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Divided council beefs up parking requirements

Original post made on Dec 11, 2012

With downtown residents up in arms about a dearth of parking in their neighborhoods, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday to suspend for one-year a zoning exemption that lowered the parking requirements for new developments downtown.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 12:34 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Nick Baldo, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:45 am

What a disaster. Forcing people to build more parking spaces than they already have to is the worst possible outcome for downtown. Plenty of great cities manage to build dense, vibrant, wonderful cores without turning into dangerous, car-dominated parking lots.

C'mon folks, it isn't even hard to do.

Posted by Anne, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:47 am

Who is this city run for the benefit of ? Certainly not the citizens and the people who actually have to function in Palo Alto. Sometimes the rules need to change because they were bad 'rules' in the first place. It is all too clear that the the council and staff are answerable to the developers first, and the electorate second, if at all. Palo Altans are utterly voiceless. We speak, but are not heard.

Palo Alto Avenue is becoming dangerous with the massive amount of parking on both sides of this narrow street- not that city hall gives a damn.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2012 at 6:42 am

Kudos to the City Council for not following the Staff recommendation, not granting the exceptions and choosing the interests of the residents over developers

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2012 at 8:09 am

This may prevent future cars in need of parking, but it doesn't do anything to address the numbers of cars parking here already.

When are city council going to simplify the parking we already have. It is too confusing to find a spot in a garage and understand how to pay for it. We need pay per hour machines in every lot and garage with free parking for two hours and modest charge per hour after that. Allowing workers to park all day but for only a couple of days a week rather than expecting them to park every day for a month makes much more sense than the expectations that the city has on them at present.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

Nick Baldo - If we don't "forcing people to build more parking then they want" drivers simply turn residential neighborhoods into parking lots. That is what happens now.

We need:

Realistic requirements for new projects
A residential parking program for ALL impacted area (this would potentially solve the car camping problem too)
Better usage of our existing garages and spaces (get rid of the goofy colors and just have 2 or 3 hour metered parking.

Posted by Bob , a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2012 at 9:18 am

Before 9:00 a.m. the parking spots at the Main Library/Arts Center and the one across from the Rinconada tennis courts are often full. But the Library and the Arts Center aren't open at 8:30 a.m. and there is often no one playing tennis. Why? Because people working downtown
park there and take the free shuttle downtown.!! Other places are taking by 'sleepers' who live in their autos.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

> Because people working downtown park there
> and take the free shuttle downtown.!!

If true—this is not a really good solution because the parking in this area is really intended to handle short-term parking, not long-term parking.

However, the basic idea of having long-term/remote parking is a good idea. Of course, the question of where to locate the parking lot, and who pays for the shuttle, becomes a real problem. Basic shuttle service during 8-6 (business hours) would be in the $100K range (first guess). If, for the sake of argument, 1000 people were serviced by this shuttle, then the per-person cost would be $100/person. Costs of acquiring/renting the parking space for 1000 cars then would add significantly.

Rather than parking lots, remote parking garages could be built, at/about $40,000/stall. This also would drive up the cost of the remote parking option. But with Palo Alto being essentially built-out in the downtown area, finding any place for parking is going to be difficult. Stanford's open space becomes a possibility, particularly if it becomes the owner/operator of the Arrillaga Project.

The cost of the "externalities" associated with new, massive, downtown development, which are likely to be shouldered by the public, not the developers, argues convincingly that there should be no more downtown development.

Posted by jm, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 11:37 am

Sounds like the library/arts center need a three hour parking limit, or whatever accommodates those taking classes plus some time at the library, with enough slots set aside to accommodate employees.

Posted by Klein's speech, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm

It was amusing to watch Larry Klein's impassioned speech pleading for fairness and justice for his multmulti-millionaire compatriots, to allow them to build without adequate parking.. I was practically in tears. I'll bet he's given that speech many times, since advising miultimulti millionaires is his occupation.
I can't recall a similar speech when residents get short changed and he votes for insufficient parking.

Posted by anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm

The new rules should apply to ALL projects, including those in progress! The difficulty of finding downtown parking keeps many people from shopping down there, including me . . . It takes me about a half hour to walk to University Avenue from my house, (plus there's the half hour getting back home) and I don't always have the time.

Posted by RT, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

How about a parking garage instead of the Arillaga project....

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm

we allow more private lots to be built, that means more free parking for building tenants. We build more city owned lots, we start charging for parking, that means more parking in the residential sections. More parking, means more cars, more cars means more traffic. Do we start charging or give out free spaces.

We have grown to be such a car centered world, how do we even start getting people out of there cars.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

There really needs to be better management of parking demand rather than just more spots. Can people who go out to downtown Palo Alto really not afford to pay for parking?

Posted by unparked, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm

My heart bleeds for the developers, poor dears, who spent money! on planning their buildings with inadequate parking (the less space they have to devote to parking, the more office space they can sell). If they aren't making money, maybe they shouldn't spend it. If they don't want to have to comply with the moratorium, they can go build those massive projects somewhere else (looks like Mountain View is glad to host giant developments). When someone in the Chron or Merc mentions Palo Alto's cute downtown and charming old houses, I know they haven't been here in a while.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Council Member grades on this issue:

Schmid: A - represented the citizens, not the special interests

Holman: A - represented the citizens, not the special interests

Klein: F - As usual, argued for the developers, tried to create a new precedent for granting exceptions.

Espinosa: F - wanted to create a new precedent for granting exceptions. Brings up "fairness for developers", but not the residents.

Price: F - As usual favored treating developers "fairly", but not the residents.

Scharf: B - Stuck to the existing legal precedent of what would be "fair", and ended up supporting the residents.

Shepard: F - Her comments tried to make the residents the "bad people"; supported setting a new precedent for "fairness for developers".

Yeh: B - Tried to work out a compromise, by squeezing out more parking from existing parking...

Burt: C - Want to focus on parking mitigation as a solution.

Price, Shepard & Klein have consistent in this issue & past issues as being tools of the developers.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

@Nick Baldo - What cities with populations under 75k would you point to as a model for Palo Alto? The reality is that Palo Alto is a small suburban city, and is going to be car dominated. Best to deal with that reality and require plenty of parking for new development, or don't allow new development.

Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2012 at 12:14 am

Nick Baldo:

"Plenty of great cities manage to build dense, vibrant, wonderful cores without turning into dangerous, car-dominated parking lots."

Name them! The only other comparable downtowns in the Bay Area are Berkeley's, Redwood City's, and San Mateo's. Berkeley's is far more "car-dominated," and is centered around the 4-lane Shattuck Ave. I've seen cars hit students and homeless many times. San Mateo's and Redwood City's are just as bad as Palo Alto's, if not worse, and also have terrible parking.

Posted by Mark Weiss , a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2012 at 12:51 am

I'm wondering about the significance of Gennady Sheyner cleaning up Chop Keenan's quote slightly in graph #22. I heard him say "rule and regs" as in a jargon version of "rules and regulations", what GS reported. I replayed the speech on my "tivo" because I was struck by the developer's colorful language, replete with so many metaphors, the familiarity and casualness of it, like he was talking to his own staff, or they had been through this over and over again, and not in a public hearing.

Maybe it's a red herring, or it could be a tell. But it begs the question of how else the Weekly cleans up this somewhat complicated scenario so as to not make the developers look like the gluttons and philistines they seem to be.

Posted by Mark Weiss , a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:04 am

Also I completely agree with the report card posted above, adding that Scharff was interesting in that he sort of turned the tide after Holman and Schmid were so adamantly rebuffed by Klein, Sid, Nancy and Gail. Scharff pulled out a JJ. Hunsecker "don't kid a kidder" in that he said, as a developer himself, he knows that Keenan has plenty of wiggle room at this point and does not have that strong an argument about the rules changing. Yeh gets a "B" for "brilliant" in that he effectively kicked the can past his lame duck tenure to the next council so as to not have the taste of this sordid affair in his mouth so to speak -- and now I am talking like Chop by my mixed metaphors, the difference being of course I am not speaking in public for the record merely posting at 1 a.m.

I wish Allen Drury were alive to see this drama!!

Posted by Mark Weiss , a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:36 am

Come to think of it, Yeh's brilliant "TDM" gambit is exactly what I said somewhat facetiously on these same pages, back in August:
Web Link

(I said let them build the under-parked structure on Hamilton but require builder to get a Clown College as a tenant in that clowns famously commute to work up to eight or ten of the little cute fellers crammed into a Mini-Cooper....)

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I was drawn to this speech because of his colorful use of language; I re-wound my device and took some notes and counted about a dozen metaphors or tropes. Whether Gennady consciously or merely unconsciously cleaned up the language, I think the Weekly's readers would like more coverage of the real estate industry, who are the main players, why they are so successful, is it true that council is "too cozy" with them.

Don't get me wrong, I find the guy compelling. Here's a transcript of his speech:

Good evening, 700 Emerson. This is of course the pipeline question. I've been involved in this property, with this application, for about a-year-and-a-half and certainly if this moratorium per council-member Schmid's argument, had there been a moratorium at that point, I wouldn't have pursued it. But we spent a lot of time and money in reliance on your rules and regs, and I won't use the word "bait-and-switch" but we're on the one-yard-line, or whatever metaphor you want to use, and here we are. So is the 376 thousand dollars, which includes future interest, even though we are effectively paying off the principal, a acceptable number? The answer is, it's a lot more than what we started out with, a couple years ago, but it's a long way from an in lieu fee, and is -- I know when to fold the cards.

I think that staff's recommendation is something we'll swallow and absorb and the 150 thousand dollar downtown cap study we'll address our success problem in downtown Palo Alto and the adjacent neighborhoods which are also having their own success issues.

So I would just say that on the ground floor retail issue, I only have so many fingers to plug in dykes, but we worked hard on this, for a year and a half, two years ago, when we had over 15 per cent vacancy on University Avenue, there was a concern that --- there was a safety valve – those might turn to offices. So we eliminated the safety valve, also allowed flexibility for retail or offices and adjacent streets, and particularly west of High Street, which has always been a problematic retail area, and that would be a fatal flaw, for this project, if we only had one way to go. Thank you.

Council debated for about two hours on whether to give the applicant a $2.4 million tax break, on top of a $1.2 million "TDR" "transferable development right" tax break, or to merely, as staff suggested, charge him about $300,000 -- although Scharff pointed out an obvious math flaw in the way that was calculated -- plus another $110,000 or so to pay for a study, versus "kicking the can" which is what they opted to do.

We have been using the figure of $60,000 per space as what it would cost to build a parking garage. The moratorium would eliminate his initial intention to under-park 135 Hamilton by 40 spaces, The 636 project is smaller, only 15 spaces (worth $900,000), exempted. Staff said they could treat the two projects differently.

Posted by Boo hoo, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Wayne Martin,

"The cost of the "externalities" associated with new, massive, downtown development, which are likely to be shouldered by the public, not the developers, argues convincingly that there should be no more downtown development."

This story of sleeping with the enemy with City Council is getting boring. Is there anything residents can do except complain and watch?

The stupid ones are residents at this point.

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