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Effort to relax parking rules sparks concerns

Original post made on May 31, 2018

As Palo Alto considers lowering its parking requirements to spur production of multifamily housing, some residents are crying foul over a newly released study that indicated that scores of parking spaces at local apartment buildings currently go unused.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 31, 2018, 9:52 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by Stop Developer Giveaways
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2018 at 10:32 am

We have way too many streets already packed with parked cars, often day and night. The study didn't even look at that or ask residents what they experience. The pro-growth members on the Planning Commission don't seem to mind if it gets worse. They want buildings that supply even less parking, because that of course puts more dollars into the pockets of the developers. This is the real "Palo Alto Process:" make developers richer while the rest of us suffer the consequences.

Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2018 at 10:39 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Did anyone think that this would not happen with the penetration of PAF/Palantir people into the Planning commission and the majority in thee city council? This was as predictable as the sun setting in the west. This is part of the plan to make life very easy and very profitable for developers in return for...I think for all know.

Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 10:40 am

JCP is a registered user.

The public needs to be even more vigilant now to keep Fine and PAF in check. Reducing commercial development in favor of housing is where the real opportunity lies, not in reducing parking ratios. Ridiculous.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2018 at 11:09 am

Annette is a registered user.

I wonder what the instructions were to the consultant; how the request was worded. I realize that's cynical, but empiric evidence doesn't lead one to the conclusion that there's not much of a problem.

Heard often: "sorry to be late; I couldn't find parking".
Heard never: "parking was easy; there are lots of empty spaces available".

And why were the stakeholders mostly architects and developers? It doesn't take genius to imagine that discussion. A key stakeholder in any city is the tax-paying resident; that is the voice that needs to be heard. Hello?

Posted by Joseph Baldwin
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2018 at 11:23 am

After 45 years living here, observing "Palo Alto Process", the ultimate irony finally emerges:
decades of UNDERPARKED commercial OVERdevelopment + a shortage of OVERPARKED
residential UNDERdevelopment. Predictable result: Gigantic jobs/housing imbalance,
residential neighborhoods heavily parked with employee cars, traffic jams galore, and housing
available only to six-figure salary earners.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2018 at 11:24 am

I can't believe the incompetence of this study. But then, this is Palo Alto so of course I can.

Not mentioned is whether each apartment has its own allotted parking space and the residents can only park in their own space. This would make a big difference to whether a second car or an overnight or even daytime visitor may be able to park in a parking lot or have to spill over into a nearby street.

Not mentioned is whether there is any impact on the neighborhood streets to these complexes.

Peak demand is not necessarily in the evening when people may be out for dinner or other evening activity particularly on a fine evening at this time of year. I would imagine peak demand to be between the hours of midnight and 4.00 am. On top of that, lower income residents may be working the graveyard shift or at least have to work evenings or early morning shifts.

Counting the number of cars parked at any one time is not necessarily the best way. The first thing to have done would be to ask the residents and then the neighbors.

But of course, this is Palo Alto and that would be too easy.

Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 31, 2018 at 11:40 am

Doesn't everyone realize that reduced & ignored parking regs + increased housing density is what has overwhelmed the road/traffic/school infrastructure? Adding to traffic woes are the entitlements to "special" neighborhoods for bollards, traffic circles, & otherwise restricted access. Our tax dollars maintain all public streets, but we can't freely drive on all those streets? Like Palo Alto Way west of Middlefield, Park Blvd, & Southgate.
If all such physical & posted restrictions were removed, it would help to distribute traffic more equitably. Share the burden, folks. It's only fair. Why should I pay to patch, pave & clean streets I can't use? Consider well for whom you vote in local elections. Maybe if residents of those limited or deterred access streets got to share the load, they'd be more particular about supporting greater density & council members who support it.

Posted by PTC needs to listen
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 11:50 am

"I'm not convinced that parking is the real issue that's preventing residential development," said Commissioner Waldfogel.

I am sure it is that building offices is more profitable. After all, it's all about money, isnt it. The Commissioner was being polite.

94% of downtowners own cars.
Commissioner Monk said she lives near downtown and walks to everything. What she did NOT say was that she didn't own a car.

Posted by Can't Find Parking
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 31, 2018 at 12:10 pm

What Commissioner Monk did suggest is people use Lyft for all their commuting and getting around so they don't need cars or parking spaces. It's the 2018 Palo Alto version of "let them eat cake."

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

The city's Transportation and Planning staff -- and commissioners have a long shameful history of conducting their traffic and parking studies at off-peak times so they can get exactly the results they want regardless of safety and reality.

They did this during the Middlefield Road bike lane debacle which resulted in cars getting stuck in the middle of major intersections like Oregon and later Embarcadero. Letters to council and staff been been ignored. When really really pressured, staff regularly dismisses the complainant as being only one voice. Their defenders claimed Mr. Mello has "new" and hence his mistakes were ok when in fact he'd been on the job and being quoted in the papers for at least 10 months.

All commissioners, city council members and city staff should immediately give up their city hall parking permits and try living with the policies they inflict on the rest of us. Let Commissioner Monk be the first to give up hers.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

If you're checking residential parking demand, don't do it in the "evening" when people are often out; do it at 3AM when residents are sleeping!

How much money did the city waste on these studies?

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Who cares if the results of the study are true if they don't "feel" true?

Posted by Go PA
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2018 at 1:05 pm

I'm very grateful that most, if not all, commenters here are vocal and involved with Palo Alto matters. I want to make a suggestion if we could make efforts to attend meetings or even stage peaceful protests :) Surely our voice will be heard when we gather in groups since PTC & City Council keep ignoring us!

Posted by almunday
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 1:44 pm

it is hard to gage parking...the study would need to be at least 6months 24x7 to get a good gage. In the meantime, city gov't mgmt that okayed this cockeyed study should make their home addresses available so people can park in their driveways and infront of their homes

Posted by PTC needs to listen
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Robert said, Who cares if the results of the study are true if they don't "feel" true?

No Robert, wrong, wrong, wrong. Many of us are trained in statistics and data analysis, and research and we can spot a bad job when we see it. In addition, experience and common sense help in making judgements.

The members of the Planning Commission are educated and experienced people.
Your remark suggests to me your inexperience and knowledge of this town or possibly with educated people.

Posted by VOTE
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 31, 2018 at 4:18 pm

The PAF majority on the CC and PTC (appointed by the CC) will enact as much of their pro-developer agenda while they're still in power. Those who care about the future of Palo Alto for residents need to VOTE this year so that Wolbach and friends are no longer in power.

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Two options: 1) Ensure there is lots of available on-street parking in adjacent neighborhoods; 2) Institute free Stanford-like shuttles between these warrens and destinations in the area, including train stations, shopping centers, parks, beaches, restaurants.

Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on May 31, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

Grateful to everyone who turned out to speak last night and question the reality of the Staff Report's findings. I was truly touched by the appearance of folks for whom getting there was a real hardship due to work and family constraints, and the diversity of speakers and of the neighborhoods they represented. People who live in neighborhoods that don't currently experience parking congestion came out to support those of us who are on the front lines.

Venturans who were in the majority in the audience last night want to make sure the City doesn't take one standard and apply it to the whole town. Parking is very different in different areas. PTC acknowledged that last night and I sensed that a one size fits all approach will not be adopted.

When building standards are relaxed, what's at stake for all of us who live in Palo Alto is an overarching net degradation of the residential experience, no matter where you live, which is why it's important to come out and support your neighbors. As we saw in downtown, when they city allowed in lieu fees to be paid by developers rather than build adequate parking, we saw a cascade effect as commuters parked in adjacent neighborhoods and when the adjacent neighborhoods were awarded RPPs, the cars migrated up toward Crescent Park. We're all in this together. No neighborhood is really safe unless all neighborhoods are safe. Define "safe" as you will. But am I my brother's keeper? You're darn tootin' ! Do I think I have the answers? No. But together I think we do.

Posted by @Becky Sanders
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 5:44 pm

"People who live in neighborhoods that don't currently experience parking congestion came out to support those of us who are on the front lines."

Oh, such a plight to suffer! Guess we can't build any multi-family housing in Palo Alto to ease the housing crisis because your street parking might be impacted.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 31, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Though the report uses U.S. Census data that downtown drivers are less likely to drive than those in other parts of the city, the report also notes that 94 percent of downtown residents own cars (only slightly lower than the 97 percent citywide)."

"Car-light" housing is yet another fairy tale, just as it is in San Francisco where nearby residents have seen significant encroachment from the allegedly car-light developments. The whole "live near where you work/live near transit so you don't need a car" is also strange reasoning since the average Silicon Valley worker and partner change jobs so often.
Good for Commissioner Asher Waldfogel who "also questioned the survey's assumptions, particularly the habits of downtown drivers."

Reality-based planning would be nice. Good for Doria Summa for demanding better research rather than ideoligical-based conclusions. "She suggested that the new study isn't rigorous enough and that it only took a "snapshot" of parking conditions at the various complexes without considering broader issues, such as parking spillover into neighboring streets."

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2018 at 8:53 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I notice the surveys did not include Channing House, centrally located downtown. One of their biggest problems at the moment is to find sufficient parking for workers. They have implemented valet parking so visitors and workers can find a place to park during the day. If seniors didn't drive, as the so many city planners assert, there would be plenty of empty parking spots unneeded by the non-driving residents - except there apparently aren't. If you look at any streets located near apartment buildings, you will find them mostly full of parking in the evening as well as the day, as the apartment lots cannot accommodate all of them.

Suggesting that empty spaces in parking lots where each parking spot is allocated to a particular unit implies an excess of spaces is just wrong as no one can use them but the resident, who might be on vacation, or working nights. I don't know any app for renting out temporary vacancies on an ad hoc basis. If there were truly all these unused parking spots, then the managers could easily give someone a break on their rent in exchange for making their spot available to rent to someone else and make a profit. Is there any apartment complex with such a program? I think not.

A better measure would be to ask how many residents are on the waiting list for a second spot should it become available. A friend of mine owns a condo. Since she married in 2005, and put in a request for a second (expensive) parking space for her husband. She is still on the list. So far, he still competes for a slot on the street, sometimes parking several blocks away.

And of course, any streets near a building with workers in it, including retirement communities, museums libraries etc, are packed with parked cars. Finding parking at many parks and libraries is challenging as well, except for execs and city council members with reserved spots.

When will the city start charging employees for parking? When will city council members give up reserved spots (not used 90% of the time) and face the problems of ordinary residents?

These constant irrelevant and cherry picked transportation "studies" have to make way for real scientifically designed studies.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 31, 2018 at 11:33 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Becky Sanders from another community: your response post to Becky Sanders rather parodies a real problem. Wanting the City to take a reality-based approach to planning that acknowledges the need for adequate parking (or at least acknowledges the fact that ridiculously under-parked schemes exacerbate existing problems) in no way means no to multifamily housing.

The neighborhoods and PA residents are not to blame for the housing shortage. The unprecedented success of the tech sector is one factor, but the real problem has been years of lousy planning and relentless approval of office development. It's been obvious for several years that Palo Alto could not house all the people who want to live here, yet pro-development CC members didn't let that stop them from approving more and more office space, often w/o adequate parking or other infrastructure mitigations. As a result we have a host of problems and concerned residents are speaking up in frustration. Instead of offices, we should have built housing. Isn't hindsight great?

Posted by $70 Million for Parking Garages in the City Budget.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2018 at 10:24 am

$70 Million for Parking Garages in the City Budget. is a registered user.

If developers don't pay for parking now, citizens will pay for it later. There is almost $70 million to build new parking garages in this year's city budget. This new garage space would accommodate car parking demand generated by offices that developers built with inadequate parking over the last decade or so. People who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Truly affordable housing (for the lowest income families only) usually does generate lower demand for auto parking. There's pretty good data to support this. Lower parking requirements could be tied ONLY to those most affordable units that serve people in the lowest income categories for whom cars are a luxury they can't easily afford.

Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Some people say Palo Alto's scarce land should be used for housing so that working families can stay in the city. I say use it for parking! Who's with me?!

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2018 at 7:47 pm

""People who live in neighborhoods that don't currently experience parking congestion came out to support those of us who are on the front lines."

Oh, such a plight to suffer! Guess we can't build any multi-family housing in Palo Alto to ease the housing crisis because your street parking might be impacted."

Yup. The usual anxiety: OMG, if it don't get built in Palo Alto (or Mountain View or ...) it might get built here where I live. Horrors...

Posted by BringbackCompetenceCourtesy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm

Just a few more developments and Palo Alto will implode! It's already looking like Bangkok traffic on El Camino, Middlefield, Louis, Charleston, Embarcadero, University Ave, Oregon expressway.... It's impossible to pull out of many driveways especially with Wave sending traffic through residential streets. How many collisions and pedestrians/bicyclists get hit by cars are factored into the risk reward formula? We've had some deaths already this year, apparently the figure isn't high enough.

Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

In other news, the city just completed another study showing that taxes are too low, regulations too limited, budget deficits too small and pensions not generous enough.

As your favorite titian tinted, carefully comb-overed lightning rod once famously noted, "What do you have to lose?"

Try voting Republican.

Posted by @Sanctimonious Poster
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Try voting Republican?

No way. I don't like people who kiss up to Vladimir Putin.

Posted by Read the study
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 2, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Those who are criticizing the study would do well to actually click on the link in the article and read it for themselves.

Multiple people are suggesting that peak parking demand was intentionally surveyed during off-peak hours when people are out and about. It takes all of two minutes to check this claim before spouting it off as truth on an online forum.

Quoted directly from the study:

"Parking occupancy surveys were conducted to count the numbers of parked vehicles by space type on a weekday (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) at three time periods (midday, evening, and late night - after midnight) and on a weekend day at two time periods (midday and late night)...Most of the complexes achieved their peak parking demand on weekdays during the late night period."

Posted by N
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 2, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Here is an excerpt from a letter to the PTC, from someone who clearly did read the whole study, and who cares about the neighborhood:

This study is incredibly biased, with a methodology guaranteed to under-count true parking demand.

Specific issues with the study:

1. It completely avoided counting cars parked on the street for any reason. E.g. Work vehicles that don't fit in small spaces, residents with more cars than assigned spaces, visitors to residents that don't have visitor parking, etc. Why not survey residents, or check with the DMV, or measure street parking usage surrounding these bulidings?

2. By counting only the peak number of cars and not the number of unique cars, this study under-counts for any night-workers, or folks who for whatever reason had their cars parked somewhere else for an evening.

Posted by Rich
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 2, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Another kick in the face from our coin operated city council members, thanks for nothing!

Posted by Vasche LaMou
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2018 at 10:35 pm

"Why not survey residents, or check with the DMV, or measure street parking usage surrounding these bulidings?"

It's like this: If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question.

Posted by Barron Park Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2018 at 4:22 pm

I invite everybody to come down some evening or weekend to Los Robles Ave in Barron Park to see what it looks like when not enough parking is provided. Cars block the crosswalks, mostly block bike lanes (on a safe routes to school route), cars don't move for weeks. Now they're remodeling the Buena Vista park and reducing parking spaces (as reported in the Weekly) so it will be getting worse.

Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 5, 2018 at 9:07 am

Very telling, most of the comments have many issues about our City's current 'opinions' about traffic, congestion and parking that caters to developers.
Certainly seems like residents, and neighborhoods have less and less voice in Palo Alto.

i'm glad how many know about Palantir and PF, have dominated the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Someone above suggested maybe peaceful protests, and attending as many of the CC meetings, writing letters to the editors,could help. I like the idea of Peaceful Protests.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Jun 5, 2018 at 7:04 pm

It's a strange coincidence that these proposals always seem to favor short term money making and disadvantage long term residents. It's almost what you would expect if money counted more than representing constituents.

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