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Rate hikes aim to shake up Palo Alto's parking scene

Original post made on Jun 23, 2017

The start of a new fiscal year rarely causes a stir in Palo Alto, where a healthy economy has helped the City Council invest in new bike boulevards, fire stations and garages without cutting any services.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 23, 2017, 12:00 AM

Comments (41)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:32 am

Making parking more difficult and more expensive is not going to help people park, just make it more difficult to get downtown unless people have no alternative.

We have one parking lot on the periphery, at 280, for carpoolers, but none at 101 and no shuttles serve that parking lot. Why not?

Parking permits are linked to a car, what happens to someone who needs to use spouse's car, a loaner while car is in shop, or if the car pool driver goes on vacation?

Why can't occasional permits be bought for those who only need them a couple of times a week? Some might use Caltrain or carpool, if they could buy a permit for several days.

Why don't we have more technological solutions have been talked about but nothing has been done. Instead it is easier to put prices up without any ease of service.

Posted by DDD
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:48 am

Well, since the cost of housing is too high due to supply and demand, one way to reduce price is to increase supply. The other is to reduce demand, and this is certainly doing that.

Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 9:05 am

If the parking lots are full at the old subsidized prices, why not raise the prices to market levels and use the extra money to provide alternatives ways to get to California Ave? Like shuttle busses or a bike bridge over the train tracks from Midtown to California Ave?

Posted by They Profit, You Pay
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:32 am

The reason for the high parking fees is because there are not enough parking spots downtown. This is because for many years the city council has allowed new office buildings to be built without sufficient parking, which has been very profitable for downtown property owners (often city council campaign contributors). In addition, companies do not want to pay their fair share of the TMA to reduce SOV trips and reduce use of public parking. The solution is employees and residents now have to shoulder the financial burden. Welcome to corrupt politics that does not represent the many but rather the wealthy few. What's worse is we have a new set of council members who want to turn accelerate this trend including Cory, Fine and Tanaka.

Posted by ES
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:34 am

The idea of one or more multi-story Park 'n' Ride garages at 101 seems like a plausible one, with shuttle buses going to downtown and California Ave. every 15 minutes during the busiest commute times and every half hour at other times, perhaps ending at 8 pm, when most of the diners will have reached their destination.

Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:39 am

@ES - who do you propose building these $100 MILLION parking lots along 101? Taxpayers or private for-profit companies? Private companies are not going to be interested as long as the city subsidizes parking around town. Residents don't want their tax money going to parking lots that they will never use. Will businesses support a new business tax for parking lots?

Posted by Employee
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

I currently pay $460 for an annual parking permit for a garage that has oversold permits requiring a valet to double-park cars and park cars on the ramps. They obviously are not referring to this garage in the article which indicates garages on the periphery are "underused". I have yet to witness this phenomenon.
Palo Alto is not Berkeley or Sausalito. Why not compare the cost to parking in Manhattan--it's irrelevant? A better solution would be to prohibit large companies from setting up their operation in downtown areas. They tend to not use the services or frequent the restaurants as they have their own cafeterias. When you start charging folks who wish to dine or shop in the downtown district, they will opt to find another district to do so (Los Altos, Los Gatos, etc.). Just my two cents....oh wait, in Palo Alto, make that $2.

Posted by Evergreen Park Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:03 am

Higher parking fees! Wonderful news! We as a society spend too much subsidizing cars. Higher parking fees has not stopped the excellent dining and shopping scene in Berkeley, and SF. It won't for Palo Alto.

Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:23 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

You'd think with all those transit friendly buildings and a train station right there we wouldn't have parking or traffic problems. Maybe we can stop with the transit-friendly lie, and the under parked office buildings, and the over development now?

Posted by SP
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:31 am

Is no one going to speak up for the minimum wage or close-to minimum wage workers that are being asked to foot this bill? If you want a downtown business district, you must have a way for employees to get and stay downtown that is affordable to them. For someone bringing home $10/hr. after taxes, a parking permit will be 2-weeks of full-time work!

Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

It is not possible to respond to all of the concerns above, but allow me to state a few facts.

1. Parking is subject to the laws of supply and demand. There is no such thing as free parking. It is costly to lost time (congestion), environment, pollution, safety and host of other negative impacts. Parking dismay is a symptom of poor city planning. Over-development, lack of infrastructure and traffic is one, integrated policy failure in Palo Alto. The High Cost of Free Parking is on the table for the City Council. We will soon learn if the Council has read the book.

2. Palo Alto's giveaway development policies to property owners is the root cause of this stress. Council is responsible for creating this current rift between workers and residents in the same way neighbors are being pitted against each other at Casti, RPPs and traffic reforms such as safe routes and N. Middlefield.

3. Ironically there is and has been significant daily unused capacity in Bryant St. and Cowper/Webster garages. Yes, valet parking at High Street garage is managed at city expense to gain maximum capacity and benefit to workers. There has been ample parking in the other garages if workers dont like valet parking. However, in the immediate future valet parking will become a necessity at all garages.

I am among a handful of downtown residents immersed in Palo Alto's parking and traffic issues. I am available at for comments, questions, etc.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:41 am


There's another article with this side of the story. Here's the link Web Link I'm with you completely on this.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:48 am


In many places, a parking place at work is considered a perk. In this area of Silicon Valley perhaps there should be perks attached to having a parking place at work. If a parking place is considered a perk what would that do to our job economy?

I once worked for a company, not in Silicon Valley, where the parking spots were only for senior employees and the rest of the staff had to find their own parking arrangements or use public transportation. It was quite an achievement when a long term employee became classed as "senior" status and received this perk along with a pay rise.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm

So these outrageous rates which will cause parking spillover into all our neighborhoods is going to fund the TDMA whose sole purpose is to help COMMUTERS and fund THEIR public transit, Lyft rides, parking expenses?? What a racket!

Remember the Palo Alto Forward and the candidates it and the Chamber of Commerce endorsed, care about COMMUTERS, not the residents. Their bias is is clear when they do planning events only considering "What's best for commuters?"

Web Link

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Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I am SO sick of the delusional Young Turks on our City Council! Raise parking fees and people will bike to work or take a city bus. Come on! Some of these people live 40 miles away because the whole Peninsula is unaffordable. As others have stated here, the real problem is too many underparked tech businesses downtown.

Posted by No to neighbirhood traffic/shuttles
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

No to a "Park N Ride" garage at 101 -- why should we in Duveneck/St. Francis be burdened with an eyesore garage and noisy shuttles through our neighborhood for those who should be parking in downtown?! Outrageous, unacceptable proposition. Remember College Terrace residents who found Facebook shuttles unacceptable. Well, we would also. We enjoy a lovely residential neighborhood, with the exception of Embarcadero Road,, which is an obvious thoroughfare up to Stanford, just like University Ave. We in Duveneck have nothing to do with downtown Palo Alto, so forget trying to install a downtown garage over here. Minor small city busses are nothing compared to this bad garage idea.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Parking should be FREE for residents of Palo Alto. I'd argue that it should also be free for non-office workers (or fully subsidized by their employers at a steep discount from the city). The problem is -- and has always been -- office workers.

If you REALLY want to fix the Palo Alto parking problem...
1.) Make it illegal to park in residential neighborhoods if you're not a resident. NO EXCEPTIONS.
2.) Restrict parking downtown by PAID parking.
3.) Allow customers of professional services to have their parking costs validated so that people going to meet doctors, dentists, police, law offices, etc. aren't turned away by the lack of money to park.
4.) Charge the office businesses per employee.

Posted by Keeping Good Company
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I work in Downtown Palo Alto. I just want to congratulate my employer and our team for the excellent support of traffic and parking relief.

Seeing this article, I just surveyed our office:
~1/3 of the people in the office walked to work today! (Amazing since we are NOT a VC or a place with salaries that command $4M homes)
~1/3 of folks biked
~1/6 of folks commuted off peak, arriving very early in the AM and parking in our own company parking lot (some of those rode together in a carpool)
The remaining 1/6 of the office drove in a car and parked in our own lot.

While not perfect, I feel that our team deserves high fives on the commute and parking side.

Traditionally, we have had people commute via Caltrain, too, but they have transferred to our offices in SF and Mountain View to make those commutes even less of an impact. And when we need to go between offices, we do most often opt for the train!

Posted by Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Guess we will do all our shopping and dining in Los Altos now. Already hated going to downtown PA because of the parking, but absolutely won't go there and pay for it. Plenty of other places to eat and shop. Too bad about CA Ave though. We do frequent shops and restaurants there.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Who said anything about building a garage west of highway 101?

I believe Edgewood parking lot is now used as a carpool parking lot anyway.

Actually, the idea I had would be a parking lot (something like the one at 280) east of 101 near the Baylands or Mings or the athletic fields.

Posted by No surprises department
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:08 pm

The Biz school mentality that runs the city is doing the usual. There's more demand than supply? Raise the prices.
Then don't spend the money to ameliorate the problem, just hire more staff, enlarge the manager's kingdom, and they will "work" on the problem.

Good thinking, boys, Don't add shuttles or buses. Just hire more staff!

No surprise department:
>Councilman Adrian Fine agreed (with Filseth) and called raising fees to fund the Transportation Management Association the "right philosophy."

Posted by Judy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:35 pm

@Keeping good company: Just many employees work in your Palo Alto office? How many of those employees live in Palo Alto or Menlo Park? If your company has few employees and most are local, no need to pat yourself on the back for employees walking or biking to work. The fact that your employees can afford to live in Palo Alto, close enough to walk to work, means they are paid well, unlike retail and restaurant workers who can't afford to live close to their place of employment. They're the ones who will be most affected by the increased cost of parking.

Posted by Keeping Good Company
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 4:20 pm


Thanks so much for your thoughts. It sounds like I missed the mark in hearing what Palo Alto residents would want from their business compatriots.

We have 50 people, many of whom relocate to areas with more affordable housing once they have worked in this office for a period of time. They still work with our company when they relocate. This is our headquarters and has been for 30 years. We have our headquarters here because the majority of our type of work is done in this area. Do you have other suggestions for us? Is the primary concern that we try not to feel too good about biking, walking, carpooling, off-peak commuting, and having adequate parking on-site -- that we should do more for others?


Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Outrageous! Why do the burdens of paying for developers profits fall on Palo Alto residents and the 99%, especially the low income shift workers? This will not affect the 1% at all.

Making a wild guess: whose expenses are not going up 145%? The employees of Palo Alto who make up a significant percentage of parking permit holders for the cost of $0. At a minimum, Palo Alto should charge its employees for parking stickers. If they get a discounted rate, they should be restricted to spots that are less central and unlikely to be busy. To make sure spots are not left unfilled when they don't come to work, make them (and for that matter all monthly parking permit holders) reserve a spot the day before and charge them if they don't show up. Surely someone can make an app for that and interface the system for checking parking plates.

If Palo Alto doesn't want to charge employees, then offer all downtown and CA Ave. city employees an extra $50 a month and a free transit pass if they don't use a parking pass. Fund it out of next year's pool for raises or bonuses.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 6:22 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Man, it's going to be a bummer when all the stores and restaurants downtown close because they can't hire any workers. Our crack city council strikes again!

Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Congratulations to Palo Alto for finally walking the walk on encouraging non-solo car driving. The City's been subsidizing and encouraging solo driving for way too long while talking the good talk. This is the ONLY way that the City will come close to meeting it's carbon reduction plan goals. Carbon-neutral electricity via renewables and carbon-neutral natural gas via carbon offsets just takes money. This will require behavioral changes and behavior will change when the pocketbook is hit. Good for Palo Alto. I hope it works and, then, perhaps, fraidy-cat Menlo Park can try something real like this.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:37 pm

The city's goal of traffic reduction is a joke and will stay a joke so long a the CC and commercial interests keep aggressively creating tens of thousands on jobs knowing full well there's no housing for the new hires.

Google just announced they were hiring 20,000 as well as plans to create a trailer park with 300 trailers. Hello. That's still a significant imbalance between jobs and housing. Even if all of Palo Alto created ADUs there still wouldn't be enough housing and it certainly wouldn't be affordable given the supply/demand imbalance.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 23, 2017 at 11:32 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

These are symptoms to the original problem;too many developments granted with not enough parking spaces. You have reaped what you have sown. Now the 1% is forcing the 99% to pay for the sins on the rulers they voted into office.
In other large cities, earlybirds get $4.00 ALL DAY PARKING! This works for all people who work downtown. The GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES get free transit passes. I know because I did IT work in downtown Denver My wife worked in a high placed Job in the City/County Building of Denver. THE TRANSIT SYSTEMS ARE CO-ORDINATED SO THAT LIGHT RAIL MOVES FAR MORE PEOPLE THAN THE EMPTY TRAINS I SAW ON THE VTA!
You COULD have had the BART system 40 yeas ago THAT I PAID FOR! Ever heard of Eminent Domain when certain rich communities squawked NIMBY? Instead of BART, you have Diesel Locomotives and Caltrain.
I follow these issues because my parents have a stake in this; they own the house in this area. I want to see an improvement for the other 99% of the people who actually produce something instead of just pushing paper or electrons around on a screen.
It will be too late when people packup their meager belongings and head East, where the security deposit can be the down payment on a house and the rates paid for rents will easily make the people OWNERS of the house they live in.
Scientists have found out that too many rats in a box will turn them into eaters of each other until the number is reduced to the food supply and territory boundaries are re-established.
Is that the situation on the SFBA? I hope not.

Posted by no more errands downtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2017 at 8:58 am

I do not yet understand how this will affect those of us who visit downtown to shop or dine.

I will no longer shop or run errands downtown M-F if I have to pay to park for any time under one hour. Nor will co-workers and I drive 1-1/2 miles to downtown Palo Alto for lunch. Imposing parking fees for those parking under one hour is likely to reduce demand. It may also reduce the revenue for downtown businesses.

Does it make sense to have the Senior Center in downtown Palo Alto if there is no free parking for under two hours? How much would that hourly parking or daily permit cost in order for a local senior to get a free lunch at La Comida? Will seniors still want to attend other free activities? I have conducted free workshops as a volunteer at Avenidas in the past. I am not excited about potentially paying something like $150 for day-parking permits -- 6 sessions at $25 each -- if asked to do this again.

Many of us who are Palo Alto homeowners have been appalled at how many downtown developments were approved without the parking spaces mandated by code. Members of the Planning and Transportation Commission and City Council have contributed to this insufficient supply of parking places.

There aren't simple solutions. Please keep in mind that downtown and Cal Ave businesses, including restaurants, want the money spent by local residents as well as Palo Alto workers. Try not to make it too inconvenient or annoying for us to spend money locally. Palo Alto has already lost the sales tax revenue associated with the appliances and tires I can no longer buy in Palo Alto.

Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2017 at 9:42 am

"It's less clear, however, how the transportation funding will be used in California Avenue, "

Yeah, because the City Council only recently destroyed this longtime, vibrant retail area and turned it into the City's second publicly financed office park.

Residents, I want to point out that in addition to referendum, there is a thing called "initiative". It works kind of like referendum, but citizens make the rule and bring it to Council, who have the choice of adopting it or sending it to vote.

I would love to see sone thoughtful initiatives to restore our retail areas as retail areas. Looking into the future, the only way to have viable retail that residents need is for the City to slowly buy up all the major retail land as things come up for sale, and rent out based on bidding with a community/ resident service need aspect to the decision. The only way people can stay in their homes is stabilized costs. Look at Stanford neighborhoods - they look like wonderful midwest neighborhoods, because Stanford owning the land stabilizes the cost.

Residents need retail restored, and the only way is if the retail areas are once again restricted to retail, and costs are stabilized through public ownership of the land. Or if our local billionaires decided to do that the way Passerelle and the Los Altos Community Foundation did in Los Altos. A fortunate side effect would be solution to the parking problem.

Posted by Wil Smith
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2017 at 11:25 am

Rant Rant rant. People, please get a life and quit complaining!

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2017 at 7:40 pm

City hall will never get away with this caper. It impacts every major city council campaign contributor. You can bet they are on the phone "conferring" with their retainees on the dais this very minute.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2017 at 10:07 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I would urge anyone who objects to this plan to contact city council.

Posted by Rebecca White
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 25, 2017 at 9:41 am

The problem isn't parking. Parking is the symptom of the problem. The problem is high density corporate space in a part of town that cannot accommodate it. I hate this propagation of fake news that disguises the actual news. Palo Alto Forward is working with select corporations including Palantir to ensure that their corporate interests are protected at the expense of community rights.

Palantir bots, start commenting!

Posted by crescent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Really happy to see this fee increase. Every parking spot is an (expensive!) missed opportunity to do something wonderful in that space instead of storing someone's empty car.

We have to have some parking, but we shouldn't give it away, below what it costs, to people driving downtown who are already adding traffic to our roads. Those drivers can pay some of the true cost of their parking.

If there are impacted restaurant workers, etc., then target them specifically for assistance. (Better yet, do that while also investing even more in alternatives to driving. We should have amazing transit to the downtown area!)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2017 at 8:02 pm


How much do you think a restaurant worker who drives from the East Bay or the Coast should pay for parking?

Where would you like to see the amazing transit come from?

I am not saying this to disagree with you, I am saying it because I am interested to know what you think a minimum wage retail or nonserving restaurant worker should pay for parking. We don't have amazing transit apart from Caltrain and that only goes up and down the Peninsula, not from across the Bay or from various Coastal residential areas.

If we want to have retail and restaurants, then we have to appreciate that the people who work in them are not likely to be able to get Caltrain to work.

Posted by Rich
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2017 at 4:35 am

only rich can park and city can have more money to waste.

Posted by Workable solutions?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2017 at 12:38 pm

I'm puzzled by Nayelli's suggest to "Make it illegal to park in residential neighborhoods if you're not a resident. NO EXCEPTIONS". So, apparently Nayelli suggests that I can't have visitors, including cleaning personnel and others performing tasks for me. My daughter wouldn't be able to visit and help me and God forbid that I want to have a social function. This type of suggestion (Nayelli's) gathered 16 likes. Such drastic, unworkable and altogether lacking thought suggestion is one reason why reasonable and sensible people find it hard to find workable solutions for problems like parking. What a silly waste of time trying to reason with empty brains.

Posted by Resident Rights?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm

@Workable solutions? -- Surely you jest. Don't you know that only commuters count around here and it's your duty to subsidize them!

You think the current City Council and/or the PA bureaucrats care about YOUR rights to live a free and full life, to entertain, to visit people and/or to get to Bay Area events? Didn't you already give up early evening dinners cross town because the gridlock required to much time to get to your friends' homes?

Hardly when there are business interests to be satisfied, parking revenues to be raked in, campaign contributors to be rewarded, city hall salaries and benefits to be inflated?

High time to start rewriting all those real estate ads since we can no longer claim "Perfect house for entertaining" and "Great Palo Alto Schools" and "Convenient to all the Bay Area cultural events" because it's clear we can't get there from here.

Posted by Scotty the Boot
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Lets developers re-zone and make buildings w/o garages...makes people who work and shop downtown pay for extra parking. Nice job! The ol' hat trick'

Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2017 at 4:09 pm

The California Avenue figures are incorrect. As of last year, a monthly parking pass cost $16.50 or $198 per year (instead of the $149 in the story). If that cost goes up 145 percent, that's now $485 instead of the stated $365. Either way, that's a lot of money. And what is it going to be used for?

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