News


Downtown sees fewer workers buying parking permits

Palo Alto considers next steps for Residential Preferential Parking program

Palo Alto's effort to drive downtown employees' cars out of residential neighborhoods appears to be gaining momentum, with fewer workers now purchasing parking permits, according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment.

The Residential Preferential Parking program, which established two-hour parking limits for cars without permits, saw a 22 percent drop in employee permit sales between September 2016 -- when the program began -- and September 2017. In the program's first six months, the city issued 1,335 employee permits. The number went down to 1,155 for the second six months and to 1,090 for the period that began last September.

And with the whole program now up for renewal, city planners are citing this declining permit sales as evidence that the program is working and should be maintained as is. Fewer employee permits, they note, coincides with fewer cars parked on blocks that had been packed with cars before the permit program was implemented. A survey taken last November showed blocks that were between 21 percent and 60 percent parked up.

The survey also indicated that even though the city has sold more than 1,000 worker permits, only about 271 employees use them on an average day.

Even so, the program is not without its problems. The downtown RPP district is divided into 10 zones and, much like in Palo Alto's other residential parking programs, cars tend to bunch in areas closest to the commercial core.

These areas include Zone 1, which is just north of Lytton Avenue; Zone 5, which is just south of Forest Avenue; and Zone 6, which is just south of Zone 5. In all three zones, parking occupancy climbs to above 60 percent (65 percent in Zone 1) around noon. At other times, the parking occupancy ranges between 52 percent and 65 percent. (View a map of all the zones here).

Recent surveys also suggest that downtown employees actually account for a relatively small percentage of the cars parking in the neighborhood zones. In Zone 1, only about 7 percent of parked cars belong to employees with permits, the report states. Furthermore, the parking percentage remains at about 63 percent after 6 p.m., when the permit program is no longer enforced.

Given the survey results, staff concluded that decreasing the number of employee permits in this zone is not expected to reduce the parking percentage in this zone.

Similarly, while zones 5 and 6 exceed 60 percent occupancy during the lunchtime hours, most of the people using the neighborhood spots aren't employees but visitors parking for two hours, the staff report states.

"The City could potentially reduce the number of employee parking permits available ... and/or establish an annual rate of reduction without adversely affecting employee permit holders," the report states. "However, the declining number of permits sold every six months suggests that a forced reduction in the number of employee permits is not necessary to see continued progress."

But while staff is recommending the continuation of status quo, some downtown residents point to the decreased demand for employee permits as evidence that it's time to start decreasing the supply. John Guislin and Neilson Buchanan, residents of Crescent Park and Downtown North, respectively, have called on the council to reduce the number of permit sales to 1,000. Both served on the stakeholder committee that crafted the downtown RPP.

In an email to other neighborhood residents and stakeholders, they noted that the Bryant and Cowper/Webster garages are underutilized and can easily accommodate another 100 employees' vehicles. Thus, enacting the 1,000-permit limit in the neighborhoods will not threaten the well-being of University Avenue and downtown's commercial core.

Staff's proposal to retain the 1,400-permit limit, despite falling demand, "effectively declares that residential neighborhoods should serve as an overflow tidal basin for commercial parking."

"This is unacceptable and violates the problem-solving process previously agreed upon and the goal of reducing the traffic and parking burdens on residential streets," they wrote.

Guislin and Buchanan this week submitted to the council a "residents' proposal." They suggest reducing the number of non-resident permits to 1,000 starting April 1; putting out a request for proposal to create a new management system for all of the city's RPP programs, garages and parking lots; prioritizing non-residential permits such that neighborhood-serving businesses would get preference; and allowing the city manager to release up to 100 temporary employee permits (with terms not exceeding 90 days) if the city determines that there is a "severe shortage."

"(The) residents' proposal is presented to foster continuous improvement of RPP programs and to give clarity to merchants, office tenants, property owners and residents," Guislin and Buchanan wrote.

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Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Many employees are parking on Alma in Menlo Park and then crossing the pedestrian bridge into Palo Alto. Some are parking on the residential streets in Menlo Park near the train station and then riding the train to Palo Alto (some employers pay for a train pass). The problem has just moved from Palo Alto to other communities.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Just look to areas outside the RPP zones and see how much street parking has increased on those streets. Some park and use scooters, skate boards or even bicycles to get to work.

Some have even been seen to carpool or use a shuttle.

Anyone checked Edgewood parking lately?


16 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2018 at 5:47 pm

It seems quite possible that the reduction in permit sales is simply due to more employees choosing to park for free by moving their cars every two or three hours. These employee cars would indistinguishable from visitor cars.

Whenever I visit a downtown business, I ask the employees who help me about parking. I have yet to meet a single employee who pays for parking.


10 people like this
Posted by TMA programs working?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2018 at 9:54 am

During the time period when hundreds of retail workers’ cars are disappearing off neighborhood streets, the TMA has created programs to help hundreds of retail workers stop using cars and switch to public transit and carpooling.

Sounds like we should double down on the TMA.


24 people like this
Posted by Parking is not private!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 24, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Attention residents: you DO NOT own the parking spot in front of your house. It's called public parking for a reason. Palo Alto is not a village and we've got some businesses here that pay taxes and need places to park.


19 people like this
Posted by @Parking is not private
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2018 at 12:31 pm

That's very insensitive! What would you have residents do, use their garage to park their cars?


14 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 24, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Hate to disappoint "parking is not private" but, in fact, the US Supreme Court has ruled that residents have the right to residential parking only. Richardson v Arlington (Virginia). As Ed Koch famously said, "I can explain it to you but I can't comprehend it for you." Do the homework. It is all on line. But I agree that people should use their driveways and garages for cars, not as surrogate cellars for storage, but not everyone has a driveway and garage. I also note that people who complain about residential parking programs for "private parking" are not being gored by the oxen.


29 people like this
Posted by Tim Buck II
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Attention office owners: you DO NOT own the parking spot in front of my house. It's called public parking for a reason. Palo Alto is a village and we've got residents here that pay taxes and need places to park.

If you cannot park all your employees' cars in front of your establishment, get a place with a bigger frontage and/or adequate onsite parking.

Stop freeloading your business expenses onto taxpaying residents. If you cannot afford an adequate physical plant in Palo Alto, move elsewhere.


12 people like this
Posted by Numbers do not add up
a resident of University South
on Feb 25, 2018 at 8:56 am

A year ago the city admitted they sold more Zone 5 permits than they should have. Has that been remedied? I ask because the street I live on, Forest Avenue, is 100% parked during the work day.


5 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of University South
on Feb 25, 2018 at 8:15 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

These are the people that are in charge of figuring out the best way to get HSR through Palo Alto? Ugh...


5 people like this
Posted by Reading Supreme Court Opinions
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 26, 2018 at 10:24 am

@Ray


"Parking is not private" said that you don't own the space in front of your house. That is a fact.

Following your advice, I "did my homework." I actually went and read the Supreme Court precedent that says residents have a "right to residential parking only."

1) First, the name of the case is Arlington County Board v Richards (1977) Web Link
2) It doesn't say anyone has a right to the spot in front of their house, only that local governments can give special privileges to residents vs nonresidents.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2018 at 10:36 am

Posted by Reading Supreme Court Opinions, a resident of Stanford
1 minute ago

>>> "Parking is not private" said that you don't own the space in front of your house. That is a fact.

>> Following your advice, I "did my homework." I actually went and read the Supreme Court precedent that says residents have a "right to residential parking only."

>> 1) First, the name of the case is Arlington County Board v Richards (1977) Web Link
>> 2) It doesn't say anyone has a right to the spot in front of their house, only that local governments can give special privileges to residents vs nonresidents.

And, following your logic, if I don't own the space in front of my place, then, Waze and DoorDash and Houzz and SurveyMonkey and Palantir and ... don't own the space in front of my place either, correct? Just verifying that point.


9 people like this
Posted by Reading Supreme Court Opinions
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 26, 2018 at 10:50 am

@anon
No, they don't own the space either, and I can't recall anyone making the claim that they do. It's called the tragedy of the commons and it's what happens when parking spots are given out for free.

Rather than pricing the city's parking spots according to what the market will bear, the city is giving away heavily discounted parking passes to residents.


This amounts to a multi-million dollar land heist of the parking spots in front of their homes. Every one of those spots has a real estate value of at least $60,000, and more if it were converted to more productive uses.

I'm not saying commercial interests shouldn't also pay for the use of those spots--they should get to compete for those spots on the same open market--but given the city's financial situation it's absurd that we're giving away expensive land rights en masse just because the land sits in front of someone's house and influential neighborhood associations have demanded it.


14 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2018 at 12:23 pm

@Reading. It is called listening to the people who elected you. Businesses are not people regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Palo Alto is my home. There are too many businesses here. We need fewer jobs so anything that discourages businesses from being here is a good thing according to this voter.

By the way, the state says we have too many jobs. Actually they say the ratio of housing to jobs is too low and many people interpret that to mean too little housing. But there is more than one way to fix a ratio and I say too many jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2018 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


18 people like this
Posted by N. Cal Ave resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2018 at 5:13 pm

I realize we don't own the parking spots in front of our homes, but since the parking permit increase for Cal Train lots and California Ave parking lots, we have seen a huge increase in people parking their cars on the residential side of the tracks, which does limit the availability of gardeners, reclaimed watering services and I'm sure other service providers to park near our homes. There are also people who park for days at a time and probably take the train to the airport for trips and block city workers (utilities, tree cutting services, etc.) who knock on our doors. Considering they are spending millions to build up parking lots in the California Ave area, if the businesses are not willing to pay for the parking permits for their employees at the increased rates, then it will make it harder for the City of Palo Alto to recover costs based on parking permits and we will see even more overflow into the surrounding residential neighborhoods.


7 people like this
Posted by David Coale
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Seams like the TMA efforts are working! We should continue to fund this and scrap and downtown garage which the city can't afford anyway.

We should also bring the TMA effort to the Cal Ave area as well and nix the garage there too. That way the city can get back on a good financial footing while reducing car use, congestion and GHG as is called for in the Comp plan and the Sustainability Implementation Plan.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2018 at 4:50 pm

The TMA is a waste of money and needs to be abolished.
The problem is the amount of jobs concentrated in a small area. It's not the cars.
I think it's pretty insulting to tell workers they are unworthy of driving cars to work, and then spend tax dollars to try and force them to change their behavior.
Using public transit wastes several hours of a person's day.
It's amazing how people around here support economic stratification while virtue signaling how much they care about race/gender/minorities with their fancy "in our America..." signs in the front yards.
This is called moral licensing (aka limousine liberalism) and it is fully on display in today's Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 27, 2018 at 10:52 pm

All you residents, who are going to thank for making the value of you gousecrise to 4 million? Your next door neighbor Fred, Barney or Mabel......I think not. It’s your Houzz, Palantir and all of the small retail, restaurants, medical offices you can thank. Remember, if we weren’t here, you would still be living in a 500k house like you colleagues in East Palo Alto. Bite the hand that feeds you.


2 people like this
Posted by @brad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2018 at 7:51 am

@brad is a registered user.

How about a grammar/spell check?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2018 at 8:34 am

Posted by Reading Supreme Court Opinions, a resident of Stanford

>> No, they don't own the space either, and I can't recall anyone making the claim that they do. It's called the tragedy of the commons and it's what happens when parking spots are given out for free.

It was a rhetorical question, of course. I agree with most of what you wrote. I just don't agree with some people posting, like Brad, who are blaming us residents because of the parking situation created by new businesses.


2 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 28, 2018 at 9:07 am

All office development (past and present) should include the need for employee parking. New development would have been slower and more balanced.

I agree that "public parking" means you do not own the parking space in front of your home. However, every homeowner does have a reasonable expectation to park close to their home. Having our streets convert into ten-hour Costco parking lots should feel unacceptable to everyone.


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

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