Like most peninsula cities, Palo Alto offers free parking downtown, with time limitations. While locals know about parking garages such as the multi-story Bryant lot and the underground lot under City Hall, many visitors are unaware of these lots and scramble to find street parking especially during peak periods.
Palo Alto’s free parking is likely a draw for those coming to dine and hangout downtown, however, considering the excessive demand for spaces; many are urging the construction of a new garage to accommodate the demand. Others say that more parking is not the answer; rather the city should consider installing meters to lessen the demand for parking.
In addition, residents in the Professorville neighborhood claim that many downtown workers are parking on the streets of their neighborhood in order to avoid paying for a parking permit downtown. A one-day permit costs $15 while a one-year permit costs $420, however, both must be purchased at City Hall. In response, the Professorville residents proposed a permit system which would limit access to free parking in the area. This, they said, would leave spots in the neighborhood available to those who lived there.
Candidates for City Council declined to take specific stances on paid parking, but most expressed concern over residential parking permits.
Palo Alto Marc Berman advocates a complete reevaluation of the parking system.
Berman proposes changing the current color coded permit system, which he says is unclear and confusing.
Though he had no definitive stance on paid parking, he expressed openness to the idea, provided that the meters were simple to use and accepted credit cards. Berman opposed the residential permit proposal in Professorville, which was rejected by City Council, but is open to considering other residential permit parking proposals.
Financial Consultant Timothy Gray echoed Berman's view on the necessity of changing the color code permits system.
Gray stressed the need for 'outside the box' solutions and discussed the idea of using 6th floor garage space, that stands mostly empty, and using it as an inexpensive employee lot to reduce demand for parking in nearby neighborhoods.
He voiced openness to metered parking, provided it was priced such that it would not deter visitors.
Music Promoter Mark Weiss expressed concern that parking policy is being set by a small group of special interests and can run counter to what benefits ordinary residents.
“Downtown special interests, a small group of people, the self-appointed parking czar versus what citizens want,” said Weiss of the permit parking issue in Professorville.
According to Councilmember Pat Burt, the creation of additional parking spaces must be accompanied by improvements in public transportation and particularly biking initiatives.
Burt points to the proposed bike renting program, based on the program implemented in Paris, where residents can check-out bikes from one of several facilities in town and drop them off at any facility. This, he says, combined with new bike paths, will make biking a more viable option in comparison to car travel.
Councilmember Greg Schmid advocates a comprehensive study of the parking system to determine needs, and said the decision the city reaches should be based on what those numbers yield.
Supervisor Liz Kniss strongly supports the parking permit proposal.
“It has to be very frustrating for those who live nearby that somebody’s already parked outside their front door,” she said. Kniss declined to take a specific stance on metered parking but she said she was “open to having that conversation.”