Parking problems in the downtown area, where street parking is often taken up by downtown workers during the daytime and restaurant-goers during the evening, have been growing, according to residents who have becoming increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction.
One possible concept, which Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez discussed this week with residents in the Downtown North and University South neighborhoods, would be to implement residential permit-parking zones on one side of streets near downtown, with hourly parking on the other side of the streets, and a buffer zone of hourly parking on streets nearest to downtown.
Michael Hodos, one of about 40 people who attended the meeting, said that a permit-parking system that allotted spots for downtown workers should be spread out in the neighborhood — or else workers would simply choose the spots closest to the downtown area, which would put those residents at a disadvantage.
Rodriguez suggested that parking permits could be sold to residents at a relatively cheap rate, giving the example of $30. The city would then sell the remaining spots to businesses or employees under a tiered system in which spots closer to downtown would cost more, possibly between $250-300.
Hodos suggested the parking plan be implemented in phases, increasing the scope gradually to gauge its effectiveness.
Another idea floated by Rodriguez would not require parking permits but instead set up areas in the neighborhood with time limits, possibly of four hours, to ensure that downtown workers wouldn't be able to park the cars in the same spot for the entire day.
That plan, however, was met with a cold reception from meeting attendees, several of whom didn't like the idea of having to move their own cars to avoid a citation.
Many of the neighbors said parking permits would not fix what they feel is the real problem: large downtown developments that don't provide enough parking for the traffic they bring to the area.
Resident John Hackmann stressed the immense value to the city of street parking near downtown and said it shouldn't be given away for free to employees working at large developments downtown. Instead he suggested what he called "market-based approach" that auctions off some of the most valuable spots to nonresidents.
The costs of implementing a parking-permit program would include installing signs, setting up permits and the ongoing administrative and police staffing, Rodriguez said.
In 2009 the City Council voted to implement a residential parking-permit plan in College Terrace, the neighborhood bordered by Stanford University and the Stanford Research Park. But the startup costs of that program, about $100,000, was covered by Stanford as a condition of the university's 2001 general-use permit with Santa Clara County.
Tuesday's meeting was one of several meetings planned by the city. Rodriguez was careful to say that the ideas were not set in stone but that the drafts were being proposed to gauge the community's response prior to staff presentations to the City Council.
Rodriguez said he hopes to have a permit-parking plan for the area for the council to vote on by the end of the calendar year. He said the plan would need the support of at least 70 percent of the residents, a number that many at the meeting balked at.
TALK ABOUT IT
Do you favor parking permits for the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Palo Alto? Share your opinion on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.
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