As downtown Palo Alto prepares for new parking restrictions on its residential streets, two other sections of the city have applied for their own programs aimed at keeping non-residents from leaving cars on their blocks.
The neighborhoods of Southgate, which is next to Palo Alto High School, and Evergreen Park, which is between Southgate and the California Avenue Business District, are each seeking a Residential Parking Program (RPP) that would limit parking for non-residents to two hours. These efforts are being initiated just as the city is preparing to expand the boundary of the nascent downtown program farther south and east to include the western section of the Crescent Park neighborhood.
Southgate residents say Palo Alto High School students -- and, to a lesser extent, Stanford University students and faculty -- are parking on residential blocks and then walking, biking or skateboarding to their destinations, according to the application filed by Christine Shambora and Jim McFall, co-chairs of the Southgate Parking Steering Committee. Increasing enrollment and ongoing construction at Palo Alto High School has created a parking shortage, one that is only expected to get worse, the application states. School administrators have not responded to requests for help, Shambora and McFall wrote.
With cars filling both sides of the neighborhood's narrow streets, fire trucks and ambulances are being impeded and street sweepers have difficulty cleaning the streets.
"Several blocks are completely parked up during the day," McFall told the City Council Monday night. "With cars parking on both sides of the street, the road becomes a one-way street."
In the case of one medical emergency, first responders "literally had to run down the street to get to the victim," he said.
Southgate, which lies between El Camino and Alma Street, consists of about 250 homes and includes Castilleja Avenue, Mariposa Avenue, Manzanita Avenue, Madrono Avenue, Escobita Avenue, Portola Avenue, Miramonte Avenue and Churchill Avenue.
Neighbors have been discussing with city staff the creation of a new parking program since January 2015, according to a letter signed by Shambora and McFall. At a recent meeting there was "consensus to submit the application, with 95 percent resident support for entering the RPP process."
"We understand that other neighborhoods are also experiencing parking and traffic problems impacting residential quality of life but, based on our research, work with staff, on-going safety issues and extremely high level of neighborhood support, we believe there are compelling reasons to support Southgate as the next neighborhood identified by the city to qualify for the RPP process," the letter states.
The two new applications were made possible by the council's decision in December 2014 to adopt a citywide ordinance spelling out a process for neighborhoods wishing to request parking restrictions. At the time, the only major parking-permit program in place was in College Terrace (a smaller program, barring overnight parking for non-residents, had been recently established in a section of Crescent Park).
The process begins with an application and a petition from interested neighborhoods. Planning staff then make a recommendation to the Planning and Transportation Commission on which district should get the priority for that calendar year. Once that happens, staff conduct outreach to area residents and non-residents and perform studies to make sure the neighborhood meets the threshold for parking congestion, which may vary from one neighborhood to another.
Districts should accommodate non-residential parking when possible while also meeting a standard for retaining enough available parking spaces, as determined by the city, according to a staff report that accompanied the ordinance.
Parking programs can also be phased in "to give non-residential parkers time to find other modes of transportation or parking locations," according to staff.
That is the approach being taken downtown, where the Residential Preferential Program will cap the number of employee permits sold at 2,000 in the next year and then reduce the number by 10 percent every year thereafter.
Evergreen Park, meanwhile, is looking for something different a program that would allow only residents to purchase permits and that, as a result, would effectively ban all-day parking for non-residents. In that sense, the neighborhood has requested a program similar to that of College Terrace, which was launched in 2009 after Facebook's arrival into Stanford Research Park exacerbated the area's parking situation.
While Southgate is primarily concerned about Paly students, Evergreen Park's frustrations center on employees in the California Avenue area. Much like in downtown, employees in the growing commercial area often park in the neighborhood to avoid both the two-hour limit along California Avenue and surrounding streets and the need to buy business-district parking permits. (This group of employees includes those of the Palo Alto Weekly, which is located on Cambridge Avenue.)
In addition to employees, the neighborhood streets are used by Caltrain commuters, individuals going to the airport and Stanford University faculty, staff, students and visitors, according to the application from Evergreen Park, which is generally bounded by El Camino Real, Cambridge Avenue, Park Avenue and Park Boulevard.
"Removing these all-day -- and sometimes multi-day -- parkers ... would allow for neighborhood residents to park in their own neighborhood, near their homes," the application states. "This will increase our safety, security and freedom of movement (especially for the disabled and seniors) and improve our quality of life. It would also enhance bike safety as we have multiple bike boulevards through the neighborhood."
Neighborhood residents signaled their intent to apply for a residents-only permit program on Feb. 1, when dozens attended a council meeting and presented a petition with 225 signatures. Christian Pease, speaking on behalf of the group, said that the neighborhood "is now at risk of becoming the Evergreen Park Commuter Parking Zone."
David Schrom, who also lives in the neighborhood, called the gradual deterioration of the parking situation "really just nothing short of shameful."
"This is really something you guys can solve just by granting this request," Schrom told the council.
It didn't take long for the group to get a response. On Feb. 10, four council members -- Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Greg Schmid -- co-signed a colleagues memo that supported moving swiftly ahead with a parking program in Evergreen Park along the lines of the one in College Terrace, with no permits for employees.
Evergreen Park and College Terrace, which sit across El Camino from one another, are afflicted by the same groups of commuters, the memo states.
In addition, major new developments are about to go up in or near Evergreen Park, including 2865 Park Blvd., 2650 Birch St., 2100 El Camino Real, 1501 California Ave. and 385 Sherman Ave. Surveys conducted by residents show Evergreen Park's streets were 70 percent full of parked cars on weekdays in 2015.
"Yet unlike College Terrace, Evergreen Park has not been granted relief," the draft of the colleagues memo states. "Annexing Evergreen Park to the existing College Terrace RPP is the simplest, least costly, and most expeditious solution since the College Terrace RPP has been in place for over five years and efficient procedures and policies have already been established that could easily expand to Evergreen Park."
DuBois told the Weekly that the new citywide ordinance for parking programs has a provision that allows council members to nominate neighborhoods for new RPP programs. That's what he and his three colleagues were seeking to do. The full council has not yet scheduled a hearing on the memo.
"The intent of the memo was just to stress there was some urgency to address the situation," DuBois said.
Meanwhile, the city is moving ahead this week with the second phase in the downtown program, which now includes a section of Crescent Park. While some residents in Crescent Park also clamored for residents-only permits, the council voted 5-0 to include employee permits and gradually phase them out.
When asked why the council rejected Crescent Park's request for a stricter program but several members support Evergreen Park's request, DuBois pointed to the differences between the two areas. Crescent Park, he said, is close to downtown and "We're trying not to abruptly change the rules on the business community."
In that case, he said, it seemed best to protect the neighborhood by restricting employee parking gradually. As for Southgate, he said, he would support their proposal as well.
"Ideally, both Evergreen Park and Southgate will get an RPP," DuBois said. "It's just that the Evergreen Park residents came to us, and they've got a real issue all day long, not just from California Avenue but from around Stanford Avenue at the other end of the neighborhood. They're concerned there's a whole bunch of new buildings that haven't come online yet."