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City takes the ax to parking exemptions

Original post made on Sep 25, 2013

With downtown's parking woes on everyone's mind, Palo Alto officials are scouring far and wide for solutions, from large new parking structures to the fine print in the city's Municipal Code. On Wednesday night, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission took aim at the latter as it considered a staff proposal to eliminate numerous exemptions that allow developers to "underpark" their new projects.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 8:55 PM

Comments (22)

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Developer David Kleiman is quoted as saying:

"I think we have a parking problem, but I don't think we should start limiting property rights .."

So, Mr. Kleiman, what property rights in particular might you be talkng about? Can you be a little more specific? No one is suggesting you can't build a commercial property downtown, are they?

So, can you be a just a little more specific?

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Posted by Empty Pockets
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

@Kleinman - Your property rights are not being limited. Build what fits within existing zoning. You know, follow the rules like you learned in kindergarten. You need to cover all the costs of your project. The voters don't want to pay for the parking that you think you should get for free. Sorry if you can't keep the millions in profits all to yourself, but the voters don't want you emptying their pockets!

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 25, 2013 at 11:18 pm


Thanks for bringing up free parking. Given how scarce parking is downtown, and how little good anyone gets out of it being free, why isn't the city converting more spaces/lots to paid? If public parking costs a reasonable market rate, then it can be left up to developers to decide freely whether they want to spend money upfront provide their tenants with parking, or worry about parking costs and transit incentives later.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm

It's too bad we had to get to this point of destruction of the
neighborhoods, that the City feels obligated to take away developer incentives in the the hottest office market on the planet, but it does go strongly against the grain and the long-standing culture in City Hall so it's a big step for the Council, Commission and staff.
And again, the cumulative effects of these policies were not
fully understood until about ten years ago.

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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:45 am

Marie is a registered user.

Too little too late. Any and all exemptions from providing full parking for any development should be eliminated. No in-lieu fees, no density exemptions (whatever that is). And there should be a moratorium of all new developments until the current parking deficit is eliminated. If a TDM can help -by all means. But don't allow development based on a strategy that is unproven. Implement a TDM and then recalculate the parking deficit.

One suggestion that seems to be universally ignored, is to convert some monthly parking passes to daily passes to accommodate the many employees that don't work a standard 40 hour week, and Palo Alto citizens who occasionally need more than 2 hours. Why can't there be an app for this?

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Posted by Geoff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 26, 2013 at 5:50 am

Developer Kleinman bought 636 Waverley from a friend about a year ago, paying a greatly discounted price because City staff informed all parties at the time that more parking would be required on this site if redeveloped.

To have him publicly claim otherwise today is nothing more than a developer's self-serving statement that is BS.

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Posted by Justin
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 26, 2013 at 9:58 am

Great, just when some cities are moving forward towards paid parking and reducing or eliminating parking minimums, Palo Alto is going backwards.

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Posted by David Edmondson
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

Terrible. Palo Alto should address parking as a demand problem, not a supply problem. Is the goal to squeeze more cars downtown, or to get more people downtown? There are three steps: Implement market pricing for parking; invest parking revenue going in the new transportation-demand management policy; and implement a residential parking permit policy for near-downtown neighborhoods. Web Link

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Posted by backwards
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

if Palo Alto wants to see an example of a downtown with ample parking it should look at downtown San Jose. It may want to think twice about considering that change unless it wants it's downtown to become dead and void of street life with parking taking up the first few levels of every building. It would definitely be a backwards move for Palo Alto that always likes to pretend it's such a "progressive" community. Regardless, Palo Alto has proven itself to be anything but "progressive" in the last few years. Every day it's residents are making it sound more like the "Orange County of the North".

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Posted by Greg
a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

What a bummer for Palo Alto. This policy reversal will only bring more cars, more congestion, more collisions, and more pollution to downtown.

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Posted by Get used to it
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

It appears to be a common trait of developers: self-serving greed.

Know thy enemy

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Posted by Empty pockets
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

@ Sam. You are right that the city ought to convert more to paid spaces. That's the whole point of how staff designed the RPP. City will collect revenue for what is now a free public resource. The availability of parking in residential neighborhood and safety are merely coincidental.

And if you let developers worry about parking shortages later, there's no legal means to require the under parked projects to pay for the impacts. Everyone else has to shoulder the costs imposed by the few.

Property rights do not mean that an owner is guaranteed maximum profits at the public's expense.

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Posted by Speechless at City Council Hypocrisy
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:54 am

"a staff proposal to eliminate numerous exemptions that allow developers to provide fewer parking spaces than will be needed by their buildings' tenants"

How about starting at Maybell? The City Council wanted that development to go through, so they are allowing the main building to have just 36 parking spots for a 60-unit building, and only 6 spots for visitors. When neighbors asked why they didn't put in underground parking, developers said it would cost too much. So instead, they put residents through a ridiculous farce of justifying the inadequate parking by comparing the Maybell apartments to full-service senior centers or locations with lots of amenities very nearby.

But Maybell is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The City Attorney got to write the ballot language and ballot question, so you'd never know any of this, you might not even realize the issue at hand is rezoning.

Worse, they're using the Tan Apartments (which should never have been allowed to build so tall in the first place, but it was another time, and at least it's on Arastradero) as an excuse to begin building high-density into the R-1 neighborhood.

Without nearly enough parking. Apparently, they will solve the problem by providing a van that residents can share to drive for basically everything they need because there's nothing nearby. They billed it as "shuttles" for the seniors, even the City Council seems to believe there will be some kind of shuttle service with drivers (which is not so). It's kind of hard to understand how giving residents a very large heavy vehicle they are not used to driving loaded with other people to drive up and down a street that is often essentially one-lane and heavily used by children on bicycles is going to make things safer. Or get residents not to bring their cars with them like they do in every other senior apartment that doesn't include any kind of assisted living.

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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Until a developer provides a system that actually gets people to his building without using cars, he should provide adequate parking spaces for cars.

Constructing and selling a building with inadequate parking is simply selling parking that doesn't belong to him at the expense of others.

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Posted by Useless, useless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm

The city council, ARB, and planning commission are all so inept and useless that they have served no benefit for Palo Alto. many members of the city council should recuse themselves from even serving on the council. In any other city it would be illegal for them to serve considering their financial connections to some of these developments.

The rest should resign for having poor taste and no architectural sense or concern for what the residents like or want.

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2013 at 4:23 pm

" they're using the Tan Apartments ... as an excuse to begin building high-density into the R-1 neighborhood."

It's the hallowed Palo Alto zoning exception process: existing atrocities justify new abominations.

If Measure D passes, the R-1 zone is dead for all practical purposes.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 29, 2013 at 10:59 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

With increased growth Bay Area communities including Palo Alto are dealing with incorporating more jobs, people, housing and associated parking and traffic increases. Parking, which was formerly easy to provide free of cost to users, is now a scarce and expensive resource in dense areas like downtowns.

As with housing and office space the major response to additional parking will be in structures, above or below ground—not wide open single story parking lots.

There are three payment or cost allocation challenges. Asking property owners to bear the cost of parking facilities for new structures addresses one of the challenges. But it does not address the challenge of existing parking shortages or those that will occur not connected to a large new property development. The other challenge that remains is how to manage and allocate existing parking spaces.

I am interested in hearing whether posters are interested or willing to share in the costs of new structures or other ways to eliminate the existing parking shortage and provide parking for growth that cannot realistically be tied to any specific new project.

Are posters willing to support a bond for new parking structures, a partial bond supplemented by parking fees, increased parking fees in general, bond or user pay funding for a satellite parking facility with shuttles?

As far as non office related parking, there are many places where parking comes with a charge, but businesses “validate” and pay the customer’s charges. The same can be true for employee parking fees.

We have all gotten accustomed to the parking charges at airports and in downtown San Francisco. As we grow, parking is becoming a scarce resource and expensive to expand in more and more places.

It is a shared problem and we need to find solutions that go beyond “the other dude should pay for it” only approaches.

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2013 at 11:34 am

Stephen - good questions. Here are my thoughts:

Office parking cost should be totally born by the Developers and companies. New buildings should be required to build a realistic and adequate amount of parking. In lieu fees should not be permitted unless they are going to build a parking structure.

Our existing City garage, lot and street parking should be better managed and more understandable (get rid of the color system). Use a combo of free 30 minutes spots, parking meters and pay parking in the garage with a machine, etc. to manage the parking and make some money for the City. Said money should NOT go into the general fund, but towards the Parking System. Restaurants, etc. could choose to validate parking.

A RPP system should be put into place. It could be just one side of the street (which I believe Boston does) or both sides. People park downtown and walk to their jobs AND park near shuttle stops (like then tennis court lots and the streets near Rinconada Park).

I personally think the City would have the most luck funding a satellite parking spot with frequent shuttles and should work with the Stanford shuttle system for the abundance of cars that head to offices on Stanford land. Some incentive for part-time and low pay employees to use the shuttle would help.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Sep 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks PAR. They sound like constructive ideas. I agree that parking revenue should go to the costs of parking facilities.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The draft plan focuses on how to divide the finite "pie" of existing parking. This may help in the short run. But ultimately, given just the building developments now in the pipeline, the pie needs to grow.

The City should create peripheral parking lots, preferably located near the freeways, for use by employees and all-day guests of downtown businesses, and provide frequent shuttles to downtown, Cal Ave, etc. At the same time, dedicate some of the existing downtown garage space to 8-hr metered spaces reserved for employees who occasionally need to park all day downtown.

As an analog, think of off-site airport parking, except make the peripheral lots free to employees, while others pay. Who subsidizes the lots? Existing businesses, and developers of properties that don't provide adequate parking for their own tenants.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Good ideas, Stephen!

It never occurred to me that the Stanford shuttle system may be exacerbating the problem by porting folks to the campus after they park (for free and without campus permit) on P.A. streets. If happening to a significant degree, that's outrageous. Gennady Sheyner, can you look into this for your next article?

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Paul, where do you get the idea that Stanford is making the problem worse? I believe that the issues that downtown north and professorville have is with workers from downtown parking in their neighborhoods.
Of course this whole issue is another example of our council not dealing with important issues. It reflects a lack of long term planning and an ego- driven, self- centered council more interested in photo ops.
The gennady comment is funny

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

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