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City moves ahead with new downtown garage

Palo Alto City Council approves five-story structure with retail and basement parking

For the second time in two weeks, the Palo Alto City Council approved on Tuesday night moving ahead with construction of a new garage that would add hundreds of spots to a badly congested commercial area.

But unlike the parking structure that the council approved for the California Avenue area earlier this month, the five-story downtown garage would have a retail component, the council decided by a unanimous vote. Once built, the new facility would have about 339 spaces and one level of basement parking.

The council's unanimous vote underscores the severe nature of downtown's parking challenges. While members are typically extremely cautious about approving tall and bulky buildings in the downtown area, the new garage moved ahead despite its 50-foot height. And just like with the California Avenue facility, the council agreed to go with the priciest of the options, choosing the only alternative on the menu that includes a basement.

The new garage would go up on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street, currently the site of a city-owned parking lot with 86 spaces.

Public Works staff had recommended moving ahead with a five-story garage with a retail component but without a basement. That proposal would have accommodated about 291 cars. The one that the council approved would have 339 spaces, up to 3,800 square feet of retail and a price tag of more than $20 million.

While the council agreed that it's critical to boost downtown's parking supply, Councilwoman Karen Holman wondered about the visual impact of the new facility. Most buildings around Hamilton and Waverley are one or two stories, she noted.

But despite Holman's concerns about whether the new garage will satisfy downtown's urban-design guidelines, others were more comfortable moving ahead with the new facility, which is part of an infrastructure plan that the council approved in 2014.

Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, who made the motion to include a basement and retail in the new garage, said construction of the facility is compatible with the council's other recent actions on parking, including a new permit program aimed at steering downtown employees away from residential streets. The different parking initiatives, she said, "really play into each other."

"We're talking about supply," Kniss said. "This is more supply -- pretty substantial supply."

Councilman Tom DuBois was less excited about going with the most expensive option and leaned toward the cheaper alternative proposed by staff.

"I don't think we can go with a Cadillac version on every single infrastructure project," DuBois said.

If things go as planned, the city will complete the design of the new garage by September 2018 and complete construction by winter 2020.


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Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2017 at 9:47 am

A Cadillac? Seriously? Kids these days don't even know what a Cadillac is. How about a Porche or Tesla version? This is Palo Alto, 2017...

4 people like this
Posted by Gordon Gecko
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2017 at 9:57 am

A Cadillac> Seriously? How about a Bentley or an Aston Martin? If you're going to stick your kids with uncontrolled deficit spending and $500,000,000 in unfunded pension liabilities, let them see where all our money goes.

10 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 12, 2017 at 1:08 pm

On the very same night, the City Council votes to implement parking meters to *discourage* driving and to build a parking garage to *encourage* driving.

What's the common thread?

That clinking clanking sound of money, money, money, money.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm

The garage is needed. It will make it easier to find parking. At very least they can reduce parking of all day workers in the adjacent residental neighborhoods.

17 people like this
Posted by Giant give away
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 12, 2017 at 6:16 pm

This is a vicious cycle - allow giant buildings that don't have enough parking and then make taxpayers build garages for downtown developers and office buildings to park the employees of these buildings. I say this ins't not our problem. Kick these workers out of the residential areas and make their employers and the developers buy and run their own garages.

We don't need another oversized eye sore of a building downtown. Our recently elected council people either never really believed that they represent the residents of Palo Alto who elected them or the tens of thousands of dollars of developer contributions (reported after the election) have swayed them to the development side. This parking garage is a give away to developers and does nothing for residents except take our money and give it away. Money that could be used for parks, playing fields, pools, more summer classes, better roads and other infrastructure to make residents lives better - but no we have to keep the developers happy.

Now that we will have more parking I'm sure that city management will continue to allow massive offices to go up and up. The whole city management is about overdeveloping and destroying Palo Alto so that they and their friends can get rich.

10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2017 at 10:35 pm


It is only a viscous cycle if you are a resident. If you are a real-estate developer, or one of the real-estate industry's servitors in government, it is a virtuous cycle.

6 people like this
Posted by out of control
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2017 at 8:05 am

Public Works last week resurfaced Lot #8 on Sherman off California Ave. Unbelievably, they striped
it the same as it was for all these past years - with spaces so small that people often return to their cars and cannot open the doors to their cars or face great difficulty doing so. Also, with cars or SUV's parked on the lines the spaces often go unused so there is actually a loss of usable
parking spaces. The lot also has straight-in
parking, not angle. The lot is a disaster as marked. The City is oblivious to what it is doing.
Street markings and configurations at Jordan on Middlefield and Cal Ave have created dangerous conditions with sharp turns and narrow lanes and visual distraction. The roundabout at Cowper and Coleridge is an absolute atrocity.

6 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Apr 13, 2017 at 8:21 am

Why are cars so much larger, and therefore more difficult to park, than they were in the past? Seems NUTS!

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 13, 2017 at 10:06 am

Totally agree with Out of Control that the city is oblivious and/or sadistic.

Why are they adding so many giant Botts Dots? The ones on Middlefield are intrusive and prevent cars from making their turns off an already clogged street.

Really dangerous are the ones on Embarcadero leading to northbound Alma. They protrude 1/3 of the way into the off ramp and force cars trying to avoid them to swerve back into jammed Embarcedero.

There's NO cross-vehicular traffic just before the underpass. WHY are they there??
Does someone have the giant Botts Dots franchise?

2 people like this
Posted by Selling out
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 18, 2017 at 8:18 am

I'm distressed that our beloved neighborhood toy store is closing and instead a giant, ugly garage will replace it to service our of towners. Locals depend on stores like the toy store. Our children grew up with gifts from there and we have find memories. Similarly the art supply store was driven out and replaced by a useless boutique watch shop. This is tearing up the fabric of our town as the city optimizes for our of towners and developers, paying scant attention to residents. Shame on our officials for they are selling us out.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Ohlone School

on Sep 26, 2017 at 8:13 am

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

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