News

Palo Alto scraps parking exemptions for downtown developments

Rules target projects with 'area bonuses' for historical, seismic retrofits

In their latest attempt to solve downtown's parking frustrations, Palo Alto officials on Monday night agreed to strike from the books several provisions that offer developers parking exemptions.

The most significant of the exemptions that the City Council unanimously voted to eliminate is one that pertains to downtown projects that undergo historical or seismic renovations and therefore are entitled to "bonus floor area" (additional square footage) under the city code.

These projects will still receive the bonus square footage but whereas before the bonus space was exempt from the city's parking requirements, now it won't be.

The parking exemption is one of several that the City Council suspended in the fall 2013, when it adopted a two-year interim ordinance. With that ordinance set to expire later this year, the council swiftly agreed to make the change permanent.

The ordinance that the council adopted Monday cites the recent growth in downtown's parking demand, with parking occupancies in area neighborhoods "increasing to over 100 percent during peak noontime hours."

"In the same period, there have been increasing spill-over impacts on nearby residential streets as employees and customers seek parking outside of the commercial core, causing the City to pursue its first-ever residential preferential parking program in downtown," the ordinance states.

It also notes that the existing parking rules were adopted "at a time when the downtown was underdeveloped and incentives for redevelopment were needed."

The parking exemptions, the ordinance notes, "contributed to encouraging both the rehabilitation of historic and seismically unsafe buildings and redevelopment in the Downtown core in general."

"The City is now at a point where most of the historic and seismically unsafe buildings have been renovated and the downtown has transformed into an economically thriving area," the ordinance states.

In addition to striking the parking exemption for developments that relied on "on-site" bonuses for historical and seismic renovations, the new ordinance also targets projects that transfer their development bonuses to sites elsewhere in the city through a mechanism known as "transfer of development rights."

Now, whether the density bonus is applied on site or at a different location, it will be subject to the city's parking requirement.

A third exemption that was permanently scrapped pertained to a 200-square-foot "minor floor area bonus" enjoyed by some downtown projects. This bonus area, like the rest of the project, will now be subject to parking requirements.

The council agreed to make these changes with little discussion. Councilman Greg Scharff, who made the motion to go forward with the changes, said he is glad the city is finally making them permanent.

"It's been a long discussion in getting rid of these parking exemptions," Scharff said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2015 at 9:13 am

Has any discussion ever been made about requiring the stacking garage type of parking on new downtown developments.

These stacking structures would make a lot of parking available in very little space and overall I would imagine that they would be cheaper than a conventional underground parking facility or new garage.


Like this comment
Posted by Common sense prevails!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2015 at 11:28 am

Glad to see this!


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 7, 2015 at 11:58 am

"...the existing parking rules were adopted "at a time when the downtown was underdeveloped and incentives for redevelopment were needed." "

Downtown was never "underdeveloped" per any local-resident-serving standard. But developers and investors living in Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley, etc. saw money here, and a succession of hick-townish city councils eagerly gave the place away.


Like this comment
Posted by follow-up needed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2015 at 10:07 pm

The underparked Downtown buildings are using parking lifts to fulfill a portion of the requirement. The City needs to investigate whether
these lifts are actually being used, are they practical. If not,the underparking in reality is actually even greater than believed. But I suspect the City doesn't really care.This is in effect another loophole for the developers and the City looks the other way. I drive by 537 Hamilton quite often and only three times have I ever seen a car enter or exit the garage.Some on the Council always want data. This is some data they should
get. The entire regulatory process has been a complete farce for years, ingrained in City Hall culture, and we are paying the price.


4 people like this
Posted by RichardC
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2015 at 9:27 am

Two steps to solve downtown's parking problem:
1. Charge market prices for public parking based on location and time of day, so that there are always a few spots open.
2. Resolve any spillover into adjacent neighborhoods with residential permit zones.

Done. No need to require developers to provide more parking - if their tenants want it, they can build it. If their tenants are happy to take transit or pay the market price to park elsewhere, that's fine too.

We need to stop subsidizing car use by making everyone else pay more in office rents, goods, services, etc. to provide free parking for drivers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

@ RichardC: Respectfully disagree with your opinion.

Downtown is under parked. Developers need to provide parking in their buildings. Tenants can't build parking themselves - that's a silly and unrealistic proposition.

The reality is that outside of the CalTrain station, there is absolutely no convenient/practical transit options for PA residents or workers. This is not Manhattan (or even SF) with multiple subway train or streetcar stops all over the region.

Who is "we" in the theory of subsidizing car use? We (if you are implying PA residents) are not subsidizing anything. A building owner charges rent based upon square footage and any other amenities (such as a number of parking spaces in a basement garage). The tenant can agree to that price or can negotiate that they don't want to use the parking spaces and don't need to pay for that feature. It's all negotiable. Believe me, the building owner can easily rent out garage space to nearby businesses who believe its an advantage to do so.


1 person likes this
Posted by Romeo
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

I know parking is really a problem and people like us that live here in Palo Alto are always frustrated because there is a lot of traffic in the streets and people are on our way all the time. So it would be better if we take those cars out of our way.

Instead of having that traffic, why not renting out your driveways when you are not using them? Extra money and so many cars out of our way? Hell yeah!

We really can help change our city and make it smarter!

www.fleckparking.com

Join the movement!


Like this comment
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 8, 2015 at 4:26 pm

"...why not renting out your driveways when you are not using them? Extra money and so many cars out of our way? Hell yeah!"

Friendly tip: check with your insurance carrier first.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 10:41 pm

[Post removed.]


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

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