Palo Alto looks to curb employee parking in Evergreen Park

Planning commission endorses Residential Preferential Program in residential neighborhood near Cal Ave

Residents of Evergreen Park are about to get some relief from the deluge of commuter vehicles that arrive en masse every weekday morning and fill up their neighborhood streets: a program that will limit parking to two hours for those without permits.

Modeled after the recently implemented parking program downtown, the new Residential Preferential Program in Evergreen Park would allocate a certain amount of permits to area employees (in this case, 250) and give every resident a free permit, as well as an option to buy three more for $50 each.

The city's Planning and Transportation Commission on Wednesday night unanimously approved the new program, even as commissioners, planning staff and neighborhood residents all agreed that it's far from perfect and will require incremental fine-tuning. Evergreen Park residents had been lobbying the City Council for more than a year to create a College Terrace-style system that would limit permit sales to residents. Some weren't happy about the fact that program also offers some permits to employees, particularly given that it doesn't include a plan for phasing out employee permits over time.

Planning staff also proposed adding the Mayfield neighborhood, just south of California Avenue, to the new Residential Preferential District and allocating 125 permits for each neighborhood. The planning commission recommended limiting the district to Evergreen Park, but making Mayfield eligible to join it by submitting a petition to the city.

Joshuah Mello, the city's chief transportation official, noted in a report that while the petition for the parking district only included Evergreen park, staff thought the inclusion of Mayfield is necessary "to better distribute permitted employee parking and prevent the relocation of unpermitted employee and long-term parking to the Mayfield area south of the California Avenue business district."

Not everyone favored the new parking limits. A survey conducted by the city showed 72 percent of the residents who responded favored the program. In Mayfield, the support rate was 60 percent. Furthermore, only 13 percent of the Mayfield residents who received a survey ended up returning it (in Evergreen Park, it was 32 percent).

Some employees are also concerned. Several dentists who work in the area urged the planning commission on Wednesday not to make parking restrictions too onerous for employees, given the already steep challenge of recruiting workers. They were particularly concerned about a proposal urged by many residents to gradually phase out the permit sales to employees. Reza Riahi, an endodontist with a local practice, was one of several dentists who urged the commission not to go that route. He asked that special consideration be given to health care providers.

"A reduction of this to zero means we cannot stay here to provide the care we need to provide," Riahi said. "That's what scares us."

But many residents called for making the program a resident-only one. Karen Machado argued that employee permits should be gradually reduced to zero.

"We're making our neighborhood a commercial parking lot and I have serious objections to that, especially if it's not significantly reduced over the next five years down to zero," Machado said. "We realize the city has serious problems with parking, but five years is is plenty of time to address the problem and remedy it."

The commission debated the subject and ultimately voted 3-2 not to phase out employee parking. Asher Waldfogel and Przemek Gardias both supported the gradual reduction, while Chair Michael Alcheck, Eric Rosenblum and Greg Tanaka all supported the staff proposal.

The commission also recommended that program divide the parking zone into subzones and sell zone-specific permits, thus ensuring that employee vehicles would be spread out. Alcheck noted that without such a system, the area closest to California Avenue would remain far more congested than the more peripheral blocks (Full disclosure: the Weekly building is on Cambridge Avenue, within the new parking-permit district).

"We're not doing anything to help individuals who are closer, in terms of spreading out the use," Alcheck said. "One way we did it in downtown is through subzones. A more perfect RPP might accomplish that."

Alcheck's proposal carried by a 3-2 vote, with Rosenblum and Gardias both opposing on the grounds that it would make the zones to rigid and hard to enforce.

"You hurt the liquidity of the whole system." Rosenblum said, "It becomes complex."

While the commission narrowly favored the subzones, it will be up to the City Council to ultimately decide whether to make the adjustment. The council is set to approve the details on January, though members had already expressed broad support for creating a parking permit program in Evergreen Park and directed staff in May to implement it.

Since then, staff has been surveying traffic levels and resident opinions in the neighborhood. The parking date indicated that congestion is very real, if somewhat uneven. In Evergreen Park -- which is bounded by El Camino Real, Cambridge Avenue, Park Boulevard and the Caltrain Corridor -- congestion was the worst at mid-day, with 13 blocks showing occupancy rates of greater than 85 percent. The occupancy on the blocks closest to California Avenue and El Camino were particularly busy, according to staff.

If Mayfield is included in the district, the permit district will be bounded by Park Boulevard, the Caltrain corridor, Oregon Expressway, Page Mill Road and El Camino Real.

The Evergreen Park program would resemble downtown's in other ways as well. It would allow two-hour parking for cars without permits and it would only be enforced on the weekdays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Under the current timeline, it would take effect April 1.


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32 people like this
Posted by Approve the Phase-Out
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 10:57 am

The Council needs to approve the phase-out. It's absurd for them to claim "we want to protect neighborhoods" and then allow residential streets to be choked permanently by employee parking. Didn't Tanaka run on a pro-resident platform? So why is he now voting against residents?

And rather than complaining about how they can't find parking spaces except in front of people's houses, businesses with inadequate parking should get their employees to carpool, use transit, and work from home and stop packing in so many employees into buildings never intended for that.

4 people like this
Posted by SJW
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:11 am

SJW is a registered user.

Free for the first permit one and $50 for 3 more permits??????? Makes me wonder why College Terrace has been paying $40 for the first one and $40 for the second and third for the last 7 years. Something's not right here. Why so complicated and unfair?

8 people like this
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:15 am

Kudo to the commissioners who propose zone specific permit. You can not sacrifice the right of residents in College Ave and Cambridge Ave just because it is TOO COMPLICATED for city to implement it. I believe our city is protecting palo alto residents no matter they live in a single house or apartment.

17 people like this
Posted by No surprises
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:35 am

Rosenblum said more than once that he is against RPP when it was being considered downtown. He works for Palantir which has taken over a huge amount of Downtown office space.

Surprised at Tanaka's turncoat? Where have you been? He even switched from his Republican party affiliation before the election.

10 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:37 am

A parking space has a real estate value of $50,000 to $60,000. That would rent out for $1,200/year.

Aren't parking spaces public property? So why is the City of Palo Alto giving away parking spaces to local residents in a de facto real estate giveaway, especially when it is facing a $6 million budget shortfall?

8 people like this
Posted by Working in the zone
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:38 am

Well, this sucks.

15 people like this
Posted by Evergreen Property Owner
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:47 am

I'm one of the medical providers who live in Palo Alto and own commercial property in Evergreen Park that provides space for medical/dental practitioners and their staffs. We have a limited number of parking spaces for patients and as a result rely on street parking for ourselves so that the people who see us are able to get in and out of our offices for their appointments.

I get that neighbors are unhappy with the influx of cars into the neighborhood. So are we. Most of these cars are coming from Stanford employees who are charged to park on campus and at the medical facilities where they work and many of them can't afford it.

It doesn't help that many neighbors along Park Blvd. who have empty driveways, park in front of their homes, oftentimes taking up two spaces to prevent an "outsider" from parking on the street, even though most of these cars are gone by 5 P.M.

As a Palo Alto resident and property tax payer (both residential and commercial) I find the Transportation Commission decision a bitter pill to swallow.

I might add that we will be happy to purchase non-resident permits, but many of us are Palo Alto Alto residents from other neighborhoods. I would hope that we get priority for theses permits. We also consider ourselves a part of the of Evergreen Park neighborhood for more than 20 years. That should count for something. Let's hope the planning commission doesn't turn a deaf ear to our concerns.

5 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:48 am

jh is a registered user.

And who will have to pay for all the additional code enforcement employees? The commercial community crams more and more employees into their offices and externalizes the cost to residents.

20 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:56 am


In what way are people parking on a public street "externalizing costs." Everyone has equal access to the *public* parking spaces. They're not parking in your driveway, for example.

What we have is a tragedy of commons. And the RPP is basically giving property rights to local neighborhood residents that they don't have any legitimate claim to, at a massive discount.

10 people like this
Posted by Farer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 12:41 pm

The costs of increased traffic on residents from nearby businesses have been studied and documented for decades. They clearly indicate that costs are externalized on residents in a dangerous and unfair way. Crime increases.
Scroll down to see the list of references.
Web Link

7 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Perhaps if you decide to live in a house adjacent to a downtown or business district, the benefits and costs of the congestion have already been capitalized into your property value. And if you are concerned enough about having outsiders in your neighborhood, why not pay the full market value for exclusive access to parking spaces that the city is currently giving you at a 95% discount? Why should the rest of the city give you a free land giveaway?

18 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 15, 2016 at 1:16 pm

The downtown program has worked great. Residents and local employees can buy permits. It kicks out 1.) Stanford Employees and 2.) Out of town Caltrain riders.

14 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

For the Downtown Residential Parking Permit program, I support phasing out neighborhood parking for office workers while retaining parking permits for low-income retail and service workers as well as workers in businesses located in the residential areas (such as medical and dental offices).

I support the same concept for these new Residential Parking Permit program areas.

Reductions in office worker parking in residential neighborhoods should be feasible because of increases in parking supply (through the new garage Downtown and near California Avenue) and reductions in parking demand (while there's a Transportation Management Association for Downtown, California Avenue area does not yet have one).

7 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2016 at 2:21 pm

@ True Residentialist.....Thank You for bringing up the hypocrisy of the neighborhood only parking proponents. The streets don't belong to them exclusively and as a tax paying citizen of Palo Alto, I should be able to park on any public street in the city without paying a fee.

5 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2016 at 3:12 pm

@ "who will have to pay for additional code enforcement employees?" It's a progressive liberal city managers' dream. Let's hire more city employees with no money to pay for them. Then we'll tax the residents to support the hires all while facing a 6 million dollar shortfall in the budget for next year. Make sense now?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Crescent Park

on Dec 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm

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

10 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Mama is a registered user.

One free permit to every household should go to all in any RPP district. In Crescent Park we have to pay for any permit, and each is good only for one specific car, which makes no sense. The only non-residents who are sold any permits should be workers at SMALL businesses, not office developments and certainly not to any new developments. Larger offices must provide their own parking and pay for it, otherwise no allowed development.

10 people like this
Posted by too many cars
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 15, 2016 at 5:47 pm

"the new Residential Preferential Program in Evergreen Park would allocate a certain amount of permits to area employees (in this case, 250) and give every resident a free permit, as well as an option to buy three more for $50 each. "

Why do Evergreen Park residents, most of whom have at least one off-street parking spot, need more than 2 on-street spots? And if you add 250 employees parking in this small neighborhood, this won't do much to solve the parking crunch. The only thing it does is deter parking by Stanford emmployees and Caltrain riders, which I guess is something.

14 people like this
Posted by @too many cars
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 16, 2016 at 7:31 am

"The only thing it does is deter parking by Stanford emmployees and Caltrain riders, which I guess is something."

You might be surprised by just how many Stanford Employees park in your neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 16, 2016 at 10:42 am

Instead of moving business overflow cars to residential neighborhood to increase the risk of hurting children, city should devote their effort to make the business region safe for employees to walk on the street late at night, especially the walkway to the Caltrain station and bus stops. The walking distance to the train station and bus stop is not longer than the walking distance to the parking spot in the residential neighborhood.

Like this comment
Posted by Stanford
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 16, 2016 at 11:11 pm

How much does it cost to park at Stanford? Is it Stanford students, or workers, who are parking in Evergreen?

The parking density seems worst on Sheridan, closest to Oregon Expy -- near the park-and-ride lot. Who is parking in that area? (It's not California Ave workers... the lots near California aren't full yet.)

4 people like this
Posted by be positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

be positive is a registered user.

Lots of Stanford students and staff park in evergreen park and elsewhere then ride bikes or walk to campus. I think ts about 30 a month for students and 85 or so for staff for a parking permit.

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

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