On Deadline: Is there a 'simple solution' to parking overflow from commercial areas? | December 13, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - December 13, 2013

On Deadline: Is there a 'simple solution' to parking overflow from commercial areas?

by Jay Thorwaldson

Opposition has surfaced to a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) program for Palo Alto neighborhoods hit by overflow parking from commercial areas, scheduled to be considered by the City Council Monday night.

Two brothers — longtime Palo Alto residents and owners of a family property-management business — launched a website (http://paloaltoparkingsolutions.org/comparison/) Dec. 6 that claims the RPP program will do more harm than good.

They warn it will affect neighborhoods well beyond the existing impact zones from overflow parking. And they note many residents of outlying areas have no idea they will need to pay for a permit to park on their street, citing staff-level talk about making the RPP program citywide in terms of impacted areas.

The brothers are Simon and Ben Cintz, whose family has lived or owned property near downtown Palo Alto since 1952. The family also operated a small business along Alma Street for years.

They acknowledge the parking-overflow problem exists and impacts residents, but feel the permit plan goes too far, costs too much and will harm employees and businesses. "There are legitimate issues. We don't want to discount the situation with the residents," Simon emphasized. The website even includes "a photo gallery of bad parking."

"What we're trying to say is that this area needs to be shared parking," as it has been for more than a half century. Simon recalled that when working summers in the family store "the parking was for the customers" and employees — including himself — parked in nearby residential areas.

"So it's not a new thing. It definitely has gotten worse. I don't want to imply that the situation is not bad. What we see is that the RPP will definitely clear the streets. It's just that it will also impact businesses and employees in a very negative way, and we feel that there's a better way to approach it."

The brothers noted that both the Chamber of Commerce and downtown businesses have asked the city to delay considering the RPP until January, after the holiday shopping season, rather than 10 days before Christmas.

The website pushes an alternative program, with its own initials: "The Simple Parking Solution" (TSPS).

The solution is, well, simple: Using paint, just reduce the number of parking spaces on impacted residential streets by making curbside spaces larger, eliminating jammed-up parking.

Simon created and launched the website last Friday after garnering feedback from friends and business owners. On Saturday he went door-to-door in a combination information-sharing and survey in a neighborhood outside the impacted zone.

Of the 12 to 15 homes he visited, only one resident was aware the neighborhood could be included in the RPP.

"There's a reason for a lack of knowledge there. The city sends out these little public notices (about a meeting) on 'downtown parking considerations.' If you live in that neighborhood you don't have any 'downtown parking considerations' so why would you come to the meeting?"

So despite two public meetings in late September, "There are a lot of people who haven't had a chance to speak up," Simon said.

The RPP needs to extend beyond currently impacted areas, even for a test, because with a small area nonresidents would simply park outside the test area. So the area needs to be large enough to discourage that.

The protest against the RPP and for the alternative plan has already garnered significant support, with more than two dozen supporters, including Whole Foods Market, Watercourse Way and Gordon Biersch, among others. They also include Barron Park Shell, a dentist, and, of course, Cintz Commercial Properties.

The website poses "unanswered questions" about the RPP, including where displaced employees will park, how many employees will be displaced, and how much the program will cost to implement and enforce. There is also a question of safety for employees who would need to walk longer distances, especially during winter months, the website states.

The brothers say the proposed RPP program could impact up to 100 blocks, while their "simple" program of repainting spaces would impact mainly those areas already hit hard by parking overflow, with some expansion because a number of employees would be forced to park elsewhere due to the larger parking spaces — reduced from about 15 to 12 spaces per block.

Dena Mossar, a former mayor and City Council member and a resident of the South of Forest Avenue area where the Cintz brothers were raised and own property, also has gotten involved — but not as a combatant, so to speak.

"I don't think of myself as part of the group, but I've spent quite a bit of time with Simon, who asked me for advice.

"I said I thought his alternate plan has problems but the RPP also has problems. And I said he should focus on working with downtown businesses" to get them informed and involved. The RPP, she said, would have the most impact on those with a minimum or very low wage.

She said she feels the city is "hell-bent to install the RPP, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. But in my heart I say this is going to hurt some people and the people it's going to hurt have not been involved in the process," whether businesses or individuals.

She feels that "Palo Alto for whatever reason got starry-eyed about luring more tech jobs into Palo Alto, and particularly into downtown Palo Alto, where we just don't have the infrastructure. ... There has been too much office development and too little (parking space) supply, and there are people whose lives are compromised by all this.

Meanwhile, a "parking deficit" exists of between a staff estimate of 1,000 spaces to more than 2,500.

"Whatever it is, it's a very big number," Mossar observes. Then she adds, as many others have said in past years and decades: "I don't begin to know the answer. It's a very complicated problem."

Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be emailed at jthorwaldson@paweekly.com with a copy to jaythor@well.com. He also writes blogs at www.PaloAltoOnline.com (below Town Square).


Like this comment
Posted by try it, you might like it
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

It actually sounds like a reasonable idea and simple to try out. Sort of like the "no turn signal" in DTN vs. "gated community".

Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2013 at 10:38 am

"Palo Alto for whatever reason got starry-eyed about luring more tech jobs into Palo Alto, and particularly into downtown Palo Alto, where we just don't have the infrastructure. ... There has been too much office development and too little (parking space) supply, and there are people whose lives are compromised by all this."

Like small-town boosters everywhere. Our city councilmembers and their commissioners always hope that this next one will get Palo Alto on the map ... well maybe this next one ... or surely this next one... .

They have been eager marks for slick developers from Woodside, Portola Valley, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, and even a local one, in exchange for the illusion of urbanity and a few dollars in the campaign coffers. The Weekly documented an example of the latter here: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Put pay per hour machines in all City lots and garages and meters on the street.

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Posted by When
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

"Is there a 'simple solution' to parking overflow from commercial areas?"

Yes, the simple solution is to constrain new commercial development until infrastructure catches up.

Forcing tailored parking solutions will leave everyone unhappy, which is already the case. We are wasting valuable energy and time chasing parking and traffic moving targets (literally moving targets) instead of confronting the elephant (S) in the area.

Like this comment
Posted by Read Our Lips
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

No new development! Put a long moratorium on it! Meanwhile, how about some signs starting the fines for business parking in a residential neighborhood? The meter maid can run the plates to find out if the parked car is a resident or not. Also, parking meters downtown are a great idea--at least make some cash out of a bad situation. Sure worked for RWC!

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm

@Read Our Lips

Does that mean you would gladly pay a ticket if you parked in a neighborhood you weren't a resident of? I mean, seeing as there's no way of knowing if a parked car is in a location due to business or just visiting a friend...

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Posted by Council and developers
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm

As I recall Liz Kniss got the office space after Sandoval was forced out.
Web Link

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