Planned garages draw opposition | News | Palo Alto Online |

News

Planned garages draw opposition

Residents and some City Council members believe its time to reconsider plans for new parking structures in downtown and near California Avenue

As Palo Alto considers new taxes to address a $76-million backlog in its infrastructure plan, some residents and council members are wondering whether it's time to reconsider the city's plans for two new garages.

The council's infrastructure plan calls for two garages, each of which would be constructed on a city-owned lot. One new garage would go up on Sherman Avenue in conjunction with the city's new public-safety building -- a project that the City Council is scheduled to approve on Monday night, June 11. The other garage is eyed for a lot on Hamilton Avenue, near Waverley Street.

Both proposed garages had already been vetted by the council at numerous public hearings stretching back to 2014. But as the hot construction climate continues to add to the price tag of the two facilities and as Palo Alto accelerates its efforts to discourage driving, some are questioning whether the parking facilities are truly needed.

For David Coale and Bret Andersen, the answer is clearly no. Both are members of the citizens group Carbon Free Palo Alto. Both believe the city is making a mistake in its move by pushing ahead with the new facilities, which have projected combined cost of about $70 million, according to the city's estimates.

Shortly before the council voted Monday night, June 4, to move ahead with placing a hotel-tax increase on the November ballot, Coale beseeched members to reconsider their infrastructure priorities. One questions the Coale believes the city should consider is: Does the city really need to spend tens of millions of dollars to solve what he calls "a two-hour parking problem" on California Avenue?

"Understand where your tax dollars are going," Coale said. "They are going to garages that we don't need."

If recent discussions are any indication, the council is unlikely to change course on the new California garage, which merchants have long been clamoring for. In January, the council considered a rejected a proposal from staff to save money by somewhat reducing the garage. Instead, the council agreed to "go big" and to approve a six-story garage with two underground levels. The new garage is slated to have 636 parking stalls, considerably more than the 430 stalls officials were considering in 2013, when they were putting the infrastructure plan together.

For Andersen and others, the council is pivoting in the wrong direction. At a time when the city continues to invest funds into a new Transportation Management Association (a nonprofit charged with reducing solo driving) and promote "car-light" developments that offer transit amenities to their occupants, the move toward new garages is misguided, critics say. Andersen told the council Monday that his group believes the situation has changed since 2013 and that the council would be wise to save money by rethinking the new garages.

While Councilman Adrian Fine, who voted against the enlargement of the California Avenue garage, indicated Monday night that he supports reducing the facility to save costs, his colleagues generally steered clear of the topic. But things were different when it came to the downtown garage, which the council plans to consider later this year.

Councilwoman Karen Holman said Monday reconsidering some projects on the city's infrastructure list would be a practical move, given the rising costs. She said she would support putting the downtown garage "on the back burner."

"I'd be perfectly fine putting the downtown parking garage on hold and revisiting it," Holman said. "We have downtown parking garages that are still not fully occupied."

Councilwoman Cory Wolbach, who often disagrees with Holman on land use policies, this time concurred with his colleague's views on the new garages. The downtown garage, he said, is something that the council should reconsider, he said. He also said he has some reservations about California Avenue garage.

"The question I'm asking myself is, 'If we're not 100 percent sure that we really need both of these garages at the scale that we're considering them, is it really necessary to require that taxpayers fund them?'" Wolbach said.

So far, at least, this is a minority position. In voting on Monday night to move ahead with a hotel-tax increase, council members generally embraced the idea of moving ahead with the list of projects in the 2014 plan, which also include a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101, two rebuilt fire stations, the completion of the Charleston-Arastradero streetscape project and various bike projects. Councilman Greg Scharff said he believes it would be hard for the council to back away from these projects.

Some, however, believe that's exactly what the council should do. Neilson Buchanan, a Downtown North resident who has been at the forefront of the city's recent effort to address downtown's parking woes, is among them. Buchanan had served on the stakeholder group that helped establish the downtown Residential Preferential Parking program and has consistently lobbied the city to improve the area's parking situation. He too believes the downtown garage is a bad idea.

The council, he argued in a March 20 memo, is not fully informed about improvements in the utilization of the Bryant and Cowper/Webster garage, including the additional capacity that will come from valet programs. The new downtown garage, Buchanan said, "can be deferred for three to seven years to preserve options for the city-owned surface lot."

"The concept of the garage is obsolete," Buchanan wrote.

Gladwyn d'Souza, chair of the Transportation Committee at the Loma Prieta Chapter of Sierra Club, argued in a letter to the council that rather than spending the $65 million on two garages, the city should commit $4.8 million to the TMA, which currently serves only downtown commuters but which the city ultimately hopes to expand to California Avenue.

The early success of the TMA, combined with increasing use of ride-sharing programs and Caltrain's electrification and new bike-share programs, will reduce the number of people who will want to own cars.

This success combined with the increasing use of ride-sharing programs, the electrification of CalTrain, the bike share program (free to the city), and the eventual introduction of autonomous vehicles along with changing demographics where people will not want to even own cars, means that the reductions of solo-car use/trips would be sustained and encouraged even with the increasing growth in the California Avenue and downtown areas.

By scrapping the garages and committing more funds to traffic-reduction efforts, the city could save $60.2 million with a solution that would reduce congestion, d'Souza wrote.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Addison
a resident of Addison School
on Jun 6, 2018 at 9:49 pm

By the time these garages are built, we'll have self driving cars and we won't need more parking garages.


33 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2018 at 1:24 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Gladwyn d'Souza, chair of the Transportation Committee at the Loma Prieta Chapter of Sierra Club, argued in a letter to the council that rather than spending the $65 million on two garages, the city should commit $4.8 million to the TMA, which currently serves only downtown commuters but which the city ultimately hopes to expand to California Avenue."

We're paying almost $4.8 million to commuters for their commuting expenses to PA businesses and government offices?? That's almost half of what Mountain View hopes to collect from its $250 per employee tax. Gotta hand it to TMA chair and Palantir employee Bob McGrew for shifting the costs from businesses to us.


30 people like this
Posted by Self Funding
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 7, 2018 at 7:31 am

Why can’t the garages be self-funding? There are lots of pay lots up and down the peninsula.


37 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2018 at 7:58 am

I would be OK with these garages if they were privately funded and paid off with the parking fees and taxes on nearby businesses. A $70 million public subsidy that mainly benefits downtown businesses is a poor choice when there are so many public infrastructure projects that are more important to local residents.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2018 at 8:25 am

Palo Alto downtown parking is a joke.

It never seems to suit so many people other than those who have permits. That doesn't help anyone who wants to park for occasional all day reasons, people who want to drop something off in their lunch hour, people who carpool but not on the days the carpool doesn't work, and probably many others who might have many other complaints.

Finding parking isn't easy as no signs with availability or apps, no apps to pay for parking and no parking at offramps with designated shuttles. Oh yes, there is talk about improvements in this area, but instead we are still waiting.

We can put so much time and effort into Ross Road, Middlefield Road, and other areas for traffic calming or bike improvements, but we can't even simplify the current parking situation. It gets complicated for those who just don't understand the system and who expects to visit somewhere and visit the city website beforehand to decipher the local rules?


14 people like this
Posted by Bike Share?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2018 at 8:39 am

Bike share? Where the heck is it? During a recent visit to Mountain View, yellow and green bikes were everywhere. I downloaded the apps and there are literally only 1 or 2 bikes available in all of a Palo Alto. That is NOT viable.


20 people like this
Posted by Peter R
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 7, 2018 at 8:56 am

The thing about the California Avenue garage...and its massive size...is that there are two parking garages within a block that are each only two stories...If each of these two garages was upgraded to four stories...then a far more reasonable parking garage could be built at far less costs, which saves the 10 Oak tress they plan to remove and also leaves areas where humans and gather..


13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2018 at 10:08 am

Self-driving cars are hype.

Self-driving cars are not going to be self-driving. There are many
more problems with this technology that people can now see.

Unless a great PR campaign can convince people that the
price of self-driving cars is that X number of people are going to
die in random accidents, but that somehow that is equal to or
less than the number of people who would die in human driver
accidents.

This technology is shaping up to be like steam powered mechanics,
where initially people were hurt, maimed or killed and had no protection.
I hope in over 100 years we might have learned something about pitting
human beings against profit.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2018 at 10:15 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Spending tens of millions of dollars on traffic "calming" and road "diets" to create gridlock has also "drawn opposition" as shown by all the petitions against them. How about rethinking more spending on them as well as the garages?

And what's happened to the report from outside consultants Mr. Mello retained back in March to decide whether fixing the Ross Rd problems id "appropriate and feasible"? Was that just a sop to the more than 1,000 people petition signers?

Seriously we need more a real review before the next $10,000,000 is spent on the next phase of "improvements."


37 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2018 at 10:26 am

Why are some of the most profitable businesses in the world unable
to commit some resources into making their local cities better for
everyone? What is the problem with that? It is really so sacrilegious
to the libertarian free-marketers to have an actual community, We
have the absurd merging or church and state, where the church is
now Stanford's brand of predatory propaganda capitalism.

They are the main ones contributing to the density of population and
traffic here. Where did this brainwashing come from to expect nothing
from corporations and the super-rich. What is the finger-snap, wake-up
moment that has to happen before people realize always dumping costs
on the public is the huge never-ending trickle up machine that is great
for the elites but turning the rest of us into machines?

I too wonder if the parking structures in California Ave. were built with
an eye to being upgraded in the future, or did whoever OK'ed those
projective just give massive profits to builders to tear down and then
rebuild the whole thing from scratch? Parking structures work. In
Palo Alto they could stand to be less complicated with all these
f-ed up zones, but they work.

Why is it Redwood City can build a huge downtown block of theaters,
restaurants and stores with a parking garage that tells you how many
spaces are available before you go in, and you can get your parking
validated and it is free. Mountain View is no parking picnic, but it works
as well, and they are somewhat proactive, but parking structures in
Palo Alto have to be a big argument. We need parking, build the
structure, end of discussion.

Why is Palo Alto always the test case for hardline Republican free-market
Conservative ideas from the Hoover Institution that are so outrageous
and always unworkable that keeps Palo Altans continually unhappy
because nothing works in this city unless you are you networked
into the Stanford business mafia that this city has evolved into?


44 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2018 at 10:52 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Any new parking garages and all infrastructure upgrades should be financed by tech firms, who have caused the need for them, and are the main beneficieris in the first place. Not one cent should be provided by the public.


2 people like this
Posted by @mauricio
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2018 at 11:04 am

Nah, those should be funded with your property taxes.


3 people like this
Posted by Gordon Goodfellow
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 7, 2018 at 11:32 am

There is no need for additional parking garages. When people can’t find parking they go elsewhere. Problem solved. Bulilding garages only creates future expectations for more garages.


18 people like this
Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Mama is a registered user.

Prime Palo Alto property at Hamilton and Waverley devoted to a garage?? Ridiculous! Businesses should pay for their own parking solutions. We are talking about a LOT of money the city can’t afford.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Jun 7, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Interesting that Wolbach is talking about flip flopping on his “go big” on garages views. Those who hope to scale back the garages had better move quickly while Cory is being responsive to residents in preparation for his effort at re election this fall.


4 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of University South
on Jun 7, 2018 at 12:37 pm

@Online Name - the TMA does not get $4.8 million from the city. It gets less than $500k - and that money comes from fees paid by businesses when they purchase parking permits. This was set up by Councilmember Filseth, who is certainly not a stooge of businesses.

If the city raises business taxes to fund the garages, it would be pretty reasonable to use it instead to help pay for low-income workers to commute, wouldn't it? Better that than having garages that just attract more traffic.


10 people like this
Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2018 at 1:51 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

We don't patronize downtown business 'cause we can't park within walking distance for seniors. By all means, build parking structures. Cars won't go away as long as people want independent movement. As for self-driving cars, they'll still need to park somewhere. If they just continue to rove while waiting for riders, downtown will resemble a beehive.


23 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2018 at 3:05 pm

The plans for these garages need to be scrapped immediately. It's such an incredibly stupid waste of money. Amortized even over 30 years, we're talking about spending $400 PER MONTH on each spot. There are so many better uses for this money.

Invest in bikeshare. Subsidize dockless bike and scooter share, which are perfect for Palo Alto's relatively quiet and flat streets.

Subsidize Lyft or Uber rides. Provide a 50% discount up to $5/ride for rides to/from downtown, midtown and Cal Ave during peak hours.

Create new dynamic shuttle routes, and make them free.

All of these methods could be down at a MUCH cheaper cost than what the current city council has planned.


7 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm

I drive/bike down Cal ave several times daily including during lunch hour. I always see several open spaces. There is no need for a gargantuan ugly garage which will eliminate sky views and bring crime (dark places for criminals to smash and grab). Horrible idea. Please stop this.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2018 at 9:28 pm

Let me share some facts with you. In
2008 the Transient Occupancy Tax was raised from 10% to 12%
2015 the Transient Occupancy Tax was raised from 12% to 14%
Council just voted to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax from
from 14% to 16%
Each increase generated millions of dollars to fund the downtown garage and infrastructure. This will be the TOT in the STATE!
One business sector is the major source of funding for these projects - when the public safety building is the single largest project - which the residents stopped the city from issuing a bond to pay the building - and yet business is being taxed without consent or concern from potentental impacts.
The council is likely to kill the golden goose - remember business revenue goes right into the general fund which pays for services the entire community enjoys.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 8, 2018 at 3:50 am

"The early success of the TMA, combined with increasing use of ride-sharing programs and Caltrain's electrification and new bike-share programs, will reduce the number of people who will want to own cars."

^^^FALSE
Owning one's own car is an essential part of a high quality of life, especially in Palo Alto. People who use mass transit/bicycles to commute usually can't afford a car. You often see these folks riding their bicycles across the University ramp to EPA, for example.
The TMA along with all the traffic calming projects are a brazen waste of money, all that money could be funding the garage and we wouldn't be having this conversation now.

"This success combined with the increasing use of ride-sharing programs, the electrification of CalTrain, the bike share program (free to the city), and the eventual introduction of autonomous vehicles along with changing demographics where people will not want to even own cars, means that the reductions of solo-car use/trips would be sustained and encouraged even with the increasing growth in the California Avenue and downtown areas."

^^^Again, pure FICTION. No one in Palo Alto needs/wants/uses bike share. It's already failed and it will fail again. Self-driving cars will result in fatalities, I guarantee it. It's already happened. We shouldn't hand our lives over to robots in order to make Google or Waymo some more $$$.

Everyone wants to own a car. It is clearly superior.
These policies are based on clairvoyance rather than evidence.
Even if they succeed in getting people to give up cars, it will be through inefficiency, destructiveness (for example cars idling in congested intersections polluting the air, hours and hours of people's days and productivity gone to waste) and coercion, rather than some happy-go-lucky "demographic change". People won't willfully give up their efficiency and freedom, they will not willfully give up solo-driving. They will be forced into doing so through arbitrary Socialist policies.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 8,355 views

Flying: How much is enough? It's personal.
By Sherry Listgarten | 15 comments | 2,881 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 18 comments | 2,515 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 7 comments | 1,960 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 8 comments | 1,264 views

 

Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details