Palo Alto To Get Preferential Residential Parking?

As residents of Palo Alto are well aware, street parking can be quite a challenge, especially for those residing near its bustling downtown. As a result of this issue being brought to it’s attention by locals on numerous occasions, the Palo Alto City Council just passed an ordinance that would institute a residential preferential parking program.

The goal of the parking regulation is to ensure the preservation of the quality of life in Palo Alto’s neighborhoods and to guarantee that homeowners would be able to more easily park their vehicles on their streets. The new law, should it pass, would establish an identical process in each borough to create this preferential program, starting with the areas surrounding Palo Alto’s busy ‘city center’.

Back in September, a variety of parking data was collected by the city. It revealed, among other things, that from 12-2pm, street parking spaces near downtown are approximately eighty-six percent occupied. It was noted that on some avenues, there were more cars squeezed into spaces than are technically allowed.

Despite the data gathered about the quantity of vehicles parked, there is little detail about the owners of these cars, be they local business employees, Stanford University students, CalTrain commuters, or residents. But whoever is parking on the streets, the sheer number of automobiles is definitely impacting homeowners.

Developed with the input of a stakeholder group of residents, business and property owners, the resident parking program will kick off in two segments, encompassing the area bordered by Palo Alto, Guida, and Lincoln Avenues and Alma Street. Phase One will start in early January and last six months, during which the city would give residents complimentary parking permits while selling an unrestricted amount to employees working downtown. Initially, each permit would cost $233, which is the same cost to park in Palo Alto’s downtown garages for six months. Low-income workers would pay a reduced fee of $50. Those who do not live or work in the area would be unable to obtain permits. Enforced weekdays from 8am to 5pm, the hope is that this ordinance would encourage employees to park in garages that have available space versus along the roads, freeing up street parking.

After the six-month trial run, Phase Two would begin with the first round of permits expiring. Based on data compiled during the kick-off phase, the program and permit costs would be revised, with the first residential permit free and each additional costing $50 apiece.  The City Council hopes to also inspire employees and commuters taking public transit to leave their cars at home. As such, they have recently expanded the city’s free shuttle program, and instituted a study for a satellite parking lot on Embarcadero Road.

According to the results of a recent survey of approximately 4,600 households, support for this program is divided. A noteworthy number of respondents were in favor of the parking program while a lesser percentage were not pleased with the idea of having to possibly pay for permits. Determining the employee permit sale tended to be the most significant issue.

When the program commences in early 2015, residents will be free to park anywhere in the area, but downtown employees will be restricted to parking on specific streets.

“Is this going to work?” ask Councilman Larry Klein. “Well, we’re going to find out. It’s an experiment. I think it has a good chance of succeeding, but by no means are we 100 percent sure.”