The beeping of trucks as they back up at 4 a.m., the clanking of metal cargo ramps on pavement, delivery trucks parking in bike lanes and forcing kids on bikes to scoot around them and into traffic — these are some of the complaints voiced by Duveneck/St. Francis residents who live near Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center, located at 2170 West Bayshore Road.
Edgewood's frustrated neighbors met with Palo Alto City Councilwoman Lydia Kou on Wednesday morning at the center in the hopes of getting the city to resolve the parking, noise and other problems.
Deliveries for the center's tenants are supposed to be made in the center's parking lots, which are shielded by the retail buildings along St. Francis Drive and Channing Avenue. But delivery trucks frequently park on St. Francis to unload cargo ranging from restaurant supplies and coffee to towels and dry cleaning, residents said. Residents have taken pictures showing trucks parked beside "No parking" signs and in red zones along the curbs.
Farzaneh Rau, who lives on Channing, said that the trucks are creating a hazard as she's driving near the center.
"When I make a turn (at St. Francis and Channing), I have to swing wide into the oncoming lane," she said.
Other residents pointed to a ramp leading from the sidewalk to the back of the retail center that is adjacent to homes on the St. Francis side. The ramp encourages the vendors to park in the no-parking zone and use the area as a loading dock. The ramp area was supposed to be landscaped and not used for deliveries, they said.
Erik Lopez, a supervisor at Starbucks who said he was not speaking for the corporation, recalled that the city emailed the store regarding the truck issue. But deliveries take place after the store closes, and no one is on site to monitor them, he explained.
The trucks "come by at 9 or 9:30 p.m. and they have key access to come in. It's a quick drop," he said.
Asked if having a designated loading area within the parking lot would be a good idea, he said it would. Currently, the only loading zone is a dock behind the grocery store off of West Bayshore Road. It is not accessible to the other stores.
Longtime residents who live across the street on St. Francis Drive and on nearby Wildwood Lane said the delivery problem did not exist prior to the shopping center's renovation. When developer Joseph Eichler built the center in the 1950s, it had large parking lots on three sides that served as buffers. The renovation shrunk or eliminated those lots.
Though residents may believe their complaints have fallen on deaf ears, Hillary Gitelman, city director of planning and community environment, wrote a June 13 letter to property owner Sand Hill Property Company indicating that a compliance review — conducted as part of the shopping center's planned-community ordinance — surfaced multiple complaints about the delivery trucks as well as noise from construction, power washing and late-night activities by the tenants.
"If these complaints are accurate, they would constitute violations of the Palo Alto Municipal Code and approved project plans. Palo Alto Municipal Code Chapter 18.52 requires the provision of loading spaces on site to meet the commercial floor area; the Council-approved project plans showed loading spaces on site, and the expectation is that the on-site loading spaces are to be used for commercial loading — not the bicycle lane on Channing Avenue or St. Francis," she noted.
The letter also stated that municipal codes restrict nighttime noise and that code enforcement officers were monitoring the property on a daily basis in response to the complaints.
Matt Larson, spokesman for Sand Hill Property Company, said in an email to the Weekly on Wednesday, "We are actively working with current tenants to resolve this important issue."
He added that in the last three weeks Sand Hill has handed shopping-center management to employee Garrett Chan and that more changes to comply with the property's zoning ordinance were being examined.
In an Aug. 30 response to the city, Chan said Sand Hill "has continued to notify tenants that all loading and delivery services are to take place at the W. Bayshore Road entrance and loading area. We will continue to work closely with our tenants so they understand the noise regulations relating to nighttime noise events and loading regulations."
Residents told Kou they have called city code enforcement and logged more than 30 complaints through the city's 311 app in the past few months.
City spokeswoman Claudia Keith said officials are looking into the parking problem.
"We have been communicating with the property owner and business owners about this violation, and our code enforcement officers and police officers regularly visit the site to observe whether a violation is in process, which would allow us to cite the delivery," she said.
Gitelman sent a letter to the property owner on Wednesday regarding the continued complaints. The letter requested that Sand Hill hire a monitor or security guard to ensure that trucks don't use the street for loading.
Kou said the city agencies should adjust their response and clarify who is responsible.
"I think the main issue is code enforcement and the police department and that they don't keep handing off the problem to each other. Code enforcement needs to be communicating to the police department and there needs to be follow-up," she said.
In an email on Thursday to the neighborhood, residents Jeff Levinsky and Lenore Cymes enumerated additional concerns about Edgewood, including smoking violations by restaurant workers and lights that shine into the neighborhood.
"Hopefully, the City Manager will take the time to review Lydia's findings," they wrote.