Businesses slam planned changes to downtown parking program | February 24, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 24, 2017

Businesses slam planned changes to downtown parking program

Chamber of Commerce joins dentists in protesting elimination of employee permits

by Gennady Sheyner

By most accounts, downtown Palo Alto's new residential parking program has succeeded in providing relief for area residents whose streets had previously served as parking lots for commuters. But a new proposal to gradually eliminate employee permits has stirred up opposition in the business community, where many see the Residential Preferential Parking program as an existential threat.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:37 am

The article says reducing commuter permits sold in the neighborhoods is a "new idea" but it's been the plan for quite some time. The article also doesn't mention that substantially fewer such permits are being sold than the 2,000 allowed for. In other words, the City already bowed to the fear-mongering of these businesses to supply them with more parking than they even need.

These same local businesses refuse to provide adequate parking for their employees and customers and instead insist on shamelessly grabbing it from homeowners blocks away. These companies give lip service to being environmentally-conscious but then won't commit to the most mild steps to actually do anything.

The reduction of 200 permits annually represents just a few percentage points -- easily offset by increased use of telecommuting, mass transit, ridesharing, bikes, and a new garage. If our local businesses, so highly acclaimed for their prowess and technology focus, can't achieve even these pathetically modest goals, let them move out and be replaced by ones who can.

Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:19 am

If the 2000 current permits are not all taken now, the city might require that businesses without sufficient lot space will have to buy permits for their # of employees that exceeds their parking spaces. A thought.

Posted by Ridiculous!
a resident of University South
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:33 am

The medical and dental offices need parking for their employees and their patients!

This city needs to get a grip on reality!!!

What part of necessity don't they understand???

Posted by frustrated volunteer
a resident of Addison School
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:01 am

I'd like to be able to spend several hours a week doing volunteer work at First Lutheran Church at the corner of Homer and Webster. But the only way I can do that is to park in the evening or on weekends. To work during the week means multiple trips per week instead of one --- that wastes my time and adds to traffic congestion.

Has a park-and-ride system ever been considered? Create large parking lots on the edges of town, and provide frequent shuttle service into central Palo Alto. It's done all the time in European cities.

Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:01 am

The Weekly does not mention my support for community-serving businesses like dentists.

Dentists, Therapists, Channing House and other organizations that serve Palo Alto residents should be given priority status to buy parking permits along with low-wage employees. Many resident stakeholders share this view.

Further, the Stakeholder Group I served on never said that permits must be reduced to zero. We lived with commercial parking in residential neighborhoods for years until they essentially monopolized all the parking on many residential streets. After years of effort, residents came to the table with models for sharing on-street parking.

There are few other cities in California where residents have agreed to this model; most just implement a resident-only parking program where business and residential areas abut.

The Downtown RPP program is trying to make a system work for everyone. The dentists and other community serving businesses I have talked with understand and support this approach.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:04 am

If the city is going to do this, why can't they go ALL IN? Make residential streets almost entirely a NO PARKING WITHOUT RESIDENTIAL PERMIT zone. "Residential permits" should only be provided to homeowners and renters in those neighborhoods.

The people parking downtown who should be targeted are NOT shoppers, patients or employees. Rather, they should target non-health care, non-restaurant, non-retail, non-entertainment employees.

If you want to make a dent in the parking problem downtown, craft a plan that protects the homeowners/renters, shoppers and employees of restaurants, retail stores and entertainment establishments. Target those who work 9-5 types of jobs at business offices in the downtown area.

Posted by different employers
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

Clearly there are different types of employers. Health professionals (i.e. dentists and therapists) require adequate parking for staff and patients. Tech companies (i.e. Palantir–which occupies 20 downtown buildings) whose workers sit at computers and typically have more flexible hours, may need to consider alternative transportation options to driving solo for their workers.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:20 am

The Council will soon be considering Residential Parking Permit program for the neighborhoods near Downtown. Here is my personal proposal (not in any official capacity) on how these permits should be allocated in descending priority.

1. Residents of the RPP neighborhoods.
2. Businesses located in the RPP neighborhoods, which are not eligible for permits in the Downtown parking structures.
3. Low income retail and service workers of neighborhood-serving businesses located in the Downtown, who are now eligible for low-cost permits.
4. Other employees of businesses Downtown eligible for parking permits in the parking structures. These are the permits that should be phased out over ten years, not those in the above priorities.

This plan would retain parking permits for neighborhood businesses like dentists that are not now eligible for parking permits Downtown.

Finally, since new developments, such as 101 Lytton, 135 Hamilton, and 240 Hamilton, are supposed to be self-parked other than parking in the parking structures paid for by their assessments, no businesses located in these and new developments should be eligible for parking in the RPP.

As a data scientist and having taught systems analysis at UC Santa Cruz, I can say professionally that the contractor should be easily able to implement these priorities and restrictions given appropriate direction and support by Planning Staff and an appropriate RPP permit application form. If the City or its contractor cannot figure out how, I’d be happy to show them how for free.

Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:32 am

This will be interesting development since the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan advises that city can promote commerce but not at the expensive of residential neighborhoods.

The Chamber of Commerce is focused on the wrong issues.
#1 City policy continues to increase the demand for non-resident to park on all residential streets in Palo Alto. The problem is simply most acute around University and Caliifornia Avenue. City Council is unable and unwilling to admit that city policy continues to aggravate residents and EXISTING businesses.
#2 City policy is well-established to reduce the massive tidal wave of non-resident vehicles in the purely residential areas. Permit parking programs work and will work better with continuously improvement.
#3 City policy must address which non-resident workers have priority to park on residential streets. Resident and small professional service businesses such as dentists have been working on policies to address prioritization. This policy must become top priority for City Council within the next 90 days. Permit parking programs are slowly improving and WILL NOT become a crisis in the next year.

Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:58 am

Sell permits if the business serves the community. If it is office workers, drive them out of town. Palo Alto needs fewer jobs and fewer cars commuting into town and clogging our roads. High density employers who have offices full of people at computers should be encouraged to go somewhere else. Bring back the companies that serve the town: medical and retail good, office workers bad. This is our town and it should serve our interests.

We need to come to the realization that jobs are not universally a good thing. Just as a community with no jobs is bad, having one with too many is equally bad.

Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Palo Alto used to have a very nice downtown, with a mixture of retail, restaurants, stores, banks, a few small offices, boutiques, a couple of optometrists, etc. Did I mention retail stores? Now that there are under-parked office buildings, hotels with no parking, and businesses that won't provide parking permits for their employees, the deadly combination of declining retail and very scarce parking has ended the appeal of "going downtown." The Stanford Theater is about the only reason to go, now.
I shop in Menlo Park (Safeway, Draegers) and Los Altos, or at T & C. Lunch downtown? Can't park. Bike downtown? No, last time it got stolen. Blade or board? No, I'm too old. Eureka! Employers must give every new hire under 30 a pair of skates!

Posted by Richard
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2017 at 12:27 pm

I too served with Sue Nightingale, John Guisin, Neilson Buchanan as some of the stakeholders who crafted this program. John is correct, we NEVER advised the City Staff to take the number of employee permits in our neighborhoods down to zero. In fact there was a majority vote of our City sponsored Stakeholder group to allow up to 25% of the curb spaces within the RPP residential zone to be available to permits, with service (low income) employees having priority for those permits.
It is unfortunate that the City chartered RPP Stakeholder group was disbanded last year. We had developed much group expertise and consensus over the 2+ years we worked together. Now we are disbanded and also, those Staff members who worked closely with us are gone too leaving proposals like this one for complete drawdown to jeopardize the whole program.
BTW my neighbor who has no driveway has thanked me many times.

Posted by commonsense
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 12:31 pm

But it's working! Why take the permits away? The RPP opened up the residential streets so residents, at least the non super-complainers, are happier. Another solution looking for a problem. If this mentality keeps up we'll drive businesses out of town, landlords will push to move office tenants into their empty restaurants and retail spaces and we'll be back to square one. City council needs to consider the long range, not today or the next couple of years. Keep downtown vibrant/let the employees park somewhere!

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Too much stick, not enough carrot. Until we have a BART loop around the Bay (or at least a regional transit authority instead of our current divided setup), people will drive in from a variety of suburbs to work in Palo Alto. Commuters have no reason to care about residents; they just want to get to work and go home in the most convenient way available. So if we want to get them off our streets, that's the incentive we have to appeal to. And yes, that is harder than "let's clamp down on the offices even more."

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Palo Alto is already confusing for so many people who want to park occasionally for more than 3 hours. I know of many people who refuse to go to downtown Palo Alto even for lunch because of the difficulty in finding parking. There is no high tech way to find parking as well as no low tech method apart from driving around one lot after another. I recently car pooled with a group who were meeting for lunch and even for short term parking, it is ridiculously difficult to know where the available spaces are.

For these reasons, people end up parking on city streets because it is easier than having to drive around garages looking for available parking. When parked in a garage it is ridiculously difficult to find out how to pay for 3 or more hours parking.

Where are the high tech signs, the parking apps, the easy payment methods? I feel strongly that if we had more aids to parking, then there would be less parking on residential streets.

Why isn't this being tried? We need a parking strategy not a no parking policy. We need meters and better parking strategies with 30 minute parking outside retail. We need parking lots near freeways with dedicated shuttles. We need to make it easier to park with less confusion.

Posted by Judy Jetson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm

I think the proposers of RPP in Palo Alto are prepping for the eventual take over of robots. They are hoping that all wage earning service workers will be replaced by robots and will not need parking or commuting to go to the doctor for an obgyn exam, a cancer exam, a prostate exam, get a tooth filling, get a hair cut or manicure, pick up their kids, get supplies in a flood emergency, or get any kind of medical exam. Remember that Palo Alto has a large geriatric community and healthcare is central to that community. Good Luck!

Posted by ¯_(ツ)_/¯
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:50 pm

The most idiotic part of this situation is the expectation that dentists should be building their own parking structures because that is what it means to assume the cost of doing business in Palo Alto.

Posted by Richard Sandoval
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:59 pm

These businesses need to provide parking for their employees and not have their employees park in neighborhoods. If a business can't provide adequate parking then they should relocate to an area with parking. The two hour parking in neighborhoods should also be eliminated. Reduce that to 30 minutes.

Posted by Julie B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 3:01 pm

So if there is no parking in neighborhoods, how do I visit a friend? Just sayin'...

Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Before RPP it was possible to park downtown to shop, visit several shops, enjoy a leisurely lunch. That is no longer possible. I live in an area that does not get permits for downtown or California Ave.
We need a way to park for more than 2 hours to attend to business and pleasure. Most of the neighborhoods that do receive permits have large lots and residents have on site parking. If the Palo Alto Shuttle ran to all neighborhoods on a frequent schedule it would be possible to take I during the day. However the Shuttle does not come to my neighborhood. I must drive. I am too old to ride my bicycle, plus it is not safe to ride a bicycle on most streets.
Prior to RPP I never had a problem parking downtown. City Council must enforce parking required by the large offices and apartment buildings that have recently located here.
Council is unlikely to understand this unless they and other City employees who have special parking try going to work without a car or special reserved space to park.

Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Downtown businesses should chip in and build a privately-funded privately-operated parking garage for their employees. If they want, they can make it bigger and open some spaces up to the public, at market rates. That will help to repay to construction cost. Expecting taxpayers to fund parking new parking lots is not going to fly in this day and age.

Posted by Helpful
a resident of University South
on Feb 22, 2017 at 6:54 pm

"I'd like to be able to spend several hours a week doing volunteer work at First Lutheran Church at the corner of Homer and Webster. But the only way I can do that is to park in the evening or on weekends. To work during the week means multiple trips per week instead of one..."

Have you considered parking near Middlefield in Midtown or Old Palo Alto, and taking the 35 bus? It stops directly across the street from your church.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Before I heard about this parking issue, I was at the orthodontist with my kid, and I overheard one of the assistants up front chatting with an adult patient about her commute. It is alarming how early those who work in such offices have to leave home in the morning, and it is alarming how long it takes them to get back home at the end of the day. The orthodontist's assistant didn't seem to have kids yet, but I can only imagine how difficult it will be for her to manage such a commute when/if she does have kids. The crazy, rising cost of housing is pushing people farther and father from expensive towns like Palo Alto, so commuting is a major issue, and public transportation isn't always convenient for people.

I've been in this town long enough to notice how difficult it's been for dental-type offices to keep employees, especially those employees with kids, and yet these people are driving into Palo Alto to help our kids, our elderly, and the rest of us! When there's an emergency, we're grateful these people are there. We should appreciate what they do and help to keep them here.

I'm a bit suspicious about the long-term goal of these parking reforms. There are a lot of small, health-oriented businesses close to downtown that serve the community, and it seems as though severely limiting parking in those areas might lead to those businesses clearing out of that area within the next decade to make way for what . . . more tech companies moving in, clearing out what's there, and building up?

Posted by Eric
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:20 pm

So, As an employee of the downtown area, I have seen a significant impact with the RPP program. It has actually been better to be able to park and find parking. There is less congestion. I have purchased a permit. Now, if the residents of this community are pushing for the elimination of any parking on the streets for employees, then they will have to have the new burden of increased taxes upon them. Businesses will find other locals to do their business because they need to have parking for their employees. Where will you go to buy groceries? or dine out? or do yoga, or get a massage? If you the residents are pushing for this, then YOU will be the beneficiary of much higher taxation, loss of business, and a depleted and stagnant economy in palo alto. I always thought that an educated society would always THINK before they make any rash decisions about the future of their city, and also their source of revenue(businesses).
Well, I guess that I was wrong. I am all for a class action lawsuit against the city of Palo Alto and its residents for discriminatory and prejudicial action against the businesses and employees for designated parking and permits. Some of the comments from residents on this page are ridiculous and show they have no clue how they would be affected. Bring out your checkbooks pinheads, because you will be the new taxation base. Have a nice day palo alto peeps;)

Posted by Peter M
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Eliminating parking options for downtown employees without providing alternative solutions is just dumb. Expecting others to cobble together expensive and time-consuming public transportation alternatives while you are unwilling to do so yourself is unfair. It is reasonable to seek to reduce the number of downtown employees parking in residential neighborhoods, but the city needs to provide reasonable transportation and/or parking alternatives for all downtown businesses, not just those who serve the narrow self-interests of a small subset of city residents.

I chose to buy a home in Palo Alto because I work in Palo Alto and have for over 20 years. I commute by bike all but five to ten days a year, but what am I supposed to do when I need to bring my car to work? Behold the ludicrous "two hour dance" of parking in downtown Palo Alto.

Solutions need to be reasonable and balance the needs of a diversity of residents and other stakeholders. By bowing to the demands of the outspoken and privileged few, the city is slowly making Palo Alto an unpleasant place to live and work. As I feared would happen when I first moved here, it seems Palo Alto may be headed down the path of becoming another Atherton - a residential enclave of the wealthy few, deaf to the needs of everyone who doesn't fit a narrow profile of people like them.

Posted by Michael Vilain
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm

When I was working part-time at the downtown Whole Foods, I parked in the neighborhoods because I was at the store for 4-6 hours at a time. Sometimes I'd have to move a residence orange cones when she tried to reserve a space in front of her house ostensibly for her disabled husband (there was a disabled parking space just across the street that was always empty). I also had a resident run after my car as I was leaving and throw their garbage cans. The Philz and Peets in downtown don't provide parking for their staff. Nor does Whole Foods or The Apple Store. This was 3 years ago.

I interviewed for a gig at a startup in downtown. I asked where he parked. They had a few purchased slots in a parking structure, but there weren't enough to go around to everyone. I wonder what Palantir and other companies do for parking. I'm surprised they haven't said anything about having their staff parking eliminated. I seem to recall someone saying that having Palantir take up so much of the office space was bad for the city and they're trying to get rid of them. This might do just that.

I certainly wouldn't work for a company in downtown the way parking is setup.

Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 23, 2017 at 2:11 am

Be honest, would you guys actually let one of these businesses put up a large parking garage to add some extra parking capacity to downtown, and/or help invest in Caltrain to increase its capacity and make it easier for people to train in rather than drive?

Posted by PA Inhabitant
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 9:15 am

All powers of PA city government are for: “…general welfare of its inhabitants…” See CHARTER OF THE CITY OF PALO ALTO; Article II. Powers.

The general welfare of inhabitants. That's people who live here. Not commuters; not business owners who live elsewhere; not even if they pay PA taxes/fees.

To any extent Council members overlook this, a portion of PA inhabitants who are also voters need to replace them.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 10:35 am

I can see us losing dental and similar services in town with this type of system. How far are we going to have to drive to see a dentist when they all move out of town because their employees can't stand working here?

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I believe there is a plan in place to build another downtown parking structure although it has run into opposition by some who (mistakenly imho) believe the only way to get people out of cars is to make it as difficult as possible both in terms of time and costs.

Personally, I agree with Arthur Keller and John Guislin with the priorities that should be set for business permits. I fully support a new parking structure if not two. And Resident is so right when s/he asks where are the parking apps and easier payment methods. All day parking should be available in parking garages at a reasonable price ($10?) on a daily basis. The number of monthly permits should be reduced to make more daily permits available, thus reducing gazillionaires from buying monthly permits that they use only part-time.

Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 23, 2017 at 8:02 pm

For the most part downtown Palo Alto used to have businesses that served the public in some way. In other words I, as a member of the public, might make an appointment to with. From lawyers to dentists. And although there is less useful retail and more restaurants now, their employees also serve the public. So I would like to see free parking permits for the owners and their employees of any downtown business that serves the public in some way.

If businesses that are not open to the public decided to locate downtown, where for at least twenty years parking is known to have been a problem, and then cram their offices with employees, I believe their parking problems are theirs to solve. I see no reason to cram offices full of employees and then complain and expect Palo Alto taxpayers to solve the problem for you.

Commercial property seldom changes hands so their property taxes contribute only a small part toward Palo Alto's budget. And unless a company makes a retail product for which sales tax is generated, they contribute nothing. In fact, it costs the city more to provide services for commercial buildings than the money they bring into the city budget.

And before anyone mentions employees spend money downtown, yes, employees may spend money but they have not added to the sales tax basis because they have displaced the residents who used to shop downtown.

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2017 at 8:44 pm

"it costs the city more to provide services for commercial buildings than the money they bring into the city budget."

They bring in money where it counts most: campaign contributions for pro-development council candidates.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 23, 2017 at 8:49 pm

I'm still waiting for the city employees and the city council to give up THEIR reserved parking spaces, especially those that often sit empty as many enjoy their 4-day workweek or their erratic weekend schedules.

Let them experience reap the fruits of their over-development agendas.

It's hard enough finding good professionals like dentists, oral surgeons, opticians and optometrists, one of which I've already lost due to her being constantly ticketed and fined.

The priorities of the current administration is disgusting. I resent having to seek out new professional services so Palantir and the city can take over downtown. I resent having had to cancel attending a monthly 6:30 dinner because it's just too time-consuming to spend an hour to go cross-town and then being unable to find parking. And I certainly resent spending $4,500,000 for a city hall lobby "way-finding" display when we're all either stuck in traffic or stuck at home.

And I really really resent the way the city and the city council so cavalierly waste everyone's time "planning" only to trash years of people's work. Such arrogance and disrespect.


Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Sounds like another good reason to take better care of my teeth.

Posted by Boot them out
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2017 at 7:20 am

[Portion removed] Politicians in cahoots with developers have made parking in Palo Alto a nightmare. Politicians have allowed the downtown to become an office park.

Posted by Palo
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

I drive to get my nails done, or my teeth cleaned, or hair colored, so I don't care where the business is located as long as they offer parking. When I get older and not able to drive, I will go to businesses along the bus routes. If a dentist office, which is for profit business, has parking issues, then they should move to a more accommodating to their employees and clients location. It is a competitive very profitable business after all that needs to survive in the modern world with many updated medical complexes that have ample parking. Residential R1 zoned streets should be reserved for residents.

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Of coarse, it is cheaper to get the residents to provide free parking than to provide for your employees. No brainer. Just con the CC into "fixing it". A little money into that campaign fund and bingo, problem solved...

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