Palo Alto prepares to revamp neighborhood parking programs | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto prepares to revamp neighborhood parking programs

City Council embraces report that supports expansion to Old Palo Alto, Green Acres

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Parked cars line the street on High Street in front of Bowden Park, where parking is unrestricted. Residents say the cars often belong to Caltrain commuters and office workers in the California Avenue business district. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Seeking to bring some stability, simplicity and sanity to the city's complex patchwork of residential parking programs, the Palo Alto City Council embraced on Monday a new report that urges significant reforms.

The report, developed by transportation consultant Wayne Tanda, recommends 35 actions for the council, city staff and the broader community to revamp the city's existing system of Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) programs, which create parking restrictions on neighborhood streets for cars without permits. The report also recommends moving ahead with a new parking program in a section of Old Palo Alto, near the California Avenue Caltrain station.

The report's recommendations include creating a comprehensive parking management system to consolidate the five existing RPP programs; adding staffing to the city's overburdened parking operation and adopting "parking availability standards" to help gauge the success of each program. Tanda also recommended creating a new website for all parking programs and raising permit prices for employees so that they would have an incentive to park in garages rather than on neighborhood streets.

The council unanimously accepted the report and directed staff to develop a work plan to implement Tanda's recommendations, which they hope will make the programs more user-friendly and easier to administer. The existing program, Tanda said, presents a "high degree of difficulty for staff," resulting in high staff turnover.

"It's almost like everything is being customized," Tanda said.

City Manager Ed Shikada said about half a dozen employees had come through the office in the last few years, largely because of the complexity of administering the program.

"It's one thing to battle the commute to get here, which all our employees can relate to," Shikada said. "It's another thing when you get to the workplace and you get ground down. That is literally the impression that employees working in this area felt."

Tanda highlighted in his report some of the flaws of the existing RPP system. Residents who live next to the commercial cores of downtown and California Avenue continue to see their blocks fill up with commuter cars and see the program as ineffective (many have suggested that the council reduce the number of employee permits, or stop selling these permits altogether). Employees often have a hard time buying a permit, while for visitors the system is "perplexing."

Even so, such programs remain popular. Residents in Old Palo Alto and in Green Acres are both trying to adopt new programs and council members indicated on Monday that it plans to address the parking problems in both neighborhoods. Vice Mayor Adrian Fine called the programs "a huge success."

"I think everyone on the council supports them, even if we have some disagreements about standards and overall objectives," Fine said.

Creating new parking availability standards for the two programs in commercial areas would address the disparity between the programs by giving the city a way to measure success. The standards will be developed in the coming months by the city's Planning and Transportation Commission.

Mayor Eric Filseth said he was delighted about the plan to adopt "parking availability standards," which would clearly define the acceptable parking vacancy rate in residential neighborhoods.

"I actually believe that if we can establish that, that will resolve most of the customizations that ripple through from that and will dramatically simplify the difficulty of the program," Filseth said.

Councilman Tom DuBois suggested that the city consider limiting the programs exclusively to residential permits and noted that the council's original intent in establishing the recent RPPs have been to gradually reduce employee permits as new parking facilities get built and as employers add "transportation-demand management" measures to steer employees away from cars and toward other modes of transportation.

His colleagues, however, rejected this idea and supported the report's recommendation not to make any further adjustments until the big-picture issues with the parking districts are resolved. In the meantime, Palo Alto will be recruiting for a new parking manager and setting up programs in Old Palo Alto and, after that, in Green Acres.

The Planning and Transportation Commission had already supported address the problems in both neighborhoods, with Old Palo Alto as the top priority. That district would be bounded by Washington Avenue, Oregon Avenue, Ramona Street and the rail corridor. Residents in this area have long complained about Caltrain commuters using their streets for long-term parking to avoid paying lot fees.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack suggested that the council also move ahead with a parking program in Green Acres, where parking is currently restricted on the weekdays between 9 and 10 a.m. The restriction, which was put in place to ward off Gunn High students, has been frustrating residents.

Janeen Nammar, who lives in the area with the parking restriction (the area includes parts of Georgia Avenue, Donald Drive and Hubbartt Drive), said the existing rule has penalized the neighborhood. Some neighborhoods, she wrote in an email, have widened their driveways so that they can park three cars in a row, while others park on their lawns to avoid the restriction.

"We have gotten many, many tickets," Nammar wrote to the council. "We also have to micromanage our behavior in ways inappropriate for a city to request. We cannot park in front of our homes at night, unless we are sure we will move the vehicle in time the next morning."

While the council did not delve into the specifics of the proposed Green Acres program, Councilwoman Alison Cormack suggested that the city should support the residents' bid for a parking program. She alluded to the program recently created in Southgate, where residents petitioned to create a parking district to ward of Palo Alto High students.

"It is equitable for both neighborhoods that are near the high schools to be treated similarly," Cormack said.


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37 people like this
Posted by No Commuters in Residential Neighborhoods
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Commuter parking does not belong in residential neighborhoods.

Having commuters park on residential streets discourages office developers from building in adequate parking. Why bother, when employees can park on residential streets all day for far less than commercial parking rates?

Having commuters park on residential streets discourages employers from establishing and subsidizing new transit options, such as van pools and commuter buses.

And having commuters park on residential streets violates California state law. The law says such residential parking programs are reserved for residents and merchants inside the controlled area -- and other groups may be allowed to park only if they cause no impact. But of course, they have an enormous impact on the residential streets.

So why does the Council continue a practice that helps office developers, helps big employers, harms residents, and breaks the law?

This needs to be fixed.

30 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 14, 2019 at 1:22 pm

I believe the poster above "No commuters in residential neighborhoods " sums it up well!!!

What kind of weird hypocrisy for City Council to, on one hand, claim to care about sustainability and the environment,
and on the other hand to increase the parking supply for commuters, encouraging single occupancy vehicle commuting, and degrading neighborhood quality?

Why not make big tech and developers either provide the parking onsite, pay to support existing transit systems or pay for their own private transit ?

Instead our city councils for years have favored big tech and developers and have allowed them to over densify the workplace and under park the buildings.
Thus resulting in the jobs housing imbalances that have driven housing prices up to nearly the most expensive in the country!
Now legislators in Sacramento want to punish us for this jobs housing imbalance by imposing even more growth and densification, traffic and pollution on residents, degrading our quality of life even more, and driving housing prices even higher, displacing residents , busting up community and straining our public resources.

Bills like SB50 and others are a continuation of a mindset in politics that continues to shift the financial burden and negative impacts to regular residents, benefiting developers, large real estate owners and the politicians who take money from t finance their campaigns.

17 people like this
Posted by A Residential Valet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Is it OK to rent out parking spaces in residential areas?

I have room for four cars in my driveway + two on the front lawn.

Since they are on private property, I assume it will not impact the streets.

I figured $25.00 would be reasonable to ask & based on 160 weekdays, I can probably net around $24K per month as 6 cars X $25 X 160 days (4 work weeks) comes to about that figure.

And tax free to boot!

I was thinking about letting my teen-aged son have this job as it sure beats a piddly allowance or working in fast food.

10 people like this
Posted by A Residential Valet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2019 at 2:19 pm

*LOL* My son just corrected my math. He reminded me that I was thinking of 160 'work hours' rather than 20 working days.

So now the revised figure comes to $3000.00 per month. Still nor bad for an allowance.

He's in!

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2019 at 2:48 pm

There are many apps that enable someone to rent out their driveway, just google them. They just need to be advertised and passed on, by work of mouth or phone, and matching up driveways with those who want to park during the day should be dead easy.

On another note, the CC have to understand that these RPPs only move parking from one place to another. As soon as a new area is included, the cars move out beyond the RPP area. The drives are using bikes, skate boards, scooters, etc. to get to their downtown jobs.

Moving parking from one place to another is not eliminating parking problems. It is just shifting them. Solving parking problems is not going to happen unless real alternatives are offered. Parking lots at highway offramps with dedicated shuttles to downtown and other business areas are alternatives. It is about time to try something better than playing musical chairs.

4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 10:33 am

Posted by A Residential Valet, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Is it OK to rent out parking spaces in residential areas?

OK with me, as long as -you- don't park your cars in the street. There are so many cars, your idea will be a niche solution at best.

>> I have room for four cars in my driveway + two on the front lawn.

Driveway, OK. Lawn-- no thanks. Do we need an ordinance? We don't need -more cars everywhere-.

>> Since they are on private property, I assume it will not impact the streets.

Unless you park in the street yourself.

>> And tax free to boot!

I will call the IRS for you and ask about this. What's your address, BTW? ;-)

OBTW-- actually back on topic -- too many cars in many/most neighborhoods already. Why don't we have an mandatory overnight-parking-permit system for residents in all neighborhoods?

10 people like this
Posted by Months Long Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 10:46 am

Around here, an apartment complex with residential parking but also parking that seems to be regulated by the city on streets running through the complex, some cars are left in spots for months and months. One car seems to have remained in the same parking spot for nearly a year. Some cars have so much dust on them, because they have not moved, it's obvious they've been left there by their owners for a long time. There's security patrolling the complex, so the owners probably planned to leave their cars here due to the relative safety. Is leaving vehicles for such long stretches of time legal? There is an issue with parking in this complex, and these almost permanently parked cars are only adding to the problem.

10 people like this
Posted by Tired of looking for parking in front of my home
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2019 at 11:59 am

The street I have lived on since 2003 -- the year I purchased my home -- has seen an unfortunate increase in the number of non-resident cars parked during the day and overnight. When the city of Palo Alto implemented resident-only zones some years ago to staunch the influx of out-of-town cars in Crescent Park, the off-limits status on those streets made for a bumper-to-bumper free-for-all on mine. I can't find parking anywhere, which is beyond frustrating when carrying groceries or anything else from the street to my front door. I recently contacted the city to inquire about resident-only parking on and around my street. "Sure," the city replied. "You can certainly opt in, but you'll need to pay $50 per car for each resident permit. And you're only permitted two permits." When I asked why I and my neighbors should be burdened with the cost to solve a problem we did not create, the city responded, "Because you are the ones who want resident-only parking." In other words, tax-paying residents are the problem, not out-of-towners who park on our streets. Thanks, Palo Alto. Gah.

8 people like this
Posted by CP Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2019 at 3:48 pm

> ...increase in the number of non-resident cars parked during the day and overnight.

Those cars are from EPA residents who have maxed-out on their parking availability.

This is one of the primary reasons my neighbors and I are against the redesign of the Newell Bridge. It should be eliminated.

Crescent Park residents don't park their cars in East Palo Alto and East Palo Alto should not be parking their cars in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by Cooperative Parking
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 15, 2019 at 9:07 pm

> Crescent Park residents don't park their cars in East Palo Alto and East Palo Alto should not be parking their cars in Palo Alto.

In all fairness, it should be reciprocal since the two neighborhoods are so closely situated.

East Palo Altans should be able to park theirs cars in or near Crescent Park and Crescent Park residents should feel totally at ease parking their cars along the streets in East Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2019 at 9:11 pm

Posted by Tired of looking for parking in front of my home, a resident of Crescent Park

>> You can certainly opt in, but you'll need to pay $50 per car for each resident permit. And you're only permitted two permits."

Web Link

Sorry, I'm confused. Are you already in the NOP program area? Also, since every house should have two spaces on their own property, two more cars at only $50/year each seems pretty affordable?

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