Commission: Don't make neighborhoods compete for parking programs

Four neighborhoods are requesting relief from congestion on their blocks

The causes are different, but the problem facing the four Palo Alto neighborhoods seeking help from the city is the same: a worsening parking shortage that is leaving residents fuming.

And on Wednesday night, as the Planning and Transportation Commission weighed the four applications for new residential parking programs, commissioners agreed that each makes a compelling case for restricting parking for non-residents. To that end, the commission voted to recommend that the City Council increase the transportation division's budget and staffing so that it can accommodate the growing pile of requests for parking relief.

The city currently has a process in place that effectively forces neighborhoods to compete for restricted-parking programs by setting an application deadline -- March 31 -- and empowering the Planning and Transportation Commission to prioritize which program would be pursued this year and which would be deferred.

That doesn't sit well with Evergreen Park neighborhood resident Lucinda Lenichek and others who spoke to the commission.

"I think it's criminal to pit resident against resident," Lenicheck said. "All of our needs need to be met in a thoughtful fashion."

Of the four requests, the two largest ones are from Evergreen Park and Southgate. The other two concern a small section of Crescent Park and the streets near Edgewood Plaza in the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood.

Evergreen Park and Southgate garnered the most support from the commission. The adjacent neighborhoods, located between California Avenue to the south, Churchill Avenue to the north, El Camino Real to the west and Alma Street to the east, have each been inundated with cars in recent years. Evergreen Park's streets fill up with cars belonging to Caltrain commuters, Stanford University students and area employees (full disclosure: the Weekly's office is a block away from California Avenue). Southgate, located near Palo Alto High School, gets filled with cars driven by students and school faculty, residents have said.

Of the two, Evergreen Park has a slight edge as a result of a colleagues memo that City Council members Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman and Greg Schmid penned earlier this year. The memo, which the council is set to discuss on May 2, recommends that Evergreen Park get a parking program similar to the one in College Terrace, which restricts non-resident-parking to two hours.

Given the council's support for the Evergreen Park effort, Commissioner Michael Alcheck said Wednesday that he would favor prioritizing the neighborhood's request over the other three.

Commissioner Kate Downing, by contrast, gave the slight edge to Southgate. Because Southgate's streets are particularly narrow, residents testified, the parking congestion creates a safety hazard and makes it difficult for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks and construction vehicles to access homes. In their petition, residents wrote that they are losing their ability to "make normal residential use of our neighborhood streets."

Downing said she supports Southgate's proposal more than others because of the safety concerns.

"If fire trucks can't come through when there's a fire, it's clearly a safety issue," Downing said.

Meanwhile, the Crescent Park application pertains to three blocks just outside the existing downtown residential permit-parking district. Because these blocks -- the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Hamilton Avenue and the 500 block of Chaucer Street -- are not eligible to simply join the district with a simple petition (an option that's available to the blocks within the established district boundary), they had to apply for a new program.

For residents of Crescent Park, the parking congestion is a relatively recent phenomenon. When downtown adopted new parking restrictions, some commuters started to park outside the zone in residential areas where free all-day parking is still available. In other words, Crescent Park.

Also applying for a parking program is the area near Edgewood Plaza, where residents complain that visitors to the recently redeveloped shopping center and residents of East Palo Alto are parking on their blocks.

On Wednesday, the commission members generally concurred that choosing among the four neighborhoods is, in some ways, a false pressure generated by the city itself. The council has budgeted about $300,000 for new parking districts, Interim Transportation Planning Manager Sue-Ellen Atkinson told the commission. Implementing all four would cost more than $700,000, she said.

Rather than prioritizing one petition over others, planning commissioners are appealing to the council to add more money and staffing to the process of creating parking programs.

"I find it somewhat striking that for a council that has talked many, many times about parking -- and council members who made parking the primary issue of their campaigns -- that we find ourselves in the position where we can only approve one parking district," Downing said.

Commissioner Asher Waldfogel made the motion calling for all four applications to receive the needed budgeting and staffing. Within the four, Evergreen Park and Southgate would be addressed first. The commission voted 5-0, with Chair Adrian Fine and Commissioner Greg Tanaka absent, to approve the proposal.

In a separate vote, the commission also requested that the council consider objective criteria that could be used for future evaluations of parking applications. This would include a discussion of how high of an occupancy rate the city should encourage and/or tolerate in different residential areas. It would be helpful, Rosenblum said, to have more direction about "what the ideal parking situation is." The commission voted 4-1, with Waldfogel dissenting, to request that the council set a "capacity goal" for parking.

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15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 28, 2016 at 7:34 am

"Criminal" is the right word. As long as they're incentivized by giving out more exorbitant parking tickets while paying minimum wage to meter maids, they'll kindly appease the requests of residents and claim they need to increase the budget.

These folks couldn't run a business to save their lives.

31 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2016 at 8:07 am

It's always entertaining to read one article that states the city doesn't have money to help out residents (only $300k for parking programs) and then in the same day read about an increase of $11+ M in wages. The city has the money, they just fail to properly manage it.

39 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

Yup. Just keep adding more office buildings. That'll fix everything. Keep adding more under-parked buildings and see how many retailers you can destroy.

Didn't we just spend a fortune "revitalizing" Cal Ave only to plan on sticking costly new city buildings near in the parking lot which will -- guess what -- eat up parking.

This city's nuts.

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:43 am

So where will they park instead? They don't vanish just move elsewhere !!!!!!!

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2016 at 10:10 am

Don't you know? If City Council raises taxes yet again, they will then have money to invest in "green" transport options like bicycles trains shuttles and buses, and all the individuals driving cars will magically modify their schedules so they can ride a bike or take the bus instead!!!
Then they won't even need parking spots!!!
And everyone wins!!!

5 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2016 at 10:42 am

If you are a thoughtful person, you will realize the city can't do anything about it. Tear down the almost-finished humongous office being built near the court house? In your dreams.

Times change. You either adapt or you perish. That is how nature always wanted it anyway, seeing as 90% of earth's species have vanished. This is another case of grumpy seniors angry at the evolution of life at a rate they cannot handle.

4 people like this
Posted by anon Evergreen park
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:11 am

anon Evergreen park is a registered user.

Notable to me is that the planning commission included in their motion items NOT on their agenda, including pricing of existing permits and A threshold of Capacity for non resident parking on residential streets.

These important issue were not agendized therefor persons who may have wanted to address these issues were not able to do so…..Seems like a brown act violation to me.

6 people like this
Posted by Addison resident
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:26 am

I am a resident of Professorville and am in the Downtown RPP parking permit area. I felt supportive of the program in what I believed was it’s theory: to keep people who work downtown from parking on the residential streets in order to free up the space for the residents. I felt like this was mostly being met in phase 1 of the program, but now phase 2 has begun and I am gravely disappointed and concerned about the program and want to warn other neighborhoods about this before they sign up with the city for this program.

Phase 2 of the RPP program gives each household only one free permit. I know that we all should have a garage and a driveway, but the reality is that some of the homes in my neighborhood were built over 100 years ago, so we don't all have garages and driveways (or ones that are usable), and I believe that placing a tax on these people is unfair and unjust. I understand that $50/year for a second permit is not much, but we all have different economic circumstances and it might be taxing for some people.

Residents are already paying property taxes and should not have to pay another tax to park their car in the street. My understanding is that this program was developed in response to the large numbers of people who work downtown and park in our neighborhood and thus deny the residents of the neighborhood and their friends, family, and domestic employees a place to park. The more logical answer would be to give all cars of a given household a resident parking permit for free and to make available visitor passes for their various visitors. This should not be an income-generating program for the city of Palo Alto, it should just give the residents access to the street in front of their homes! Be wary of adding your neighborhood to this program, it is turning out to be a terrible idea in my opinion.

26 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

Be Positive is a registered user.

To the question of "where will they park instead", many of the people that park in Southgate are Paly students, most live within walking or biking distance to school. Paly faculty can park on campus or at the District offices. The Stanford employees who park in both Evergreen and Southgate then bike onto campus will have to find parking on campus and quit gaming the system. The Caltrain riders will have to park in the Caltrain lots and pay (horrors) for parking.

And we just need to stop adding offices, period.

13 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:45 am

"Residents are already paying property taxes and should not have to pay another tax to park their car in the street."

Uh no. This is a new right you've been granted. You didn't buy this when you bought or rented where you live before this program was put in place.

The streets belong to the city in general. Your property line ends at the street (if not further up). Why do residents have priority to basically "own" the street in front of them? And why should this be a "freebie?"

It should go the other way - if residents want to "lease" or "buy" the ability to restrict parking to residents, they should be paying the rest of us (i.e. the city) a fair rate for this right.

I think $400/month per vehicle sounds about right.

14 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:51 am

And who is going to police all this, and pay for it? When I complained many years ago about parking in front of my house, I was told "It's a public street." News to me that this is no longer the case.

14 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Apr 28, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I've commented and written letters to the editors several times. The city council has simply pushed a problem they let get created into the neighborhoods. My 1-block street used to have parking with turnover. Now it is fully parked by 8-9 and nothing moves out until 5 Monday through Friday. Ridiculous!
1. New buildings have got to have the requisite number of spaces needed to support their activity.
2. Our "leaders" must go back to the drawing board and work out a better plan for downtown workers.
3. Retire the "residential parking plan" now.

17 people like this
Posted by Me me me
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Carol- is your street a public street? If so what is ridiculous about public streets being used by the public. Besides the Palo Alto- it's all about me attitude

2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Addison and Carol,

You are the type of people who will whine about everything. The RPP is a practical compromise that gets the ball rolling.
Your sense of entitltlement is unbecoming and harmful to the majority of us who want a practical solution NOW.

32 people like this
Posted by Stanford at Fault again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Residential streets are for RESIDENTS and their families and guests. NOT for Stanford employees, not for downtown employees, not for people who don't live on those residential streets or who are guests of those residents.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Stanford and downtown employees NEED parking of their own!

12 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:24 pm

@ Me, Old Palo Alto.......thank you. As a tax paying resident of Palo Alto I should be able to park on any public street within the city borders. As a commercial property owner near the Evergreen Park neighborhood, I understand the dilemma of residents whose streets are being filled with mostly Stanford employees who are being charged up to $400 per month to park on campus or near the hospital. These neighbors have taken to parking on the street oftentimes taking up two spots to preserve the spaces in front of their homes while their driveways are empty. Should the neighbors wish to lease or purchase the spots on public streets, they should pay a premium to do so as you stated. I'm not sure the sale or lease of the street to private citizens would be legal, but if faced with the burden of paying a fee if it were, I'm sure that a lot of the complaining would stop.

I'm a little tired of the "squeaky wheel" getting greased tactics that these NIMBYs use to get the city to accommodate their needs and ignore everyone else. As far as the Stanford problem is concerned, the city should be talking to them about this issue. They've got the land and resources to build parking structures for their employees.

10 people like this
Posted by Not hard to understand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Stanford at fault--you are so wrong. Residential streets are public streets and are therefore available to the general public. They are not limited to residents and their guests.
Why is that so hard to understand?

22 people like this
Posted by WakeUp
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

We are seeing the impacts of developer friendly Councils of the past. Too many new buildings without enough parking and aspirational non-car transportation policies.

Remember the root cause when it comes time to vote this fall. We need new resident oriented Council Members. Not tired incumbents or developer funded, unconstrained growthers.

11 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm

As a Paly parent for many years, my last is now a driver and although my kids have always used their bikes for school, there are times that they may want to drive. We live south of Oregon and there are no buses and it would be a long walk. If a bike gets stolen or broken, which happens, then how do they get to school? Car is the obvious answer and then of course they have to get home again.

The real issue is that Paly, along with all our schools, do not have enough space for people to park on campus. There are parking permits for students who drive everyday, but for a student who needs to drive for a few days due to a stolen/broken bike for example, there is no other option than to park on the streets off campus.

Yes, build the schools as big as you like, but don't be surprised when the neighborhood becomes a parking lot. Thankfully we will soon be done.

Rather than asking for parking permits, the local residents would do much better complaining to PAUSD and telling them to stop making the schools too big that traffic and parking becomes a problem.

12 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

The city council should follow the desires of the voters. Parking regulations should follow what the voters want. Guess what, commuters shouldn't be voting in Palo Alto local elections. If the voters want to have free parking for residents and force non-residents to limit how long they park, that is entirely reasonable and fair to the taxpayers.

Foothills Park is closed to non-residents. Other cities provide free parking at their parks to residents but charge non-residents.

Residents don't have to provide free parking for commuters.

6 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

1) Sales tax pays for your streets, NOT your property tax.
2) Offices and business provide revenue for the city, NOT your property tax.
3) Streets, including the parking, are public right of ways. That is federal law.
4) All houses in Evergreen Park have off street parking except two. Both of these had garages and were allowed by the city to convert without adding parking on site.
5) Most houses in Evergreen park have three or four vehicles associated with them.
6) Most of the people parking in Evergreen Park work on Cal Ave. I know because I stop them and ask and have been doing so for a decade. About a third of them have no choice. About a third of them could easily ride a bike or take public transit but don't.
7) Paly students park in Southgate?! Good grief! That is obnoxious. I graduated Paly class of '81, which, to my knowledge, at 550 students, had the biggest graduating class in the schools history. There was always room in the parking lot because pretty much everybody rode a bike, rain or shine. It was NO BIG DEAL. Give south gate their parking permits then base school parking permits on grades or behavior. That's my idea of a win win.

5 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm

@ Jeff...residents don't own the streets, therefore your point makes no sense.

6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Jeff writes "Residents don't have to provide free parking for commuters."

Residents are already PAYING out-of-town commuters for both legs of their commutes under the new Car Pooling program. That includes city employees. We're already paying for 1,000 cars -- 2,000 car trips.

If this new program is "successful," I wonder how many commuters we'll be asked to fund since we have about 2.5 commuters for each PA resident.

10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm

"This is another case of grumpy seniors angry at the evolution of life at a rate they cannot handle."

PA Resident has a point. Careless voting and lax supervision of our city council have surrendered our town's character to outside wealth and power. Is it now our holy duty as the defeated inferiors to give up whatever remains of the city to our feudal masters?

I think PA Resident has a 24/7 reserved parking space and watches too much TV.

13 people like this
Posted by PAmom
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2016 at 7:44 pm

I think someone should also start keeping track of how many parking spots each construction site takes up...not only from their vehicles but from the actual project. It's a lot! There's a lot of construction going on in the Cal Ave. area right now which is taking up parking spaces...and several projects about to begin. I'm just saying.

3 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

If households are supposed to park their cars on their property and off the streets, then businesses are supposed to park their cars on their property and off the street.

If households are entitled to park their cars in the street in front of their property, then businesses are entitled to park their cars in the street in front of their property.

It's that simple and fair.

8 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Maybe when there really is no parking in residential neighborhoods to accommodate city sponsored over-development, business leaders will ***** to our hapless city govt 'leaders', and maybe, just maybe, something will be done. I have my doubts city govt will ever figure out that over-development and pandering to developers is not what most residents want from their elected and appointed leaders.

2 people like this
Posted by dianajill
a resident of Nixon School
on Apr 29, 2016 at 10:04 am

dianajill is a registered user.

Does no one look to other communities that have successfully solved the traffic and parking problems? Park and Ride lots at the edge of town, frequent and reliable free shuttle service, light rail for longer distances, low-fare mini-bus networks in more congested areas, on-call special vans for seniors and handicapped. There are many more examples. The only solution that anyone seems to think about is adding more parking places. That's unsustainable!

The only way to improve traffic congestion and parking problems is to get a lot of people to switch to alternate transportation. The only way to get people to switch to alternate transportation is to make driving and parking so congested as to be impossible. I hope we're close to getting to that point so that the powers that be are forced to come up with sensible, sustainable, regional solutions.

4 people like this
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 29, 2016 at 11:19 am

It's more impossible to use public transit around here than it is to drive and park.

7 people like this
Posted by Parent of Paly student
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2016 at 11:31 am

Shame on the South Gate residents who moved close to a high school and now vigilantly watch when the students park in front of their houses to see if they have caused any violations. And if any are caused they promptly call the parking enforcement services. And that includes if the tires are beyond 18 inches from the curbs. One poster wrote that these students live within walking and bike riding distance of Paly -and they know that how? What kind of message are they sending to our students? [Portion removed.] My son had just started to drive our car to Paly. There is major construction at Paly, and so less parking spots. So you would think the neighbors would be a little more understanding. But no- instead they call the enforcers every day with complaints. They are doing this on purpose. They are petitioning for the 2 hour permit parking that College Terrace has. So my son came back to his car where he had left one tire a bit beyond the 18 inches. And he is very bright - a warning would have sufficed, especially since it was his first time. But instead a $45. fine was issued.
Thanks South Gate resident for teaching my son an important message: to bring a ruler and measure the distance from his tires to the curb prior to going to his 12th grade classes where there is just a little pressure to do really well on his exams, the SAT and the ACT exams so that he will get into a college. Thanks for adding just a bit more stress to his life. He actually took it quite well. [Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm

"Maybe when there really is no parking in residential neighborhoods to accommodate city sponsored over-development, business leaders will ***** to our hapless city govt 'leaders', and maybe, just maybe, something will be done."

Be very careful what you ask for. Our city government listens to businesses much more than to its residents. What you are likely to get is a complete abolition of residential parking restrictions so the business leaders' employees can park unfettered in the streets again.

2 people like this
Posted by Ashamed of my Neighbors
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2016 at 11:35 am

I do believe Crescent Park had a lot to do with their "parking problem". Where did they think all those cars were going to go when they "revived" that shopping center? They let the developers take almost two thirds of the parking places away and replaced them with residential living units (good move for them but bad for EVERYONE else-but the City & Crescent Park approved it). Seriously, was the idea that only a few people at a time would be driving their cars over there, something they truly believed was a reality. Wait till the grocery store comes back. All those cars that flow over into the grocery parking now will be back on the streets and it will be even worse. At this point, all I can say is shame on Crescent Park & the city for allowing the greed of more incoming tax money, poor planning and plan enforcement (you know what I mean) to allow this situation to get to this point to start with.

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

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