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.