Almanac

Viewpoint - August 10, 2011

Editorial: Finally, a parking plan for Menlo

In the end, the process was so simple it is hard to believe it took this long. But two weeks ago, the City Council did what no council before them had done — agree to install a parking system in two downtown plazas that finally will make it possible for shoppers to stay longer than two hours without moving their vehicle or getting a ticket.

The new meters actually will be pedestals that will accept cash and credit cards to park in a numbered spot. The first two hours of parking will be free in the two plazas, but users will have the all-important option of purchasing an unlimited amount of additional time. A three-hour appointment will no longer generate a mad dash to move the car as the second hour approaches, as long as extra time was purchased at one of the meter/pedestals.

When motorists check in at one of the six pedestals, they simply need to note their slot number and insert cash or a credit card. Similar systems are in place all over the Bay Area.

The new system will be installed at Plaza 1, at Oak Grove Avenue and El Camino Real behind the post office, and at Plaza 5, off Crane Street and Santa Cruz Avenue.

City officials expect the meters to be in place by October, well before the holiday season, which should make downtown merchants very happy. There have been many occasions when a frustrated merchant complained to city officials or the City Council about losing a customer who was livid after receiving a $35 ticket for parking one or two minutes beyond the two-hour time limit in the plazas.

One business, Boutique 4 on Santa Cruz Avenue, said it closed after five years due to aggressive parking enforcement. Tamara Michel, a co-owner of the boutique, told the Almanac, "We had many customers who refused to come downtown to shop."

It will take time for the city to decide whether to expand the pedestal program beyond the two plazas, which will cost about $60,000 to implement. But if the new system works out as hoped, the city will see some parking revenue and perhaps some additional sales tax revenue generated by customers who were not driven elsewhere to shop by the city's parking enforcement officers.

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