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Group tries to calm Palo Alto's parking debate

Original post made on Aug 19, 2013

As Palo Alto's office workers and downtown neighborhoods continue to battle it out over parking, a group of residents has formed a new group aiming to bring some civility and rational debate to the proceedings.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, August 19, 2013, 9:57 AM

Comments (32)

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:14 am

Stanford's vaunted alternative transportation "achievements" are exaggerated. Many empoyees get a go-pass, but them often drive anyway. Stanford counts them as if they always take the train.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

Building more parking lots is just going to gridlock the roads around downtown. Besides, it is really not fair to force taxpayers to pay so much money for garages that primarily benefits the developers.

If we really want to keep adding more jobs downtown, then we need to look at non-car transportation options like public transit, walking, and bicycling.

Or put the jobs in other parts of town where the existing infrastructure can support and the cars and parking garages could be less expensive.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

> Building more parking lots is just going to gridlock the roads around downtown.

I doubt that, any data or evidence to prove that? Parking structure have worked fine and the fact that they are full and do not empty in 1/2 hour proves otherwise.

You gridlock of this sort after a Stanford Game or a Shoreline Event ... not from a parking structure.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm

To add onto CPA's comments --- residential taxpayers rarely foot the bill for garages. Downtown assessments are the typical path.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

> residential taxpayers rarely foot the bill for garages.
> Downtown assessments are the typical path.

True, but the Assessment Districts have to pay for the bonds somehow. It's very hard to believe that they don't increase the costs of their goods/services to cover these additional costs of doing business in the Downtown area.

Residential Palo Altans that don't shop downtown would not be paying for these parking structures. Residential Palo Altans who do businesses, or shop, downtown--then they help to pay the tab.


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

3,000 parking spaces are 3,000 parking spaces


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Ideas that work in other cities.

1. Parking meters in all downtown streets.

2. Pay per hour machines in all city lots and garages.

3. Parking in satellite lots (in our case the Baylands) with frequent shuttles.

4. Free parking in Caltrain lots (and others) after 3.00 pm.

Enabling occasional all day parkers means that downtown workers who may not be able to bike/carpool/public transit everyday don't need monthly parking tickets. Residents on streets with meters can have exemption stickers (something like the blue disabled stickers but obviously a different shape and color) which they can use for themselves or their guests.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm

To the poster with the four (4) ideas that work in other cities--

could you make an estimate as to the cost (initial/yearly) for each of these ideas, and tell us who should pay for these costs?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm

As long as the business community gets free parking in the residential neighborhoods, nobody should be surprised they don't want to pay for parking garages.

Until the businesses can't free-ride on parking and traffic, they won't put any skin into a solution.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I think the idea that forcing people to pay for parking in Palo Alto is somehow going to ease the parking situation is baloney, it will just make money for someone. It does not magically create parking spaces, and just makes it harder for everyone, except those with so much money they do not feel it.

It certainly will not encourage people to walk around Palo Alto and step into stores or grab a bite to eat, they will be paying parking, and then worrying about getting back before the meter runs down.

People who think the market is the answer to everything are really short sighted in most cases.

If downtown property owner landlords are complaining about a parking garage it is probably because they have hiked rents up so high that they will probably not be able to raise them anymore and so will end up having to pay something for this and not be able to pass it on.


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Posted by KEN
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Understanding the numbers helps frame the problem and the solution - property owners, not citizens. They show clearly that the downtown developers have been scamming the city for years and the Council has let them get away with it - willful blindness and institutional corruption at their best.

Way over 2.2 million square feet of office development = at least 8,800 employees, provided with a whooping 1600 parking spaces, that they have to pay to use.

When the poor property owners paid into the assessment district in 2004 they needed by city standard 8,800 spaces but provided less than 900 new spaces, yet they get credit for the full amount for new construction.

They get over $7.00 per square foot for their leases and are assessed less than 10 cents a square foot/month for the assessment - which most pass on to the tenant under NNN leases.

Developers can buy development rights (TDR) from certain other projects in order to build more floor area than allowed by the zoning code. The typical TDR is 5,000 square feet. For this extra space he does not need to provide the 20 parking spaces normally needed so immediately saves over $1.2 million dollars and the value of the space over time, at least another $6 million.

I may be missing something but there is absolutely no reason the downtown owners and developers can not or should not provide parking.

The City needs to adopt a Moratorium on ALL BUILDING PERMITS, until they straighten out this gift of public funds.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Howard, perhaps you should read the story instead of engaging in misinformation regarding Stanford ( we know you do not like Stanford-- your postmgs over the years make that clear) . The numbers of parking permits has decreased and the number of single drivers has decreased. Plus the Stanford shuttle system provides FREE transportation to,anyone and everyone.


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Posted by Sick of it? Reach out to Maybell, we will join you
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm

At Maybell, developers are getting away with rezoning for just 47 parking spots for 60 rental units, plus employees, plus visitors, on 1.1 acres, in a residential neighborhood.

Proponents claim seniors won't drive, even though the location is not really that walkable even to transit, and people will drive to medical services and grocery and pretty much everything else. They pointed to places like Stevenson House as comparable, even though Stevenson house is steps from grocery, Cubberley, Mitchell Park Community Center and Library, Betty Wright Swim Center, and very near Costco, etc etc. and even so, their residents use the neighboring church during the week and Hoover elementary school on the weekends for parking their extra cars. There is no such nearby services at Maybell nor excess parking capacity in the Maybell neighborhood, families who bring their disabled kids from all over the county for rehab already face parking conflicts now.

Worse, the rezoning ordinance we will be voting on in November provides little protection that the property will always remain for low-income or seniors, just as Terman Apartments nearby is already being converted from affordable housing to market-rate after only 20 years, with nothing anyone can do to stop them. The apartments could easily hold hundreds of people, again, with only 47 parking spots in a residential area with no transit infrastructure and barely functioning infrastructure for the cars (Maybell being a substandard road with no room for even a full-width bike lane or sidewalk on even one side of the road.)

Neighbors bring up these problems til they're blue in the face, and the City staff, having decided they want this project -- they're essentially foisting the cost burden on the neighborhood through the financing scheme -- simply make up justification after justification, often little more than bald-faced lies. And neighbors get called NIMBY's and worse for suggesting senior rental apartments would be better closer to walkable services they need, such as downtown where they really wouldn't need cars (near Avenidas, PAMF, major transit hubs, etc). Heck, neighbors get called NIMBY's for pointing out that there already is a lot of affordable housing developments in their backyards, some of the most in all of Palo Alto. Neighbors have learned that City Council just runs after the next developer shiny object and doesn't see anything else.

What we have learned from this is that there is no such thing as planning in this town, and the City seems to feel no responsibility to assess the infrastructure or take care of such basic responsibilities as safety, quality of life, or sensible urban planning. Try complaining about it if you stand in the way of City staff's pet project -- and get out of the way of their steamroller. Palo Alto is quickly losing its soul.


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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Using ideas from the "sharing economy," PA can adopt a parking space system that creates new parking spaces out of thin air (avoiding the need to build expensive new parking structures) while providing additional income for SOFA and University North residents. More of a win/win/win/win solution that typical lose/lose/lose/lose residential parking permit programs:

Web Link


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Posted by Downtown North Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:19 pm

During the day there is zero parking along the streets bordering our residence. People park right next to the corners, which is a bad idea from a safety perspective with the 2 way stop-signs and people going 35 mph down the street. They do this because parking there is free, and there are no consequences for doing so.

I just want permit parking. Perfectly fine if some of the street parking goes to paid permits instead of residents, so long as there is some parking for residents (especially during Stanford games, where it can be impossible to get to your residence...)


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Posted by Angry resident
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

What does it take to start firing staff?

Clearly the problem here is that Staff is unresponsive to anybody.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I suggest that you look at the Boulder/Denver solutions to parking, especially Boulder with it's CAR UNFRIENDLY attitude.

Downtown Denver has many parking facilities with both monthly, daily and hourly fees.

To promote worker parking off-street they have a " morning special rate " considerably lower than the regular daily rate.

Boulder has developed parking kiosks where you pay FIRST for parking, no " feed a meter " or " move a few feet " when it comes to downtown parking.

There are plenty of parking garages in an area where living costs mirror yours in Boulder.

Here are examples of workable solutions to parking issues.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Providing 'free access' to a scarce resource simply means that people 'pay' with personal inconvenience and waiting/lost time.

The Palo Alto parking program will only be solved when parking on public streets where parking is scarce is rationed by pricing AND every new development is required to provide 100% of its parking needs without the option of an in-lieu payment.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Parking is a costly enterprise both for those who own the parking and those who need to use it.

The first thing that needs to be agreed on is that there is a need for parking. The second thing is to accept that it is not free. The third thing is to find ways to accommodate parking at acceptable costs to both parties.

The costs of not doing this is much more than arguing about the costs. The other thing to remember is that costs are not always monetary.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Marie is a registered user.

The problem with charging for parking for retail customers, is that it would kill the downtown retail industry, since Stanford, despite its "admired" parking policy, does not charge for parking at Stanford Shopping Center and never will.

Stanford's success is due as much to the cost of parking permits, and the long distances from the permitted lots, to where you want to go, as it is to free shuttles and go passes. I time my visits to the Stanford museum to after 4:00 when parking becomes free. Stanford has also built additional parking structures as they have added buildings to the campus. And with all that, parking on the campus is a nightmare. El Camino next to Stanford is always full. Maybe we should put parking meters on El Camino near Stanford. It wouldn't affect retail customers but would make money. But wait - that would push even more people into the neighborhoods around Stanford. Hmmmm.

One answer is to hire people for traffic management who don't believe that the answer to getting people to use mass transit is to make it too painful and expensive to use cars, eve when there is no effective mass transit. It is similar to the Republican notion that to reduce government you have to "starve the beast" and cut funding no matter who is hurt. Who is hurt are those with the lowest income and least ability to pay the extra costs. Who wins are the 1% who can afford to pay any amount for a parking permit for convenience, whether they use it everyday or once a month. Maybe we should be selling permits only to those people who actually use the parking spots. What a concept.

At the end of the day, we need to build more parking structures and only allow new businesses that can provide parking for their high income workers, who are never going to take the time it would take to take a bus (rather 2 buses and a train) to work.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Stanford, despite its "admired" parking policy, does not charge for parking at Stanford Shopping Center and never will."

Stanford Shopping Center 'paid' for its parking when it wisely created enough parking spaces on its own site to accommodate its customers and then added parking structures at its cost when the demand for parking spaces grew.

The Palo Alto parking program will only be solved when parking on public streets where parking is scarce is rationed by pricing AND every new development is required to provide 100% of its parking needs without the option of an in-lieu payment. Look no further than Stanford and the Stanford Shopping Center for proof of both requirements.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm

One thing that often gets overlooked is how much the businesses downtown have already paid to solve the parking problem. The garages are paid for by the businesses in both the cost of building them and the cost of ongoing maintenance. These costs are in the millions. So its no wonder no businesses downtown want to pay for more.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"how much the businesses downtown have already paid to solve the parking problem. The garages are paid for by the businesses in both the cost of building them and the cost of ongoing maintenance"

The problem is that there is no mechanism to ensure that the customers of those businesses get that parking. An easy solution is the one used in the new downtown Redwood City complex which charges for parking and then the merchant 'validate' the parking ticket in order to provide their customers with 'free' parking. There is no reason that this could not be done in Palo Alto for those parking structures that have been paid for by specific merchants.


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Posted by Alai
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

"The business community does not want to pay for the parking structures. Voters don't want to pay for the parking structures," Levin said. "We're in a real pickle. Tensions are really running high because this seems like a zero-sum game."

Here's a crazy idea: how about the people who are parking pay for the parking structures?

If not even the people who are parking want to pay for the parking structures, then it's pretty clear that no one is all that interested in these parking structures.


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Posted by Call a spade a spade
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm

As long as the city keeps approving commercial buildings without the required parking the city is giving MILLIONS of dollars to developers.
Who on the staff is being paid off for these concessions?

Most recent concession was to billionaire developers Smith to underpark their huge office building on Lytton at Alma.
Many people wonder who is benefiting from this beside the developers?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

@angry resident
You are right. The staff is a tool of the Council and offers no
counterbalance, no independent professional opinions or analysis.
Essentially the staff works on behalf of the developers,architects
and in pursuit of its own interests. The City of Palo Alto has been hijacked. Since the agenda is set it is hard to tell where political
influence and special interests tail off into sheer incompetence
in producing the final results which seem to be a combination of both.



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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Here is a brainstorm for very flexible parking pricing to benefit residents, downtown workers, The City, and developers:

I wonder if there may be a politically viable way to bring Parking Panda ("rent your San Francisco driveway parking space to folks using smartphones") "sharing economy" technology to SOFA and Downtown North to address spillover residential parking (where employees park in front of residences) in a win/win/win/win manner for residents, developers of new projects, workers, and The City. Such a program could dramatically increase the supply of parking, while generating income for residents and The City. Old-fashioned Residential Permit Parking Programs represent a lose/lose/lose/lose solution.

One of many possible schemes:

* Number on-street parking spaces by the residential property associated with that space, IE spaces by 322 Emerson (between Lytton and Everett) become numbered 322a, 322b, etc. Spaces would be painted onto streets with the numbers painted on.

* Residents may also rent out spaces in their driveway. Residents who choose to rent spaces would then have numbers painted onto their driveway to demarcate spaces that could be numbered 322c, 322d, etc.

* Let's say that the price for a parking space from 9AM to 5PM on weekdays is $4.

* Parkers use the Parking Panda smartphone app (or the web) to reserve spaces for rental in advance, or take available spaces in real time.

* For driveway spaces, residents get 90% of rental income and Parking Panda takes 10%.

* For on-street spaces, residents associated with that space (occupants of 322 Emerson are associated with 322a and 322b) may rent that space for a preferred daily rate of $0.25. Associated residents may reserve spaces up to 30 days in advance. The City takes 100% of this revenue.

* For on-street spaces rented by other folks, those parkers may reserve spaces 48 hours in advance. Of the $4 charge, 25% goes to the landowner associated with the space (this makes the policy politically feasible by generating new income for residents from the public land on the street in front of their house). 10% goes to Parking Panda, and 65% goes to The City.

* Assume that revenue to The City covers project initiation and ongoing operation, and also generates some surplus revenue.

Parking Panda: Web Link

Discussion of a relevant San Francisco parking rule change: Web Link

Disclaimers:

1. There are many other companies in the "smart parking" field. Parking Panda would not necessarily be the best technology company to supply this solution to The City.

2. This is a "sketch" of an idea. A detailed implementation study with stakeholder feedback will be necessary to address various issues. Numbers and details will be refined by an implementation study.

What do you think?

Some additional Q&A on this scheme: Web Link


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm

There is no way you can "rent" out the space in front of your home on a public street. It does not belong to the house, it is public.

However, if it is residents' parking only with permit, then it can be abused and this is a good description of how it could be abused.

If this type of program is instilled, it actually adds a value to the home which it presently does not have, and anyone with very little curb space or has a fire hydrant will lose value in their home.

Additionally, a system like this would give incentive to residents to pave over the whole of their front yard and in effect make them paid parking lots. I can only imagine what an area would look like if every house in a street had no front yards, just parking.

I do not like this idea and would not like it in my neighborhood.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Steve-- you made those same suggestions on another thread and people pointed out that you cannot rent out public streets. Not sure why you a re repeating this ridiculous idea on this thread. The streets are public and cannot be rented out by the people who live near them.


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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm

To Not an issue and Resident,

As far as residents "renting" the public spaces in front of their houses:
1. Technically, The City can charge $4 per day for parking on public land anywhere in the city.
2. From a technical implementation standpoint, the Panda scheme could charge a worker $4 for a day of parking at space #322A. The city could take 65% and the vendor (Panda) could take 35% for their "operation and maintenance" and then Panda could turn around and provide residents with $1 (25%). So I don't see this as a "ridiculous" or impossible-to-implement scheme. In addition, there are other ways to provide incentives for affected residents (contribute revenue to a neighborhood improvement fund, etc).
3. I agree that there is no sound economic argument that residents should be able to derive income from renting the public land in front of their house. However, my sense is that a) residents have been irritated by spillover parking, and b) Council and Staff aspire to provide a solution that reduces that irritation. Hence, from the standpoint of creating a scheme that is POLITICALLY VIABLE, the "offer" to SOFA and University North residents should be compelling.

I do not concur with Resident's belief that houses in the Panda zone with limited public spaces in front of their homes would lose value. If Resident's theory is correct, then political viability will be reduced. To my way of thinking, this is part of a straw man argument by Resident (Web Link ).

As far as residents paving over their whole yard to generate parking revenue, my sense is that stakeholders will view this as undesirable and, if paving over will be popular (and not a straw man argument), stakeholders will prevent this from happening. There are multiple policy paths leading to prevention of paving over.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Aug 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

Gennady Sheyner, Please check your facts. Stanford does NOT provide GO passes to ALL of its employees.


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Posted by If you want to park you gotta pay!
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I think this forum was a great idea and more of these should be held in the future to better inform the public debate.


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