News

Downtown parking program now set for fall rollout

As workers pan plan to outsource enforcement, Palo Alto moves ahead with long-awaited program

Initially slated for this spring, Palo Alto's long-awaited residential parking-permit program now is unlikely to fully launch until September, according to a schedule released by the city Wednesday.

The Residential Parking Permit Program (RPP), which aims to provide parking relief for downtown's neighborhoods, was unanimously approved by the City Council in December after years of debate and a year-long collaboration by a task force of downtown stakeholders, including businesses and residents. The goal at the time was to roll out the program early this year.

Yet a dispute with the city's labor union and the complexity of putting together and authorizing the four different contracts required to get the program up and running have extended the timeline.

The new schedule, which was provided Wednesday to the Residential Parking Permit Program Task Force, indicates that the city now plans to start selling parking permits for residential blocks in late July and that enforcement won't begin until Sept. 8.

The City Council has repeatedly pointed to the new parking program, as well as to the city's fledgling Transportation Management Association (a new nonprofit charged with reducing traffic), as critical tools for addressing the parking and traffic anxieties that have been growing in recent years.

This week, the council directed staff to put together an interim ordinance that would cap office space in the city's main commercial strips. During the discussion, Councilwoman Liz Kniss pointed to the delays within the parking program in making her argument for action.

"I have no idea why RPP has gone so far south but it's absolutely regrettable," Kniss said.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 521, which represents about half of the city's workforce, has its own concerns about the program. While union officials said they support the program and understand the need for it, they have taken issue with the city's plan to outsource enforcement of the program to a contractor.

During Monday's meeting, several city employees urged the council to keep the work in-house.

Margaret Adkins, who represented the union during the conversations with management, said two community-service officers (members of the Police Department who handle parking enforcement) had recently undertook a trial and were able to cover the permit area within an hour.

Under the parking-permit program, cars without a permit would be subject to a two-hour limit in an area that currently has no limits. Permits would only be sold to downtown residents, employers and employees.

Adkins said the union "was not treated fairly by the city" and was "not heard" by management.

"These pilot RPP program discussions could have, and should have, been held between two collaborative teams," Adkins said.

Community Service Officer Gabrial Mora said the employees all believe that they can do the work in-house. They have been enforcing the parking-permit program in College Terrace for the past three years, he said, and the time it takes an officer to cover that permit area has gone down from about an hour to about 30 minutes.

"We were all surprised that the city was thinking of contracting out, because we never heard that before from our managers," Mora told the council on Monday.

Yet the plan to contract out enforcement has been part of the program since well before the council's vote late last year and was discussed throughout the stakeholders group meetings before the program's adoption.

Jessica Sullivan, the city's transportation planning manager, said the city held six meet-and-confer sessions with the SEIU, a process that ended in an impasse. The union, she told the stakeholders group Wednesday, "did not provide proposals which were responsive to the city's main concerns."

The city plans to contract out enforcement to Serco, which has been providing parking services to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities.

"They are working in a lot of contentious environments and they're very professional," Sullivan said.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 26, 2015 at 10:35 am

We all should seriously think about working for the city of Palo Alto, where the union protects its employees (most of whom do not live in Palo Alto) with high salaries, excellent and above normal health insurance, great retirement benefits (for many at an early age) and reserved parking!

And all of this paid for by the citizens of Palo Alto.


7 people like this
Posted by hermia
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 26, 2015 at 10:52 am

The map included as an illustration to this article is completely illegible as presented.
Could paloaltoonline provide a higher res scan, please, or link to the original?
Thanks.


4 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 11:01 am

I wish I could figure out what areas are to be in the permit areas. Those of us who visit patients and stay for more than 2 hours once a week seem to have no access to the plan. Since I am doing a Furry Friends visit with2 dogs, I can not use public transit. The patients I visit are brightened by my visit, and need my company. The Map which came with this article is too small to read.


2 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2015 at 11:15 am

"...high salaries, excellent and above normal health insurance, great retirement benefits..."

Replace civil servants with civil serfs?


Like this comment
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

The area covered by RPPP is bound roughly by Middlefield Rd on the east, Alma on the west, Palo Alto Ave on the north and Lincoln Ave on the south.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

Still so many unanswered questions.

Still no relief for those of us who occasionally need to park for several hours on an ad hoc basis.

Are the permits locked into the license plates of the permit owners cars?

Interestingly Monkey Parking today announced their app for residents selling driveways to those who want to park there. Web Link The program is in San Francisco but this could make an attractive opportunity for them to move to Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by csf
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm

"Community Service Officer Gabrial Mora said the employees all believe that they can do the work in-house. They have been enforcing the parking-permit program in College Terrace for the past three years, he said, and the time it takes an officer to cover that permit area has gone down about an hour to about 30 minutes."

So what do they do for the other 7 1/2 hours?


8 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The SEIU simply operates as a shakedown racket to extract taxpayers' wealth from politicians. It should be outlawed in the name of good governance.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm

The reason City of Palo Alto Employees do not live in Palo Alto is because the wages they receive are not comparable to the cost of living in this town. Any raises we have received, which hasn't been in over 4 years, went to pay for our participation in the retirement fund and medical costs.
City Employees do not received Free Medical or Retirement Benefits. WE PAY FOR THEM. The Private Sector is hiring away many of the City Employees because pay and benefits are Better with them. If things are so great why aren't all of the Citizens of Palo Alto applying for jobs with the City?


2 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Dear hermia and Jane,
Send me your email address and I will send you maps of parked non-resident vehicles in the residential neighborhoods. Maps prepared by residents are in pdf format. Jane, the permit program must be easy and flexible for you to visit patients in our neighborhoods. Contact city staff Jessica Sullivan for details.

cnsbuchanan@yahoo.com Thanks, Neilson (one of six resident working on this permit parking program for over a year.)

The city has information on its website. Web Link

Key contacts for city are Jessica.sullivan@cityofpaloalto.org and city.council@cityofpaloalto.org

After 10+ years of delay the current City Council has finally turned its attention to yet to be defined protection of neighborhood quality of life, ie a objective limit to non-resident all-day parking intrusion. In the case of my neighborhood Downtown North, I reluctantly expect city staff to propose at least 50% of residential streets space to be designated as commercial parking. February 2016 is the latest estimate for real permit parking, ie indefinitely permanent sharing of residential environment with commercial interests.

The September start date is 6 more months of trial and error. During this 6-month trial, the city will be selling an unlimited number of parking permits to any downtown worker who wants a permit.

This is a massive problem to quality of life in neighborhoods across Palo Alto. The issues are very simple. Zoning laws do not require commercial properties to provide adequate parking for their tenants and customers. As an example, the Commercial Cores of University and California Avenues require up to 50% of all adjacent residential neighborhood streets as all-day commercial parking lots. Residents finally are in a very serious tug of war with city staff and Council about how much residential street capacity will be permanently designated as commercial parking lots.


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:04 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I still do not see why the city needs to hire four contractors for something that would only require another 3 hours a day of employee time. Filling the one vacancy in the parking team has to be cheaper than another contract, which will could easily require more time from a high priced manager to manage the outside contractor, than the actual hours for an existing employee to just do the work.

Outsourcing is not the only answer to the pension and benefit issues. Negotiating for more reasonable terms going forth is what is needed (i.e., payments based on the average of last five years of working, not the last year padded with unpaid vacation and overtime, payments capped at 70% of salary, not 90%, adjusting the calculation of any COLA's to reflect actual COLA's for seniors, rather than for everyone. There are many small tweaks that could have meaningful impacts. That is what actuaries are for.

Outsourcing often leads to more haves and have nots - those who have reasonable benefits and those who do not. Managerial costs go up - amounts paid to people who actually do the work go down.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2015 at 12:33 am

Good for downtown residents! We College Terrace residents finally got our streets back after the city approved and implemented permits for residents. My next phase would be those streets NOT blocked off - should be blocked off on a rotational basis. Even if it inconveniences us CT residents to get to our homes, at least it will minimize those who continue to cut through our neighborhood at break neck speeds! I remember the years when Hanover was a thru street and major causeway. Now (on the California Avenue side - formerly Lincoln Street), it's a calm, dead end street!
Yes, I'd close off the other streets for at least 3 months a year so we can enjoy the same quality of life the dead end streets residences enjoy. These would be gates easily swung open for emergency vehicles (by electronic device) and open when our 3 month of peace and quiet will evaporate for those darn cut through types!

I also support speed camera ticket machines that would show the driver their speed and issue a ticket to be mailed to their residence! Or, CT volunteers who could set up camp with a speed gun issued by PAPD; record the speed (and also have a camera activated system to record the license plate). The data would then be sent to the PA police to issue a ticket. Just the presence alone of one speed gun will slow the drivers down!

Alas, some of the cut through speeders are not just non-residents. One guy cut through so fast (kids playing on the street); I carefully followed the character in an attempt to secure a license plate and report to police. Turns out the guy lived in College Terrace. When I politely reminded the person of kids playing in the neighborhood and the 25 mph for the area - the guy was terribly embarrassed and apologetic; he simply let the pace and intensity of Silicon Valley get the better of his priorities and senses.

Good for you downtown residents. Overbuilding by developers (who do not live in downtown Palo Alto and likely in Palo Alto altogether) care little for your quality of life. They are most likely hiding out in Portola Valley, Atherton, and maybe Woodside - living the concept of "this is where we live, not work." Now time to cap density of developments and mandate protecting services from being run out by a demand for high tech office space. The alternative: Manhattan West or downtown SF! I kid you not..



Like this comment
Posted by Honor Unions
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Honor Unions: the people who brought you the weekend.


2 people like this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm

"Interestingly Monkey Parking today announced their app for residents selling driveways..."

Interesting, I'd like to see who will be selling in PA downtown, I always said I see plenty of DT/Professorville driveways empty - day or night, but residents still hate people parking on the streets complaining that they can't park their own cars...

and please, please answer the Q where an occasional visitor will be able to park?


Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

to Palo Alto Native:

you want to close PUBLIC streets?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 28, 2015 at 2:20 am

Suggestion was to close just one end, meaning no more closed than any cul-de-sac.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2015 at 4:44 am

The city doesn't have the manpower to enforce traffic laws, let alone parking enforcement. We report vehicles parked for over a month to the abandoned vehicle hotline and I have never seen one ticketed. Volvo and Tesla delivery vehicles park in front of a no parking sign and block a major bike lane on Maybell for three schools during peak bicycle traffic, no enforcement. Therefore, I don't buy the union's position that they are currently staffed for additional duties. Shortly after taking in more duties, I suspect that the union will tell us they are under staffed amd that the city to to hire more union members.


5 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2015 at 8:05 am

Princesses, you do know you don't personally own any of streets, right? You dwell in a residence on the side of them, but the streets are public. Just checking. By the comments it appears the precious residents are delusional to think that they dictate who is and isn't allowed on a public street.

Ask why someone is parking downtown - for business purposes. Limit parking, reduce business activity. Reduced business activity, decreased revenues, closed stores. Increase the empty space for tech occupation, bus in the brogrammers. Nicely done NIMBYS.

Why not limit the number of cars owned per household, or make a rule that all residents must park on their property. That will free the streets. Oh wait, that's not what you want. You want to own the streets to park your overpriced toy cars. My bad.


2 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2015 at 9:51 am

So let me get this straight -- the mafia in city council has devised a method for robbing citizens through parking tickets, and they're wrangling with their robber minions over who gets more of the stolen money. Meanwhile they are operating behind a guise of "solving parking congestion" when they are in fact reducing parking availability and creating a faux system for punishing innocent people. Parking is now a crime.

I have seen the effects of "preferential parking" in Los Angeles and it looks like Palo Alto is now copying their criminal parking ticket racket. The meter maids in LA are absolutely predatory!

It amuses/bewilders me that such criminal activity can masquerade as law. They're not enforcing anything. They're not earning money through hard work and productive prowess. They're stealing *ahem* I mean -- "generating revenue to paint more pointless green pictures of bicycles on every godforsaken street remaining in Palo Alto" (or maybe just stashing it in their pocketses).

Looks like I won't be stopping at Pluto's after work for a sandwich anymore, since I don't have an hour to waste driving around looking for parking. Come Fall, I think I'll avoid downtown altogether.


6 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 3, 2015 at 10:40 am

I have noticed that comments made by people like Madam President and Johnny who oppose a residential parking permit system often live in Old Palo Alto or Midtown where parking at home is never a problem. Parking never bothered me either when I moved into Professorville 21 years ago. If I drove off to do an errand, I returned home and parked. It never occurred to me that parking could be a problem. But by 2007 it was enough of a problem that I started negotiating with the city, along with several neighbors, to find a solution to the growing problem. That was 8 years ago and we still have the problem. I respectfully suggest to Madam President and Johnny to spend the next 8 years imagining their neighborhoods filled bumper-to-bumper with virtual cars along the curbs on six or so blocks in all directions from their addresses (with no private driveway, as in the case of my own home) and spend five to ten minutes driving around looking for a space before parking at least two or three blocks from home. Preferably just after shopping at Costco. I suggest that your attitudes would be somewhat less judgmental and censorious.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2015 at 11:54 am

Bunyip - you understand no one cares if you DRIVE on the street. I won't go so far as call that a right, since the vehicle code is pretty clear that driving is a revocable privilege.

There's no right to PARK anywhere. Try parking on 101 if you think parking is a right. Try parking in a commercial zone without a commercial permit. Try parking overnight in Menlo Park. Stop whinging about your right to park. You made that one up.


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

@ Johnny: you park all the way over in the NPA residential area when you're going to Pluto's? Why not park in one of the garages? So much easier and closer...

Oh, I get it, you were just exaggerating and blowing hyperbole all over the thread. Never mind.


2 people like this
Posted by Delay delay
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

>Initially slated for this spring, Palo Alto's long-awaited residential parking-permit >program now is unlikely to fully launch until September>

Unless the CityManager can come up with another reason to delay. He's good at that.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2015 at 11:59 am

"Unless the CityManager can come up with another reason to delay."

Give the man a break. He has a very good, practical reason. There is no place else to park those cars that are presently parking on the streets in the zone. If their drivers can't park, they can't get to their jobs downtown. Then what?

The can that was kicked down the road (ho ho) by generations of star-struck-by-wealthy-developers city councils cannot be kicked further. We're in the yogurt and there's no easy climb out.


Like this comment
Posted by Delay, delay
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Curmudgeon,3 things he can do, just for starters.
He could stop advocating for 1. increased density. 2.He could stop pretending people near transit wont have cars. 3. He could tell the Planning Dept to stop identifying with developers and handing out reduced parking to all who ask.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Parking space or no parking space, if someone has to get to work, they will find a way.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Is the city still on their "late July" schedule for selling permits and enforcement starting Sept 8th?


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Johnny says, "Come Fall, I think I'll avoid downtown altogether."

Why wait? Beat the rush and start avoiding downtown now.


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2015 at 6:53 pm

@Ray wrote:

"I have noticed that comments made by people like Madam President and Johnny who oppose a residential parking permit system often live in Old Palo Alto or Midtown where parking at home is never a problem."

I live in Downtown North, and am very much opposed to the parking permit system. It is nothing more than a tax in disguise. The permits are not only for residents. Those working downtown can also get permits - at a hefty price. So how does that alleviate the parking problems?

"Johnny says, "Come Fall, I think I'll avoid downtown altogether."

Why wait? Beat the rush and start avoiding downtown now."

I'm with you guys, and I live in downtown Palo Alto. There is little left besides women's clothing boutiques, overpriced, often mediocre restaurants, and startups. The startups are actually a very good development, but unless you work at one, there is no need to come to downtown PA. I usually go to downtown Mountain View, a much more lively place, better restaurants, and plenty of parking.


Like this comment
Posted by Counterclockwise
a resident of University South
on Jun 14, 2015 at 8:18 pm

"I usually go to downtown Mountain View, a much more lively place, better restaurants, and plenty of parking."

Why not move there? Palo Alto could use the housing?


Like this comment
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2015 at 9:57 pm

"Why not move there? Palo Alto could use the housing?"

Mountain View is only a short drive away and moving is a royal pain. Besides, if Palo Alto needs housing, the City Council can always relax the height restrictions downtown, along California Avenue and along San Antonio Road.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jun 15, 2015 at 5:56 am

Kazu says, "So how does that alleviate the parking problems?"

People who use the neighborhoods as Caltrain parking will need to park elsewhere.


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

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