Residents of the Southgate neighborhood would be required to obtain permits to park on the streets outside their homes under a program that the City Council is scheduled to approve on Monday night.
Located next to Palo Alto High School and close to Stanford University, the neighborhood is the latest to move ahead with a Residential Preferential Parking program. Once in effect, parking for anyone without permits would be restricted to two hours on weekdays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Much like the permit programs that the city had recently implemented in downtown and around California Avenue, the Southgate RPP aims to address a problem that residents have been complaining about for several years: their neighborhood's daily transformation into a parking lot for commuters. But unlike with the other two programs, the problem for Southgate residents isn't employees of nearby businesses but students and faculty from the high school.
The process was sparked by a resident petition and a subsequent survey by the city that showed 74 percents of the respondents voting in favor of the new parking program. Planning staff also conducted a parking-occupancy study last year that confirmed Southgate's parking shortages.
The study found that 89 percent of the neighborhood's spaces got filled up during this period, with a much higher rate than in the morning (71 percent) and evening (54 percent) hours. A recent report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment stated this "clearly shows the impact of Palo Alto High School and PAUSD students, employees and visitors on the neighborhood parking supply."
"With a mid-day occupancy rate of over 85 percent, many blocks do not have any available on-street spaces during the lunch-time hour," the report states.
In one key way, the Southgate program is simpler than the prior two. Because it is almost exclusively a residential area (the only exceptions are the two businesses on El Camino Real), almost all permits will be restricted to residents. The one-year program would allow these businesses to purchase up to 20 permits at a rate of $74.50 for six months over the year-long program. They would also be allowed to buy one-day permits for $5.
Residents of Southgate would each be eligible for one annual permit sticker free of charge and have the option of buying up to three more for $50 each. They also have the option of buying up to two transferrable hangtags for $50 each.
The new parking district would be bounded by the Caltrain corridor to the east; El Camino Real to the west; the centerline of Churchill Avenue to the north; and the south side of Sequoia Avenue to the south.
In April, Southgate resident Jim McFall made his case for the new program in front of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which ultimately approved the proposal in April by a 6-1 vote. Streets in Southgate are very narrow, McFall said, and when cars are parked on both sides of the street they create what are effectively one-way streets.
"That exacerbates congestion and traffic," McFall said.
Furthermore, because the Castilleja Bike Boulevard runs through Southgate, the road conditions raise "significant safety concerns," he said.
Given these issues and the fact that Southgate had followed the city's recently established guidelines for establishing Residential Preferential Parking programs, the planning commission voted to support the effort. Commissioner Eric Rosenblum, whose home is located within downtown's parking-permit district, cautioned Southgate that while an RPP program makes it easier for people to find parking spots, it comes with its own inconveniences. He said he feels bad when he sees people who provide services to his neighborhood or who volunteer to do clean-up work on the San Francisquito Creek get parking tickets. He agreed, however, that the city should address residents' concerns about safety.
"To me, there is a safety issue in Southgate that is not as apparent as in other places, especially because it is a bike route," Rosenblum said at the April 26 meeting.
The council had also signaled in the past that it will support Southgate's effort. In May 2016, it voted to direct staff to move ahead with establishing RPP programs in both Evergreen Park (where one made its debut in April) and in Southgate. While some council members said they were concerned about the programs' impacts on employees, Councilman Eric Filseth said during that discussion that the city has other transportation efforts focused at businesses most notably through the newly created Transportation Management Association, which is charged with helping employees shift away from cars to other modes.
When it comes to RPP programs, Filseth said, "residents need to be at the top of the pyramid."
"This is a plan for residents," Filseth said. "The plan for businesses is TDM (transportation-demand management). Let's fix the resident problem and then go focus on transportation."