Scofflaws who have been parking in downtown Palo Alto neighborhoods without a permit have no more than 17 days to change their habits.
City officials announced this week that enforcement of the new Residential Preferential Program, in which drivers can park in the downtown residential district for only two hours without a permit, will start by Oct. 13. Parking tickets will cost $53 each.
Earlier this month, roughly 800 signs were unveiled along streets in Downtown North and parts of University South and Professorville announcing the restrictions. For the past two weeks, informational notices have been placed on car windshields with details about how to register for a permit online, and the availability of in-person assistance at City Hall.
To communicate the urgency of the impending enforcement, a warning period will begin next Tuesday, Sept. 29, city officials stated in a press release.
To date, 4,663 permits have been issued online, including 3,519 permits to residents, 479 permits for low-income workers and 665 standard worker permits. The city anticipates that number to increase as awareness of the permit requirements and online assistance continues, according to the press release.
Because of early problems with the online system for purchasing permits, a customer service contractor will be on-site at City Hall for the next several weeks to offer help. The representative will be stationed across from the Utilities window in the lobby of City Hall, 250 Hamilton from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the press release states.
Even pre-enforcement, residents in the parking district have indicated the program has made a significant difference in the availability of parking on their blocks, which for years have been jammed with the cars of downtown employees.
Ian Irwin to notice his block's transformation immediately. When he looks at his block now, there are unfilled spaces between cars.
"It seems like a miracle," said Irwin, who lives at Cowper Street and Homer Avenue, an area that he describes as "chaotic" in terms of traffic and parking. "Both in traffic calming and in parking, the street has changed since the signs went up. It's kind of amazing."
However, residents who live outside of the parking district have voiced concern that the commuters have simply started parking on other blocks -- theirs.
Maryanne Mueller, who lives on Kingsley Avenue in a section of Professorville that is not park of the permit program, said she and her neighbors have seen a very different kind of change.
"I heard it's working wonderful for some parts, but we're in a funny little un-permitted pocket, and we are under deluge," Mueller said at a meeting of the programs' stakeholders on Sept. 16.
The impact was not unexpected: The city already has a process in place for Mueller's neighborhood, and others, to petition to be included in the program.
The city plans to bring both an analysis of parking data collected during the first month of RPP implementation, as well as neighborhood petitions for opting into the current RPP district, to the City Council at its Dec. 7 meeting, the press release notes.
The data on where permit holders are parking and the distribution of types of permits are key elements as Phase 2 of the RPP program is developed.
More information about the new parking program is available at cityofpaloalto.org/parking.