Expanded parking program meets resistance in Crescent Park

Palo Alto residents warn annexation of new blocks will only shift congestion

A proposal to expand downtown Palo Alto's permit-parking zone is proving to be a tough sell in Crescent Park, with neighborhood leaders coming out against a program that they say will only worsen congestion near their doorsteps.

The plan, which the City Council is scheduled to consider Monday night, would annex 12 blocks into downtown's Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) district, which was established last September in response to years of complaints about the area's parking problem. Parking for cars without permits in the district is now limited to two hours during the weekdays. Because permits are only issued to residents and downtown employee, the scheme prevents Caltrain commuters and Stanford University faculty and students from using residential blocks as their free all-day parking lots.

But while the pilot program has alleviated congestion in some of the most impacted blocks of Downtown North and Professorville, it also worsened congestion in areas just outside of the permit area, which was bounded in the first phase of the program by Palo Alto Avenue in the north, Embarcadero Road in the south (east of Bryant Street, the southern boundary was Lincoln Avenue,), Alma Street in the west and Guinda Street in the east. The new proposal, which was prompted by resident petitions, would expand the zone further south and east.

The zone would now include the 1100, 1200 and 1300 blocks of Waverley Street; the 800 block of Forest Avenue; the 800 and 900 blocks of Hamilton Avenue; the 300 block of Kingsley Avenue; the 500 block of Lincoln Avenue; the 800 block of Lytton Avenue; and the 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Seneca Street.

The council already endorsed the annexation scheme last December, when it considered the proposals for the program's next phase. It also approved a proposal by staff to limit the number of permits sold to employees to 2,000, and to disperse these permits into 10 "microzones" throughout the area to make sure downtown's commercial core doesn't bear more than its fair share of commuter vehicles.

At the council's Dec. 14 meeting, several residents from the blocks just outside of the boundary testified about the worsening situation on their streets, as commuters simply shifted to the peripheral blocks to avoid paying for the new permits.

Perry Irvine, a resident of the 1100 block of Waverley, said that from the day the new parking program took effect, "the parking in front of our house and entire block going well into the next block has been completely impacted."

"Anybody coming to visit us simply has no place to park unless they park in our driveway," Irvine told the council.

Now, some Crescent Park residents are concerned that the same thing will happen to them once the annexation takes place. Rather than expand the existing program, the city should grant them a parking program similar to what is in place in College Terrace, they maintain. That program restricts permits to residents and includes time limits for anyone else.

John Guislin, who represented Crescent Park at the stakeholders group that helped design the initial program, argued in a letter to the City Council that the proposed annexation to the program would be inconsistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan, which has a policy committing the city to "protect residential areas from the parking impacts of nearby business districts."

"To describe codifying the intrusion of commercial parking into residential neighborhoods and the expansion of an RPP district into residential areas that had no prior intrusion from commercial parking reveals a stunning lack of appreciation for the concerns of residents and a willful denial of reality," Guislin wrote. "Staff has turned approximately a square mile of residential neighborhoods into the largest commercial parking lot on the Peninsula."

Norm Beamer, president of the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association, made a similar argument in a letter to the council. Writing on behalf of the association's steering committee, Beamer wrote that he objects "in the strongest possible terms" to the proposed annexation of several Crescent Park blocks into the district. The change, he wrote, would "result in an unwanted influx of non-resident parking for the first time in the over one-hundred year history of the neighborhood." He also urged that the council allow impacted Crescent Park blocks to have a College Terrace-style program.

"We all knew that as soon as the RPP enforcement for Phase I went into effect, the non-resident parking problem would immediately spread outwards and impact areas of Crescent Park for the first time," Beamer wrote. "It is totally unfair and unacceptable for the city to convert our neighborhood into a parking lot for the downtown office workers.

"The city for years has allowed developers to build new office space, and allowed companies to convert retail space into crowded warrens for dot-com startups, without requiring adequate downtown parking. Up until now, this has not affected our neighborhood. But this new proposal will suddenly allocate a substantial number of non-resident parking permits to our blocks," he wrote.

Now, it will be up to the council to decide whether to stay the course and approve $158,329 in contracts to make the second phase possible or to go back to the drawing board. If the council moves ahead with the staff proposal, the program would begin in late March.

The decision will have to be made by a short-handed council with at least one member participating despite a conflict of interest. Of the nine council members, five have property interests within the expanded zone (or, in the case of Mayor Pat Burt, just outside the zone). With only four able to avoid a conflict of interest, the council will have to draw a name to allow the fifth member to participate so that it would have a quorum.

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5 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

Council members are required to report their financial interests within Palo Alto, but their official reporting forms, which are available for viewing online, are surprisingly blank. I don't remember five council members reporting a financial interest in Crescent Park.

15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:12 am

It is way past time to help people park rather than putting up more and more restrictions. It would be better to have free parking over at the Baylands athletic fields and near 280 with regular dedicated shuttles to enable people to park for free with a reasonable shuttle fare to downtown.

39 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:31 am

"The city for years has allowed developers to build new office space, and allowed companies to convert retail space into crowded warrens for dot-com startups, without requiring adequate downtown parking."

The problem succinctly stated. This mess is the legacy of an unholy alliance between developers, planning staff, and pro-development council members during the past two decades. Neighborhood associations like Beamer's must support residentialist council candidates, and simultaneously ensure that the pro-development council members from the past 20 years are never elected again.

22 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Commentator has hit the nail on the head. It wasn't hard to figure out that added office buildings and the crowded warrens for dot coms (great phrase!) would produce the parking and traffic mess that we now have. And it will probably get worse. In the last election, we fell short of a pro-residentialist majority on the Council. Let's not make the same mistake this year.

4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Hmmmm... Except it's not the office workers doing the parking in the neighborhoods - every office employer I've ever heard of offers free permits to use the garages. Neighborhood parking is from the retail and restaurant workers, and there's a lot more of it because downtown is a lot more active than it was ten or twenty years ago. (I was there!)

So, if you want to push these minimum wage workers out of the neighborhoods, what are you going to offer them as an alternative?

10 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 1, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Observer is right... I recently had to move an hour away because I couldn't afford to live in the Bay Area. I still work downtown and am thinking about quitting due to the traffic and the parking. I don't make enough to deal with the problems. Soon Palo Alto is going to have no minimum wage workers. People making 6 figures will just have to clean up after themselves. Good luck. Thank you Tech companies for forcing out a 5th Generation Palo Altan. Many are soon to follow.

Like this comment
Posted by Affordable Housing - Y Not?
a resident of University South
on Feb 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

"Soon Palo Alto is going to have no minimum wage workers."

Isn't Palo Alto's extensive affordable housing program supposed to address these kinds of needs? If not, it ought to be restructured pronto so it does. We need Downtown Worker way more than we need techies.

Like this comment
Posted by Uber
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2016 at 8:24 pm

Why not have some big parking outposts on the outskirts of the city with a shuttle?

OR to find out where people are mostly commuting from, do an Uber test.

Offer workers who live in RWV, Menlo Park, and other nearby places FREE rides for a week.

Does anyone know what the demographics are?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Feb 1, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

7 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:27 pm

So now that the residents of the downtown area area are finally provided with very minimal parking relief, via a permit program that still allows thousands of workers to buy permits and park in the area, some of the free parking seekers have moved further out into other neighborhoods and have started to impact these residents. But residents who have never had downtown workers parking in front of their homes before don't want any permits sold to downtown workers and want a college terrace approach with only residents and short term parkers allowed. I agree, as a downtown resident, who has lived here when downtown used to actually serve residents, had lower total volume of workers and wasn't just a business hub with a food court for tech workers, I have seen the influx of all those low paid workers and some techies parking in the neighborhood. The city needs to send the message that this is the developers problems not the city resident's problem to fix. If business owners and downtown property owners want their workers to park they have a few options: 1. pay them more so they can buy a permit, 2. if there aren't enough spaces available downtown, buy some property and build their own garage, with their own money - not city money. 3. If they can't afford it, close their restaurants and businesses and leave. I will be glad to see the food courts move out and maybe the techies will learn how to bring a sandwich for lunch.

5 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2016 at 3:23 am

Just an extra bother and an extra cost ... don't want it, don't need it.

1 person likes this
Posted by PICP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Go cm!!! Exactly. CP permit holders often see personal shuttle service happening in their neighborhoods who are free parkers carpooling to downtown. One permit, carload workers. They get around it in orher ways. The entire RPP program needs work. I want resident only permits round the clock every neighborhood except where there are businesses. That shoukd remain restricted to three hours. Period.

4 people like this
Posted by Carol
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

California Ave used to have low-scale shops that provided things that the neighborhood wanted and needed. The city provided plenty of free parking in the lots behind the shops on both sides of the street. The city even built a two and a half story parking lot. Balance . . . . merchants that served the neighborhood, small office space for small businesses, and parking that pretty much took care of any issues.

Then, the City and developers decided in their infinite wisdom that this happy scene needed changing. Along came the efforts to turn California Ave into a second downtown -- as if the first was a model for residents and shoppers! Trees were cut down, the street was changed with glittery sidewalks in places that looks like someone dropped Coke bottles everywhere.

The city approved a lot of massive scale office buildings -- including the massive, and massively ugly one on Park near an already dangerous underpass to Oregon - built right to the curb (just look at the buildings on the other side of the new ugly one -- landscaping and trees in front -- versus the new one. Office workers bring cars -- no matter what the transportation planners wish, particularly when there are few alternatives -- and they demand restaurants for lunch, but are gone for dinner.

The City and the transportation department kept their head in the sand -- no need to plan ahead for mitigation of traffic and parking and balance with the residents who live and vote in Palo Alto. They decide each new building as a stand alone project with no consideration for all of the other enormous projects they have approved and have in the pipeline (and feel too badly about the poor developers to cut back on once the application is in). At some point, the City also made all of its own parking lots 2-hour limited -- good for shoppers, but no accommodation for workers.

So, now they say that the residents are just being selfish and too tied to the past. Please . . . the residents would like a little balance here and a City Council who actually listens to who votes here. Unfortunately, many on the Council appear to be career politicians who will want the money from developers to run for their next office.

These current problems are the result of a short-sighted City government that is more concerned with developers making the most amount of money possible, and not with creating the kind of balanced and livable community that Palo Alto has long been. Those who built Palo Alto with lots of parks (hey -- there's an opportunity for a developer!) and recreation facilities and libraries, community centers, and balanced retail and office facilities are turning over in their grave.

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

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