The Palo Alto City Council will consider on Monday a plan to ban overnight parking for a year on several blocks near the the Newell Road bridge, which connects the two cities, counties and communities. For months, residents on the Palo Alto side of the divide have complained about cars from the other side of the bridge taking up their parking spaces and leaving behind trash.
The best solution, residents say, would be a residential parking-permit program, which would restrict the hours non-residents can park on the neighborhood's streets. But as more than 40 residents from Crescent Park learned at a meeting with city staff Tuesday, such a program is at best months, if not years, away.
The council last year rejected parking permits for Professorville, which lies south of downtown Palo Alto, and council members urged staff to consider solutions that are more comprehensive and that would not merely push the problem over to the next block.
Staff is now putting together a process for neighborhoods that want a parking-permit program, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez told a packed room at the Lucie Stern Community Center. In the meantime, the city is reluctant to grant such a program to any neighborhood, including Crescent Park.
"It's not something we can move forward in the near term," Rodriguez said.
Banning overnight parking is an idea whose popularity fluctuates wildly from one neighborhood block to another. On sections of Edgewood Drive and Newell, the areas closest to the East Palo Alto border, the percentage of surveyed residents who said they would support the ban was between 80 percent and 100 percent. Just south of that, on Hamilton Avenue, support dropped to 70 percent. Further away from the city line, on Dana Avenue, support dropped even further. On the west side of the Dana and Newell intersection, only 30 percent voiced support for a ban; on the east side of the intersection, 54 percent supported it.
Each view was articulated Tuesday. Some residents argued that the ban would be an important first step in the neighborhood's effort to obtain a more permanent solution. Others argued that the ban would be a waste of time and that it would only push the cars into other parts of the neighborhood, where no ban exists.
Jason Fox, who lives on Southwood Drive, on the western edge of the troubled area, was in a latter camp.
"This is the most insane proposal I've ever heard because all you're going to do with this proposal is to move the problem to another block," Fox said. "That's all you're going to do."
But most of the attendees agreed that the ban, while imperfect, is worth trying. Those near the East Palo Alto border were particularly adamant about the need for near-term action. Neighborhood resident Richard Yankwich, who has been talking with Palo Alto and East Palo Alto officials about this problem for the past year, said the ban might be the best way to convince East Palo Alto officials to do something about the parking problem. Most of the cars come from the Woodland Park neighborhood west of U.S. Highway 101, which is filled with apartment complexes. With most apartments allotted only one parking space per unit, tenants have been forced to seek parking elsewhere, including Crescent Park.
"I think we need to do this on a trial basis and see where it goes because if we don't like it, we can vote it out, and we can say we don't like the way it is," Yankwich said.
"It's really a city-to-city issue not a resident-to-resident issue," he later added, drawing the loudest applause of the evening.
A drive through the area illustrates the extent of the parking. At about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the stretch of Edgewood on either side of Newell was filled almost to capacity. While there were open spaces near Island Drive, the situation changed further east down Edgewood. Between 1462 Edgewood and Phillips Road, there were 59 parked cars and one open space.
Shortly after 11 p.m., three people parked their cars in the neighborhood and then walked over the Newell bridge. On the East Palo Alto side of the bridge, there wasn't a single open space on Clarke Avenue. Nearby Woodland Avenue was also filled to the brim, with only one parking space open, all the way at the eastern end of the road, near West Bayshore Road.
The problem isn't just the shortage of parking, residents said. In some cases, the cars block their driveways and drivers leave broken bottles, used condoms and other refuse behind, residents complained.
If the council approves the staff's recommendation on Monday, parking would be banned between 2 and 5 a.m. on blocks in which 70 percent of surveyed residents expressed support for the idea. Residents who wish to park overnight would buy a permit for $5 per night. Staff will also have the authority to later expand the overnight ban to the blocks where support is currently less than 70 percent if those residents submit a petition showing significant interest.
Rodriguez acknowledged Tuesday that the overnight ban is "not a perfect solution."
"This concept of having an overnight parking restriction is very intrusive to residents," Rodriguez said. "It's effective. It stops the abuse that's happening. But it's not an ideal solution."
He noted that city staff has been talking to East Palo Alto officials about the problem, but not much has been done. There's some hope in the city that the problem will be addressed as part of East Palo Alto's process for adopting a new General Plan, a process that is just starting. Margaret Trujillo, an East Palo Alto resident who is part of a working group dealing with the General Plan, urged the Crescent Park residents to include her city in the discussion.
"I think the concern Crescent Park has is reflective of concern East Palo Alto has," Trujillo said. "I think when you say 'work together' as a Crescent Park community, I'd ask you to open your minds to the East Palo Alto community as well because you are part of the community."
Editorial Intern John Brunett contributed to this report. Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.