Palo Alto approves nearly $1 million contract for more downtown valets | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto approves nearly $1 million contract for more downtown valets

City adds service to address parking shortage, with possibility of expanding program to surface lots

With plans for a new downtown garage now in limbo, Palo Alto officials are looking to boost capacity at existing parking structures by hiring valets to park people's cars during busy lunchtime hours.

That's the direction the City Council took on Monday, when it voted 6-1, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, to approve a $900,000 contract with SP Plus, the company that has been providing valet services at the Alma/High Street garage (also known as Lot R) since early 2015. City officials say the valet program has allowed an additional 50 vehicles to be parked per day at the garage.

The new three-year contract will allow SP Plus to continue its valet work at the prominent downtown garage while also potentially expand it to the Bryant/Lytton garage and the Cowper/Webster garage. The expansion to the two garages would be based on need and occupancy, according to a report from the Office of Transportation. Staff estimate that stationing parking valets at the three garages between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. would boost each garage's capacity by about 75 cars, or 150 cars total.

The program can also be spread to other garages and surface lots in the future, if needed, the report states.

Under the existing program, three valet attendants are stationed at the third floor of the Alma/High Street garage, which according to staff is usually at capacity during the lunchtime hours. When the structure fills up, signs direct drivers to park in the garage's drive aisle and leave their key with an attendant.

Since the program was introduced, the program "has been successful in increasing the number of permitted vehicles parked during the day," the report states.

The contract that the city approved also requires SP Plus to staff each garage with at least one full- or part-time valet per week and to have an additional manager who will provide oversight for the entire program.

Because the valets will increase the capacity of the three garages, the city will be able to sell more parking permits. Releasing up to 150 additional permits would result in a revenue increase of up to $112,500, the staff report states.

The council approved the contract with SP Plus on its "consent calendar," with no debate or discussion. The only objections came from City Councilman Greg Tanaka, who said he wanted to see more data on how many cars actually get parked through the valet services and how much the city is paying for each parked car.

"I don't know how much the pilot actually costs," Tanaka said, in explaining his vote of dissent.

The council's approval of the valet contract comes less than two months after members voted to put on hold the city's plan for a new parking structure on Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street. At its Feb. 11 meeting, the council balked at approving the proposed design contract for the six-story, 324-space structure. Instead, it directed its Policy and Services Committee to hold a broader discussion about downtown's parking problems, which will include a fresh discussion about whether the new garage is necessary.


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5 people like this
Posted by Parking for the Wealthy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 4, 2019 at 10:05 am

This article explains the need for a special transportation/ parking district along the California Street business sector. All of the property owners, whom this benefits greatly, should bear their fair burden of this project. Property owners charge what the market can bear, and the City of Palo Alto just subsidized their next rent increases. (Keep in mind that Prop 13 protects their property tax basis; so by adding this special parking benefit, they don't have to pay the property taxes on it).

It's foolish to pass this project until the property owners agree to the transportation district setup.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2019 at 11:12 am

Why not build a multi story parking structure on the corner of Lytton and Kipling? Right now, it's a single level parking lot.

3 people like this
Posted by Hire From Within
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Rather than farm the valet services out, the City of Palo Alto should make it a regular city position with full CALPers benefits + overtime for working on recognized city/state/county holidays.

[Portion removed.]

15 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm

jh is a registered user.

Given residential property owners pay approximately 75% of Palo Alto's property taxes, and few businesses in Palo Alto manufacture products any more for which sales tax is generated, who is subsidizing this program? The owners of the commercial spaces whose tenants and/or employees use the valet parking or the residents who do not benefit?

24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2019 at 4:27 pm

The only way this program makes sense is if the businesses that are flooding us with commuters start paying their fair share. Commuters currently outnumber residents 3 or 4 to 1. We're stuck paying for residential parking permits to accommodate the commuters while the businesses still get away with paying no per-employee head tax.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 4, 2019 at 5:54 pm


As the article states, the Council recently stopped the design of a garage from going forward. They were throwing a bone to the anti-development crowd.

7 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2019 at 6:33 pm

@Online Name
I agree that big business and commercial developers are the ones who are driving these problems, but they don’t pay their fair share In addressing the impacts. Palo Alto does not have any business tax while East Palo Alto now has one that charges around $500 per year per office worker. We need to fully fund trip reduction programs like the TMA, bridge the big funding gap in the cost of grade separations and support more affordable housing, including for moderate income workers.
For the sake of accuracy, we have nearly 70,000 residents and 110,000 workers in the city. About 25% of our resididents work in town so we have around 1.5 commuters coming in for each resident. That is still a lot. Fortunately, several city council actions over the last four years have significantly reduced the rate of commercial growth while multiple zoning changes are increasing housing, primarily in areas near transit and walkable services.

13 people like this
Posted by Online Nane
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2019 at 7:59 pm

@Pat Burt, didn't the City Council recently throw out the downtown office cap that the citizens worked so hard to cap at around half the normal growth rate?

Like this comment
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@Online Name
The coucil majority did narrowly vote recently to eliminate the downtown office cap. Maintaining that cap, even with new exemptions for retail and services, would have eliminated the competitive investment return advantage of office over housing.
Instead, we should add the California Ave area to the office cap. That actions would make a significant impact in meeting our housing goals and doing it in the areas that our state approved Housing Plan committed to doing.
The other cap that you referred to is still in place. In response to pressure from a citizen initiative, last year the council cut in half the citywide amount of commercial development allowed over the term of our new Comprehensive Plan over next 12 years.

12 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2019 at 10:13 pm

Honestly, upon seeing the title of this article, I thought it was another April Fools' Day fake story.

24 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:35 am

Why would the City spend $900,000 to receive a return of $112,000? Just to park a few more cars, while demand for parking is not even met?

And why would we want to encourage more housing to be built near transit without required parking spaces when there isn't enough parking as it is? That's what SB50 would promote.

City council - please oppose SB 50 and lobby the state legislature to turn it down.

7 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 5, 2019 at 9:14 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

That only one of the first 11 commenters saw public parking valets as something other than ordinary speaks volumes about Palo Alto.

15 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 5, 2019 at 11:00 pm

We cut a million from public safety last year and spent it on Valet parking ??? Citizens and homeowners getting the short end of the stick again

Like this comment
Posted by Funding Source
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:10 pm


According to the staff report, the money for this valet service comes from the parking permit fund.

"Resource Impact:
The Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Adopted Operating Budget for University Avenue Parking Permit Fund includes the majority of funding for this program. The remaining funding needed in FY19 can be absorbed by the amount budgeted for valet services during anticipated garage construction, which is now not expected to occur this fiscal year."

10 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2019 at 1:21 pm

jh is a registered user.

Are the fees WE pay to park on our streets really so profitable that there is a $900K profit to pay for valet parking? There's something odd here.

9 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 6, 2019 at 7:27 pm

How about clearing the RVs on El Camino, parking problem solved! Or doesn't that not fit the liberal narrative?

7 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 7, 2019 at 1:09 pm

I'm confused. City Hall regularly bemoans the traffic problem all around University Ave, but encourages driving by hiring valets to help park more cars?

Which is it City Hall? Is the goal traffic reduction or traffic increase?

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