"They created an environment ... that East Palo Alto was not concerned about the problem. Our city manager has done her due diligence," he said.
He instructed staff to get data about the parking policies of Equity Residential, which owns the apartments whose residents are parking in Palo Alto.
On Aug. 12, the Palo Alto City Council approved a parking ban from 2 to 5 a.m. along several Palo Alto streets near San Francisquito Creek to deal with the problem. Palo Alto residents had complained East Palo Alto residents were parking on Newell Road because there are not enough parking spaces at the Woodland Apartments in East Palo Alto.
Palo Alto residents also said they were plagued by trash and by vehicles that blocked driveways.
Several factors might be contributing to an increased need for parking, East Palo Alto city staff said. When Equity assumed ownership of 1,800 housing units two years ago, the vacancy rate was nearly 30 percent. But today the vacancy rate is between 3 and 5 percent, staff noted.
Abrica Tuesday directed staff to find out why the parking problem has suddenly arisen between the two cities. He instructed staff to craft a letter from him that would ask Equity for documents related to its policies and practices on parking.
He wants Equity to disclose how many apartments are occupied, the number of parking spaces that are provided, how they are allocated and whether residents are being charged for additional parking spaces. Abrica instructed staff to also obtain parking-space data and parking policies from other apartment complexes in the area.
"I am not satisfied with that piece that is missing. This is the area that is most speculated on. Everyone has a theory about why there is a parking problem," he said. "A lot of damage was done already by misstatements and the perceptions that were created."
In an Aug. 16 letter to Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff, Abrica pointed out some of the alleged misstatements, which were made by Palo Alto city staff during the Aug. 12 council meeting.
"It was very unfortunate that the staff report made no reference and did not elaborate on the fact that East Palo Alto staff has been working closely with your staff on this issue. By the time this was brought out at the end of the proceedings several comments, with what could be interpreted as innuendos, had already been made by some residents and council members. It would seem as if the City of East Palo Alto had done nothing and was even making the problem worse by removing parking on Woodland Avenue this past year," he wrote.
But East Palo Alto has had a longstanding parking ban along Woodland, a heavily traveled stretch of road that is narrow and winding and is used by commuters. The city added signage about nine months ago to make the parking ban more visible, he said. Woodland serves both cities, and driver safety is a shared concern, an East Palo Alto staff report noted.
At one point during the Aug. 12 council meeting, it was implied that Equity was charging residents for parking. But East Palo Alto city staff said that Equity told them that it does not charge.
Palo Alto staff ultimately clarified the point, but it came very late in the discussion once opinions had already been solidly established, said East Palo Alto City Councilman Larry Moody, who attended the Aug. 12 meeting.
The East Palo Alto Planning Commission recently approved Equity's request to construct a new, 42-space parking lot at 655 Scofield Ave. and 48 spaces in two lots at 1995 Manhattan Ave. and 1974 Euclid Ave.
The area west of U.S. Highway 101 contains one-third of all East Palo Alto residences, staff noted. While Equity owns the vast majority of apartments, there are an additional 300 units including the Woodland Creek Condominiums and MidPen Housing Corporation projects, said John Doughty, community development director for East Palo Alto.
East Palo Alto adopted a two-year development moratorium on the west side of Highway 101 and has initiated an area plan for the west side as part of the city's General Plan Update project, Doughty said.
East Palo Alto is hoping to stay Palo Alto's parking ban until December, when Equity will have completed additional parking lots to accommodate overflow parking, Doughty said. Citations will be issued starting mid-September, according to the city's resolution. East Palo Alto staff is trying to work out creative solutions in the interim, including identifying vacant parking at the apartments that could be available on a temporary basis.
East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis said Tuesday he worried that the overnight parking ban would create a public-safety hazard in East Palo Alto. People will block driveways and red zones and drive up on curbs, he said.
Abrica said he has invited Scharff to meet in October or November to discuss the parking problem and other issues facing the two cities.
In his letter to Scharff, Abrica pointed out that for several years East Palo Alto has been inundated with cars from Palo Alto around the International School of the Peninsula on Laura Lane and the East Bayshore Road and Pulgas area.
Abrica vowed to follow "a deeper political and policy engagement" with Equity so that "private profit doesn't mean public nuisance that residents in East Palo Alto-Palo Alto endure and local governments clean up. I can assure our residents and you and your residents that we will continue doing our part and redouble our efforts to contain this problem," he said.
TALK ABOUT IT
What do you think about the idea of postponing implementation of the ban on overnight parking in Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood? Share your opinion on Town Square on Palo Alto Online.
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