News

Palo Alto takes 'multi-pronged' approach to fixing downtown's parking problems

City Council approves exploring new downtown garage, parking restrictions on residential streets

Faced with booming downtown development and a severe parking shortage, Palo Alto officials endorsed Monday a wide range of potential solutions to make life easier for downtown residents and commuters, including exploration of a new garage on High Street and a fresh look at a permit-parking program that exasperated downtown residents have long clamored for.

In a series of votes, the City Council agreed to support on Monday a list of recommendations from planning staff to alleviate downtown's congestion, a problem that has been escalating in recent years and that emerged as a top priority in the past year. The most controversial solution includes teaming up with downtown developer Charles "Chop" Keenan to build a parking garage across the street from Keenan's proposed development at 135 Hamilton Ave.

Under Keenan's proposal, he would pay about $7 million for the new structure and the city would chip in about $1 million. If approved, the new garage would stand on a city-owned lot across the street from the High Street garage. The occupants of Keenan's new building would occupy the top two stories of the new structure, which would revert to public use on evenings and weekends.

The proposal received a cool reception from some of the speakers at Monday's meeting, with several residents urging the council not to give up valuable city land for a project that would benefit a private developer.

"It's outrageous. You can't do it," said Sally Ann-Rudd, a Downtown North resident. "Public funds should not be used to subsidize private developments in this way."

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Schmid argued against exploring this project, saying it would preclude the public and the council for considering any other uses for this site "in perpetuity." Councilman Larry Klein disagreed and said rejecting this proposal outright would send a negative message about the city's willingness to engage partners from the private sphere.

"For us to kill it here would be to say we're not sincere on looking for ideas, to looking at public-private partnerships to achieve a number of different goals in different areas," Klein said.

Keenan told the council that he sympathizes with downtown residents' concerns and is eager to help the city solve its downtown-parking problem. The parking structure project, he said, is essentially ready for construction if the council chooses to go that route. The structure, he aid, "can solve a lot of problems right now and is fundamentally shovel ready."

"The more we can build, the better," Keenan said.

The council agreed that the city has plenty of homework to do before it decides on whether to partner with Keenan on the new garage. With its vote, it authorized staff to study the idea further and return in May with more information. Councilwoman Liz Kniss was one of several council members who said that the project is worth considering.

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"Again, this isn't perfect, but I'd just a soon not let perfect get in the way of what I think would be a good outcome," Kniss said.

Mayor Greg Scharff, a major proponent of building a new parking structure downtown, agreed.

"Dealing with the parking issue is a multi-pronged approach," Scharff said. "We need to fight it on all fronts, frankly, and see what we can do to resolve this issue in many different ways."

Other proposals proved far less controversial and resulted in swift council approval. These include introducing valet parking in on city garage, selling more permits at two others and reducing the number of employee spots at the City Hall garage by giving employees incentives to take alternate mode of transportation. Councilwoman Karen Holman called these proposals a "slam dunk."

The council also agreed to take another look at eliminating parking exemptions for new developments and consider parking restrictions at residential neighborhoods, as Professorville and Downtown North residents have long demanded. The city's previous effort to create a residential permit parking program (RPPP) in a section of Professorville fizzled last year when the council decided that the area's parameters are too narrow and directed staff to consider broader and more comprehensive solutions. Staff now plans to present recommendations about parking restrictions in residential neighborhoods in early September.

The council decided to take a fresh look at these options after hearing from numerous downtown residents, most of whom said they supported new regulations that would set time restrictions on parking for non-residents.

Downtown North resident Michael Griffin, a former planning commissioner, said residential streets currently present a great deal for developers and downtown employees, who freely use residential streets for parking. He argued that it's "long past the time we stopped kicking the can down the road."

"I don't think it's fair treatment of downtown residents and I hope you council members will feel the same, regardless of where in town you must live," Griffin said.

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Palo Alto takes 'multi-pronged' approach to fixing downtown's parking problems

City Council approves exploring new downtown garage, parking restrictions on residential streets

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 11:27 am

Faced with booming downtown development and a severe parking shortage, Palo Alto officials endorsed Monday a wide range of potential solutions to make life easier for downtown residents and commuters, including exploration of a new garage on High Street and a fresh look at a permit-parking program that exasperated downtown residents have long clamored for.

In a series of votes, the City Council agreed to support on Monday a list of recommendations from planning staff to alleviate downtown's congestion, a problem that has been escalating in recent years and that emerged as a top priority in the past year. The most controversial solution includes teaming up with downtown developer Charles "Chop" Keenan to build a parking garage across the street from Keenan's proposed development at 135 Hamilton Ave.

Under Keenan's proposal, he would pay about $7 million for the new structure and the city would chip in about $1 million. If approved, the new garage would stand on a city-owned lot across the street from the High Street garage. The occupants of Keenan's new building would occupy the top two stories of the new structure, which would revert to public use on evenings and weekends.

The proposal received a cool reception from some of the speakers at Monday's meeting, with several residents urging the council not to give up valuable city land for a project that would benefit a private developer.

"It's outrageous. You can't do it," said Sally Ann-Rudd, a Downtown North resident. "Public funds should not be used to subsidize private developments in this way."

Schmid argued against exploring this project, saying it would preclude the public and the council for considering any other uses for this site "in perpetuity." Councilman Larry Klein disagreed and said rejecting this proposal outright would send a negative message about the city's willingness to engage partners from the private sphere.

"For us to kill it here would be to say we're not sincere on looking for ideas, to looking at public-private partnerships to achieve a number of different goals in different areas," Klein said.

Keenan told the council that he sympathizes with downtown residents' concerns and is eager to help the city solve its downtown-parking problem. The parking structure project, he said, is essentially ready for construction if the council chooses to go that route. The structure, he aid, "can solve a lot of problems right now and is fundamentally shovel ready."

"The more we can build, the better," Keenan said.

The council agreed that the city has plenty of homework to do before it decides on whether to partner with Keenan on the new garage. With its vote, it authorized staff to study the idea further and return in May with more information. Councilwoman Liz Kniss was one of several council members who said that the project is worth considering.

"Again, this isn't perfect, but I'd just a soon not let perfect get in the way of what I think would be a good outcome," Kniss said.

Mayor Greg Scharff, a major proponent of building a new parking structure downtown, agreed.

"Dealing with the parking issue is a multi-pronged approach," Scharff said. "We need to fight it on all fronts, frankly, and see what we can do to resolve this issue in many different ways."

Other proposals proved far less controversial and resulted in swift council approval. These include introducing valet parking in on city garage, selling more permits at two others and reducing the number of employee spots at the City Hall garage by giving employees incentives to take alternate mode of transportation. Councilwoman Karen Holman called these proposals a "slam dunk."

The council also agreed to take another look at eliminating parking exemptions for new developments and consider parking restrictions at residential neighborhoods, as Professorville and Downtown North residents have long demanded. The city's previous effort to create a residential permit parking program (RPPP) in a section of Professorville fizzled last year when the council decided that the area's parameters are too narrow and directed staff to consider broader and more comprehensive solutions. Staff now plans to present recommendations about parking restrictions in residential neighborhoods in early September.

The council decided to take a fresh look at these options after hearing from numerous downtown residents, most of whom said they supported new regulations that would set time restrictions on parking for non-residents.

Downtown North resident Michael Griffin, a former planning commissioner, said residential streets currently present a great deal for developers and downtown employees, who freely use residential streets for parking. He argued that it's "long past the time we stopped kicking the can down the road."

"I don't think it's fair treatment of downtown residents and I hope you council members will feel the same, regardless of where in town you must live," Griffin said.

Comments

lazlo
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm
lazlo, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm

So begins another round of blue ribbon and red ribbon committees who recommend further study sessions and public input followed by several outsourced contractor studies who give the city numerous scenarios after bilking the city of public funds and all because the city manager lacks any leadership skills and a city council who lacks any vision on city needs and are unable to make a educated conclusive decision. Let the nonsense begin.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

And, no mention yet again of pay per hour parking in all city lots for beyond 2 hour parking.

Nowhere in this article does it mention those who want to park for a full day once or twice a week or several times a month. None of these solutions will solve occasional parking for personal or business all day visits to downtown.


A nonsense city government
Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm
A nonsense city government, Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Neighborhood parking challenges in Palo Alto is not just a downtown issue. Parking is a problem throughout Palo Alto, and specifically in the California Avenue residential areas as well. It seems the City Council, and the city administrators should include the PAPD in these discussions. The major problem is the city's aggressiveness with issuing parking citations/violations because it is greedy. Why not just install parking meters like Redwood City. One can park in Redwood City for 25 to 50 cents per hour. Meaning, you can get you business done in Redwood City in two to three hours just for about $1.00 to $2.00. The merchants in Palo Alto always scream about not wanting to charge customers for coming to downtown Palo Alto. Certainly if people can spend hundreds of dollars to shop or buy meals, they can spend a couple of dollars to park.


Not again..
College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm
Not again.., College Terrace
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Here we go again, same ole BS


lazlo is right
Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:46 pm
lazlo is right, Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:46 pm

They want to make a deal with Chop Keenan. Kniss and Burt couldn't wait to say let's go! Chop's investments in their campaigns is paying off nicely.
How much do you suppose the $1million will turn into? (like it increased in the Lytton Plaza public-private deal). And the Plaza sterile wasteland was part of the deal.


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The reality is that Keenan had his project in the hopper before the city and council considered canceling the developer-friendly parking requirements. And like it or not, he was correct to say you can't change the rules after the project has been approved.

Now they have found a way to alleviate the parking issue created by the original project and provide an even greater benefit by providing parking for the general public.

Or would you rather that Keenan just build his project and do nothing about the increased parking needs that were going to go without a solution?


Wondering?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm
Wondering?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

> And like it or not, he was correct to say you can't change
> the rules after the project has been approved.

Who says?

Why not?

If Keenan recognized that he was creating a problem, why wouldn't he welcome a rule change to mitigate the problem he is causing?


laxlo is right
Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm
laxlo is right, Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm

The project has not been approved. It is in process.Going slowly -- Chop Keenan's process not being held up by the city. So the city CAN change the rules before approval.


Lazlo is Still Right
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:48 am
Lazlo is Still Right, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:48 am

The Council -should- tell Keenan to go build his building per code, with its own parking, etc. And -should- deal with the city's parking issue independently, as if Keenan weren't around. They won't do this, but it's what the -should- do.

The problem with these complicated, custom deals with guys like Keenan is the city staff and council are no match for the developers on negotiating what the city (ie the residents) gets in exchange. The current parking imbroglio is to a great extent a result of other downtown PC development deals. What did we get in return as "public benefit?" Drinking fountains, doorways with car sculptures, etc.

The city needs to deal with its infrastructure problems without trying to play Three-Card Monte with Keenan and his brethren. We get hustled every time.


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Sorry laxlo, you're incorrect. Once a planner or resident has entered the planning process and has paid fees to the city, the city cannot change requirements that would create greater restrictions on the project.

Easy example was when the city and FEMA applied a greater flood zone blanket on the residential areas. If your project was already in the planning department, you did not have to comply with the new basement restrictions (personal experience). Same thing applied when the city applied tougher "green" restrictions for demolition.

Projects in the system are grandfathered.


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