the technique you used to deflect people from legitimate, although small issues like parking problems can be applied to issue after issue. And, it's illogical in the extreme to make small complaints invalid because they don't meet your cockamamie standard of what constitutes a REAL issue.

Like this comment
Posted by Kim S.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:11 am

The problem is that minimum wage employees working in downtown Palo Alto are living paycheck to paycheck and the city only allows yearly or quarterly parking passes. $135 per quarter may not seem like a lot of money for many of us, but it's hard for a minimum wage employee to pay that price. The city should lower the rate and allow weekly permits to accommodate these workers and maybe the garages won't stand empty.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident of proposed trial area
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

Council did the right thing by shooting down a proposal drafted by a few neighborhood whiners and complainers. There needs to be a more inclusive process to discuss options.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

Logic(Ironic name), I hope you find a resolution to this crisis. It must be a horror. Good luck and be brave.

Like this comment
Posted by a local resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

Have you ever looked at the impacted streets? They are DENSE with parked cars. One can barely cross Bryant Street (Bike Route) at an intersection. SUVs,cars,trucks are parked right up to the corner, leaving no visibility for on-coming traffic.
Add the downtown workers to the many construction workers employed in the neighborhood, and it is definitely an impacted neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm

People will park where ever it is cheapest (money and time) but can still easily walk to their destination. It is hard to see how the proposed trial would add much information.

The only solution is to get a balance between demand and supply. Make more parking available or force people who use/own cars to leave.

The city has to restrict new construction which doesn't provide adequate parking.

The city needs to make sure existing downtown public parking is used. If every residential area surrounding downtown has parking permits something will change. If one area has residential parking permits the problem will shift to their neighbors.

Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Kick the can on down the road.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Homeowners who park on the street often drive that car to work in another city. Residential parking permits reduce the available spaces.

Who pays to build more parking? New building construction, workers coming to Palo Alto, or homeowners?

Low density housing seldom supports a strong mass transit solution. Downtown isn't all that bicycle friendly.

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Public streets are for public parking, not for any group that feels they should get preferential treatment. I have had exactly the same problems as they are describing, it can be very frustrating but everyone can park on a public street whenever they want.
I suggets they quit whining.

Like this comment
Posted by m2
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Parking in that neighborhood was worse when PAMF was there. I suspect most of these residents who are complaining moved there after PAMF left, and have no idea what things were like. I read one commentator who said these residents were like people who moved next to an airport and then complained about the noise.

Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Another blown Palo Alto Process. It's time for heads to roll instead of just eyes.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

@ Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, who wrote:

Another expensive time wasting study??????

How about a simple pay per hour machine in every city lot?......................

I agree with your suggestion.
Other cities have 10-hr meters and all-day pay lots - Palo Alto only provides 'permits', a bureaucratic morass of a program that is entirely unnecessary and only makes a bad program worse.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

When it comes to solving issues, Palo Alto government has a bunch of MASTER DEBATERS in office....

Like this comment
Posted by BeSensible
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm

USE the underground spaces!!!! for business! Have a low price in the parking under, but need some cost for it.
Certainly homeowners should be able to have FRIENDS etc. find a place to park to see friends in these areas!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2012 at 6:29 am

Why do city council members get parking spaces reserved for themselves in the parking garage? Why don't they at least have to pay for a permit? or do like the rest of us have to do, find a parking spot?

Maybe if they had to deal with the parking issue like the rest of us they would have a little more urgency and understanding of the parking problem downtown.

Like this comment
Posted by Used to be nice, not now
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2012 at 7:04 am

Palo Alto has become the most inconvenient, unfriendly, unlivable cities in the immediate area. Constant issues of this nature, horrific traffic, "Me first" drivers have taken their behavior out of their cars and brought it to every day areas like grocery stores, and a down town that is a mini "Market street". Sad what it has become.

Like this comment
Posted by Logic is as Logic Does
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The city council was right to opt for a broader solution. It is absurd to have residential streets jammed with cars from downtown; it is unfair to ask low-paid workers to pay high prices for permits. Certainly Palo Alto should make resident permits available; the only question is how big an area should be included. The thorny issue is how to help out the workers who are part of our city and should be treated fairly. Palo Alto does not have a business tax; should such a tax be used to help solve this problem?

Like this comment
Posted by Mary Ann Michel
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Rather than spending money on research spend the money to compensate those who use transit,walk a bit and leave their cars at home. For at work short trips consider renting bikes and cars.

Like this comment
Posted by 63 spaces
a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm

The developer of 355 Alma Street gave the city something like $125,000 to "study" this parking problem, and a similar amount to study the problem in downtown north. Keeps everyone busy, and pays for the Planning Dept. doing studies.
One suggestion to the Planning Department to study:
what happened to the 63 spaces that were the public benefit for the construction of 800 High Street? The pledge was that that huge number, 63, would solve the downtown shortage. Does the city fulfill its promises or count on everyone forgetting.

Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2012 at 2:54 pm

@Logic & @Local

walk those streets every day - even houses with no garages have driveways - is it so impossible park your ca there?

and no, the driveways are NOT blocked, but SIDEWALKS are aften are - by local residents' cars - backed down from their driveways

Like this comment
Posted by Logic is as Logic Does
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 19, 2012 at 11:09 am

I see that the capricious thought police of Palo Alto Online struck again, and my response to James, the logician extraordinaire, was removed. Fortunately, his response, though insulting, remained. Really, the editors should learn to apply a more reasonable standard for free speech.

MadamPresident, driveways do get blocked, probably as often as sidewalks are. Regardless of these side issues, parking in Palo Alto needs to be better managed, and that's going to mean residential parking permits. Let's hope it also means help for low-paid workers who are part of Palo Alto and deserve cheap and convenient parking, as do we all.

Like this comment
Posted by schmarking
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Not enough parking or too many cars? Building more parking just attracts more cars, or makes people more likely to drive, so if you want tons of parking built, you have no place complaining about the traffic.
Seriously, a study that would find out how to get more residents and workers on buses and bicycles would be more productive for all involved and would allow citizens to pollute less and keep more fit.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Jul 19, 2012 at 9:00 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

@ schmarking:
You are absolutely correct: Providing more parking only attracts more cars.
The goal must be how to remove cars from the neighborhoods and get them into existing parking, and if possible, do as you suggest - getting them to use alternatives. I differ from what you write in that I think current auto-commuters to downtown should be offered parking downtown WITHOUT having to buy a permit.
First, eliminate designated 'permit spots' - all spots should be open to anyone.
Manage all parking with pricing - two hour spots to attract shoppers - with provisions to add two extra hours as is done in San Mateo.
Have ten hour parking that would be in the less attractive places, e.g. top floors of existing garages, and surface lots further from downtown.

The city's major problem is that it tries to manage its existing parking very ineffectively by using time-only regulations with a color-coded scheme to prevent reparking, and using permits that do the opposite of what you suggest, Schmarking, because when you buy a permit for 3-months, why would you want to pay $2 or mor for the bus, or $4 or mor for Caltrain?....One way at that?!

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

Two (or 5) birds with one stone:

Hire local residents to work downtown so they can walk or bike to work. Employ residents, and they will spend more right here. Employees won't have to pay to park in their own town. That makes the job more attractive without employers having to increase payroll to compensate for permit parking costs, and creates more parking for shoppers.

Can't say it often enough - Palo Alto for Palo Alto...

Like this comment
Posted by mom by Gunn
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 22, 2012 at 12:29 am

BOB~ I don't know of any residents who can AFFORD to live in Palo Alto ~ those who do most all of the LOWER paying jobs....get real....!!!

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Why contentious local politics? More examples from ADU at Council
By Douglas Moran | 49 comments | 2,322 views

Food Party! 420
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,804 views

What Are Your Gifts that Must Be Shared?
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 842 views


Best Of Palo Alto ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "Best Of Palo Alto" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 29th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 21st issue of the Palo Alto Weekly.