Professorville may soon get permit-parking program | June 22, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 22, 2012

Professorville may soon get permit-parking program

City surveys residents in historic downtown neighborhood; City Council to consider program on July 16

by Gennady Sheyner

After complaining for years about a dearth of parking in their historic downtown neighborhood, Professorville residents may soon get a reprieve.

The city sent out surveys last week to residents asking if they would support a Residential Permit Parking Program that would establish, for the first time, a limit on how long visitors can park. A group of neighbors, led by Ken Alsman, has long clamored for such a program to address what they say is a huge parking problem in Professorville. Many blame downtown workers for parking their cars in Professorville, which is one of the few areas downtown that currently doesn't have a two-hour parking limit.

The city is looking to pursue the permit program on a six-month trial basis. The time limit would be in effect on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to a letter from the city's Transportation Division. Each property tenant in the permit area would get one permit at no charge. Additional permits for the trial period would be available for $50, the letter states. A few permits would also be available for non-residents.

But the project is far from a done deal. To proceed with the trial, the city would need at least 60 percent of the residents who respond to the surveys to support the parking program. The area is roughly bounded by Emerson Street on the west, Waverley Street to the east and Addison and Lincoln avenues to the north and south. It also includes the Bryant Street block between Addison and Channing avenues, according to a map sent to residents.

If enough residents support the trial, the City Council will have a chance to approve it on July 16. Residents have until June 30 to return their surveys.

The city decided to proceed with the trial in response to complaints from residents, many of whose homes are so old, they lack garages. The neighbors have complained at public hearings about having to park many blocks away because downtown workers leave their cars in Professorville all day to avoid moving their cars every two hours. Some residents, including those in the Downtown North neighborhood, have expressed concern that instituting the permit program in Professorville would only exacerbate the parking shortage in other areas around downtown that don't have a time limit.

City officials have been meeting with Professorville residents, business owners and other stakeholders in recent months to determine what a potential permit program would look like. In its letter, city officials wrote that the proposed program was developed "through a collaborative effort of Professorville residents and downtown business interests." Staff plans to continue the outreach throughout the trial period before deciding whether to make the permit program permanent, according to the letter.

"City staff intends to monitor the pilot project throughout the trial by collecting data and holding community meetings to solicit public input on the project midway through and toward the end of the trial period," the letter states. "Staff will then make a recommendation to the City Council to either retain the program if successful and expand it as needed; modify the pilot for another trial; or make the decision not to proceed and remove the RPPP signage."

If the city were to adopt the program permanently, the price of the permits would be set at a level to make the program cost-neutral, according to the letter.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

We have the same problem in Evergreen Park, because workers from California Ave. businesses use our streets as their all-day parking lots. Let's do the same 6-month trial in our neighborhood!!!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

So where are these cars going to park? Are they magically going to disappear?

This is just going to infuriate another group of people in another neighborhood which is where the cars are going to go.

Unless pay per hour machines are put in every lot and every garage in Palo Alto, street parking will occur. Not every worker parking on the street is working 9 - 5, five days a week in Palo Alto.

Not a very well thought through scheme.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

Why not go a small step further and include Palo Alto Avenue? The avenue is too narrow for both sides of the street to be lined with cars all day long.

Posted by Eric, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

Permits are available for purchase to park all day in city garages, so my hope would be that eliminating the free parking pushes people to use that. I fear that the city either doesn't have enough space or charges too much for the permits. I one time I bought a single day permit (because I wanted to park for 4 hours) I think I paid about $17. That seems like a pretty crazy price for suburban parking.

Posted by trainee, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:48 am

Good for this neighborhood for pitching a fit. Caltrain needs to decrease its lot fee from $4 to $2. You'd immediately see less cars on local streets. The next step should be for locals to park in their driveways. It just looks better and makes it is easier for cyclists and motorists to navigate streets.

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:50 am

Where are these cars going to park? Is anyone concerned with this? They can go to a garage and pay to park - consider it the cost of working in Palo Alto.

Posted by Garages?, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

I park in the Cowper St garage. A recent study, I believe, suggested there was available space there. Not true. If you come in mid-day, the permit floor are filled up, with the exception of the roof. Since they must have some spare capacity (otherwise they've over-sold the permits), I don't think they can practically push many more daytime parkers into that garage. So I agree with Eric - where are these displaced cars supposed to go?

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

Tough problem, and this is not so much as solution as a way for the city to insert a needle into the vein and suck more more blood … I mean money out.

A better solution would be more parking garages, and higher tech parking garages.

I never used to use the parking garages, simply out of habit. Then once I used one and realized how convenient it was … well, right under parking in front of wherever I wanted to go, I used them all the time.

A big help would be some kind of LED/Video board out in front with a count of open parking spaces on each floor of the structure, so people would know what to expect better. Nothing worse than taking the time go enter a parking structure and then not finding anything - which is the case with the Alma St. structure quite often - then it is hard to get up and down because it is small and cramped.

Parking structures are no doubt expensive, but they work.

Under this plan, what if you have a renter, which many professorville properties do, or guests who need to park in front the house they are staying at. Or workers and contractors. Is there really a fair and convenient way to employ permits in this situation?

Posted by carsFu, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

One slippery slope with college terrace is, will the home owners have the right to sell their permit and create a secondary market? I don't believe parking should be a public benefit so I believe the answer is yes, college terrace homeowners should have the right to sell their parking spot.

My personal opinion is that people need to pay more for the right to continue killing the earth, making exorbitant amounts of noise, and killing pedestrians and bikers. i welcome the city to impose any fee they wish for the right to park ANYWHERE in Palo Alto, at least on residential streets.

Posted by Unfair, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 15, 2012 at 11:57 am

This is definitely a slippery slope I live opposite the Cubberley Community Center and overflow parking uses our streets all the time, why can't we have permit parking?

There are other areas of the City that are similarly impacted like the streets around the midtown shopping center, why can't they have permit parking?

Posted by radar, a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Having grown up in Palo Alto, but fortunate enough to move away, I don't think this proposal goes far enough. Palo Alto should require permits just to enter the city. Then, you can exclude those inconsiderate folks not from your enclave - parking and traffic should be a breeze

Posted by member, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Public transportation, biking, and car pooling are alternatives to providing additional parking spaces.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm

>This is definitely a slippery slope I live opposite the Cubberley Community Center and overflow parking uses our streets all the time, why can't we have permit parking?

I think you should. The RPPP has worked reasonably well in College Terrace. I hope all seriously impacted neighborhoods should request it. Get organized and do it! Just like Professorville is doing.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

> Where are these cars going to park?

Where indeed?

The link below points to a short look at the linkage between the Downtown Parking Structures and on-street parking:

Web Link

The capacity of these structures is not being fully utilized during the business day. The City needs to rethink its management, or outsource the management, so that parking in these structures becomes the first choice of people working/visiting Downtown.

Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

"...the permit floor(s) are filled up, with the exception of the roof. "

That is the trouble. Some people just refuse to use an INFERIOR PARKING SPOT..[/sarcasm]

The parking garages are NOT full until ALL spaces are used.

The roof spaces should have some long-term parking spaces ( ie; a monthly rate for people who work downtown ). That setup is used successfully in other cities where you have workers in their cities and not enough street parking.

Boulder, CO solved this problem with parking kiosks. You CAN'T " feed the meter " and park downtown for your job; you are FORCED to park in a parking garage.. The same applies to CU Boulder automatically purchase a " hunting permit " in their parking garage as part of your student fees.

You have to remember, Boulder, CO ACTIVELY HATES CARS!!! They go out of their way to make sure a visit is short if you are driving a car in Boulder.

They welcome eco-nazis in Boulder. Just don't bring a car unless it is a PIOUS......

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm

If you've never been in one of the Downtown Parking Structures, here's a glimpse--

A Walk-Thru The Bryant Street Garage:
Web Link

Posted by MoreRPPPs, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

@Jeanne of Evergreen Park.

There were Stanford funds available to you for an RPPP study in Evergreen Park from the Stanford University General Use Permit fund. Here are the details: Web Link

The actual terms of use of these funds are:
"If the cost of the consideration and initiation of a residential parking permit program for College Terrace is less than $100,000, the remaining increment of the $100,000 may be used by the City of Palo Alto to conduct a study of parking activity for the Southgate and Evergreen Park neighborhoods in the area bounded by the Caltrain tracks, Churchill Avenue, El Camino Real, and Cambridge Avenue. The purpose of the study would be to determine if there is a need for a residential parking permit program to be initiated in these neighborhoods due to activity on Stanford lands in unincorporated Santa Clara County. The funds may be used for this purpose at any time during the term of this General Use Permit, and shall remain in escrow until they are used by the City of Palo Alto. If the funds are not used by the City of Palo Alto during the term of the General Use Permit they shall revert to Stanford."

So get your neighborhood association to ask for the study. You should be able to get hold of the residual funds from the original College Terrace study. The last I saw, there was around $31,478 left in this fund, which has been accumulating interest. Web Link

Posted by Liberty, a resident of University South
on Jun 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I'm glad the city isn't charging residents for the first permit. But they really shouldn't charge the residents for any permit.

I hope the city still realizes that the real problem is their downtown parking policy. Making downtown permit parking more flexible and less expensive to employers and shoppers would fill the garages downtown and keep the cars away from the neighborhoods. Seems like a simple solution, but i'm afraid the city officials think it will cut into their revenue.

Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:14 am

I typically park in the area outlined by this study. Other people who work with me are disabled and park in various disabled spots closer to our office, even thought they've been ticketed three times WITH THE PARKING PLACARD in full display by the same lazy parking person.

I'm also guessing that the parking staff are going to expand their petrol area for the 6 months of this study. And that the city will be assigning a staff person to oversee and administer the permits for this project. I wonder what the cost will be for that.

Now the employees of Whole Foods, The Apple Store, The AT&T Foundry, Flipboard, and all the other small startups in the area will have to park elsewhere. I can do that. But if you're going to really implement this it has to be from the Creek to Embarcadero and Middlefield to Alma. Otherwise you're just wacking a mole. I'll park farther away and walk. Until I need to use my bike for the last mile.

Posted by midtown , a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2012 at 7:00 am

I don't mind people using street parking if they would be more mindful of driveways and not block them . (And it would be great if our local drivers, would give those of us trying to back out of our driveways that are extended by rows of cars on each side which narrow the streets a few more seconds to maneuver around those cars, the bikes ,and people, who are using the streets and sidewalks. They are usually the same drivers who think that the walkers and bikers are just annoying road obstacles, as they race to the next destination)

It would be nice people if the people who work in midtown ( the bank, the optical shop, the doctors and dentists, the restaurants and many others) would actually use the parking lots instead of lining the local streets with their cars during the day, but then where would their customers park ?

That being said, we realize there is not a lot of available free long term lot parking space, so parking on the street is the only place for these employees to park. It does show that we have a busy
and vibrant local economy during the day.

If we had permit parking, at least we could contact the car owners to move their cars , trucks and in one case a very large bus sized RC prior to calling a tow truck to remove those parked cars so we can exit the driveway.

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

radar -----

Please come back to Palo Alto.

We need your sense of perspective.

Posted by serves drivers right, a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Drivers feel entitled to mess up the world by ferrying their lazy selves in one-ton cubes of metal. They have no regard for animals, the oceans, forests, or even other humans in third-world countries that suffer because of drivers' gluttony. A precious jewel floating in light years of void is being torn apart so lazy people don't have to sweat a little to move from point A to point B. It fills me with glee that drivers feel inconvenienced and frustrated by their petty grievances. May their anger consume them.

Posted by Parking under 800 High, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Does anyone use the public parking under 800 High Street? it was supposed to solve the parking problem in the area around it. That was the big buzz.
Don't hear anything about it lately. What's it used for?

Posted by Mark, a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Isn't the biggest "offender" here the staff and visitors to the Palo Alto Nursing Center at Bryant and Channing? They have such limited parking that of course they will overflow into the surrounding streets, and they have student nurses too that have to come. I don't know the ideal solution for any of their staff/visitors (they are of course needed at the home, and we can't just ban them) but maybe the issue that needs to be addressed is the Nursing home's parking situation.

Posted by Melvin, superintendent of schools
on Jun 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm

This is absolutely ridiculous, I can't believe we're spending even MORE money on this sort of hair-brained project.

Posted by Andrew Boone, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:30 am

Good job, Palo Alto staff. I commend you for finally moving forward to address a longstanding concern of downtown residents.

And congratulations, Ken Alsman. It always takes dedicated and organized advocates such as yourself to get the city to act. Keep up the good work.

To residents of other neighborhoods: if you want a residential parking permit program as well, you need to get organized and demand it. Follow Mr Alsman's succes and learn from him. By default, city staff won't address your parking concerns, mostly because they haven't heard from enough residents that it's a significant problem. The squeaky wheel gets fixed first.

Posted by Tony Ciampi, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Curtis Williams
Director of Planning and Community Environnment
City of Palo Alto

Mr. Williams,

your department is attempting to solve the parking problem related to the influx of local employees parking in Downtown North and Professorville neighborhoods. I believe I have come up with a solution that will provide parking for the residents and the local employees.


What is the problem?

By not requiring builders and developers to create off-street parking for residents the City of Palo Alto has forced residents to use the street as their parking lot.

Most residents have at least some off-street parking available to them; however the majority of residences have multiple vehicles.

Once residents leave in the morning for some errands in their vehicles the parking spaces are acquired by employees of local business forcing residents to park a block or so from their own house.

Additionally it appears on basic observation that in Downtown North many vehicles parked in the residential neighborhood are those of commuters heading off to use the train or buses.

The above parking problem is primarily limited to those residential neighborhoods that are in close proximity to the downtown commercial district.

Question: Should residents who own more vehicles then what they need be allowed to have sole rights to use the public streets?

One would have to conclude that if you live in close proximity to an urban center you should expect greater use of the public streets by people coming and going from the urban center. Yet residents should not be overly burdened by being forced to walk several blocks to get home due to a lack of planning on the part of the City.

Currently there are many residents who want to make the streets in Downtown North and Professorville neighborhoods available to residents only. If that occurs there will be hundreds of parking spaces that go unused for the residents in those neighborhoods use less then half of all the available parking spaces available in their neighborhoods. Implementing such a restriction would be an excessive burden upon hundreds of low wage employees that provide numerous services to the very residents who benefit from their close proximity to those services.


One, require all builders and developers to provide parking for at least two vehicles on all future homes built in Downtown North and Professorville neighborhoods.


Two, provide specific “ON-STREET” parking spaces for residences adjacent to each residence’s property equal to the number of adult residents per residence who own a vehicle minus the number of available parking spaces available “OFF-STREET” at each specific residence never exceeding three “ON-STREET” parking spaces per residence.


ONE: Say a residence has two adults living on the premises and both own a vehicle yet there is no “OFF-STREET” parking on the residence’s property. Two “Residence Only” parking spaces would be created directly in front of the residence adjacent to the property line. These two parking spaces only use up half of the available space on the street adjacent to the property, thus two parking spaces would be available to gardeners, landscapers, construction workers, electricians, plumbers and clerks from Palo Alto Hardware and Whole Foods as well as cooks and waiters from the Cheesecake Factory and the like.

TWO: Say a residence has four adults living on the premises and three own vehicles yet there is only room for one vehicle to be parked on the premises. Two “Residence Only” parking spaces would be created directly in front of the residence adjacent to the property line. If in the future the fourth adult obtains a vehicle he/she can submit an application to the city for a parking a space, in which case the city would add an additional “Residence Only” parking space totaling three for that residence.


The result of the above solution will enable residents to park their primary modes of transportation in front of their residences without commandeering all of the unused parking spaces that would be lost if the City were to implement a blanket parking restriction. This will allow the hundreds of local low-wage employees to continue to park in close proximity to their work place while enabling residents to park in front of their homes which is what both the home owners and the employees want.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Tony - while definitely creative, your solution would be expensive to implement since it would require painting or signage for individual parking spots. My suggestions:

Require developers of commercial property to provide a enough parking for a realistic number of employees - stop the "in lieu of" fees.

Require developers of housing to provide at least two spots of off-street parking per unit.

"Residents only" parking on one side of the street throughout any neighborhood significantly impacted by business parking. This would preserve some parking for the hourly paid employees while letting residents park near their homes.

Hourly parking ticket machines in all the garages with better signage to other parking garages (like a map of ALL the downtown garages in each of the garages so if one is full, you know where to find another one).

Posted by Chris, a resident of University South
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm


Have you noticed that downtown Palo Alto has lots of train and bus service?

If people did not have such easy access to parking, you would find people taking trains and buses, or paying for parking. The popularity of downtown Palo Alto does not depend on free all-day parking.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I doubt if anyone in my neighborhood which is not serviced by the shuttle would consider downtown Palo Alto served well by train and bus.

Public transit in Palo Alto is dreadful.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

If you live near a Caltrain station, getting to downtown PA is easy. If you are on the PA or Marguerite shuttle routes, great. If not public transportation is terrible. As an example, to get from Automall in Fremont to University in Palo Alto takes between 1 1/2 to 2 hours and costs from $7-12. Why one earth wouldn't you drive and park for free instead?

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Dearth of parking spaces?

Surfeit of cars?

Posted by VoxPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

@palo alto mom: The driving distance from Fremont to Palo Alto is about 18 to 20 miles, so let's say the trip you mention is 40 miles roundtrip. That's at least two gallons of gas@say $4.25 (probably low), so the cost for gas is about >$8.50, so that's a wash. The round trip in traffic is at least an hour, maybe more. So public transit takes slightly longer and costs about as much.

Of course, with your own car you have the illusion of freedom.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When all the residential neighborhoods demand and get permit programs then the fallacy of letting new commercial development proceed without requiring adequate parking will become painfully obvious. Downtown will become inaccessible to shoppers and clients and then what?

Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

The residents who are clamoring it be able to park in front of their homes aren't contributing to the Palo Alto's business tax base. Yet they're insisting on creating a permit program that will cost money to run. City employees to patrol the streets, citing non-permit cars, collecting fines in City Hall, administering the permits themselves (there's a 1-2 year wait to get a space in city garages). If you decrease the time it's valid from 1 year to 1 month, it becomes more responsive and cheaper but also harder to track and maintain current. If it's like a FASTPASS, then all the parking person has to do walk by.

The employees and businesses who've been displaced are paying city licensing and taxes. And many startups bring people into the City to use the restaurants, markets, and shops generating sales tax revenue. If you make them pay for parking, you make the cost of doing business in Palo Alto go up. Apple will stick around. They may even write an iPhone App that will track open parking spaces in the area for their employees. I have no idea what the Whole Foods people will do. The other start ups and restaurants may have a harder time retaining people. Small businesses like Philz, Starbucks, and Peets won't be so lucky. The Palo Alto stores will not be the choice location to work any more.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

> The employees and businesses who've been displaced are
> paying city licensing and taxes.

Palo Alto does not have a business license, or any specific business taxes--at least not at the moment. The City has tried each of these tactics in the past, but failed to get the appropriate legislative approvals.

There is a BID fee, which is not (officially) a tax, but this goes into the black hole of the BID, and little to show for it after that.

Certainly there are license fees for new businesses that involve construction, and P/W inspections--but this is effectively a fee-for-service, and by no means a tax (although definitely a tax on new business owners' patience).

Care to be more specific?

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

VoxPop - The time and $$ I used were for a one way trip, so to use your comparison, driving Fremont to Palo Alto and back would take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours and about $8.50 in gas, plus the toll one way for a total of 13.50. Public transport roundtrip would take 3-4 hours and cost $14-25 dollars. Big time difference, potentially a big $$ difference too.

Posted by Bummer, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

Palo Alto is becoming one of the most unlivable cities in the area. Sad. No community at all, just a bunch or residents out for themselves.

Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2012 at 12:43 am

I certainly pay a yearly business license fee to work in Palo Alto. They collect it at the city hall.

If Palo Alto isn't charging or getting a portion from sales taxes that occur in the city, I'd be surprised. Isn't that why they want to move the animal shelter--so they can collect sales tax revenue from a car dealership? Same with the hotel room taxes.

All those retail business that collect sales tax like The Apple Store, Whole Foods, the restaurants, Peets, Starbucks, et al all employ people who park in the neighborhoods. The people who live in the neighborhoods who don't want people parking in front of their houses don't pay any city taxes. Yet they want the city to spend money to administer and police this program. Also, I can't wait until a permit holder gets a ticket for parking in front of their house. Major hijinks will ensue, I'm sure.

We still need to park somewhere to continue to work in Palo Alto. Palo Alto Medical Foundation pays for employee parking permits in the Alma garage. I wonder if Whole Foods would do the same for their 200+ people. Or Apple paying for the 200+ people in the nearest garage. I doubt any of the startups in the area will pay for parking for their employees. They'll still need to park somewhere.

Posted by Michael Vilain, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

The NY Times recently published an interesting article on the pay of Apple Store employees. Apparently, they get about $11.50/hr and many aren't don't work enough hours to qualify for benefits.

Web Link

I would have thought that Apple, Whole Foods, and the other retail stores would pitch in to pay for garage parking permits if the city decides to offer discounted ones to businesses. The Bryant street garage is apparently underutilized.

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