The permit program was intended to defuse the tension between Professorville residents who have long decried the lack of parking on their streets and the downtown workers who often park in the neighborhood to avoid the two-hour time limits prevalent in other parts of downtown. A group of residents has been clamoring for such a program for more than a year, claiming their quality of life has been affected. They've said they can no longer find parking close to their homes, many of which are so old they have no garages.
But after a long and winding debate, the council decided not to rush into such a program. Council members voted 6-2, with Gail Price and Sid Espinosa dissenting, to scrap the permit-program proposal and to pursue a broader and more comprehensive strategy for solving the problem of inadequate parking downtown.
The broader analysis will include consideration of new public-parking garages and new methods to increase use of existing garages, including valet parking and different permitting processes. The council also directed city staff to analyze technological remedies such as gate controls, parking-space identification systems and zone changes.
Council members argued the process for developing the program wasn't open enough, that the proposed pilot area was too restrictive and that the program wouldn't solve the problem but merely shift it to a different neighborhood.
"My greatest concern is that a lot of the neighbors who are not in the zone would be negatively impacted for whatever time duration we'd have the program," Mayor Yiaway Yeh said.
The pilot area proposed by staff would have been bordered by Addison Avenue to the north and Lincoln Avenue to the south, stretching between Emerson and Bryant Streets, along with a block of Addison between Bryant and Waverley streets. Time restrictions would have applied on weekdays between 8 and 5 p.m. Staff proposed the program after six months of meetings with a self-selected working group of neighborhood residents and downtown employees.
But while some Professorville residents endorsed the plan, many of the speakers at the council meeting voiced major reservations about the staff proposal.
"Parking on city streets is a social good that belongs to all the people of Palo Alto, residents and employees alike," said Don Barr, a Stanford professor who lives next to the proposed pilot area. "Residents have no more right to a space than workers."
Others disagreed and urged staff to proceed with the trial, which would have lasted between three and six months. Downtown developer Charles "Chop" Keenan's endorsement was measured but said the experiment would at the very least provide staff with some information about parking.
"It's a fragile parking ecosystem that can't take radical disruption," Keenan said. "We don't know how it's going to turn out, but we'll know more in six months."
Councilwoman Price agreed, supporting both the trial permit program and a more comprehensive solution
"Clearly, a more aggressive, a more comprehensive plan is really important," Price said. "Along those lines, I feel for us to really be comprehensive, we do need to do a trial as one element of a comprehensive approach."
The broad analysis will be funded by a $250,000 contribution from developers of Lytton Gateway, a mixed-use development at Lytton Avenue and Alma Street that the council approved earlier this year. Planning Director Curtis Williams said the parking study is particularly timely, given the recent trend of offices becoming denser.
"We're seeing office occupancies that tend to be considerably more than one person per 250 square feet. The old model isn't holding up the same way, so it's appropriate as part of this to look at those ratios," he said.
Staff will return to the council in six months to report on the progress of the parking study and early findings.