Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 21, 2014

Stanford backs away from divisive Dish parking plan

University agrees to return to original proposal, with back-in, angled parking

by Gennady Sheyner

After pressure from the city and an outpouring of opposition from hikers who frequent the Dish, Stanford University is backing away from a proposal to reduce parking on Stanford Avenue and shift it to a location more than a half mile from the popular foothills trail.

The proposal to move some parking was spurred by a joint effort by Stanford and Palo Alto to build new trails around the Dish and along El Camino Real, a project known as the Stanford Perimeter Trail. The project received a boost in 2012 when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors released $4.5 million for the trails program.

In recent months, however, residents who use the scenic hiking trail along Junipero Serra Boulevard have come out in opposition to the proposed parking plan. Earlier this month, dozens of residents attended a City Council meeting to argue that shifting parking away from Stanford Avenue, which leads to the main Dish entrance, to a site on Coyote Hill Road would effectively strip many Dish walkers of access to the preserve. Several speakers said they would no longer have the time to use the nature preserve.

At the same time, residents of Stanford Avenue and surrounding streets raised alarms about the already dangerous traffic situation in their neighborhood and urged Stanford to do something about it.

In response, Mayor Nancy Shepherd submitted a letter on Feb. 13 to Stanford asking the university to reconsider its parking proposal. She noted that the parking plan is the only aspect of the project that does not have public support. When the council agreed to support the trail program, the city had assumed that the project would include back-in parking, rather than parallel parking, on Stanford Avenue, she wrote. The back-in parking would accommodate more parking spaces and compensate for the loss of parking on the north side of Stanford Avenue, a loss made necessary by the new trails.

The change of plans, which would shift 33 parking spots from Stanford to Coyote Hill, is "not acceptable to Palo Alto," the letter stated.

"This proposal eliminates too many parking spaces on Stanford Avenue," Shepherd wrote.

"We ask Stanford to continue to work with us ... to minimize the loss of parking on Stanford Avenue while also providing additional parking on Coyote Hill Road, so that there is in effect a parking increase."

In response, Stanford agreed to reconsider the parking plan. Larry Horton, the university's senior associate vice president, wrote to Shepherd that Stanford is willing to revert to the back-in-parking plan. Horton noted that Stanford had dropped the plan out of concern that the county would reject it.

"Our application for this project is not yet complete, and at this stage, we can go back to our original plan and we agree to do so," Horton wrote. "If both the city and Stanford jointly support back-in angle parking, I believe we will have an excellent chance of getting this program approved by the county."

Horton also agreed to Shepherd's request that 33 new parking spaces be added along Coyote Hill. The inclusion of back-in parking and the addition of Coyote Hill spaces would result in 91 parking spaces, 18 more than currently exist on Stanford Avenue alone.

The university also concluded that it cannot support adding parking to Junipero Serra, finding that the roadway is too busy and would not be safe, he said.

If the county doesn't approve the back-in-parking plan, "Stanford will have to pursue approval of a parallel parking scheme on Stanford Avenue," Horton wrote. But he expressed confidence that the proposal will be approved.

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