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Downtown landowners may be asked to pay for new garages

Original post made on Sep 3, 2013

As Palo Alto marches toward a 2014 vote to raise funds for infrastructure repairs, officials are backing away from the kind of all-or-nothing bond that voters passed in 2008 to pay for library renovations and pursuing a series of more modest proposals with more wiggle room and a greater chance of winning support.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 9:22 PM

Comments (28)

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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Our city leaders and elected officials have yet to establish sound financial priorities. Their planning has been weak, and they have catered to special interests and fluff projects far too long. The infrastructure needs that we face should have already been funded through the existing budget. It becomes tiresome and insulting to have our city leaders fail to plan, spend frivolously, and then return to the tax payers crying poor. As voters we have to send a clear message that enough is enough.

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Posted by Wondering
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 3, 2013 at 11:55 pm

"Traditionally, we've had the people that create the impacts pay for it," Scharff said.

Is that a personal promise tht his Council will personally pay for th mess they're making of Maybell and downton?

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:16 am

City Council - City Staff does not share your view that "Traditionally, we've had the people that create the impacts pay for it".

For example, when people ask why residents should pay for a residential parking permit program, when it's the employees of the business causing the problem (and it's the city granting zoning variances for under parking & variances for high density), Transportation Director Jamie Rodriguez will say the city will not pay for a residential parking permit program.

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Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:44 am

Mello-Roos? Really? As if property ownership costs in Palo Alto are not high enough?

For the cost of living, I would have expected the petty crime is lower. I also totally agree that residential parking permit program costs should be borne by the businesses and restaurants and not residents!

The article also speaks generally of "improvements" but does not list what exactly the improvements are which any of these funding mechanisms will pay for.

Like Marrol, I will also try to search for a comprehensive strategic plan for the city's infrastructure and financial priorities as I have not seen one.

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Posted by wmartin46
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:10 am

wmartin46 is a registered user.

Mello-Roos is a way to borrow money without having to put the matter to the voters. It is clearly an attempt to walk away from "democracy", and to spend without any real checks and balances to even pretend to "live within our means".

Frank Benest floated this idea when he was City Manager. It didn't get a lot of traction then. It should be treated with the same coolness now that it received then.

> Staff will also consider the potential interplay between
> the new districts and downtown's existing parking-assessment
> district, which paid for existing garages.

Since Staff seems to be admitting that the current parking assessment districts are paying for the garages--why do we need a Mello-Roos District?

The reason, of course, is that Mello-Roos Districts allow for spending on all sorts of things, most of which have nothing to do with parking:

Web Link

A Mello-Roos District is an area where a special property tax on real estate, in addition to the normal property tax, is imposed on those real property owners within a Community Facilities District. These districts seek public financing through the sale of bonds for the purpose of financing public improvements and services.[3] These services may include streets, water, sewage and drainage, electricity, infrastructure, schools, parks and police protection to newly developing areas. The tax paid is used to make the payments of principal and interest on the bonds.

This is another bad, bad, idea!

Wayne Martin

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:47 am

The City Council is years too late in addressing the traffic/parking
problems it created through its giveaways to developers. It never dealt with the policy issues which caused the problems, or the effects which are going to get much worse just from what is already in the pipeline. Even if new garages are constructed, imagine the visual impacts of these new structures on our Downtown. At this point it is clear that those developers who benefited need to step-up and finance on their own any new parking structures, to provide the parking which they should have provided in the first place. The strength of the office market has exceeded even optimistic expectations and in consideration of the sq footage bonuses and parking exemptions they received, this is the backdrop for these property owners to step-up. Our City has been changed,and greatly damaged, its unique qualities lost. That's done.Now we need to deal with the mess we are in going forward, including all the players who did this- the Council, the ARB, the staff and the developers of the mega-projects.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 8:54 am

Building garages is not going to alleviate any problems anytime soon.

What is needed is something that will make a difference soon.

Putting in pay per hour machines, parking meters and satellite parking in the Baylands with regular shuttles, can all be set up relatively quickly. These things will make a difference and nobody even talks about sensible alternatives to building garages.

Parking is something we have to deal with. The problems exist now. Let's get on with solving the immediate problem first.

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Posted by Slow the Growth
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

What is needed is a comprehensive plan. We need to elect leaders that will put new projects on hiatus until we can absorb the growth from the current set of monster developments. Though it may not be "exciting" we really need to focus on basic infrastructure - roads, sewers, parking and schools. With all the development already underway our traffic is going to become more of a nightmare.

If you're concerned please get involved. Check out

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Posted by realist
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

@ Resident
Be realistic. Nothing is going to make any difference anytime soon.
All the problems you see now are going to get worse. The Council and staff have ruined this City and are inflicting more damage every day. It's a lethal combination of special interests and incompetence
which have done us in.

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Posted by Mitch
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 10:37 am

I thought there are already parking districts downtown. Certain commercial parcels pay extra toward parking lots in their area.

Has anything changed?

Why not simply increase the assessments on those parcels in those areas where more parking spaces are needed, then build the structures?

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Posted by Don't Raise Occupancy Tax
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

Raising occupancy tax from an area high of 12% is short sided and a bad business decision. Palo Alto is not San Francisco, and already has a higher occupancy tax than surrounding communities. Business travel is already expected to decrease to the area due to increased rates which are due to low supply. Rather than increase the occupancy tax, figure out a good way to increase the supply in the market.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

>> "each $1 million in new hotel taxes can generate $14 million in project funds through the issuance of bonds"

Does this mean each $1M collected puts us $14M deeper in debt?

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Posted by MT
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 4, 2013 at 11:37 am

It is very telling why city is favoring the hotel tax increase - only 50% vote will increase "TAX ON OTHERS". How many of us are hotel operators? City is confirming their general anti-business attitude.

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Posted by Realistic
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

realist said "The Council and staff have ruined this City"

But they didn't do it by themselves. They needed lots of help from
1) voters who elected the council
2) all the people who drive and park downtown

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Posted by wmartin46
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm

wmartin46 is a registered user.

The topic of an automated parking garage has been kicked around before, although not by the City's Planning Department.

Here are a couple videos to help folks see what we could have here in Palo Alto--

Most Advanced Automated Garage In The World:
Web Link

Robotic Garage in Hoboken, NJ
Web Link

Fully Automated Parking System in Tenierstraat, Amsterdam:
Web Link

It really is difficult to believe that the City of Palo Alto will be proposing this sort of solution in the immediate future. Why not simply allow a private sector firm to come in, build, finance, and operate this sort of parking function. They seem to work in other cities, so why not Palo Alto?

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Posted by No-Brainer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Our elected officials, nd some of the appointed ones, do not have the financial education or skills to be running this city. The end.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

What has happened is the Council/staff have put the City at a dead end through "bad government" for years and years while they pursued
their own interests/agendas. There are no ready solutions to our
problems or logical and acceptable revenue sources to deal with
our problems. The Council, ARB, and staff have run us into the ground. The residents have stopped listening.

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Posted by ken
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm

The next thing that needs immediate action is a Moratorium on all construction of projects that do not have adequate parking or parking alternatives for the tenants - real on-site parking, in-lieu fees for all of the parking needed to meet the 4:1,000 parking ratio, factual and measurable TDM provisions. Allowing another partially parked (or unparked) project is just digging the deficit hole deeper and deeper. Moratorium needs to apply to all unbuilt projects including those that have staff approvals and may have been issued building permits. Real action by the City Council to show the citizen community they mean business is the only way the development community will pay attention and come to the table.

Careful with the mechanism for assessment. As it stands today the employees and tenants, not the developer/property owner,pays for the assessments. Owners just collect their "among the highest in the nation" rents and pass costs for taxes, repairs, insurance etc. onto their tenants and employees under triple net leases.

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Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Palo Alto needs a moratorium on new development until The Comprehensive Plan is adopted with caps (maximum limits) for new non-residential (office and commercial) and market rate residential.

That puts a stop to the out of control growth. Do the planning first and then build.

This simple solution is not what this Council will do unless the public gets involved now! Council is poised to entitle more growth than what we have already seen. Market forces (profit) will drive the growth and shift the costs onto the rest of us for inadequate infrastructure, overcrowded schools, parking shortages, air pollution, etc.

We also need to elect council members in 2014 who represent what we want and not be fooled by the sound bites and campaign rhetoric.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm

“ … satellite parking in the Baylands …” !?!?!?!

How about in Foothills Park? Why not just convert all our parkland to parking lots? Why not just build mega-developments in the Baylands, as proposed in the Saltworks project in Redwood City.

With humongous buildings going up all over the Bay Area, our parklands are more precious than ever.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm


I usually think you put some thought into your comments and respect them.

When I mentioned satellite parking in the Baylands, I was thinking about where the athletics fields are, or beside the utilities lot. I was not thinking of beside the duckpond, or the interpretive center, or where the windsurfers park.

I agree our parklands and Baylands are precious. I would like to see the Interpretive Centre open and the boardwalk repaired too.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

The hole the Council/staff has put us in so deep that the scope of the permanent damage to our community is now only beginning to be fully understood. There are no easy fixes to this mess. Another wave of impacts will hit as new projects in the pipline come in. Where will new garages go, how will they be paid for, what will be the visual impact? Some diversion to bikes does not even offset the net increase from new projects and creates more unsafe conditions on narrow streets. Better use of existing garages could provide some help but hasn't happened yet. The idea of satellite parking lots in the Baylands with shuttles through our still gridlocked neighborhoods is a nightmare image. When you throw out land use planning/zoning, grant special favors to developers, and exercise virtually no design control,and are oblivious to aesthetic values, this is what you end up with.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm

The athletics field at the Baylands has a large parking lot which is rarely used during the day. Where utilities trucks are parked overnight leave a lot of parking space during the day. Some type of sharing these spots could be utilized.

I am trying to think out of the box, not pave over the Baylands.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

@Pat - if you want to build in the Baylands, you need to go talk to Mayor Greg Scharff. As Mayor he appointed himself as Commissioner to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Since he is a real estate attorney and developer, he is eminently qualified to help you with the Development part.

Yes, wetlands all over the SF Bay Area are in more danger than ever!

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Posted by confused resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 4, 2013 at 9:03 pm

My condo complex provides 2 underground parking spots for residents, so there's no need for us to compete for parking near Cal Ave. I don't understand why my neighbors and I should subsidize parking garages so for folks who live outside our neighborhood and work/dine on Cal Ave. Shouldn't this instead be the responsibility of Cal Ave businesses?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2013 at 9:16 am

The Mello-Roos thing is somebody's idea to get around those pesky residents not supporting bond measures.

Over the last couple of years, I've got multiple City phone surveys about a bond issue: "would you support a bond measure for X? How about for Y? How about for Z?"

Never once have I heard the question, "Why?" As in, WHY would you support or not support such a measure. Only, well how about for these other 10 things?

I wonder why that is.

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Posted by Be adult about it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Developers and wealthy downtown property owners need to act like grow ups and be responsible about the area they have so much influence over. They have deep pockets, so they should grow up and pay up!

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Posted by to be adult about it
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I agree, but why should responsible nearby homeowners be penalized as well?

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

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