Call it what you will: whack-a-mole, a shell game, musical cars. Channing Avenue and Edgewood Drive are the latest streets to become parked up as drivers seek parking spots outside Palo Alto's ever-expanding zone of prohibited overnight parking.
Now some Duveneck/St. Francis and Crescent Park neighborhood residents said it is time for the city to ban overnight parking citywide.
Palo Alto's 2-to-5 a.m. ban began in 2013 in response to apartment and condominium residents from East Palo Alto's 1,800-unit Woodland Park complex who were leaving their cars along Newell Road and Edgewood. The ban was revised in 2015 to add more streets. Today, residents can apply to have their blocks included in the ban if they are in the zone bounded by Edgewood to the northeast, Channing to the south, Lincoln Avenue to the west, University Avenue to the northwest and the entirety of Crescent Drive.
Michael DeMarzo, whose home is in the zone but is close to Channing, where parking's not prohibited, said it's not just parked cars but fights, trash and graffiti that are problematic. A commercial car-repair business on West Bayshore Road even began using Channing for its overflow business, with mechanics repairing cars at the curb.
"It has destroyed my quality of life. I don't understand why I'm the one to police Channing Avenue," he said.
The main concern is traffic safety, he said. Vehicles parked for days along the curb block prevent children who are riding their bicycles from seeing oncoming cars; storm drains remain clogged because the street sweeper can't get to the curbs, increasing flooding in an already-flood-prone area, he said.
As a short-term solution, DeMarzo and his wife are circulating a petition to expand the overnight-parking ban to Channing, but he acknowledged the problem will then just shift to other neighbors. For that reason, he prefers a citywide overnight-parking ban.
Kim Amsbaugh, a Sandalwood Court resident, agreed.
"I think the city should learn from its neighbor, Menlo Park and pass an overnight parking ban for all of Palo Alto," Amsbaugh said in an email.
"Parking on both sides of Channing between Edgewood and Saint Francis (Drive) has gotten incredibly over-crowded. Vehicles stay parked overnight for days on end, and in some instances these cars parked overnight are being lived in."
But some residents are against more bans.
Ken Tucker, another Edgewood resident, questioned the need, process and validity of the restrictions.
"Extending parking restrictions to our neighborhood and to more and more of Palo Alto is not a solution; it's just an example of economic discrimination and NIMBYism. Palo Alto and East Palo Alto officials need to get together to seek ways to assist our neighbors while easing parking issues in our neighborhoods," he said.
Eric Griswold, another Edgewood Drive resident, said he also is against parking bans.
"People need somewhere to park. I would offer my spot in front of my house. The parking regulation is too much. It is totally unnecessary," he said.
Hillary Gitelman, the city's director of planning and community environment, said in an email that Palo Alto has not considered a blanket restriction on overnight parking.
"Based on the number of resident cars parked on streets each evening in neighborhoods like Downtown North, College Terrace, etc., it would be challenging to get support for such a policy. Even in Crescent Park, where blocks can currently opt-in to a no-overnight parking restriction, there are occasionally strenuous disagreements among residents about whether to opt in or not," she said.
But a larger, more regional attack on the problem is afoot. Tired of similar parking and traffic issues, East Palo Alto residents and city officials are looking at restrictions of their own. Some residents at a community meeting sponsored by the city on Wednesday suggested a possible overnight ban on their streets similar to Palo Alto's.
Palo Alto's recent crackdown on recreational vehicles on El Camino Real and Menlo Park's overnight parking restriction have driven campers to East Palo Alto. Residents of streets on the Menlo Park side of Willow Road are parking in East Palo Alto neighborhoods, meeting attendees said.
East Palo Alto Mayor Larry Moody said he hopes to meet with Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff and Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith within 30 days to discuss collaborating on the three cities' parking and traffic issues.
Residents of East Palo Alto's Woodland apartments suggested that striping street parking and building additional lots would cut down on haphazard parking and create more spaces. They also called for landlord Sand Hill Property Company to establish more lots on its properties.
Overcrowding of studios and apartments is the problem's root, residents noted; landlords can restrict the number of people allowed to occupy a unit.
Matt Larson, spokesman for Sand Hill, said the company has been trying to fix the parking shortage. Since acquiring the properties a year-and-a-half ago, Sand Hill has added 124 new parking spaces in lots in and around the complexes. The spaces are in addition to 88 that former property owner Equity Residential added in 2013, he said. The company does charge for the parking, but the lots are completely full and there is a waiting list, he said.