News


Some residents outside new parking zone want 'in'

As parking congestion shifts to peripheral blocks downtown, Palo Alto considers expanding permit district

For people living in downtown Palo Alto, the city's recently launched parking-permit program offered a promising start to solving their most frustrating problem of the last decade: parking along their streets that some likened to a daily "tidal wave" of commuters' cars.

But for their neighbors just outside the permit district, the new program has been a curse rather a blessing, steering commuters who had once parked close to the heart of downtown to more peripheral streets, where they can still park all day for free. For those residents, the city's "solution" didn't solve the problem; it merely shifted it to their blocks.

Now, as city officials consider next steps for what is known as the Residential Preferential Parking Program, residents from a dozen blocks just outside the permit zone's boundaries are petitioning to join. At the same time, transportation planners and neighborhood stakeholders are considering a host of more fundamental changes to the fledgling program, including a gradual reduction in permits sold to employees.

The City Council will have a chance to discuss the proposed changes and offer input on Dec. 14. Among the questions they will consider is whether to annex 12 new blocks for the parking district and whether to limit the number of permits sold to downtown workers.

Whatever changes the council adopts would take effect in March, when the second phase of the parking program is set to launch. The first phase, which began in September, was in many ways a pilot, aimed as much at collecting data and learning about commuter behavior as at actually solving the problem. In the first phase, permits were sold to any downtown employee and resident who wanted one. A permit allows the driver to park all day anywhere in the permit district, which otherwise has a two-hour time limit.

According to planning staff, the program has achieved some success. More people now opt to park in downtown's historically underused garages, with the wait list for garage permits roughly doubling -- from about 120 to 150 applications monthly to around 250 to 300 -- since the parking-permit program launched.

More importantly, conditions have markedly improved along neighborhood streets. As soon as the program took effect, residents in Downtown North and Professorville began seeing empty street spots on their blocks -- a sight that would have been unheard of before September. Planners estimate that the number of cars parking daily in the district has plunged by 300 to 400. This could be because the city only issues permits to workers and residents; Stanford University students and Caltrain commuters can no longer use the residential blocks as their parking lots.

At the same time, however, portions of the Crescent Park and Professorville neighborhoods, just east and south of the district, respectively, have been hit particularly hard by spillover parking. Leslie Johnson Evers and her neighbor Perry Irvine, who live on the 1100 block of Waverley, reported in a letter to the city that since the program took effect their block and the 1200 block have been "inundated by all-day parkers."

Now, Evers wrote, visitors no longer have a place to park between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Even the residents themselves often can't park.

Evers noted she because she doesn't have a driveway or a garage, she "can't access my own home if I leave a spot open for even an hour."

"This is a sudden and unnecessary hardship, and it has changed the character of our neighborhood much to its detriment," Evers wrote.

Her block, as well as the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Waverley, are among the dozen now seeking annexation to the parking district, which is bounded by Alma Street, Palo Alto Avenue, Guinda Street, Bryant Street and Lincoln Avenue. Other blocks that have petitioned for annexation are the 800 block of Forest; the 800 and 900 blocks of Hamilton Avenue; the 300 block of Kingsley Avenue; and 500 block of Lincoln Avenue; the 800 block of Lytton Avenue; and the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Seneca Street.

Planning staff are recommending that these blocks, which lie south of Bryant and east of Guinda, be brought into the parking district. In addition, the staff is also recommending that the district be extended beyond these blocks to account for the parking spillage that will occur once the borders are expanded. Residents of those additional blocks would still have to submit a petition showing support before the parking limit would take effect.

Not everyone is thrilled about the proposed annexation. Norm Beamer, president of the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association, predicted that the types of parking problems will spread to his area. New downtown developments that are allowed to pay a parking-assessment fee rather than provide on-site parking will only exacerbate the problem, he said.

Beamer said many people park their cars farther from downtown and then travel to work by bike or skateboard, thus enabling commuters to park outside of even the expanded district proposed by staff, which is based on commuters' "standard walking distances" (about half a mile maximum).

"As they institute a permit district on Seneca, you'll see people parking on Chaucer," Beamer said. "Once they do it on Chaucer, people will start parking on the next one."

One change that Beamer said would help the situation is limiting permits to residents, a system similar to the parking program in College Terrace. Earlier this week, Beamer and John Guislin, a Crescent Park resident who belongs to the city's parking-permit stakeholder group, submitted a proposal to the council that residents of each neighborhood be allowed to select the type of permit program they'd like to see.

"Now is the time to take action to establish a comprehensive program for Crescent Park like in College Terrace that acknowledges that residential neighborhoods may request a Resident Only Parking Program to protect them from increased intrusion resulting from ongoing development," Guislin and Beamer wrote. "If residents of neighborhoods like Crescent Park are going to be forced to pay permit fees to park near their homes, then the program needs to eliminate the parking intrusion that is the source of the problem."

Planning staff agree that the number of permits issued to downtown employees needs to be reduced, but they are recommending a more gradual approach to achieve this end. So far, the city has sold 6,693 parking permits, which includes 4,551 resident permits and 2,142 employee permits. Under the staff proposal, the number of employee permits that would be sold next year would be capped at 2,000, and permit holders' parking spots would be geographically distributed across downtown so that no particular area gets saturated. After that, staff is proposing to decrease the number of employee permits by 200 annually, until 2026, when no employee permits would be sold.

The idea of limiting employee permits and distributing parkers geographically has received general support from most members the stakeholder group, according to a letter by Michael Hodos, a Professorville resident who serves on the group.

Not everyone shares this view, though. Sue Nightingale, co-owner of the business Watercourse Way, submitted her own letter arguing against employee limits. Such a step, she argued, is unnecessary because the existing system, which already charges workers for permits to park on the street, appears to be working.

"The most impactful change to help alleviate the stress on inadequate parking supply for customers, employees and residents would be to create more parking," Nightingale wrote. "Designate it for employee use only."

It will be up to the council to decide on Dec. 14 whether and how to limit the employee permits and the best way to disperse employee vehicles throughout downtown. A new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment offers three options. One would rely on traditional neighborhood designations, with a certain amount of permits assigned to Crescent Park, Downtown North, Professorville and University South.

Another would create three concentric zones, one just outside downtown's commercial core, another one just outside that one, and a third one covering the more peripheral areas, including the southern portion of Professorville, the northern edge of Downtown North and much of Crescent Park. This option, which is favored by staff and most stakeholders, may also include a pricing structure in which employee permits cost more if they are closer to the downtown core.

The third option would create 11 "microzones" in the permit area, which would allow for more precise vehicle distribution but also create new challenges in enforcement and management, according to the staff report.

While residents in Crescent Park and beyond remain concerned about new developments and their implications for downtown's parking mess, city staff is more hopeful about the future. The city has recently launched a Transportation Management Association, a group charged with encouraging employees to take alternate modes of transportation and with reducing the drive-alone rate by 30 percent. If the group achieves this goal by 2030, off-street parking spaces, as well as garages, would be able to accommodate downtown's parking demand, assuming there is little or no downtown job growth, according to the staff report.

Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Know the problem
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2015 at 7:41 am

They don't want "in", they're being forced in by a " solution" that created the problem. They'd very much prefer not to have an RRRpP


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2015 at 7:53 am

There was so little foresight about the parking that none of this surprises me.

Moving the problem will happen until there is a better method of parking rather than "no parking". Where will the cars go?

These parkers obviously don't mind a couple of miles walk or bike or skateboard. They need somewhere to park. Give them a parking lot with a decent shuttle service.

Expecting an occasional all day parker to pay $17 per day to park is outrageous. The cheapest Caltrain ticket plus parking is much less than that so people can buy a ticket and park in their lot and never use the train. Does that make sense? No wonder Caltrain riders complain they can't find parking if they arrive at 9.00 am.

Where are all the electronic signs showing where parking is available? Where is the app to enable all day parking? Come to think of it, where's the 30 minute parking also?

The stupidity (yes stupidity, and I don't use that word lightly) in preventing people from parking without any viable alternative to buying a monthly permit or having to visit City Hall, is laughable. It is obvious that those who make these ridiculous plans have their own parking space so they don't really care about the rest of the hoi poloi and how, why or when they want to park and for how long. All they want to do is ban it.


15 people like this
Posted by Clyde
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:02 pm

"Give them a parking lot with a decent shuttle service."

A totally perfect repurposing for the Palo Alto airport runway.


28 people like this
Posted by It's the retail workers
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Neighborhood parking is a debate about where the low-income workers can park. Talking about office development and in lieu fees is hiding the fact that the majority of people parking in the neighborhoods are retail workers. Just look at how all the retailers are up in arms about RPP, while the office workers and companies in the downtown haven't said a thing.

Retail workers aren't going to be able to afford $500/year to park in the garages. They are having trouble affording $100/year paid up front to park under RPP. The city needs to focus on how to help the low-income workers have an alternative, not reducing their options further. That could be changing the garage pricing or helping them afford transit. But you can't just pretend this is about office workers and ignore that the majority of the neighborhood parkers can't afford alternatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Resident - from the RPP faq: "Daily visitor permits will be available at a cost of $5 each. Daily permits will be printed from the permit fulfillment website. "


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

SD

Great. So an all day visitor to downtown has to navigate the City website and take a printer with them to park on the street all day for $5.

What about arriving at a garage and lot and wanting to park all day? That's where most all day visitors will expect to park. When they can't work out how to park there all day they look for street parking.

How to encourage all day visitors? In fact, we don't want them. That's the message they get. I know for a fact that I don't go somewhere like Oakland, or Berkeley, or Walnut Creek (for want of a better local city) and waste time looking for parking options in advance, I drive there and expect a sign to help me find a parking garage or lot and then expect to be able to park for as long as I think I may need. 6 hours parking is what I want when I visit one of these places on business, sometimes 8 hours, but definitely more than 3. I look for a machine to print out my parking on the machine where I pay, not have a printer with me to do it.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Resident - You have a valid complaint... That affects about .01% of the people trying to park downtown. You may not like the permit program, but it covers most issues. If you are going to be downtown all day visiting a business, the business can print you a day pass. If you are just planning to loiter, 3 hours is probably enough. If you are a cheapskate, nothing prevents you from moving your car after 3 hours.


12 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2015 at 3:38 pm

The RPPP, in my opinion, has been very successful. I would like to thank the PACC for their effort.


9 people like this
Posted by Not on my block
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2015 at 3:51 pm

So I'm just barely outside of the new permit district, and was thrilled to have dodged that particular bullet. No, I don't want in, I don't want to deal with permits to park in front of my house, there is a little spillover but its not horrendous, and much preferable to having to deal with a permit program. Can we please not have permit creep??? The cure is worse than the disease here


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm

"staff is proposing to decrease the number of employee permits by 200 annually, until 2026, when no employee permits would be sold. ... The city has recently launched a Transportation Management Association, a group charged with encouraging employees to take alternate modes of transportation and with reducing the drive-alone rate by 30 percent. If the group achieves this goal by 2030, off-street parking spaces, as well as garages, would be able to accommodate downtown's parking demand, assuming there is little or no downtown job growth, according to the staff report."

You cannot solve a real problem by wishful thinking. Downtown workers who need to drive, due to a grossly inadequate transit system which will not get perceptibly better anytime soon, must park their cars somewhere. Assuming there is little or no downtown job growth is hilariously laughable, as is assuming the city would require all new jobs to be paired with adequate onsite parking spaces.

Midtown beware. You're next.


5 people like this
Posted by posteriori
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

what the first phase of the parking permit program has shown, is

1) commuters are willing to walk further for free parking rather than pay. Building more parking garages will not cause these commuters to use the garages

2) Caltrain & Stanford employees were enough of a factor that it caused the parking congestion. The previous deal which permitted Stanford to build more in exchange for no additional car trips to campus was a sham - enough of Stanford employees would park off campus and walk/bike to campus, causing traffic congestion.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Not on my block - What about a permit program is so horrendous and inconvenient?


5 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The problem of this cascading outward of employee parking in more distant residential neighborhoods was predicted by many well before the adoption of the ordinance more than a year ago. City Hall acknowledge this by explicitly deciding to "kick the can down the road" (the incremental opt-in provision). This sort of historical context would have been useful for the reader.


4 people like this
Posted by Too Much Complaining
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm

[Portion removed.] Parking should not be limited to 2 hours in residential neighborhoods. Yes, you are given 4 permits per household, but if i want to host friends at my house before 3PM or for multiple days, then we would need to pay $$ for a daily permit(s)(stupid) or drive to a random neighborhood with two cars (one with a permit), drop off the non-permit car and then drive back home with the non-permit holder.

At least consider going back to the color coded zones, or add them to the neighborhoods as well.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me/(us) in this revenue generating generation, where people are zealous about raising the property values on their homes, and putting their children into these strict routines that socialize them into these narrow close-minded money making "people" with little empathy for others because they're naive and inexperienced to people that fall outside of their life paths. Which in a way i believe hinders their overall experience in life.


2 people like this
Posted by Miria
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Is this how we want to spend our limited tax money, policing ever more complex parking rules and growing territory?


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 13, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Too Much Complaining - [Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment] Maybe you shouldn't be entitled to have a party without offsetting some of the parking you are using? I didn't detect any empathy from you for the residents who haven't been able to park near their own homes for the last few years.


Like this comment
Posted by AllenE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

AllenE is a registered user.

When I moved to Palo Alto in 1972 I had to have a permit to park in front of my home on Coleridge, which is no where close to downtown. At that time my car was the only car on the street. I had two cars and two people with one car in the garage. Now there are places on the street on my block but not always. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of cars and the number of families that have one car per person. That was not always the case. At some point they eliminated the permit program, which is fine with me. But it is possible to just have permit parking for the entire city if we wanted it. I now have 4 cars for 2 people and a one car garage. My driveway spits tree sap on any car parking there so I end up with three on the street. Perhaps I am not typical but I imagine as the years go by that parking will continue the trend I have seen and this will be a city wide problem. I am not advocating making the program city wide, but my guess is that we will be there at some point.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

Douglas Moran,

The only short-term solution is to spread the employee parking around even further than the current RPP.

Who predicted what is not relevant now.

What is relevant is the actual situation now and the need to spread the employee cars around further.

That is the FACT that you need to recognize,


Like this comment
Posted by Chris,
a resident of University South
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:11 am

Miria,

The program can be designed to be self-funding. There is no need to spend additional funds.v


4 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:15 am

In the spirit of Christmas, I wish that:

o Developers build or renovate office space that include enough parking space for the employees.
o The City of Palo Alto makes sure that the public parking garages are safe, well lit, and monitored or staffed, so no one has to be afraid, especially at night.
o The downtown offices and their employees realize that it is not correct to change an established neighborhood into an overfull nine-hour non-changing parking lot.
o The homeowners use their garages and driveways as much as possible.

In addition, I have two more very tangible wishes that bring benefits immediately and put things into perspective.

o Support the Food Kitchen at All Saints Church
o Support our Downtown Street Team


Like this comment
Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:44 am

I'm located in Downtown North, 200 block, mid-way between Middlefield and Alma. The daytime parking on my street has already re-filled to capacity. Being able to park on the street after a short trip away was wonderful while it lasted. Sigh.


6 people like this
Posted by Not on my Block
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

What is so inconvenient about permits (that are unnecessary)? Getting them, having to pay for something I see as unnecessary. Dealing with getting extras as needed; I have had assorted caregivers as well as aides and nurses coming and going to help with an elderly parent, I can't imagine how I would have made sure they all had guest permits as necessary. I have adult children that sometimes come home for a week or more--using a rental car. A housecleaner comes every two weeks and stays most of the day. A few times a year I have a large group of people over for a long brunch. The vast majority of the time I have 0-1 car parked on the street during the day--but I have no desire to manage and pay for permits on the occasion I have more than that--particularly because I see no problem, even though the permits stop less than a block away at this point, so I'm certainly in what is considered the "spillover" zone.


10 people like this
Posted by Jenny
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

The parking problems are not just confined to North Palo Alto, all of a sudden parking at Midtown has become almost impossible, I've given up shopping there. Many of the cars that fill up all the available parking spots at the Mitchell Park library are workers from North Palo Alto who bus or carpool to Downtown.

Parking permits should be made available to everyone living in Palo Alto both north and south.


8 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Jenny says, "Parking permits should be made available to everyone living in Palo Alto both north and south."

AGREED! The City of Palo Alto should have exactly one RPPP that covers the whole city. Every resident should be allowed the same access. The downtown color zones, the SOFA district, all city parking garages, and all other RPPP areas should be rolled into one program where all permit holders can park anywhere in the city for up to 72 hours in the same spot.


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Not on my Block - You view paying for a shared resource as unnecessary because you are only considering yourself. The problem is that collectively, the shared resource is now overused, so charging for it brings it back into balance. In your case, presumably you have a garage, a driveway, and you get a free permit, so you should be able to accommodate 3-4 cars with no inconvenience or problems. Paying $.96 a week for the right to keep a second car on the street isn't exactly a huge burden.


6 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 14, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Chip is a registered user.

@ AllenE - If you cut back the tree which drops sap on your driveway, perhaps you could move a couple of the 3 now parked on the street into your drive? Or just sell a couple of vehicles. 4 cars for 2 people sounds like excess.


Like this comment
Posted by Office Park
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Old PA is another neighborhood that will soon have parking woes. The proposed over development of the California Avenue corridor will force cars to park in Old PA and then the workers will walk under the Cal Ave underpass to their offices.


2 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 14, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Chip is a registered user.

Please, PA Planning & Bldg Dept, do not allow any ore modifications/dimunitions of parking requirements on new projects. That's residential as well as commercial. Permit no more new 3BR 2 bath houses with only a 1 car garage, as has been done on some of the mini-developments off downtown alleys.

The City collects money from developers based on the number of new residences to be built. Does PA then allow construction of 6 or 7 new units with single garages (instead of 5, for example, with doubles)inorder to collect the fees for the extra 1 or 2 units? Oh, this is in addition to City Transfer Tax. Does short-term greed affect the considerations of long-term effects of over-building? Just asking.


2 people like this
Posted by John B000
a resident of University South
on Dec 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Since my block was included in the RPPP, most of the parking spots are empty during the day, and the daytime parking has shifted two blocks south. Why not use the parking permit program to reserve parking for residents on one side of the street, and leave the other side open for whomever needs it - visitors, daytime services (housecleaners, gardeners, repair people, construction workers, downtown employees)? If we don't have enough downtown parking, permits or not, eliminating parking on empty streets just shifts the burden somewhere else, in my opinion unfairly. Do we want businesses and shopping in our town paying taxes and contributing to our economy or not?


Like this comment
Posted by Everyman
a resident of University South
on Dec 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm

"Why not use the parking permit program to reserve parking for residents on one side of the street, and leave the other side open for whomever needs it... ."

Great idea--if the residents' parking is put on my side of the street.


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

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