News


Palo Alto gets set to build new California Avenue garage

Public Works staff finalizes plans to mitigate parking loss during construction period

Palo Alto is preparing to break ground on a new 636-stall parking garage on California Avenue in January. Rendering courtesy of city of Palo Alto.

After years of planning for a new public-safety building and parking garage in the California Avenue area, Palo Alto officials are finally getting close to breaking ground on the two projects.

Starting in January, construction crews will cordon off the Sherman Avenue block between Ash and Birch Streets and start constructing the new 636-stall garage, which will feature four stories above ground and two basement levels. Once the garage is up, they will proceed to the new public-safety building, a project that city officials have been eying for nearly two decades and that will occupy an adjoining parking lot, across the street from the Santa Clara County courthouse.

Public Works staff expect the garage to be completed in spring 2020, at which time it will add about 310 spaces to a business district where merchants have long clamored for more parking (officials expect to complete the police building in 2022).

But before they can have more parking, area merchants will have to settle for less. The loss of the parking lot during the construction period means there will be 165 fewer spots during the construction phase. And as Public Works officials prepare to break ground, they are also looking for ways to mitigate the parking impacts during the construction period.

"Until the garage is built, we're all going to be pinched," Jack Morton, a former vice mayor and head of the California Avenue Business Association, said at a Sept. 12 community meeting on the project. "We had a similar thing when we reconfigured Cal Aveven, but this is going to be five times worse."

Yet Morton also commended Public Works staff for working with merchants to lessen the pain. The mitigations were the central focus of the meeting, which attracted about 20 area residents and workers to Palo Alto Square.

The top mitigation is phasing the two projects so that work on the public safety building won't launch until the garage is complete, said Senior Engineer Matt Raschke, who is managing the project. That ensures that area businesses and residents won't have to cope with both lots being decommissioned at the same time.

In addition, the city plans to reconfigure Lot C-7 (where the police building will ultimately stand) to add 30 spots, mostly by eliminating medians. That idea, he said, came from residents at a previous community meeting on the project. The new setup, he said, will also allow the city to create a staging area on the periphery of the parking lot where work will occur.

Raschke said the city is also considering using the PANGO app, which notifies people when they are reaching the parking time limit. And the city is also pursuing agreements with the Santa Clara County courthouse and Caltrain to temporarily use some of their lots while construction progresses. If the agencies approve the city's request, the city would have access to about 87 new spots between the two locations. Those spots would be allocated for California Avenue's parking-permit holders.

Perhaps the most creative proposed mitigation on the table is reconfiguring the parking spaces on College Avenue, a block north of California Avenue, to accommodate an additional 20 spaces.

"College Avenue is made up from primarily apartments," Raschke said. "I would imagine residents on the street will be very happy to have additional spaces for nighttime parking because College Avenue is pretty parked up all day long."

The plan is far from a done deal. Interim Public Works Director Brad Eggleston said the idea remains largely conceptual and staff would need to do more outreach and analysis before it's implemented. One resident who attended the Wednesday meeting said he was concerned about the city creating more parking spots in the neighborhood. Paul Machado, who lives in Evergreen Park, just north of California Avenue, said he was concerned about the new College Avenue scheme.

Machado took issue with staff's assertion that College Avenue needs more parking outside the lunch hours and asked whether the city will be selling more Residential Preferential Parking permits once the new spots are established (staff indicated that they will not). Creating more parking spots, he said, could also affect neighborhood aesthetics.

"This is supposed to be a neighborhood, not a parking lot, so there's some concern about that," Raschke said.

The city also expects to get some help from Stanford Research Park, which was preparing to launch a new shuttle service from the research park to California Avenue.

"We believe that will lower parking demand and still bring in patrons to the restaurants and businesses," Raschke said.

The city is currently going through the pre-bidding process, Raschke said. Public Works has identified three qualified general contractors who could be hired to build the garage.

The city is also under contract with Nova Partners, Inc. -- which oversaw the recent reconstructions of the Rinconada Library and the Palo Alto Art Center -- to manage the construction and make sure the garage project doesn't face the types of delays and cost overruns that the city experienced during the recent construction of the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.

David Coale, a member of the group Carbon Free Palo Alto, had a bigger issue with the garage project. The city, he said, should focus more on reducing demand by expanding the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association to the California Avenue area (the association, which is mandated to reduce the proportion of single-occupancy vehicles, currently only operates in downtown).

"The TMA is working wonderfully downtown to such an extent that we probably won't need a garage there. ... This has to be part of an overall plan," Coale said.

While the garage project is almost ready to go, the public-safety building is still going through the city's lengthy entitlement process. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the public-safety building on Monday night, while the Architectural Review Board will consider the latest design plans on Sept. 20.

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2018 at 9:25 am

How much will the parking garage cost? Who is paying for it? Parking meters? Parking permits?


19 people like this
Posted by College Ave
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

I agree with Paul. The last thing College Ave needs is more traffic. Will the extra 20 spots be in the lot for the BMR housing complex at College and Park near the Caltrain tracks?


24 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Well, the people living in all of the under-parked stack-n-pack going up around California Ave are going to need someplace to park their cars.


20 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm

@Resident,

"Who's paying for it?" YOU are.


2 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2018 at 6:07 pm

In January is there expected to be a major shortage of parking in the vicinity once construction gets started? Thanks for your heads up on this -


18 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 16, 2018 at 9:33 pm

I live down the street and this has all been a nightmare. I don't want more giant trucks coming in and loading and blocking traffic and putting my children and I in danger as I bike to and from school


12 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 17, 2018 at 10:26 am

Rick is a registered user.

We need this. Just vote out any CC member who agrees to underparked developments in the future.


14 people like this
Posted by tired
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

when will the construction EVER stop around here?, its such an ugly mess for the last 4-5 years!!


6 people like this
Posted by Cal Ave employee
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

While I understand the desire to have fewer cars on the road, we see so much parking frustration in this neighborhood. This should make a real difference.


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

Posted by Cal Ave employee, a resident of Evergreen Park

>> This should make a real difference.

"Should". But, by the time it is completed, all the other office projects will be completed and populated, and, we will be back where we were before, parking-wise, but, with more traffic.


12 people like this
Posted by TMA failure
a resident of Addison School
on Sep 17, 2018 at 12:39 pm

"The TMA is working wonderfully downtown to such an extent that we probably won't need a garage there. ... This has to be part of an overall plan," Coale said.

TMA is not working out wonderfully, it is a disaster! If it is not subsidized, it will fail.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident in college avenue
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 17, 2018 at 1:28 pm

College avenue has both apartments and single house. Most of the residents are young families with small kids. Bringing more cars to park on this street will create major disasters for children’s play on the street! Please keep in mind, this is a residentiall neighborhood with young kids, college Avenue is not a parking lot!.


2 people like this
Posted by porter
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2018 at 1:53 pm

porter is a registered user.

Photo caption indicates the garage will be ON Calif. Ave. Yet the plans indicate otherwise. This is confusing to some people.


2 people like this
Posted by Zhiang
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 17, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Going round and round looking for a place to park is very tiresome.

More parking space very important.


6 people like this
Posted by Rose M
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 17, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Rose M is a registered user.

This huge project is a great opportunity to put in writing in all the associated contracts that all trucks, cars and heavy equipment must be turned off when not moving. NO IDLING. We can begin to reduce air and noise pollution by making this expectation clear before the projects even get started. Also, put in writing in the contracts how said vehicles are to enter and leave the construction area. They shouldn't be allowed to drive on Grant Avenue, Sheridan Avenue and Ash Street where their presence on these narrow neighborhood streets would endanger the families, children, students and elderly that live here, walk here and bicycle here. Our Mayfield neighborhood streets are already dangerous due to speeding cut-through traffic. Let's make sure that if the garage and PBS building projects go forward, that we are protected.


4 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm

The key for the parking issue and the TMA is to charge enough for parking to pay for the garage as well as discourage driving.


2 people like this
Posted by Waste of money.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Waste of money. is a registered user.

I rarely have trouble parking there when I drive. When I bike (as I usually do because it is smack dab in the center of town--it is about a 17 minute easy bike ride no matter where I am coming from.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Rick is a registered user.

Not everyone can, or wants, to bike around town. It is a mistake to even allow bicycles into traffic discussions. The one exception should be safety concerns around children biking to and from school.


6 people like this
Posted by Yolanda
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2018 at 10:49 pm

There is no traffic problem. If you experience traffic you just need to take a different route.

There is no parking problem. If you experience a lack of parking you just need to park somewhere else.

Why don't the people that are complaining about traffic and parking listen to the wisdom of the mayor? She's the smartest person in Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2018 at 8:28 am

Posted by Yolanda, a resident of South of Midtown

>> There is no traffic problem. If you experience traffic you just need to take a different route. (etc)

"Poe's law is an adage of Internet culture stating that, without a clear indicator of the author's intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers for a sincere expression of the parodied views." Web Link

Irony or not, I'm not amused.

The "different route" is directly in front of somebody else's front door and right around their kids riding their bikes to school.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 22, 2018 at 8:51 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I'm amused.

And I'm silently doing the wave since that's the only way we're allowed to express ourselves in response to mayoral and council comments.


26 people like this
Posted by Build Higher
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 22, 2018 at 8:57 am

I hope the new garage is as tall as the one behind the old the San Antonio Shopping Center. That one must be at least 15 stories high!

A skyscraper garage will alleviate many parking problems. There are 1-2 of this kind erected near the courthouse in San Jose and they are very efficient in compressing parked cars into centralized locations.

As a result, there are fewer cars roaming the streets looking for parking spaces.

A high-rise garage will also eliminate the need for the current street level city parking lots around California and Cambridge Avenues. Perhaps they can be sold off as parcels for future development projects (i.e. office space, hotels, mixed-use condos etc.).

I would like to see the California Avenue area modernized to some extent. Like Santana Row in San Jose. San Antonio Road was a step in the right direction and we need to continue this forward progress to meet the needs of newer residents.







2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2018 at 11:37 am

Posted by Build Higher, a resident of Evergreen Park
2 hours ago

>> I hope the new garage is as tall as the one behind the old the San Antonio Shopping Center. That one must be at least 15 stories high!

If we need 15 stories of garage, dig down 15 stories. The cars don't need a view.

>> I would like to see the California Avenue area modernized to some extent.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

"Modernized" in what sense? Corrugated metal seems to be the latest style. I've heard this referred to as "chicken coop" style. I would much rather see a Birge Clark Web Link imitation than another giant chicken coop like the new building on Park south of Page Mill.


23 people like this
Posted by Time to Modernize This Old Town
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm

> If we need 15 stories of garage, dig down 15 stories. The cars don't need a view.

Too much dirt to move + time consuming. Upright steel girders are the way to go.

>> I would much rather see a Birge Clark Web Link imitation

OK if we were living back in the 1920s. This is 2018.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Posted by Time to Modernize This Old Town, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> >> I would much rather see a Birge Clark Web Link imitation

>> OK if we were living back in the 1920s. This is 2018.

Nothing looks so dated as a "post-modern" building.


18 people like this
Posted by A Design Major
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 22, 2018 at 6:18 pm

A Birge Clark-inspired multi-story parking garage is hard to picture. If we're running with 12-15 stories, about the only way you'd ever see the Spanish tiles is with a helicopter.

A parking garage of this architectural style would probably look like the old President Hotel but with a lot of open spaces instead of windows.

A potentially hideous design.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2018 at 6:43 am

Posted by A Design Major, a resident of Stanford

>> A Birge Clark-inspired multi-story parking garage is hard to picture. If we're running with 12-15 stories, [...] A potentially hideous design.

3 stories up, 12 stories down. Retail along the street on the first floor. A three-story Birge Clark building would look very nice. Especially compared with a boring concrete parking garage, or, even worse, a postmodern design. I'm not stuck on Birge Clark, though. I could go with a pure Art Deco design as well. The key to making it work is to put 12 stories of the parking underground.


13 people like this
Posted by A Design Major
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 23, 2018 at 8:23 am

>> The key to making it work is to put 12 stories of the parking underground.

Driving down to the bottom floor would create an unpleasant subterranean parking experience. 2-3 floors down might be OK but 12? Personal safety and vehicle security at 10+ below-ground parking levels creates additional concerns. At least there is some natural daylight when ascending a multi-level parking garage during the day which is considerably less depressing and mole-like in nature.

>>>Too much dirt to move + time consuming. Upright steel girders are the way to go.

^^^^ This. Digging 12 stories down is a major excavation project and might even require an EIR (environmental impact report) prior to proceeding.

And if any prehistoric remains/relics are found at these lower depths, you can pretty much be assured of delays in erecting a new garage. Sometimes it's better to avoid various discoveries by simply paving over them and looking the other way. Besides, there are no guarantees that they will be down there anyway.



8 people like this
Posted by Preserve California Avenue
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 23, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Designated off-site parking + a shuttle service into California Avenue and adjascent court facilities would eliminate a need for such a parking monstrosity.


Like this comment
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Has a 12-story (or anything close to that) underground garage ever been built, anywhere? Wouldn't the excavation wind up like a giant open-pit mine?


10 people like this
Posted by A Design Major
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 23, 2018 at 7:52 pm

> Has a 12-story (or anything close to that) underground garage ever been built, anywhere? Wouldn't the excavation wind up like a giant open-pit mine?

There's one in China that can store roughly 100+ vehicles but it is fully automated. Maybe this is what Anon had in mind.

Web Link

Being completely underground, the structural design of the retaining walls which would support the entire garage is critical. As in parts of China, we happen to live in an active earthquake zone so strength and flexibility factors must be taken into full consideration.

The Chinese design is fully mechanized and the automobiles are automatically parked on individual platforms anywhere from 1-17 levels below ground. The driver simply leaves his/her car at the ground level entrance and an automated parking system takes over.

There are obvious pros and cons to this concept. It's ideal for long-term parking and maybe so-so for things like casual shopping and/or occasionally having to retrieve stuff from the car as needed. The Chinese design can park and retrieve an individual car within 2-3 minutes but to date, no one has reported what happens when a whole bunch of people need to get to their cars at the same time!

And yes, it would take an incredibly deep and extensive opening in the ground to build something like this.


2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2018 at 8:11 pm

@ Design Major,

Thanks for the China information.


10 people like this
Posted by A Horrible idea
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 6:09 pm

A multi-level parking garage situated directly on California Avenue seems incredibly out of place.


6 people like this
Posted by RE Agent
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 25, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Will the new parking garage offer valet parking?


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2018 at 6:51 pm

@Design Major,

Maybe you should graduate and get a few years of experience under your belt before you start designing the world for the rest of us. We're already suffering from the bad decisions made by an urban designer with a rigid ideology and no practical experience on our City Council.

Maybe you should look around campus for examples of underground parking? Stanford seems to be able to build all below grade multi-story underground parking when they want to preserve a Frisbee play field.


8 people like this
Posted by A Design Major
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 26, 2018 at 8:37 am

> Maybe you should graduate and get a few years of experience under your belt before you start designing the world for the rest of us.

Just responding to a query regarding multi-level underground parking facilities.

Besides, when I get out of here I won't be expending my energies designing mundane municipal parking garages. Boring.






2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted by A Design Major, a resident of Stanford

>> Besides, when I get out of here I won't be expending my energies designing mundane municipal parking garages. Boring.

Design Major: I look forward to your future designs. Let Birge Clark be your -standard-, by which I mean that anything built today should look new, interesting, fresh and exciting compared to a Birge Clark.

As I said before, "Nothing looks so dated as a "post-modern" building."


Like this comment
Posted by Zhao
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Chinese deep garage best design. More parking for more shopping and dining.
Good for businesses. Making money is most important.


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

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