News

Parking reforms top Palo Alto's transportation to-do list

New plans calls for improving residential programs; instituting paid system for garages, lots downtown

Frustrated by the city's confusing patchwork of residential parking programs, Palo Alto's transportation leaders are preparing to craft a uniform set of rules to govern such programs going forward.

The development of "parking availability standards" for the city's Residential Preferential Parking (RPP) programs is a key initiative in the city's new "Transportation and Traffic Workplan," which the City Council plans to discuss and potentially approve on Monday night. As part of the effort to reform the RPP system, the council will have to wrestle with a question that it has largely avoided thus far: How bad should the parking problem get before the city becomes involved?

According to the work plan, the Planning and Transportation Commission will begin discussing the availability standards this fall and winter before the issue goes to the council.

The discussion over parking comes at a time when RPP programs are becoming increasingly popular in residential neighborhoods. This Monday, the council is set to make permanent the Southgate RPP that made its debut two years ago. As part of its approval, the council also plans to raise the number of employee permits in the small district from 15 to 20.

As in the past, every household in Southgate will be able to buy up to six parking permits, which allow cars to park on the streets throughout the day. Cars without permits are subject to a two-hour limit between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The council also plans to approve on Oct. 21 a new RPP in the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, just east of the Caltrain tracks. Residents there have complained for several years about Caltrain commuters using their blocks for free all-day parking. A survey by city staff confirmed that some blocks near the California Avenue underpass have parking rates of 95% or 100%; at others, the rate is about 75%, according to the city data.

To date, new RPP districts have been based more on popular demand than on objective metrics. To form a district under the present system, neighbors must present the city with a petition showing majority support. Once staff verifies that the neighborhood has parking shortages, the new RPP program is crafted based on community feedback and on experiences with prior programs.

The program has created some confusion and frustration for city staff, who are responsible for monitoring and — in many cases — modifying the disparate programs. It also creates some confusion for residents, who don't know what exactly to expect from their new program.

In August, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission struggled to decide whether to approve the proposed Old Palo Alto program, citing a paucity of data and inconsistent regulations. While the commission ultimately voted 4-2 to recommend approval, Chair William Riggs and Vice Chair Michael Alcheck both voted against the program.

"I'm worried if we continue to approach this with approval and start another pilot, the next one will be just as complex, without the right level of strategy," Alcheck said.

The idea of creating "parking availability standards" is also a key component in a package of reforms proposed by Wayne Tanda, the city's transportation consultant, in a report that the council reviewed and embraced in June. The report calls for establishing such standards for downtown and the Evergreen-Mayfield and Southgate RPPs. The standards would be based on residents' perceptions of the impact of parking availability on their quality of life, according to a June report. Once in place, the standards would be used to determine how many employee permits should be distributed and where the boundaries of the RPP districts should be set.

During the June discussion, Mayor Eric Filseth said he was "delighted" by the prospect of establishing availability standards for different parts of the city.

"I believe if we can establish that, that will resolve most of the customization that ripples through ... and will dramatically simplify the operation of this program," Filseth said.

In addition to developing the availability standards, modifying the Southgate RPP and establishing the Old Palo Alto RPP, the new transportation work plan also calls for moving ahead with a paid-parking system for public garages and lots downtown. As part of the switch, the council plans to approve in the coming weeks a new contract with Dixon Resources, the consulting firm that had recommended the switch in its 2017 review of downtown's parking problems.

In the coming months, the city also plans to award a new contract for Palo Alto's free shuttle program, a service that council members want to expand; revisit the city's plans for developing new bike boulevards; and implement bike- and scooter-share programs.

These initiatives will be spearheaded by the city's newly created Office of Transportation, which consists of 15.48 full-time-equivalent positions and which is headed by recently hired Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Commercial Parking
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2019 at 11:35 am

When should business permits be issued in residential parking zones? The answer is in this New Yorker cartoon. Web Link The caption reads, "...How about never--is never good for you?"

Also don't allow extra permits for multiple housing units on a single R-1 parcel. They should get the same number of permits as a single house on the parcel would.


23 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2019 at 11:37 am

Can we beat a dead horses long enough.....until these so called leader or as I call them “lame duck” city counsel members realize where the problem lies then frustration will mount until the city implodes. As a small business owner who’s had 5 employees for the past 20 yrs, I am being penalized where my employees can no longer park in front of my office. It’s obvious, I am not the source of the problem....let me give you a hint, it’s the big businesses, start ups, that are somehow getting their projects approved without providing any additional parking. So these start ups that put 100 employees in a 20x20 room who do not provide additional parking and take all of the permits from local small mom and pop shops are driving us to relocate or close all together. I can honestly say I hate doing business here. And for those of you who say get lost.....I already did. I’m out!


2 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2019 at 12:07 pm

And for this if you residents, myself included because I live here, who want the appreciation of your property but don’t want anyone parking in front of their house.....you can’t have your cake and eat it too.....who do you think created this impossible place to live in, where the average price of a home is $3 million? It wasn’t you but these same businesses you are trying to kick out. You should be grateful that grandmas shack is now $3 million and it’s a year down.


18 people like this
Posted by Ray
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2019 at 12:41 pm

The concept of having resident parking only in residential neighborhoods has gone all the way to the United States Supreme Court (Richardson v Arlington) and the Court decided in favor of RPP since parking and related traffic destroy what the Court decided was the "essential character" of a neighborhood.

United States Supreme Court

ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD v. RICHARDS(1977)
No. 76-1418
Argued: Decided: October 11, 1977

Arlington County, Va., zoning ordinance prohibiting automobile commuters from parking in designated residential neighborhoods and providing for free parking permits for residents of such neighborhoods held not to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The distinction drawn between residents and nonresidents of a neighborhood is not invidious and rationally promotes the ordinance's stated legitimate objectives of reducing air pollution and other adverse consequences of automobile commuting, and of enhancing the quality of life in residential areas such as by reducing noise and traffic hazards.
Certiorari granted; 217 Va. 645, 231 S. E. 2d 231, vacated and remanded.

The sale of parking permits to employees, free parking for anyone for two hours, and lax enforcement (coupled with on-going construction) has made little difference in residential areas close to downtown. IF enforcement included a penalty even slightly more than the cost of downtown parking but also included a near certainty of being fined and enforced, empty spaces in downtown parking would be filled. Top floors are unpopular and could be set aside at lower rates for downtown workers.


15 people like this
Posted by kurt
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Having spent 7 years in the smart parking business (sensors and apps), I have had the opportunity to study parking in some detail. Parking needs policies, not big broad strategies. Policies are what influence driver behavior the most.

An RPP can work very well. RPPs can make it possible to park near the house you own (safety), allow street sweeping investment actually yield clean streets, and reduce city traffic by motivating large companies to either buy parking permits for city owned garages (stop driving around) and/or encourage public transportation.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Having no Caltrain parking East of the tracks at Cal Ave is a big problem. Trying to get to the Caltrain lot means getting stuck in traffic. Why not have a Caltrain lot East of the tracks and allow commuters and Cal Ave workers to park without having to cross those tracks and add to horrendous traffic.


12 people like this
Posted by Michael H
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Michael H is a registered user.

As this RPP review process gets underway those of us who reside in the zones immediately adjacent to the downtown area hope that that the existing forms of the RPP program will also be reviewed. Specifically Zones 5, 6 and 7 which are usually 100% parked Monday-Friday between Alma and Waverley. Clearly the permit distribution algorithm in this area needs to be adjusted to allow for some open/guest parking during the work week.


10 people like this
Posted by Ferne Avenue too, please
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2019 at 3:11 pm

I am glad to hear this will be uniform across the city. Here in South Palo Alto we are also sponsoring free Caltrain parking on the east side of the tracks, here for the San Antonio station. We should be charging for the Ferne Avenue Park-and-Ride, or really the Park-Ride-and-Lodge because, yes, we have RVs too! We are the only overnight-park-and-lodge for Caltrain in town, and it's free on a first-come-first-serve basis. Bathroom facilities and some have employed cooking facilities in the nearby empty lot.


8 people like this
Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2019 at 4:30 pm

So help me understand. The City hired Dixon Resources as a consultant to figure out what to do with the business district garages/lots, the consultant says "change everything you've been doing for 30 years and go to a pay as you go garage/lot system" AND THEN...like magic, the City goes back to that company to implement a pay as you go program (including providing the technology/resources) by paying them another contract?

Am I reading that right?


3 people like this
Posted by No parking apps!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2019 at 6:01 pm

I am aware of two parking apps advertised to “save” parking spots in S.F. One pays and requests a spot in an area, let’s say at a meter on the street in a particular area of S.F., then a car goes and “holds” it for you! They direct you where to drive to. How totally obnoxious and wasteful.
If I recall this correctly, the first app of this nature was forbidden by SF Board of Supervisors.
Now a new one is advertised on radio. These apps discriminate against the elderly, those who don’t want to download and pay for these commercial apps. Public parking should be equally available to the public. It shouldn’t be hijacked by commercial opportunists, idling in their cars and clogging the roads unnecessarily.
The government charging for public parking or commercial owners of a lot charging to park there - that’s different.
I suggest doing what Redwood City does, their mix seems successful. Garages seem to work there, in my experience.
Why can’t Palo Alto ever examine nearby cities to easily learn what works and is lower stress. (Hypothetical question)


14 people like this
Posted by Paid Parking
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2019 at 8:11 pm

Paid Parking is a registered user.

I do not like the idea of paid parking downtown for 2 hours or less because it was not necessary before the city council & staff allowed lots of office buildings to be built downtown without sufficient parking. Thus your parking meter fees are going to subsidize the office growth and business/developer profitability.


12 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

I figured it out, I go up to Los Altos to shop and eat, easy to park and No Hassle...


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2019 at 9:06 am

Our parking definitely needs to be revamped and made simpler for everyone.

However enabling people to be able to park is just as important as attempting to get people to use public transport as an alternative.

We need some satellite parking places with dedicated shuttles to business districts.

We need simple methods of paying for 3 hour plus occasional parking.

We need signs showing where to find empty spots in parking garages. There is no point driving into a garage that is full to drive around aimlessly looking for an empty spot that doesn't exist.

We need plenty of 30 minute free spots.

I have no objection to 2 hour free parking, but why can't we pay from our phones for 3 hours or in a meter.

This is silicon valley. We must be able to use technology to do something simpler than what we are doing at present. Parking is simpler in almost every other city in the world, using technology. We are way behind the times.


5 people like this
Posted by dERF
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 3, 2019 at 9:23 am

Lets make it more and more difficult for any business to be in Palo Alto. Drive them away to other cities, and then watch retail & restaurants die. But this is what the Council thinks the residents want. Oh I know, let adopt a business tax and make sure the business community leaves sooner.


10 people like this
Posted by Retail
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 3, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Retail is a registered user.

Developers have built with insufficient parking and commercial property owners lease to businesses with employee densities with insufficient parking for their tenants. For which they make big bucks, especially because the sale of commercial properties can be structured so that a new property tax assessment can be avoided with many tied to the original 1975 Prop 13 rate, plus whatever "improvements" have been made over the decades. (Currently, only approximately 25% of our property tax comes from commercial properties and declining every year).

Why should those who live in Palo Alto bear the price for non-public serving office parking woes? The city already subsidizes businesses by having to pay for RPP programs and residents having to pay to park in front of their homes.

Let's only allow commercial parking permits for those employed by traditional retail and small business that serve the community such as medical office staff, architects, structural engineers, accountants, insurance agents, etc. with fewer than 25 employees, plus any business that provides sales tax such as hotels.


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:24 am

Posted by Retail, a resident of College Terrace

>> Developers have built with insufficient parking and commercial property owners lease to businesses with employee densities with insufficient parking for their tenants.

>> Why should those who live in Palo Alto bear the price for non-public serving office parking woes?

Agreed. We residents would like to, you know, visit the dentist, visit a friend, or go shopping, in our hometown, and not have to drive to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara to do it. Somehow, employers of office workers will have -to be forced- to solve their employees parking requirements somewhere off of city streets. "Force"? That is an ugly word, but, employers continue to exploit public resources, in this case street parking, for private gain. We need a -legal- solution to this and it needs to be -enforced-.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2019 at 11:13 am

"Having no Caltrain parking East of the tracks at Cal Ave is a big problem. Trying to get to the Caltrain lot means getting stuck in traffic. Why not have a Caltrain lot East of the tracks and allow commuters and Cal Ave workers to park without having to cross those tracks and add to horrendous traffic."

And you would put the parking where? We already complain about not enough green space in Palo Alto. Are you suggesting to pave over Bowden Park?

[Portion removed.]

However, if you insist on driving, why not just go to Palo Alto Station where Baby Bullet service is much better anyway?


Like this comment
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2019 at 11:30 am

@Me 2

We could take the block bordered by N. California, Alma, Washington and High. Sieze it by eminent domain and make it parking garage. Enlarge the underpass to the train station.

That would significantly reduce the traffic down Oregon, make it more convenient to get to/take the train. Have a bus shuttle.

What a wonderful idea.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2019 at 11:47 am

I will gladly pay $50/year/car for a citywide street parking program, as long as the program:
- Strongly discourages large businesses and their employees from using on-street parking anywhere in the city
- Encourages local commerce and services
- Favors Palo Alto residents over commuters
- Encourages use of Caltrain from/to Palo Alto

I'm not sure the City Council is 100% on board for the first item on the list. Somehow, this should become a roll-call vote item. It is very irritating the way the Palo Alto City Council constantly bends the rules and bends over backwards for large employers.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 7, 2019 at 2:02 pm

@Marc

"That would significantly reduce the traffic down Oregon, make it more convenient to get to/take the train. Have a bus shuttle."

That presumes a big enough part of traffic on Oregon is for people trying to get to Caltrain parking. Given the number of cars parked on the street that I walk by on my way to the Cal Ave station and how not full the parking lot is, I seriously doubt that's the case.

This is just a case of a single person who's butt-hurt about driving on Oregon.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2019 at 9:17 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

A residential street is narrower that a major street. When you have people who do not live there parking every day on the street like they have assigned spaces your children are now navigating down a very narrow lane with no escapes except at driveways. Is that what every one bought into? And the street cleaner is totally useless in this scenario. If you have a of "street trees" on your block then you have huge amounts of leaves coming up for the fall. It is a mess. And the parkers think that they have the right to put their car junk, wrappers, plastic bottles on the street to clean their cars. Their company told them to park there so they figure out that the system is rigged.

The "city" keeps making concessions to all of the wrong people. I went over to the JCC to talk about the parking and was told that the higherups got parking next to Gunn controlled because the kids were parking in the residential streets instead of the parking lots. The streets next to Gunn allow limited parking for the service help.

So the system here is rigged. And the city paid a "consultant" to rig it. What is wrong with your heads? We have a city staff who is suppose to be hired for this skill set. Is the city staff composed of people's children who need a job but have no credentials for the job they are doing?


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2019 at 10:26 am

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> A residential street is narrower that a major street. When you have people who do not live there parking every day on the street like they have assigned spaces

The -silver lining- is that some of those streets are so narrow that when they are heavily parked on both sides, they aren't wide enough for cars to pass. Slows traffic down to one direction at a time at about 20 mph. Yes, it would suck in an emergency, but, at least it slows down those dumb___ commuters who want to go 40-45 on your narrow street.

>> And the street cleaner is totally useless in this scenario.

Yep. The ("new") contractor uses a minuscule amount of water and the brushes they typically use are mostly useless anyway. I hope we, the city residents, are not paying much for this reduced-quality street cleaning contractor service.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

ANON - love opinions on other people's points. I always interpret Another PA Neighborhood as some where in the hills. Different set of problems. My neighborhood borders on a number of businesses which used to have adequate parking but now do not.

Always happy for successful businesses but not at the expense of the neighborhoods and number of kids on bikes. If companies did not tell their employees to park there then we would not have people speeding through.

Also that computer system which directs traffic through residential streets, sometime about 20 cars turn onto Louis going where? Or they are trying to leave Louis at Charleston and the whole street backs up. Why are they there in the first place? That is why we have Middlefield which is a wide transition street. Note that Charleston used to be a wide transition street but has been reduced to a narrow transition street. That is not Progress. If the city is compressing all of the wide transition streets then people are wandering through the residential neighborhoods. Who thinks this type of stuff up? The reason we have wide transition streets is to move traffic through - that is why they are wider.


Like this comment
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:46 am

A short and thoughtful analysis on "Why Parking Issues Should Matter To Cities."

Web Link

Basic tenet: Officials should aim to provide residents and visitors with a stress-free, enjoyable experience, not one that is compounded by obstacles when trying to enter and exit the city.

Main points:

1. Implementing an integrated, intelligent parking management solution allows cities to make the best use of their most valuable asset.

2. The most important aspect of achieving a streamlined parking experience is real-time guidance to all parking options and reliable, live information and updates.

4. Deploying a cost-effective parking management and guidance solution ultimately generates more revenue for a city, as existing parking spaces are properly monetized.

5. By applying the time and effort to invest in a solution that takes advantage of the space that already exists and simplifies the overall experience, urban areas can achieve one of their most important goals: happy citizens.

Summary:

In Palo Alto we have the intelligence, the applications and the funding to implement a longterm effective and efficient parking system. In the world, the city is known as the hub of technology advancements. Let us be known as well for implementing an excellent, technology based, city parking solution.






Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2019 at 12:26 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I read an article about Mountain View and their take on RV parking. They noted the size in width of narrow residential streets and the size in width of larger commute streets. They have smart people who have figured out a way to apply a law using measurable information. And apply bike lanes to further explain their street parking laws.

So what motivates PA? touchy, feely, all of which have no measurable criteria.
Are our parking laws dictated by some non-profit with a loud voice? If that is what is going on then print whoever is exercising the touchy feely pressure. We need to understand what factors are actually controlling the decision making.
Add to that the County, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SU?

Take the RV's off ECR like everyone else has - they have no place there. SU workers should get gate passes to park in the back side of the property. All else on other side of 101. Inconvenient for RV dweller? Gee - move on to another town.


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