Search the Archive:

Back to the Table of Contents Page

Back to the Weekly Home Page


Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Questions surround downtown parking permit Questions surround downtown parking permit (March 28, 2001)

High costs a barrier to proposed plan

by Marv Snow

A proposal to create residential parking permits in the downtown area has raised two questions: Can the city afford, or does it even want, such a program?

The plan went before the City Council Monday night, and was sent back to City Manager Frank Benest, along with comments from council members and 18 speakers. Now he has to try and make everyone happy.

"Number one, is it a good idea?" Benest said. "The second issue is, if it is a good idea, then how do you pay for it?

"We're saying - given that we want to put any money that we have into the infrastructure - (the parking program) would have to be paid through revenue from permits and possibly through citations. So if it is a good idea, we're saying it has to be at cost recovery. Staff is not recommending that we subsidize the program."

The program's estimated startup cost is $1.08 million. Annual operating costs are estimated at$893,000. In order for the program to pay for itself, more than 1,300 parking citations would have to be issued per year. Should parking citations fall off because offenders park elsewhere, the program will no longer pay its own way. The sale of parking permits alone will not bring in enough money to cover the costs.

Complicating the issue is the number of parking zones that are recommended in the plan - 15 of them, each with different permit fees.

"We're going to look at that by the time we come back (in June during budget hearings)," Benest said.

Another area that will have to be looked at is neighborhood parking by commercial and service repair trucks. The program does not address how workers coming to homes can avoid being cited for parking without a permit. That is something Benest and Assistant Police Chief Lynne Johnson, who drafted the plan, will have to work out before June.

Another issue is the passing of parking permits from one driver to another. While the program is designed for residents to loan permits to family members, workers and babysitters parking, Councilman Jim Burch raised the question of nonresidents who purchase the expensive permits and pass them on to fellow workers to use.

The permit program recommends the following:

* Residents in the area will be allowed to purchase two vehicle-specific permits at a minimal cost ($10 for the first two permits), renewable every year for each single-family residence or multi-family complex residence up to four units;

* Allow residents in the area to purchase at a minimal cost one vehicle-specific permit for each multi-family unit residence in a complex of five or more units on an annual basis;

* Allow residents to purchase up to two additional vehicle-specific permits ($30 each) renewable on an annual basis for an increased fee;

* Allow residents to submit requests to purchase additional (more than four at $75 to $100 each) vehicle-specific permits on an annual basis;

* Allow residents in the area to purchase at a minimal cost two transferable guest permits ($10 each) per residence on an annual basis and charge a replacement fee for all lost and misplaced permits;

* Allow residents to purchase one-day, special event permits for $1 per permit;

* Provide a certain number of one-day permits up to a maximum number per year to nonprofit organizations at no cost for use by their visitors/users and allow them to * Purchase permits exceeding their maximum for one dollar per permit;

* Allow automotive repair shops in the South of Forest area to purchase one-day special permits to use for parking of customer vehicles that are being repaired;

* Provide nonresidents the opportunity to purchase annual nonresident permits that would allow them to park in specifically designated residential zones using a two-tiered fee schedule, depending upon the proximity to the downtown area ($500 to 600);

* Divide the area to be included in the program into 15 specific permit zones and charge higher fees for nonresident permits for zones closer to the downtown are;

* Provide for enforcement of residential parking Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.;

* Allow anyone to park in specific residential zones without any permit for two hours with no parking prior to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

* Residents who purchase permits would not have a guarantee that they can park in front of their homes, the report stressed.

The Residential Parking Permit program will also have an impact on downtown retailers attracting and keeping sales clerks. The lack of parking in the downtown area has been a concern for quite a while. Requiring workers to pay between $500 and $600 for a yearly permit is a matter of concern for local businesses as the two proposed downtown parking garages will require permits and not provide enough parking to alleviate the problem. "Business owners already have a difficult time attracting employees to work in the area due to parking deficits," the report states. "Exorbitant permit fees will adversely impact employers from hiring needed staff and ultimately could result in the loss of business." <@$p>

Marv Snow can be e-mailed at


Copyright © 2001 Embarcadero Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Reproduction or online links to anything other than the home page
without permission is strictly prohibited.