News

Palo Alto set to move ahead with new garages

City Council looks to approve design contracts for new police headquarters, parking structures at downtown and California Avenue

After years of planning, Palo Alto is preparing to take a significant step toward alleviating the worsening parking shortages in its two main commercial districts on Monday night, when the City Council votes to approve design contracts for new garages in downtown and near California Avenue.

By moving ahead with the contracts in its final meeting of the year, the council looks to achieve some long-awaited progress on a few of its most pressing infrastructure priorities. One is a new public-safety building, which would be across the street from a new parking structure on Sherman Avenue. Another is a new downtown garage, which would go up on a city-owned parking lot at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street.

The biggest contract that the council is set to approve is with the firm RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture, which has spent several years assessing the city's public-safety needs and drawing up plans for a new police headquarters. In December 2015, the council agreed that the new building should be go up on a what is now a parking lot on Sherman, between Birch and Ash streets, kitty-corner from Santa Clara County Superior Court building. Construction of the three-story headquarters would only begin after the city builds a garage on another parking lot, off of Birch and behind Antonio's Nut House.

The parking structure will add 160 new parking stalls to the site, for a total of 460 spaces, and also include retail space.

Both the public-safety building and the new garage near California Avenue are included in the Infrastructure Plan that the council approved in 2014. The police building in particular has been a high city priority for more than a decade, with several independent assessors and citizen committees concluding that the existing police headquarters at City Hall is too small and seismically weak. A citizen committee that the city established to review Palo Alto's infrastructure needs concluded in a 2011 report that the existing structure is "unsafe and vulnerable."

According to the city's request for proposals, the parking garage and the public-safety building are expected to take about three years to complete. Much of 2017 will be spent on design reviews and environmental analysis, work that officials hope to complete by the end of the year. Under the city's tentative timeline, completion of the parking garage is targeted for late summer 2018, while the public-safety building would be up in late spring 2021.

Yet there is at least one cause of major concern: Construction costs have been rapidly escalating since the council adopted the Infrastructure Plan. The plan pegs the cost for the public-safety building and the garage at $57.8 million and $10.3 million, respectively. But as the new report from Public Works points out, costs may go up both because of the changes in the construction market and because of changes in the project, most notably a recent decision by the council to add retail space to the new Birch Street garage.

Lalo Perez, the city's chief financial officer, told the council's Finance Committee the rising construction costs are driven in large part by the high number of projects currently being built in the area. The heavy demand and high competition for labor has pushed up costs, he said. City Manager James Keene put it succinctly: Time is money.

"Fast decision-making and execution on capital projects is really in our best interests because those costs are going up faster than our revenue stream," Keene said.

The new Birch Street garage is one of several actions that the city is now undertaking to address growing citizen unrest over inadequate parking. Next week, the Planning and Transportation Commission is set to discuss the new Residential Parking Permit Program for the Evergreen Park neighborhood, which is next to the California Avenue Business District. Once the program is in place, area employees will no longer get free all-day parking on residential streets.

The new Evergreen Park parking program would be modeled largely on the one that was recently implemented in downtown. Much like the downtown program, permits would be sold only to residents and area employees, with the number of permits for workers capped at 250. According to the city planning staff's presentation in October, Evergreen Park would be divided into two zones, with 125 employee permits made available for each zone.

Residents would get one free permit per household, with an option of buying up to three more for $50 per year. For an employees within the district, the permit would cost either $149 or $50 per year, depending on income level.

The new downtown garage, meanwhile, is expected to provide a fresh option for employees who can no longer rely on residential streets for all-day parking since where the downtown parking-permit program was launched. The plan calls for a garage that boosts the number of parking spaces on the corner lot from 86 to 300.

On Monday night, the council is expected to approve a $1.9 million contract with the firm Watry Designs to provide design and environmental-assessment services for the new structure. While the council has budgeted about $13 million for the downtown garage, staff plans to present an updated estimate during the preliminary design phase.

In the likely scenario that the costs for the two garages and the the public-safety building exceed expectations, the council will be able to tap into a $30 million contingency fund in the city's capital budget. The council can also draw up to $4.8 million for the downtown garage from the Downtown In-Lieu Parking Fund, according to Public Works.

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Comments

13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2016 at 8:55 am

Who is going to pay for these parking garages? City homeowners through our property taxes? A special tax on merchants in the business district? Parking meter fees?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2016 at 8:58 am

Where are the electronic signs for the existing garages that we were promised?

Can we have some pay per hour parking machines in garages or at least an app?

Can we at least make some improvements to the parking we already have!!!!!!


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 8, 2016 at 9:21 am

Are self-driving cars being factored into these decisions?

It's likely that within five years, we'll have self-driving cars taxiing us around town, obviating the need for parking garages.


7 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

Where is there space for a parking garage at Hamilton and Waverly ?

These structures scale better and waste less space and obstruct less
light the larger they are.

It seems to be one of the best spaces in town would be what is already
a parking lot adjacent to the Aquarius theater ... that could hold hundreds
of cars.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:19 am

re: Hamilton & Waverly. Right on the corner...

Take a look here: Web Link

Larger than the lot next to Aquarius...


10 people like this
Posted by Why Not?
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:30 am

Several cities faced with the same choice have decided to subsidize ride sharing services (Uber, Lyft) for their residents to minimize the need for fixed infrastructure like parking garages. Garages not only cost a lot but take space away from possible retail or commercial space. Why do we always make plans for the last decade instead of the next decade (reference: the millions spent on libraries to house "books". Kids, if you don't know, ask your parents what a book is).


4 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:43 am

If you ever get to the point that downtown has too much parking, some of the remaining surface lots can be repurposed (hopefully for housing primarily). Downtown does not need more retail.


20 people like this
Posted by AmieA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:50 am

This makes me so SAD! What a waste of space in our gorgeous downtown areas!

I want Cal Ave and University to be fun, vibrant, walkable DOWNTOWN areas - not office parks or shopping malls with awful garages. All of these uses are antiquated, economically undesirable, and dying land uses at this point. I would love to see 300 small housing units at these spots with lease-limits on car ownership and transit pass subsidization for residents.

Parking garages will increase VMT, and who pays for the increased traffic, wear and tear on roads, poor air quality, noise,etc. - the area residents (like me).

Online shopping will continue to eat at our retail core areas, and traffic will only get worse. Only by placing permanent residents in the immediate vicinity if retail can we even hope to maintain them as economically vibrant spaces.

DUMP THE GARAGES AND BUILD SMALL-UNIT HOUSING!


6 people like this
Posted by residents vs workers
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

This all sounds reasonable, provided the city does build the new police headquarters on Sherman. My only concern: how would we keep residents of underparked developments (i.e. the low-income housing at Park/California where PAHC is proposing building 60 new units where there is currently a parking lot) from monopolizing the new parking spots?


4 people like this
Posted by Just don''t get it
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Just curious......If the Public Safety building is unsafe for the police department and the City of PA is in the same building then why isn't it unsafe for them???


4 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:13 pm

If construction costs are unusually high right now why rush to start? Is the expectation that they will continue to rise, as opposed to assuming the economy will slow again soon (which it always seems to do when things are hot...)?


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm

CPD
Yes, the lot opposite the Post Office ( why move it ? )

My mistake, I was looking at University. That lot may be bigger than the
lot adjacent to the Aquarius, but the job in it reduces usable space. In
any case using vertical space in parking lots that we already have seems
like a big win to me. That lot is also very narrow.

residents vs workers
I think if you bring in 300 housing units it creates too much unpredictability
with possible problems. Yes, it is great to live downtown if you live a certain
kind of lifestyle, but what kind of units? 300 housing units would have to be
small, almost mini ... so what are they Stanford housing? Who can afford
to live in them or buy them? How many are going to want cars? It always
seems better to have housing removed, but not too far, from concentrated
public areas so that people are not there all of the time. Every time they
go somewhere they have to leave and come back as opposed to living outside
the area they only come and leave when they need to go downtown, not
every time they go somewhere - so you get less traffic.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Good article and issues that I am glad will be addressed and that will keep city staff, commissions, committees and CC busy, hopefully too busy to put a lot of effort into the ADU proposal.

A couple points: "The parking structure will add 160 new parking stalls to the site, for a total of 460 spaces, and also include retail space". I drive on Birch at least once a week and I know that parking lot behind Antonio's Nut House very well. I question the math. I don't think there are spaces for 300 cars there now. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

C'mon. Drop the idea of mixing retail into a parking garage project. We don't need any more restaurants and nail salons in that area. The good retail we had was killed off by box stores and high rents. Let's not work so hard to bring it back when we should know it will never come back and work again.

"Both the public-safety building and the new garage near California Avenue are included in the Infrastructure Plan that the council approved in 2014. The police building in particular has been a high city priority for more than a decade, with several independent assessors and citizen committees concluding that the existing police headquarters at City Hall is too small and seismically weak. A citizen committee that the city established to review Palo Alto's infrastructure needs concluded in a 2011 report that the existing structure is "unsafe and vulnerable."

I guess this just shows how slowly things get done in PA. A problem that was raised a decade ago is now being addressed seriously and the solution might be near...uh well...just a few years away. It almost sounds like it was never a really big problem in the first place.

The cost: City Manager Keene is so right, "time is money", and since these projects have been delayed for so long the costs will be much higher, by millions of dollars, than if they were approved and started years ago. And now we're facing a budget problem! Consider if millions could have been saved by quicker action on these projects...there might not be a problem.


8 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:40 pm

@Mark & Why Not

Unfortunately, I think the time frame for autonomous cars and Uber's use of them is way out in the future, beyond 5 years. I would say closer to 10-20 years, well beyond my lifetime. And even then there will be many people that will still want to own a car. It was the American way when I was growing up. It was a sign of freedom for those not yet in the adulthood category, but being able to drive at age 16 without being able to vote or drink alcohol. Trust me, teenagers knew how to get around the alcohol limitation...sad to say because of so many deaths because of it.


6 people like this
Posted by more parking more traffic
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm

More parking will only be an incentive for more traffic. California Ave, Evergreen and Mayfield is already getting very congested, and these extra parking garages will also bring more crime. Will these parking garages be housed with a security officer? They should. Not to mention all of the construction. ay yi yi. There are already so many pits and buildings in the area please give us residence a break. And the new Police head quarters will bring more traffic along Park Blvd which is a heavy bicycle route. I concerned about all of the planned developments in the area. It seems like the traffic studies are just a protocol and then thrown out the window. You actually don't need a traffic study. Just ask any resident who tries to get in and out of their street and through Cal Ave. It's often a nightmare especially during business hours. Stop during this town into a BIG CITY. And who approved the hideous video display on the new VISA building at 300 block of Sherman ave. ugly ugly ugly


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I agree with all the above. Here is my two cents. Build new police station on the top of the underground garage. Build apartments above parking on Sherman.


12 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm

jh is a registered user.

The city's planning department formula for calculating how much parking new commercial development must provide is still the completely outdated 250 sq ft per employee. Yet commercial property owners are able to lease that 250 sq ft for occupancy by up to ten employees in that same space. Who sit around tables or small workstations just large enough to accommodate a computer and a chair. Property owners benefit from being able to charge exorbitant rents while providing hardly any parking. This explosion of daily employees is what is driving the parking shortage, yet it is our property taxes and retail taxes that are proposed to fund new parking garages.

Despite the common assumption that having offices contributes to the city's bottom line, unless the business is selling a product for which sales tax can be charged, commercial properties only very occasionally change hands that result in a new property tax evaluation. There are even legal ways to get around transfer of commercial properties so the property taxes remain the same, although any "improvements"to the land are added to the tax base. The city figures indicate that commercial properties don't even cover their costs to the city.


14 people like this
Posted by Caroline R
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Am I the only one who has done that math for that garage downtown. The city will be paying $61,000 for each of the 213 additional parking spaces. WHAT? This is a stupid, outdated project for a small downtown and I am not sure who is pushing it or why.

Read this: Web Link

"A confluence of the growing popularity of walkable neighborhoods and the arrival of self-driving cars may make our current levels of parking way over-supplied compared to demand in the near future.

There’s a good chance that many of these parking lots will become stranded assets: expensive, debt-financed projects that no longer generate enough revenue to cover their costs of construction and operation. When we add in the considerable social costs of subsidized parking and driving, newly constructed parking structures in cities may be the urban equivalent of new coal-fired power plants: obsolete, value-destroying activities. There’s not a lot cities can do about previous decisions to take on debt to build parking garages, but going forward, it seems like they ought to take a very careful look at whether it’s a sound investment, or whether they’re setting themselves up to be on the wrong side of tomorrow’s Big Short."

Just build more housing nearby and install more bike/walk-friendly infrastructure!


4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:33 pm

-- The city will be paying $61,000 for each of the 213 additional parking spaces.

Caroline .... have you calculated how much the chair under your butt at a restaurant costs?
If the parking structure has a 50 year lifespan that is $1,220 per year for that space, or $3.34 a day.
That seems reasonable to me.


4 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2016 at 2:26 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

Hey Caroline - that article you posted is about URBAN parking, not suburbs like Palo Alto which will have parking problems and car dependence for decades after self driving cars become common, which may be a decade from now. You might as well claim flying cars are going to solve our traffic problems.


Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 9, 2016 at 9:07 am

from the article:

"According to the city planning staff's presentation in October, Evergreen Park would be divided into two zones, with 125 employee permits made available for each zone."

How many retail operations are in the California Ave new area? The city council directed staff to fashion a RPP for Evergreen park that included parking for RETAIL employees of the Cal ave Business district only.

How many retail operations are there in the district and what is the real ned for parking in the adjacent residential neighborhood of Evergreen Park?


6 people like this
Posted by Caroline R
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

@CrescentParkAnon

Except that my taxes aren't paying for the chair under my rear at a restaurant. This is taxpayer money. Think about it.

@john_alderman

That is the point though. I want downtown PA to be a walkable, urban haven. That is why I pay a disgustingly high mortgage - to be able to walk to an urban downtown. I don't want to live in a Los Altos suburbia, dullsville. Time for some new GREEN thinking!


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2016 at 8:14 pm

"It's likely that within five years, we'll have self-driving cars taxiing us around town, obviating the need for parking garages."

So your car delivers you to your destination, then wanders around the streets until you call for it? We trade a parking shortage for permanent traffic gridlock? I see the pain. Where's the gain?


Like this comment
Posted by By Storm
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Looking at current development blue prints, automobile parking designs takes up much more physical space a than multi use housing. Community. Check it out. Any chance Molly Stone’s could sell its overflow parking lot across the street from its store on Birch Street for future affordable housing ? The World Wide Web/Internet mail order shopping is picking up speed and becoming much more of a reality than in-store shopping. If more parking garages are approved, make sure to leave enough room for RV’s and transient low wageworker auto spaces. Many, many individuals and families are living out or their vehicles. For example, a young mother pan-handling outside of the Birch Street Post Office just a week ago. Or another mother in one arm holding her infant baby and in her other hand a cardboard sign “please help”.

And. Don't forget to accommodate for the RV spaces needed for parking. Also single mom's need to know that because the desire to make more money ($100 dollars or more a year) they won't be locked out of the rental market.


4 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 9, 2016 at 11:24 pm

If a parking garage is built across from the Post Office, I hope it will be in a style that is compatible with the Post Office.


Like this comment
Posted by Drew McKendry
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

We have been seeing some interest from Zero Net Energy developers and wanted you to be aware of our system. Our system can create an opportunity for green space or additional commercial development. We could provide 800 parking spaces on the Sherman Ave lot with out digging therefor causing less disruption to the neighborhood. The exterior of our garage could blend in with current structures.

Please see our Robotic Parking System, optimal for new development of office & residential towers. We are cost-competitive with any conventional garages over 200 stalls. Please let me know if we can provide a feasibility study at your convenience.

Please see the following key factors for considering Robotic Parking Systems to increase revenue, capacity, efficiency, and reduced footprint.
Web Link

Land cost
Urban setting with land values above $80 per square foot.

Site dimensions
50% less land area than conventional ramp style.

Environment
LEED Green points for reduced greenhouse gasses.

Congestion
Excellent for mature high end shopping districts.

Historic districts
Facade can blend seamlessly into neighborhood

Convenience
Luxury residents can access parking with privacy.

Logistics
Each facility designed to match peak traffic capacity.

Security
No risk of injury / theft / vandalism / dent damage.

Insurance
Low hazard risk, may provide lower insurance costs.

Our Design Team can provide a Feasibility Study for your project.
RPS parking facilities have been operating in US for over 13 years.
We are currently constructing the world's largest robotic parking structure in Dubai.

--
Drew Mckendry
Development Representative
Robotic Parking Systems Inc.
Tel: 847.501.0059
Email: RoboticParking1@gmail.com
Web: www.roboticparking.com


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