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Downtown Parking - Call For Ideas

Original post made by What can be done to improve parking in downtown Menlo Park? on Jul 13, 2014

What can be done to improve parking in the Menlo Park downtown area? Certainly there are ways that can make the experience more pleasant. Quite frankly, 1,000's of overtime parking citations may result in 100's of thousand of dollars in fines for the city, but at the same time is it taking away valued customers from local businesses? For many, two hours seems too short. Over 800 tickets are issued each year for parking over the white line. Should everyone carry a magnifying glass with them? There must be a better way. Is the City of Menlo Park parking enforcement too aggressive? Suggestions welcome.

Comments (70)

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 13, 2014 at 10:33 am

Build a parking garage. The problem is not enough available parking.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 14, 2014 at 1:22 pm

It's simple, read the signs and park within the lines. How difficult is that?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I will repeat my earlier suggestion - transfer parking enforcement from the Police Dept to Jim Cogan who is responsible for economic development. Cogan's rules would be designed to maximize the use of the city's parking rather than to generate fines.


And then build a parking structure which is beautifully designed and has lots of landscaping.

Here what can be done with a bit of creativity:

Web Link

"downtown Brooklyn's plans to build an automated parking garage underneath a public park. Willoughby Square Park is scheduled to open in 2016, built upon 700 parking spaces that will be hidden from eyesight and 'reduce the amount of exhaust pollution associated with idling in traditional parking garages.'

The contractor, Automotion Parking Systems, will fit three times as many vehicles in the same square footage of a traditional parking garage.

The system is outlined below:

How Automotion Works: Park. Swipe. Leave. It's that simple. Each customer will follow the ramp beneath the park and drive into one of Automotion's 12 entry/exit rooms. Once they enter the large well-lit room, they will be greeted by a large flat screen TV that aids them in properly placing their car on a pallet in the middle of the room. Drivers park and lock their cars, then swipe their credit card at an Automotion Kiosk to initiate the parking process. Each vehicle is then transported automatically to its storage bay while the customer is walking away. When returning, the customer swipes the same credit card again and the car is returned back to the entry/exit room in less than 2 minutes, ready to be driven away. Since no one has touched the car, there is no risk of scratches, dents or dings, nor any chance of theft of goods left inside of the car.

Full sized trees, gardens, and other typical park features will hide the garage, and provide a space people can use.

- See more at: Web Link


Posted by Common Criminal, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

I guess the city prefers to make ordinary citizens, shoppers and consumers into common criminals, issuing tickets right and left, and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Maybe a better approach would be to find incentives to increase business, sales tax revenues and consumer loyalty. The issue may be aggressive enforcement that discourages, instead of encourages, shopping locally, going to restaurants and nearby stores for leisurely visits lasting longer than two hours and building goodwill as a favored destination. People have choices, with Stanford Shopping Center, Town and Country Village and downtown Palo Alto not too far away.


Posted by Dagwood, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I agree with the above: Build a parking garage and pay attention to the signage.
What's stopping a parking garage are obstructionist downtown business and property owners who continue to prevent MP from moving forward. Forget about what should be their leadership in doing that.


Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

The most cost-effective way to improve the parking situation would be to make it more appealing to ride your bike there. This town is basically flat, the climate is mild, downtown is an easy destination. The problem is lots of people find it intimidating to ride across El Camino Real, and there isn't much visible bike parking downtown. Ride your bike, you don't have to worry about a parking ticket. If more people did that, parking would not be a problem at all. What it would cost the city to make downtown more bikeable would cost a fraction of what it would cost to build a parking structure.


Posted by Colin Jenkins, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm

The last proposal I heard for the cost of a parking garage was in the neighborhood of $20K - $30K per parking space depending on the style of garage. I may be fuzzy on the exact amount but that's the ballpark number I remember. My recollection is that the city wasn't interested in paying for it but the merchants via the property owners would be assessed. Speaking for myself, if that happens here, I can say that we're probably out of business.

Ironically, I was told by a member of one of Menlo Park's long-time property-owning families that the merchants purchased the property for the current parking lots and gave them to the city some time in the 40's or 50's. I'm not sure what the agreement was but I'm pretty sure that the intention then was not to have future merchants pay again for a parking garage. Seems like the city has been making a lot of money off of these lots and should use that money to build parking garages.


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi˝a, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardi˝a is a registered user.

The parking situation in MPK is horrible. They issued .8 tickets per resident last year. While my office is in MPK, I generally make lunch meetings happen in Palo Alto because they have garages (with electric car chargers) that can accommodate the traffic. Palo Alto subsequently gets my tax revenue.

We need garages here, I know that goes against the "village character" moniker that many would imply of Menlo Park. But then again 20,000 plus parking tickets doesn't sound like a quaint "friendly" village to me either.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Posted by Nikola T, a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I got a real kick out of Mr. Sardi˝a's highly charged remarks.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

We shop and eat in downtown MP regularly and have *never* gotten a parking ticket. It's not hard to follow the simple parking rules.

Roy's 0.8 number is deceptive in that it doesn't indicate who is getting these tickets (residents or others), and if a certain few are regularly getting many more tickets than others.


Posted by Spanky, a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Get rid of the 200 shrinks that rent 25 offices.


Posted by Marcy Magatelli, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I live and work in Downtown Menlo Park, but I still need a car...not everything can be done on a bicycle, especially when you are as old as I am! Because I need to make deliveries for my business, I pay a hefty $600. year for a permit to park, not "anywhere" in dwntwn MP, but only in the one designated lot, which is fine, but in the 3 years I have parked in my assigned lot, I have received 1 of those "on-the-line" not over the line tickets, and another for a spot w/no sign posted, but an almost totally worn-off white sign, painted on the actual spot, which from the car, I did not see. I have been friendly, and talked with the parking officers, and they know my car & where I work, but that did make them want to knock on my back door and tell me I was parked illegally, or give me a "warning" for first offense, since I am a season ticket holder; nope! they just ticketed me, as though I was a visitor from another town. However, since the last ticket, I have noticed...no more eye contact, no more smiling waves??? Seems like someone knew they could have used a gentler approach for a first offense. Bad form! That is a buzz-kill for the small, home town feeling.


Posted by Manlo Punk, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

No to be repetitive;
- Build a couple of parking garages, behind Flegels, Amicis, Posh Bagel, between Draegers and Peets.
- I've never received a parking ticket downtown
- Ride bikes when possible/able
- STOP the ridiculous "look at my expensive car" shows that take up parking spaces ON A WEEKEND, no less! (there have only been two to this point, but that is enough). Let them find a place of their own and show off somewhere else

None of this will happen of course, because more than on faction will pop up to waste time arguing why one plan is better than the other. Stop emulating Washington. There are too many smart people in Menlo Park, to have Menlo Park suffer through this sort of nonsense!


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 11:17 am

For those who conveniently propose building parking structures downtown, one question: Who are you assuming will pay for the construction and maintenance of these structures?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

The city should pay. Who pays for the structures in Palo Alto?


Posted by Manlo Punk, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Governments always seem to find creative ways of finding money. (e.g. taxes!) Ouch, no not advocating for that.

Not to get off topic, if we were talking about a sports complex the money would be flowing in. But for a parking lot or two, a new school etc., it's worse than pulling teeth.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm

When confronted with the need to allocate a limited resource, we should first look to an extremely effective solution that was invented thousands of years ago: the price system.

As an eminently practical example that Menlo Park could follow, I would commend the Redwood City pay-by-space machines to your consideration. They accept coins, bills, credit cards, and refilling the meter by text message. Rates vary according by day and hour according to demand. The goal is to have a few spaces available at all times to avoid congestion and pollution from circling the lot looking for parking.

The only disadvantage might be that this system is probably too solution-oriented, straightforward and simple to be accepted by Menlo Park.


Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 5:05 pm

What's the problem? Do some people have to walk a couple of blocks from where they parked? I've never been shut out parking in downtown Menlo Park.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 8:55 pm

@Menlo Voter, we can look to Palo Alto and their Parking Assessment Districts or to Redwood City to develop parking solutions that don't require "the City" (i.e. the taxpaying resident) to pay.

Here's a link to Redwood City's Downtown Parking Management Plan:

Web Link


Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I'd like to see a Town Hall Meeting offered in a convenient location for citizens to have an opportunity to voice their opinion on this and other topics affecting the qualifty of life in Menlo Park. Perhaps at the MPPC Social Auditorium located behind the Ace Hardware store would be a good location. This could be a "Meet the Mayor" meeting. If the city doesn't offer it, perhaps The Almanac newspaper would be interested in being the host. Much can be learned by sharing ideas, expressing questions and hearing from the decision makers.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 17, 2014 at 7:12 am

Mike:

Menlo Park can take a lesson from Redwood City re. parking that is for sure. Thanks for the link.


Posted by Price Conscious, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 17, 2014 at 9:52 am

I wonder if the price of a ticket went up from $45.00 to say $500.00 if virtually overtime parking tickets would decrease significantly.


Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi˝a, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 11:05 am

Roy Thiele-Sardi˝a is a registered user.

@Price Conscious

You are right the number of tickets wold go to ZERO, as would the number of people that come to our town. This is a CLASSIC marginal utility economics problem.

The real solution is to allow for payed extended parking and to build a garage. It is in the Downtown Specific Plan, which will be inevitably delayed by the initiative currently being considered.

Roy Thiele-Sardina


Posted by dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I would "happily" pay extra $'s for extended parking beyond 2 hours.

So how would a 100-car underground parking structure REALLY cost to build and maintain?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

according to the link Mike provided, Redwood City estimated subterranean parking cost at $40,000 to $50,000 a space to construct. I would expect it would be more toward the high end.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the cost figures for the Brooklyn underground garage :
"Automotion's equipment costs roughly $25,000 a vehicle, which rises to $50,000 to $60,000 a car when the excavation costs are included, Mr. Milstein said. To build a conventional garage beneath Willoughby Square would run closer to $90,000 for each car, he said."

And note that this public-private partnership is costing the city much less than that per parking space:
Web Link

What we need to do is think outside the box. Such a garage could go under two or more adjacent city surface lots to further enhance the surface area and lower the per space cost.


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Parking structures are very expensive and can visually overwhelm areas with lower building height limits. I prefer Redwood City's pay-per-space system. It's easy and allows parking for as long as one needs, unlike the meter systems in San Mateo & Burlingame. I don't have difficulty finding a parking space within a block, or rarely 2, in Menlo.

It's been many years since I've gotten a ticket, but I don't need more than 2 hours to meet friends for lunch. The restaurants which cater to the 2 drink lunch or afternoon cocktail crowd do wish for longer parking. I also know which restaurants are habitually slow to serve their customers (I'm looking at you, Left Bank) and avoid those in the daytime.

Parking availability is very tough on Sundays when Menlo Presbyterian holds services, as well as during weddings, big funerals, etc. Pay-by-space parking would help a lot.

Maybe it's time to create designated areas for huge vehicles? The maxi-vans & double cab long bed trucks don't fit into the spaces as they're currently striped. And a gripe- the vehicles which actually obstruct lanes in lots because they aren't pulled forward enough should be ticketed. The lot behind the 600 block of Menlo Ave & behind Walgreens are especially tough to negotiate because drivers leave 2-4 feet in front of their cars when they park, thus badly narrowing the lanes. And do ticket cars which intentionally take 2 spaces, apparently to protect from the possibility of risking a scratch.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A key component of Redwood City's successful parking program is their very large multi-level underground garage. Palo Alto also has a number of underground parking garages.


Posted by Easy Does It, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Hey--it ain't broke--don't fix it!
I've lived in the downtown for decades, and for the past several years at least, have found it generally easy to park.
Parking just isn't the problem it was years back.
Rather, the current problem is the one-hour limit on street parking.
Los Altos has 2-hour street parking and 3-hr parking in lots.
We ought to give that a try before even considering the expense of parking structures. People prefer street parking anyway.
And the city should never ticket people who parked on the line. That's really pushing it.

One more thing: it seems as if the city has stopped using chalk marks on wheels in the parking lots, and instead is making a record of everyone's license plates. Now, if you move to another spot in the same lot, how will they know? Or have they essentially numbered the parking spots? This should be explained to people.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

If I'm not mistaken you can't just move your car to a different space in the same lot. You have to move to a completely different lot. Very inconvenient for anyone that needs to spend extended time downtown.

I use the pay lots in Redwood City when I go and they work quite well. It would be worth trying here and if it doesn't work, then build a garage.


Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

The comments here are making it really clear that the city still has some work to do making sure that people understand the parking setup downtown. We do have pay lots. Two of them. You can park there and stay all day if you like. The one hour parking limits on the streets are to encourage turnover. You can stay for longer by paying for the time in one of the pay lots. There is seriously no reason to get a parking ticket downtown as long as you look at the signs and park in the right place (and pay for extra time if that's what you need.)


Posted by Manlo Punk, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2014 at 7:30 am

I've just realized this (slow on the uptake I guess), and I'm guilty of this as well. There have been many complaints about the lack of businesses and restaurants, etc., in downtown, yet everyone seems to have difficulty with parking.

If there is such a lack of things to do downtown, then where are all the people (taking up parking), going?

Just an observation, happy Friday, and everyone have a good time at the event this weekend.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

At this point, a parking structure for downtown Menlo Park is a solution looking for a problem. There are so many things we could be doing to improve the current situation before we even begin to consider a structure.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is not "a solution looking for a problem." The parking problem has been carefully analyzed and a solution identified.

Figure D-6 and the associated language in the Specific Plan clearly support the City intention to build multi-level parking garages.

"Parking Garages
Due to their size, above ground parking garages are highly
visible and affect the character of the surrounding area.
Guidelines for parking garages help minimize their visual
impact and integrate them into the surrounding area.
Standards
E.3.7.09 To promote the use of bicycles, secure bicycle
parking shall be provided at the street level of public parking
garages. Bicycle parking is also discussed in more detail in
Section F.5 "Bicycle Storage Standards and Guidelines."
Guidelines
E.3.7.10 Parking garages on downtown parking plazas
should avoid monolithic massing by employing change in
fašade rhythm, materials and/or color.
E.3.7.11 To minimize or eliminate their visibility and impact
from the street and other signifi cant public spaces, parking
garages should be underground, wrapped by other uses
(i.e. parking podium within a development) and/or screened
from view through architectural and/or landscape treatment.
E.3.7.12 Whether free-standing or incorporated into overall
building design, garage fašades should be designed with
a modulated system of vertical openings and pilasters,
with design attention to an overall building fašade that fi ts
comfortably and compatibly into the pattern, articulation,
scale and massing of surrounding building character.
E.3.7.13 Shared parking is encouraged where feasible to
minimize space needs, and it is effectively codifi ed through
the plan's off-street parking standards and allowance for
shared parking studies.
E.3.7.14 A parking garage roof should be approached
as a usable surface and an opportunity for sustainable
strategies, such as installment of a green roof, solar panels
or other measures that minimize the heat island effect."


One wonders why so many posters seem not to have even read the Specific Plan.


Posted by David Roise, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Anyone interested in this topic should read Donald Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking": Web Link. As Shoup notes, parking should be treated the same as any other product or service and should be priced accordingly. We don't give away the gas for your car, so why should we give away the space where you leave it.

As an example, I was in San Francisco for lunch on Wednesday and was able to find plenty of street parking within a block of AT&T ballpark. Why? Because San Francisco has parking meters that adjust their rates according to the demand. I paid $12 for an hour and a half of parking and was happy to do it, because I didn't need to spend more than 5 seconds looking for an empty space.

Local requirements that mandate excessive free parking have destroyed the charm and character of many towns and cities in the US. Paying $30K to $90K per space to build underground parking that we then give away for free is NUTS. The technology is available for demand-responsive parking rates. See Web Link. Let's charge people what the market says it's worth for street parking and then let them decide if it's still worth using their car to get downtown. That's simple economics and will mean more empty parking spaces for those of you who want to (or need to) park your cars downtown.

By the way, these ideas are also described in Mr. Carpenter's beloved DSP at page F29, which notes the success of similar strategies in Redwood City.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

David - Thanks for the great references.

"Free parking" is not really free but rather a hidden tax of wasted time and lost customers.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 4:52 am

Folks: No need to over think this, as it is really just straight math. MP needs a garage and there of plenty of above ground, reasonable options in nearby towns with vibrancy, such as PA and Burlingame. Lack of parking is an impediment to growth and usage of our stores. Not enough parking, cars too close together -- at the margin, people will go elsewhere. It will not have a negative impact on the downtown look and feel -- it will enhance downtown's vibrancy.




Posted by Jim, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

David: The academic argument on parking is not fully useful in a civic context when other elements, such as access for elderly and benefits (taxes and otherwise) for the town. The theory you support would suggest that you can have no local parking at all, just remote parking and bussing folks in -- math would suggest just that, as would the fact that charging $100 per hour to park will leave all spaces empty and allow you to not build a garage. All nice to talk about but not practical for Menlo Park. The potential demand for services, and population of MP make the physical space inadequate for those wishing to meet basic needs in our town. A garage is the only answer, period. think local stores were happy that all the SF spaces were empty when you went to park?


Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

I haven't seen anyone suggest charging $100 an hour to park. The observation that free parking is not actually free is not just "academic." It creates a tragedy of the commons kind of situation, where people feel entitled to something and then get deeply upset when asked to contribute a tiny fraction of what it actually costs. Markets work for parking just like any other resource- if you price it appropriately, people use the resource more wisely.

I do wonder how many of the people who support building a parking garage downtown also complain about excessive traffic on El Camino. Building something to attract more cars to downtown Menlo Park will also attract more cars to El Camino Real. If what people want is easier parking spaces and more people shopping downtown, a lot of that can be accomplished without building a garage.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Turnbridge: The $100 is to make a point about the notion of charging for parking in the example provided. It is the wrong way to think about this issue and you are just missing the point as it relates to MP.

In SF, the approach has nothing to do with smoothing out demand. It is strictly revenue driven since city street meters were programmed for modest fees compared to the heft parking charges at time of extremely heavy use, such as ball games.

This is not a math exercise, it is about the current MP downtown. Right now, here and now, today -- parking is not sufficient. Even without any new building, as stores and restaurants become more appealing, then demand will be higher. This dynamic will only increase, not decrease. A garage is necessary, like it or not. And you know what, it is ok to have a garage! One gets a headache around the over-thinking on things like parking garages, food trucks, new gymnasium near the library, etc. Progress happens in stages and you adjust and move on.


Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

In my personal experience, I have never, ever been unable to find parking downtown. Sure, maybe I can't find parking within thirty feet of my destination, but I have always been able to find parking within a block or two of my destination. I saw the presentation city staff made to city council- at any given time of day, there are spaces available in one or more of the existing parking plazas. That is consistent with my own experience.

Assuming, arguendo, that a garage is really needed, who pays for it? Taxpayers? That's an awfully big subsidy to the downtown merchants. And again, if we create more car parking in downtown Menlo Park, it's only going to add to the congestion we already experience on El Camino Real. If you build it, they will come. More parking spaces = worse traffic.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 20, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Mr. Wells:

so let's just let MP, Santa Cruz Ave turn into a ghost town shall we? More traffic is coming on ECR whether we like it or not. I can be dealt with by our city pulling it's collective heads out of the 50's and waking up to the fact that truncating ECR from three lanes in each direction to two is a large part of the traffic problem. One only need to drive from Mountain view to Redwood City to see where the problem occurs.

I know a successful restaurateur from the south bay that has looked into Menlo Park. He was scared away because it was "too dead." It will continue to be too dead if we don't make it more attractive for not just residents, but those from nearby communities. Redwood city and Palo Alto get a lot of traffic from our residents for this reason. There's not much here and it's a pain to park and stay if you do happen to come downtown.

Building a garage is the only answer to solving what now isn't a major problem but in the near future will become a major problem.

How does it get paid for? How do Palo Alto and Redwood City pay for theirs? Folks are happy to put a parcel tax on themselves for schools, perhaps that is the answer here. It certainly wouldn't need to be anywhere near the size as the ones approved for the schools.


Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Tunbridge Wells:

I'm with you as I always have found a place to park and I've been in West Menlo for forty years. Even as they've reduced the parking. It seems that the commentators are divided into two parts: Those that want to park for more than the allotted time and those that are urban planners and/or visionaries of what a parking garage can do for the businesses in MP.

The City shouldn't go ahead with a garage unless there complaints about being able to park, having to leave the area to find places.

This issue is almost Kafkaesque and reminds me of our last auto related go-round with slowing down traffic on Santa Cruz which didn't need slowing down.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 20, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is another innovative parking program that we used last night - works great:
"Valet Parking in Downtown Redwood City
Nights of Operation Every Friday and Saturday
This program is the result of many Downtown businesses coming together in a cooperative effort to address their customers' concerns with the sometimes-impacted parking situation.

As Downtown Redwood City continues growing into one of THE great destinations for entertainment in Silicon Valley, valet parking will help bring parking relief, more convenience, and peace of mind, at a low cost, to anyone looking for easy parking on those busy Friday and Saturday nights.

Look for this sign on Middlefield at Broadway (or on Theatre Way at Middlefield/Winslow during the concert season) for easy, stress-free parking at a great price.

Drop off your car, enjoy your evening at these participating businesses, get validation, and get your car delivered right to where you left it."


Posted by One Week Experiment, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

If some folks think that the city is overly aggressive with overtime parking, how about trying a one week, or more, experiment with No Overtime Parking enfordement at all. Why do I suggest this? One reason is during one of the busiest times of the year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the City offers a Relaxed Parking Program. With visits to the downtown area at an all time high, business increases, as folks can shop, or dine, or both, without fear of returning to their car and being greeted by a $45.00 ticket. Merchants and othes may do self-poicing to free up spaces for consumers by parking their car a few blocks away. Yes, downtown needs more parking places, but does the city need to take nearly a million dollars a year from the pockets of consumers rather than making these funds available to merchants? No time limits seem to work at Town and Country Village and Stanford Shopping Center. Maybe it can work in downtown Menlo Park too.


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:17 am

@David Roise, thank you for your post. Parking costs should be borne by the user of the parking space, and not the taxpayer, who may or may not make use of the parking. And yes, I still believe that a parking structure at this time is a solution looking for a problem, regardless of the language in the Specific Plan about it.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is no reason why a parking structure, preferably underground with a park on top, could not be self supporting. I suggest that the city prepare an RFP and see what the free market proposes.


Posted by Lydia, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 21, 2014 at 2:01 pm

In all the comments listed, no one mentioned the problem of finding parking for the employees of businesses in the downtown area. At the moment many of these employees park on streets that are not time restricted. Streets between Menlo Avenue to Roble are impacted from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm with cars. These same streets have no time limits. It is definitely frustrating for the residents who live in this area. There should be a designated area for these people to park.


Posted by Richard, a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm

"parking shortage" = "surplus of unused cars"
Work on both supply and demand, and try to increase the utilization of cars to minimize the amount of time they are just sitting around demanding parking places.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the problem of finding parking for the employees of businesses in the downtown area"

The only tried and true method of solving this problem is a residential parking permit program in the neighborhoods contiguous with the downtown. Palo Alto has been struggling with this for years and has not found any other solution.


Posted by Richard, a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Peter, that doesn't solve the problem of parking for employees, it only makes life less inconvenient for residents and more inconvenient for employees.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" that doesn't solve the problem of parking for employees"

Parking for employees is handled by the existing permit program - which could easily be expanded to meet the demand if a parking structure were built.


Posted by MOE, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm

An underground parking structure - costly as it may be - could ease the problem of employee parking. It could also provide an exciting landscaped open space serving many public activities. Yes, excessive ticketing is not an incentive to come to MP and maybe some 3 hr zones may ease some of the problem but whining about tickets for parking over the line??? If you're too lazy to park correctly you deserve the ticket. If you're too stupid to understand what the lines are for, or you just don't care to give others a fair chance to find a space, then a few tickets may just be the lesson you need.


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
14 hours ago

Can anyone give an example of an underground parking structure which ". .could also provide an exciting landscaped open space serving many public activities" described above by Moe? Maybe build a parking garage under Burgess Park?
San Mateo's main library has underground parking, for patrons only. I'm not sure where the Burlingame parking garage is, Jim, except under City Hall & limited to CH visitors. San Mateo has plenty of elevated parking which isn't very attractive. Draegers SM has its own u'ground parking just as Draegers MP has its own lot @ Menlo & University (which it bought to provide more parking for its customers when they added a 2nd story. Part of that deal required Draegers to pay to move the apartment bldg on that property to east Menlo so no net rental housing would be lost.) Mtn View has a multi-story garage near on Bryant, built at the same time that area was being redeveloped.

Maybe build parking under Fremont Park? The public structures in both downtown PA & Calif Ave aren't attractive at all except for the one on Ramona, between University & Hamilton. Advocates of parking structures, please give us examples of nice looking ones which "provide exciting open space."


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
14 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Can anyone give an example of an underground parking structure which ". .could also provide an exciting landscaped open space serving many public activities" described above by Moe? "

Please read ALL of the above posts - I gave the real life example of Brooklyn's plans to build an automated parking garage underneath a public park. Willoughby Square Park is scheduled to open in 2016, built upon 700 parking spaces that will be hidden from eyesight and 'reduce the amount of exhaust pollution associated with idling in traditional parking garages.'


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
13 hours ago

Thanks anyway, Peter. I was hoping for something more local, perhaps even on the Peninsula, as an example of something attractive & feasible for the budget of a small town such as MP. Perhaps we have a smaller income pool from which to draw.

And yes, I did read the previous posts. I remain unconvinced that $50-90k per space in construction cost is within budget for either the resident taxpayers or the small businesses which claim to be struggling.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
13 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Redwood City and Palo Alto prove that underground parking is economically feasible.
And the underground parking at PA City Hall has a plaza above it.

All it takes is a little bit of courage to seek interest from potential operators.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
12 hours ago

One example may be Union Square in San Francisco, with a beautiful, well maintained park above, near a bustling business area. Menlo Park has a wonderful opportunity to have the garage paid by developers by using funds termed PUBLIC BENEFIT. This may apply to one or more of the projects earmarked for El Camino Real, or other parts of the city, such as along Bayfront Parkway. If merchant and employee parking could be redirected to such a facility, 600 or more parking places would be freed up for consumers headed to downtown restaurants, stores and shops. Hopefully City Council and staff are also reading this column who have the responsibility of making these decisions and providing these services.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
12 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

SF's Union Sq garage is a great example of a public-private partnership. In the 1930s, the Union Square Garage Corporation was formed and lobbied for permission to build the world's first underground parking structure.

"The idea of a private corporation leasing public land underneath a city park was also new. Because of this, Union Square became a test case before the California State Supreme Court, which ruled in City of San Francisco v. Linares, that the City of San Francisco had the right to lease the subsurface area to the Union Square Garage Corporation provided that the park proper was not destroyed."

"After a California Supreme Court decision, permission was granted and they broke ground on May 31, 1941."

If you look at the plaque at the Geary Street entrance to the garage you will see the names of the businessmen who led the Union Square Garage Corporation - I am proud that my grandfather, Russell Carpenter, was one of them.


Posted by Downtown worker, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
10 hours ago

Parking time limits suck. One side of a street is 1 hour the other side is 2 hours. The church takes up huge amounts of parking. On Good Friday the parking patrol waited to ticket people as they sat in church. If someone is having a business lunch 2 hours is not enough. If a person is in a salon getting hair done, mani, pedi 2 hours is not enough time. Build a dang garage, put in meters. $600 a year is crazy. Palo Alto is less. Menlo Park does not want business. Take examples from RWC, PA and Los altos - booming with business. Time to make Menlo user friendly.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
10 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is how the 700 space underground garage AND surface park in Brooklyn were financed:

"After renewing efforts three years ago, the city has finally struck a deal with the Willoughby Operating Company for the joint park and garage project. The Willoughby Operating Company, an affiliate of the American Development Group, will lease the city-owned land. It will use $6 million from city capital, the city's Economic Development Corporation and private contributions from surrounding developers to construct the park.

The Willoughby Operating Company has also agreed to pay for any cost overruns and to finance the excavation and development of the garage. It hired Automotion Parking Systems, which has a principal in common with the American Development Group, to build and run the garage."


Web Link

The only thing stopping Menlo Park from doing something equally attractive and exciting is a lack of imagination.


Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
10 hours ago

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

There are two lots where you can park and stay for up to nine hours already. If two hours isn't enough, just go park in one of those lots. Yes, you have to pay for the privilege, but it's cheaper than getting a ticket. This is a fairly straightforward thing, so perhaps the city needs to improve their signage explaining where you can park longer.


Posted by Matt R, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
10 hours ago

The Menlo Park "hassle" is what keeps me away unless I have very specific needs. So, yes, current practices are impacting business in MP. But there are trade offs here, unlimited, unrestricted access make the place a zoo. Too much constriction chokes off access and drives people elsewhere.

Seems to me that this conflict will never be resolved. That said, there is no reason why more innovative solutions can't be used. Other places have implement different parking space management strategies that have shown to increase access and flow, use these first to improve the utilization of what spaces are currently available. But at some point, MP will have to address pedestrian corridors, improved traffic flow, bike traffic and the rest....., and it hasn't really yet. But if MP is to thrive, economic growth is a fact, and having to deal with it is not optional.

PS for those that say "I can always park within a couple of blocks..." that's fine if you are pretty mobile, but when we had babies in strollers, bad parking was a real problem! There are lots of situations where distant parking is hard to deal with. That's a fact too.

So MP will have to deal with this collage of conflicting needs and perspectives, and none will be happy. But I think few doubt that things could be better than they are with some optimization at the margin, whether or not a parking garage is in the future....


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
9 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

IF you want to really understand the economics of parking here is a beautifully written academic piece on the subject that focuses on university campuses and notes that "big universities resemble small cities":

Web Link

It is fun reading but suitable for anyone just looking for quick answers.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
9 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is another automated underground garage:

Web Link

"Design of the facility started in January 2004 with construction starting in October 2004. The construction was completed by February 2006 (roadworks took ten months and the entire project 16 months from the start of construction). The investment for the project was Ç11.35m (45% on building, 30% on the parking system and 25% on other costs).

The parking system provided is a combination of two W÷hr Multipark 740 Systems which will provide 284 parking places (150 plus 134). "

One would think that Menlo Park in Silicon Valley in 2014 could catch up with what was done in Munich in 2004.


Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
4 hours ago

I find it interesting that not one of the above comments have been offered by either the CITY COUNCIL or by CITY STAFF. What is their take? Are funds available to provide ways to add parking places? Are any of the ideas feasible? Will this topic become an agenda item on either the Transportation Commission meetings or on the City Council meeting? Words are helpful, but action may be better. When the CAR LOTS and other vacant properties are built out, downtown parking may be worse than it already is. Planning ahead for this inevitability may soften the impact. In fact, didn't the MENLO PARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH at one time offer to help fund a parking garage? What happen to that proposal?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
3 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I find it interesting that not one of the above comments have been offered by either the CITY COUNCIL or by CITY STAFF."

Due to the unmoderated nature of this Forum no elected or appointed official (other than myself) is foolish enough to participate in this venue. Why should they expose themselves to the attacks and ridicule which prevails in this venue?


Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
2 hours ago

If you don't have thick skin and can take criticism that comes with the territory, then I'd think one has no business being on the city council, city staff or for that matter participating in the political process. Our system of government encourages debate, various points of view and at times protesting for what you believe, including, but not limited to, issue about downtown parking. Perhaps during the Public Comment section of a future Bicycle Commission, Transportation Commission and/or a City Council meeting, someone can share their thoughts in hopes that either low hanging fruit or more complex solutions can be considered.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
2 hours ago

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If you don't have thick skin and can take criticism that comes with the territory, then I'd think one has no business being on the city council, city staff or for that matter participating in the political process."

The behavior on this Forum exceeds the standards of " thick skin and can take criticism ".
Based on my personal experience anyone else on as an elected official , appointed staff or for that matter participating in the political process is wise to ignore this forum.


Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
1 hour ago

This thread appears to be exceptionally helpful, at least for the most part. I agree that on some topics it can turn nasty and disrespectful. I for one thank you for your active participation. You often bring reason, food for thought and a helpful perspective. I noticed you forwarded this topic to the City Council email log, despite your comments to the contrary above. As it also goes to staff, some good may come of it.


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