With their neighborhood rapidly becoming a de facto commuter parking zone, residents of Evergreen Park want the Palo Alto City Council to take action by adding the neighborhood to the existing College Terrace Residential Parking Permit Program.
More than 250 residents signed a petition asking for the annexation, which they presented to city officials Feb. 1. The residents say Evergreen Park was originally supposed to be part of the successful parking program that applies to their neighbors to the west, across El Camino Real.
Under that program, drivers must have a resident permit, guest permit or day permit in order to park on College Terrace streets from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Without a permit, cars may be parked for only two hours or risk citation.
Resident Christian Pease told the City Council on Monday that there is precedent for Evergreen Park's inclusion in the College Terrace program: the 2000 Stanford University General Use Permit, which governs expansion of the university.
Stanford gave the City of Palo Alto $100,000 to develop the College Terrace parking-permit program; any excess money was to be used for a parking study for the Southgate and Evergreen Park neighborhoods, which are bounded by the Caltrain tracks, Churchill Avenue, El Camino and Cambridge Avenue. Evergreen Park lies just north of the California Avenue retail district.
The city spent the $100,000, plus $36,000 more to start up the College Terrace program, according to a 2009 city manager's report.
Pease told the council that Stanford's efforts to limit traffic on campus have, ironically, clogged Evergreen Park with cars. Stanford commuters as well as Caltrain riders leave their cars in the neighborhood to avoid Stanford and Caltrain parking fees.
"That leaves Evergreen Park as the only free and convenient all-day and all-night alternative for parking. ... This is out of balance, and it makes no sense," Pease said.
Some residents said the paucity of parking in front of their homes has created hardship for those with disabilities. Irene Au, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999, said her 70-year-old father lives with her and must contend with parking blocks away.
"Last week he came home from the grocery store in the middle of the day and literally could not find parking until he reached Stanford (Avenue) and Birch (Street). And that's quite far for a 70-year-old who has only one lung that operates, with four bags of groceries," she said. "We literally feel trapped in our own home in the middle of the day because you're scared that when we return home from wherever we go that we can't find parking on the street."
And it isn't only weekday commuters who are taking over the neighborhood, Au added.
"We witness people parking their cars in front of our house for weeks at a time, and they bring their luggage and they take Caltrain to the airport. The neighborhood has become a long-term parking lot for SFO," she said.
Samina Faheem, who lives near El Camino, said she has also had to park blocks away, which is a hardship because of an injury she has. Parking in front of her home has also been risky. A hit-and-run incident involving her car caused $2,500 to $3,000 in damage that she still cannot afford to fully repair, she said.
She asserted that city leaders should make sure developers are able to deliver on their promises of adequate parking before granting building permits. For example, she said, where there used to be a Foster's Freeze near her home, there are now two large buildings.
"Their parking lot does not support what businesses they have. I think they have fewer parking spots than their own employees (need)," she said.
The problem has led to a scarcity mentality that is causing greater hostility among neighbors as they compete for parking spaces, Au said.
"It's led to people kind of hoarding spaces with their garbage bins," she said.
David Schrom, president of the Evergreen Park Neighborhood Association and a neighborhood resident since the 1970s, said that he and others have expressed their concerns to no fewer than 10 mayors. They have asked the council to alleviate the situation before it became intractable, to no avail.
That the neighborhood has become an auxiliary parking lot is "really nothing short of shameful," he said.
Council members on Monday could not speak to the residents' concerns because the issue was not on the council's agenda.