News


Managers worry Palo Alto parking program could harm business

While some employees would not be affected, parking limits could add stress for others who work along California Avenue

Outright surprise -- that's the overwhelming reaction of business owners and managers to Palo Alto's possible implementation of permit parking along streets surrounding the California Avenue Business District.

At more than a dozen businesses along California Avenue the Weekly visited to talk about the pending Residential Parking Permit program, all but two people were either unaware of it or largely unaware of its details. The pilot program, if approved by the City Council Monday, would expand the current two-hour parking restrictions from the business district to the adjacent Evergreen Park and Mayfield residential neighborhoods starting this April. To park for longer in one of the 1,000 street parking spots, one would need to buy a permit.

Under the plan, only 250 permits would be sold to area employees, leaving a majority of workers with few all-day parking options.

"Wow. I had no idea. ... Just wow," said Steve Oberhauser, co-owner of the family-owned The Cobblery on California Avenue. The shoe store, which has four owners and no other staff, has two designated parking spots behind the shop and will not be affected by the program, but Oberhauser said he's still concerned about what the restrictions will mean for other businesses in the area.

"What are restaurants going to do? They have huge staffs," he said, shaking his head.

Christian Iraheta, manager of Izzy's Bagels near the El Camino Real end of California Avenue, was also unaware of program, despite the fact that the city conducted community workshops, focus groups and surveys of residents and property owners.

Iraheta said he fears the new program could "create a lot of chaos" because now employees won't have any reason to park outside of the business district, which will mean more cars in an area that's already congested.

"It'll be a giant cluster," he said. "It's already bad as it is." His workers have 8- to 10-hour shifts, so the two-hour parking limit is "pretty inconvenient," as it is, he added.

Michael Ekwall, manager of restaurant La Bodeguita Del Medio, participated in some of the city outreach meetings but conceded, "There isn't a satisfactory answer for everybody involved."

"I'm totally compassionate with people that live in the neighborhoods, but this is really just kind of an issue that, in my opinion, the city has created. They were pushing for high-density development on California Avenue ... (It) goes back to over a decade ago when the city was encouraging high-density development in our neighborhood," Ekwall said.

Businesses on and near California Avenue are running out of options for their employees, he said, predicting that businesses would be threatened by an already difficult business environment.

"It's hard to attract good employees as it is, with the cost," Ekwall said.

Ekwall said that he and others had lobbied the city for longer parking periods (four hours instead of two), a request that he said largely fell on deaf ears. He also said that they had lobbied for permits that could be transferred between employees; the city staff report, however, states only that a transferable tag "may" be part of the program.

Overall, Ekwall said he felt the wishes of residents probably have outweighed those of the business owners in the city's eyes.

"When you have a small group of people and then you have an entire neighborhood of residents who are you going to listen to?" he said.

Ekwall and Mollie Stone's manager John Garcia were the only people the Weekly spoke with who said they were aware of the city plan. (Of the 342 city surveys sent to businesses last fall, just 37 were returned.)

The new program won't have much of an impact on the grocery store's 30 or so employees, Garcia said.

"It probably will cause them to park a couple of blocks farther away, but they're already moving their cars every two hours now. They don't have designated spots or permits ... A couple do take the train," he said.

Paola Campos, cashier at Palo Alto Baking Company, said many of her co-workers take public transportation or are dropped off at work. She anticipated the new program would most impact part-time employees who already struggle to find parking and have to move their cars every couple of hours to avoid a parking ticket.

"Parking is already a pain, and this might add stress and deter customers," said Taqueria Azteca's Fernando Miranda, who was taken aback when informed of the program. He said employees at the restaurant won't be directly impacted, though, because the business has its own designated parking.

Raymond Luu of Performance Gains gym noted that most staff members park on Birch Street and College Avenue, where street parking currently is unrestricted. Like Garcia, he said employees would just have to park farther out.

He's more worried about how the new restrictions could impact business, particularly customers interested in staying in the area longer than two hours.

If the council approves the program on Monday, residents and employers can expect it to go into effect as soon as April 1.

Related content:

Permit parking gets green light in Evergreen Park

City looks to bring permit parking to Evergreen Park streets

Editorial: a parking mess?

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Comments

26 people like this
Posted by realist
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Businesses need to be realistic. If their employees flood all the free parking around town, then there is no space left for customers and that isn't going to end well. Businesses need to think of ways to get their employees to work other than single occupancy vehicles. Taxpayer subsidized parking has to be the most expensive and least desirable solution.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm

We desperately need to put in parking lots near freeway onramps and designated shuttles to downtown and business areas.

We do not have a parking policy in Palo Alto. Instead, we do have an anti-parking policy and none of these permit suggestions will help.

Most of those driving to work in Palo Alto do so because there is very little choice as an alternative. Not everyone lives near a Caltrain station and it won't help people from EPA or from Cupertino, for example.

Unless public transportation improves across county borders and in real terms to give people a true alternative to solo driving in an efficient manner, people are just not going to take a bus that snakes around neighborhoods and doesn't get them to where they need to go in a timely manner.


29 people like this
Posted by Crooked politicians
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 6:43 pm

No worries. Politicians like Liz Kniss will continue voting for more office buildings that exacerbate the parking problem. Drain the swamp!


19 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 10:36 pm

There is simply no excuse for business owners not being aware of this development.


15 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2017 at 10:10 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I'm looking forward to everyone finding a good compromise solution here, because we all in this together. The residents of neighborhoods near business districts enjoy the benefits of living near amenities. The workers of those stores and restaurants need parking. And the office workers in those districts support the stores and keep them viable. In today's Palo Alto, I'm not sure this stool stands without all three.


11 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

The article reports:
"Ekwall and Mollie Stone's manager John Garcia were the only people the Weekly spoke with who said they were aware of the city plan. (Of the 342 city surveys sent to businesses last fall, just 37 were returned.)"

The above quote reminds me of all the articles that reported about the clear-cut of trees from a few years ago and presumably, all the years of planning that likely led up to a big reconfiguration of that district.

Did most California Avenue owners and managers yawn and go back to sleep then too, in spite of being informed, and perhaps even asked to take part in the planning?

That part of Palo Alto had been long neglected. There was much discussion in council(s) about what was to happen, for interested parties to be aware, if they wanted it.

But many merchants claimed they were never told anything about that either, and were taken by surprise, when work began. This has become a pattern.

Norman Beamer is correct. There is no excuse for businesses not to be aware of this newest development. 342 surveys from the city, and only 37 surveys returned?

It's time for the resident's comfort to be respected. Wait until the new police building development is finished, and parking will be even worse there then, than it is now.

My family shops there. We like the merchants and shops that are left. But the sooner residents are protected from further adverse effects due to parking, the better it will be for everyone. Residents have a valid concern.


23 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2017 at 5:05 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I find it a bit mind boggling that people like Norman Beamer and Long-time Resident think there is "no excuse" for businesses not knowing about the parking proposal.

Because businesses are so carefree that they have all this free time to monitor the goings on of City Council, right?

I wonder if all the critics of these businesses have ever done the work of running one.

As for me, I enjoy having them here, and I'm not quite so eager to chase them out of town.


11 people like this
Posted by al munday
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2017 at 8:17 am

DUH.....too much growth and not enough foresight ...or shall we say foresight was there but many who would benefit would rather reap the spoils and have
the workers suffer


16 people like this
Posted by Resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

The good news here is that there are still businesses on Cal Ave after the assault on retail by the Kniss/Scharff Council. Apparently, they would like to finish them off.


16 people like this
Posted by TTurner
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

TTurner is a registered user.

Palo Alto is doing its best for the Number 1 stupidest city in Bay Area. Create a problem and heck with the residents.


5 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2017 at 12:37 pm

There's one simple answer. Because parking is such a hassle and will continue to be, just DON'T shop on California Avenue!!


9 people like this
Posted by PA Original
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm

This is just another case of the Council keeping things hidden until the population, Resident or Business hears about it TOO LATE to get informed and maybe talk about a difference of opinion


20 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Annette is a registered user.

It seems so obvious that people are not abandoning their cars for public transportation or bikes or walking. If we were, by now the parking issue would be improving at least a little. Instead, it is getting worse. When I read about the high density building proposed for the VTA lot I thought that when the time comes, one way to test the PTOD model is to not sell any parking permits to residents of that property but to instead let those who are so convinced that fewer cars will be associated with that building (and others like it) assume ALL the risk and inconvenience of that model instead of imposing it on neighboring businesses and residents. I think it would also be helpful for high level City Staff (e.g. Keene and Gitelman) and City Council to experiment with not having permitted parking for a 3 month period so that they can fully appreciate the impact of decisions that are being made. Getting around this town and parking is, simply, a deterrent to supporting local businesses. Especially during daytime hours.


16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Failing to advise those effected by proposed changes has become the standard operating procedure of this city as it tries to sneak through unwanted changes. If they'd given the merchants and residents advance notice of this proposed change, they might have had people questioning their methods for counting parked cars and their assumptions on when those cars leave.

Fortunately our neighborhood had one alert resident who went door-to-door handing out flyers warning about proposed changes and notifying us of a meeting since the city couldn't/wouldn't/didn't. 70 of us showed up, questioned their assumptions and at a got most of changes ditched.

It's farcical that we the residents and taxpayers have to be so vigilant against our highly paid bureaucrats.

PS: Remind me again why we spent $7,000,000 to "revitalize" a business district only to kill it for residents and shoppers and merchants.


21 people like this
Posted by jh
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2017 at 1:54 pm

jh is a registered user.

Not mentioned in this is the number of savvy Stanford employees who park as close to the campus as possible and then either pick up the campus shuttle to take them into the center of campus and the hospital, or take a pleasant 15 minute walk to their office.

Permission from the county to add additional buildings on campus has been predicated on the University not adding any additional car trips onto campus. The obvious answer for Stanford was to jack up the parking fees employees are charged and replace what was parking with new buildings. After Stanford first started charging employees for parking, late 1970's I seem to remember.

Over the following decades as employees figured out that parking in the adjacent neighborhoods and having a pleasant walk to work . In College Terrace quite a few employees could be seen parking and unloading their bikes, or simply kept a bicycle chained to a street tree for added convenience.

Then Stanford added the shuttle so, when the University is charging about $400 for an annual parking permit, it was a no brainer to park in College Terrace and walk across Stanford Avenue to pick up the shuttle, running on a regular schedule about every 10 or 15 minutes.

Stanford also increased the parking fees for Stanford students in Escondido Village, a further incentive to park their cars in nearby neighborhoods, plus all the additional students living in the new highrises.

Yet in this discussion the California Avenue employees are blamed with no mention of Stanford's role in this.


10 people like this
Posted by Tools in the toolbox
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

In downtown PA, for every free transit pass made available by the Transportation Management Association (TMA), a downtown worker has asked to use one to get to work instead of driving in a car. What if the TMA were to expand its scope to include California Avenue businesses and Town & Country Village? Transit options aren't perfect but there is demand for transit if it is subsidized. Why not subsidize transit over free parking for workers?


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Remember that when the TMA expands its coverage, you the resident / taxpayer will be paying people to commute into and out of Palo Alto. This also includes city employees who love to preach to US to get out of OUR cars.

How special that we get to pay to have our quality of life undermined. How special to see all the reserved parking spots for city employees and City Council members. Since the city and the CC members love to preach to us about biking and public transit, maybe they could follow their own advice and be forced to bike and/or take public transit.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Yes, the Marguerite is a shuttle system that works. It picks people up at train stations and takes them where they need to go every 15 minutes or so.

Do we have a similar shuttle at Cal Ave or PA Caltrain, or the freeway off ramps? No. Unless we put in some sensible alternatives to solo driving, the solo drivers will not go away.

We don't even have any type of school shuttles that comprehensively serve students!!


10 people like this
Posted by phil
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 23, 2017 at 2:57 pm

The retail stores on California Ave are having a rough time as evident by the closing of the office supply store , the camera store, Radio Shack, and Accent Arts. The internet, traffic and parking problems are few of the reasons why they struggle. The city could alleviate one problem by making more short time parking available to shoppers. Now the prospective shopper must round the block several times before finding any spot reasonably close to the store he wants to visit. Short time parking would allow the customer to park run into the store, make the purchase and leave. Why is the city not helping out the retailer ? Soon the street will be Restaurant Row and nothing else.


9 people like this
Posted by realist
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Other cities on the peninsula are providing short term customer parking by installing parking meters. Parking costs are minimal (like 25 cents for 30 minutes), but the time limits are strictly enforced. Making people go through motions of putting their coins in the parking meter seems to encourage them to take the time limits seriously. I am really surprised that Palo Alto has not gone this route yet.


9 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm

The new parking regulations will kill local businesses. Palo Alto residents are deterred from shopping downtown or on Californis Ave by the 2 hour limit for a wide area around where they want to shop. What the City ones with the parking regulation , including special permits for employees pushes out Palo Alto residents of other areas. We would like to shop downtown. W e have shopped downtown and are now being pushed into one of the shopping centers. This will kill downtown service businesses


10 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Well, there go the last few shops and services on CA Ave that remain. If shoppers and those using the service shops cannot park for the necessary time they will be forced to go elsewhere. What will be left if a few second rate restaurants and grocery stores with parking lots.
I think all City employees, council members, and advisors should be required to leave their cars at home. Maybe that will turn on a light of sense for them.
Obviously city rulers have decided that they prefer tech companies to shops and shoppers. Shouldn't the tech companies be in the industrial park?


6 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 23, 2017 at 11:11 pm

I never have traffic or parking problems because I ride my bike. We need more public transportation and more efficient public transportation, and we need to get out of our cars. Our traffic and parking problems will only increase until we have more and better transportation options. E.g. There is only 1 train per hour on weekends and if you transfer from BART to Caltrain at Millbrae, be prepared to sit in the rain and wind for up to an hour! Ridiculous!!! It should be simple, quick and reasonably comfortable to get from any city on the peninsula to SFO -- but no -- it's a pain in the ass so everyone drives. We must invest in public transportation infrastructure.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2017 at 7:51 am

Looks like we will have to get our taxes done somewhere outside Palo Alto as trying to drop things up or pick things up on the way to our final destination is no longer an option in Palo Alto. Parking in Cal Ave for a 2 minute errand is already impossible during the day. Many of us do not have the luxury of enough time to ride a bike from home to deliver something then ride a bike home before getting on with the remainder of the day's errands.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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