Is Crescent Park's parking 'creep' a sign of things to come?

Small program grows as problem shifts from one block to another

Last year, Crescent Park residents learned all about the power -- and the repercussions -- of the city's parking programs.

Residents around Edgewood Drive and Newell Road had been up in arms about drivers from East Palo Alto crossing the Newell Bridge and using their streets for overnight parking. Some residents talked with suspicion about an uptick in burglaries; others pointed to the increase in beer bottles left on their streets, to blocked driveways and the general hazard of having too many parked cars crammed onto their blocks.

The city responded in August 2013 by creating a "no overnight parking" zone in which only cars with a permit -- which only residents can buy for $100 a year -- can park.

The pilot program was unveiled despite protests from residents on the zone's periphery, who were concerned that the new restriction would simply move the problem over to their blocks.

Both sides were right. The solution worked, and the problem shifted outward from the program's initial area. By November, residents of Southwood Court, certain blocks of Crescent Drive and previously excluded sections of Dana Avenue and Newell Road had joined the restriction zone; more neighbors on Crescent Drive followed suit in December. The domino effect continued this year, with Island Drive, Center Drive and Kings Lane all joining the program and at least six other requests from other streets' residents currently pending city approval.

On Oct. 6, the City Council unanimously approved the expanded boundaries and agreed to extend the trial of the program until September 2015.

In some cases, the expansion has stoked tension. At the council's Nov. 10 meeting, Harlan Pinto, who lives in Crescent Park and who supported having wider boundaries a year ago, expressed disappointment about the city only including the south side of University Avenue in the expanded boundary. Because overnight parking is permitted on the other side of the street, cars will simply move there, "and we'll have to move through this all over again," he said.

A similar situation could soon play out downtown, where a Residential Parking Permit Program (RPPP) is set to launch in the spring and where certain neighborhoods remain skeptical. In approving the proposed program earlier this month, members of the Planning and Transportation Commission predicted that areas currently opposed to the program would come around once the program is implemented near the downtown core and the problem shifts.

To that end, Commissioner Michael Alcheck argued that the city should increase the RPPP boundary by a factor of "no less than a third of a mile or a quarter of a mile." He pointed to one of the few sections of downtown that remains green on the maps indicating levels of parking (green is an occupancy level of 35 percent or lower) and argued that it won't stay green for long once the program kicks in.

"When the community on one side of Lincoln Avenue decides to implement a program, it will directly impact the other side of Lincoln," Alcheck said. "It should not surprise anyone that this patch of green will not be green once we do it."

To help address this problem, the city is including as part of its proposal a process by which adjacent blocks can opt into the program once it's up and running. Residents would have to submit a petition to the city, showing a majority support. After that, the planning commission would hold a hearing on the application; staff would perform outreach and conduct parking studies and then bring a proposed resolution to the planning commission and, ultimately, the council.

Related content:

The journey to the starting line: Permit programs bridges gap between downtown stakeholders

Palo Alto brings new approach to old 'parking crisis'

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