Shop Talk: Parking problems brew at Philz Coffee

This week's business news

Parking is getting tight in Midtown, and the opening of a new cafe may make matters worse.

PARKING PROBLEM BREWING IN MIDTOWN ... When Philz Coffee opened in Midtown Palo Alto at 3191 Middlefield Road seven years ago in its teeny tiny 600-square-foot spot, it was logical to think that the adjoining parking lot of 18 spaces -- along with street parking on Middlefield and an additional nearby parking lot with nearly 40 spaces -- would be more than adequate. But Palo Altans love their coffee, so much so that customer parking for Philz is creating a problem for the surrounding neighborhood. Particularly concerned are some residents from a condo complex located directly next to Philz, at 725 to 773 Loma Verde Ave. A large red sign was erected earlier this week on the condo property at the entrance to its driveway. "PRIVATE PROPERTY," it reads. "NO PHILZ PARKING." A Philz customer walking by commented on the sign. "It's not a very friendly sign, is it?" she noted. "It's rather bright, and all capital letters -- like it's yelling at you." The coffee shop has been in touch with a representative from the condo association about the parking problem. Philz spokesman Robert George said, "We don't have much control over our customers' behavior. People park where they can find a space. We have signs on our door that ask our customers to please be nice to our neighbors in terms of parking. We try to encourage street parking or bike riding." George also noted that 80 percent of Philz customers get their coffee to go. "That means that our customers are in and out in about 15 minutes or so," he said. Complicating the parking problem is the anticipated July opening of Bill's Cafe, which is moving into the former Pommard Delicatessen and Fandango Pizza spot. The new restaurant, which will be open for breakfast and lunch, and will seat 75 to 80 diners, is just steps away from Philz at 3163 Middlefield Road. If the overflowing parking lots of the five existing Bill's Cafes in San Jose are any indication of the restaurant's future success in Palo Alto, the parking problem is likely to continue. "People are already complaining about parking, and it's probably going to get worse once Bill's opens," said Michelle Apango, who works at the counter of AJ's Cleaners, located between Philz and Bill's. "The parking lot fills up real fast because of Philz, especially on the weekends," she said. But Bill's Cafe owner Nick Taptelis believes that since the Palo Alto restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood, "Mostly, people will be walking to Bill's, not driving," he said. "So I don't really see it as much of a problem."

Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2015 at 9:09 am

Make the parking spots 30 mins only.

55 people like this
Posted by Not yours
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 25, 2015 at 9:19 am

Where does this rank among the other world class problems plaguing palo,alto?
The choices are:

Airplane noise
Train noise
Too many cars in palo,alto
People parking on public streets
New buildings are nit in the Spanish colonial style
Too many companies downtown
Too many restaurants downtown
Not enough local retail on California avenue
The JCC looks ugly
Buena vista to be closed
You do not have final say on what kind of home your neighbor should build

Given all the above problems facing the city, is is a wonder we do not have more people having nervous breakdowns

16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2015 at 10:36 am

@Not yours
I'm having one now. Your long list caused it. I think I'll recover tho!

17 people like this
Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2015 at 11:06 am

Try parking 100 yards away there's a slew of amazing parking spots.

15 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

"Try parking 100 yards away there's a slew of amazing parking spots."

100 yards?!?! Philz's needs to either add a fleet of golf carts to transport the entitled masses that final 100 yards or provide valet parking.

10 people like this
Posted by gf
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2015 at 2:02 pm

gf is a registered user.

i think "Not yours" comments above can apply to almost all of these pa complaints we see online. anybody know how to auto re-post his/her comment to every pa online thread? :-)

"Where does this rank among the other world class problems plaguing palo,alto?
a wonder we do not have more people having nervous breakdowns"

12 people like this
Posted by C'est Moi
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2015 at 5:23 pm

I have never had a problem parking at Philz because I have always parked in the large lot on the other side of the building. That tiny lot in front of Philz is notoriously tight and fender-bender prone. There is simply no reason to park in red zones and places that display no parking signs.

18 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 12:04 am

Please do not park in the bike lane across the street from Philz. That is extremely dangerous to kids biking to school as well illegal. NO PARKING signs are clearly posted, but I wish the cops would enforce them more strictly.

18 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2015 at 10:40 am

The owner of Bill's Cafe that thinks that visitors will be walking there and not adding to the parking problems is extremely naive.

2 people like this
Posted by Teacher K
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 26, 2015 at 10:44 am

Remember the beloved kitty Harley who was sent to Hawaii or Japan by accident? He was safely returned but met his demise in that tiny parking lot :-(

5 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2015 at 10:48 am

@Hugo, the only people affected by this "parking problem" are those choosing to park there, i.e. those who are contributing to the problem.

6 people like this
Posted by alternatives
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2015 at 11:08 am

1) Philz could offer incentives to NOT driving for a cup of coffee or 2) limited time to park in lots

And to that Philz customer who thinks the condo sign isn't so nice, Get grip! You're the one invading their neighbor hood to get a luxury product like COFFEE. Think about what you'd be saying if someone was parked in your spot.

7 people like this
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

Next to Ernie's Liquors is a very large parking lot. This is on Middlefield Rd. just around the corner from Philz.

6 people like this
Posted by Billz
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

Will success ruin Midtown? Parking will always be a problem with desirable hot spots. Phil of Philz is a good neighbor, and he is resonable when approached. He fixed up the old shop and gave our neighborhood a really nice place to hang out on the porch with friends and neighbors. I'd like to see him kill the wi-fi and get everyone talking to each other again... That's another matter.
AJ's, while being a good dry cleaners is ironically not clean and often has broken coin op machines. The liquor store new owners are very nice and run a decent business. I hear Bill's is great from my SJ friends and people make a driving destination for a good and fun breakfast/brunch gathering spot so bye-bye nearby parking. Generally most people I know ( and don't know) that visit Phiz are considerate. Maybe the nearby churchs could offer parking for a few $ for those that linger over coffee or brunch and get some income.
After all aren't our coffee rituals like church?

3 people like this
Posted by How to walk or bike to Philz from the south.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

I live about 2 miles away from Philz, near the Mountain View border of Palo Alto. I walk or bike to Philz across Mitchell Park on off-road trails to connect to Cowper and ride to Loma Verde where I turn right which lands me at Philz. It's a leisurely ride or walk. I never have trouble parking my bike.

I like the Philz sign. It's fun--and adds local "color". We need some of that. their coffee is fabulous.

21 people like this
Posted by Another resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I get ticked off by people who sit in any coffee shop for HOURS at a time while sipping on one and only cup of coffee. Apparently they don't want to stay at home all the time playing on the internet, so their idea of 'going out and being with people' is to relocate to a coffee shop with their laptop while continuing playing on the internet. So there is still no social interaction, but they do take up precious parking spaces.
Incidentally, the other day in Starbucks i saw a woman sleeping across two leather chairs and she didn't even bother to order any drink. Where else can you do that?

4 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm

KP is a registered user.

I live on E Meadow and just walk over there. It's hella crowded all the times that I go, but the PhilteredSoulTrain is worth the wait! Love Philz and am looking forward to the new restaurant.

I wish more people would walk or ride bikes, but sometimes when you are on your way somewhere and you stop for're in a car. Not every one is just "out for coffee" only to go home. I get it.
Parking sucks, but you don't always have to have front row parking either...park further away and walk a bit from your car.

2 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 12:37 pm

KP is a registered user.

Oh and btw...
@Another Resident - who cares how long or how many coffees someone has. Some people just need to get out and maybe that's the place they like to go. Not your problem.
Sleeping and taking up space for no would piss me off, too!

10 people like this
Posted by Philz Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm

It may be true that 80% of Philz customers are are "in and out in 15 minutes" but what that means for the residents/property owners next door is a constant stream of traffic in and out of our parking lot with customers who trample landscaping, leaving trash and cigarette butts behind. Philz and the building owner need to be better neighbors. For those who think it is not a big deal, ask yourself how you would feel with this happening in your own driveway and yard.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jean G
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Philz is great - just park next door at the liquor store or walk a few blocks. Several neighbors have been meeting there for years and many friends have been made over coffee there.
Yes - TeacherK, I remember Harley the cat very well from the old coffee shop - in fact I wrote a children's book about the visit to Japan, tho he didn't come back to die in my book. Coffee shop habitue's actually held a memorial service for Harley back then.
Billz, Re AJ's cleaners - yes its filthy, run down, machines in deplorable condition - I don't go there any longer, there is a nice clean one at Charleston shopping center.

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,243 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,403 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,320 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 860 views

Is racism also a local problem?
By Diana Diamond | 25 comments | 654 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More