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Guest opinion: Should Menlo Park build a downtown parking garage?

Original post made on Mar 24, 2016

As a regular visitor to downtown Menlo Park, I generally find a convenient parking space in just a few minutes, so for me, current downtown parking seems adequate. However, residents, visitors and workers with different needs, expectations and experiences would likely disagree with my assessment.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 12:00 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:31 am

Dana,

With all due respect, I would urge you to read carefully a recent empirical study of 27 mixed-use districts around the US, many of which have very similar characteristics to downtown Menlo Park. (Study available here in draft form: Web Link

Although there is often a perception that parking supplies are insufficient in such areas (as may also be true in Menlo Park), this study finds that, without exception, parking is actually oversupplied--by 65% on average. As noted in the study, parking is often oversupplied to such an extent that it has "become unmoored from the typical relationship between supply and demand". Rather than simply building more parking, the study reasonably suggests that better parking management (e.g., pricing) could be more effective at mitigating perceived shortages than increasing supply.

Space is precious in our downtown, and any space used for parking--particularly FREE parking--is space that is not being used for housing, retail shops, or parks, all of which we desperately need. Please don't advocate an expensive and disruptive solution to a problem that simply doesn't exist.


Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 9:50 am

Hi David: While I am not currently an advocate for a parking structure because the need and affordability has not yet been demonstrated, downtown parking might become a big problem when new projects are built on El Camino. So I am advocating that we better understand the situation and weigh all potential pragmatic solutions, including "better parking management", before it's too late. Also, using downtown parking space for purposes other than parking will BOTH create greater demand for more parking and eliminate existing spaces. How would that help?


Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 11:43 am

Hi Dana,

I agree that understanding the situation is important, and that's why I think it is critical to realize that traditional land use policies typically result in an excessive supply of parking in mixed-use town centers, including ours. As noted in the study I cited, concern over future development is often used as a justification for the oversupply of parking, but that doesn't change the fact that there is an oversupply.

Like any commodity, it is important to set the price of parking correctly. Technology is now being developed to allow demand-responsive pricing for parking (see Web Link and such approaches should be carefully considered for use in Menlo Park. We don't give away gas or food for free--why should we treat parking differently and assume that the principles of economics somehow don't also apply?


Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

David: I agree that parking pricing needs to be evaluated but keep in mind that anything that is more than modest fee would put Menlo Park downtown businesses at a competitive disadvantage as Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center do NOT charge parking fees for short term parking. Our "marketplace" determines what is reasonable and I doubt that downtown businesses would support significant parking fees. Thanks for providing your perspectives.


Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Perhaps our merchants would discover that catering to local residents who can walk or bike to their businesses can be more profitable than catering to car drivers who expect free parking. Perhaps even those car drivers would realize that paying a little bit for a convenient and available parking space (that is now available because it isn't being given away for free) is better than circling the Stanford Shopping Center parking lot. Perhaps everyone would realize how much more pleasant our downtown is without acres of asphalt parking lots or massive (and massively expensive) parking structures. Who knows?


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:37 pm

It is a terrible idea to turn the lots at Nelon Park into satellite downtown parking. not only does it displace the employees and users of the park, little house, the day care it will only move downtown permit holders on to the residential streets that are closer to downtown than Nelon Park. Additionally, the idea that because parking might be tight while a ramp is built so we shouldn't do it, is just plain silly. It is that sort of thinking that has gotten MP into this situation in the first place.


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 3:23 pm

If the homeowners and commercial property owners who do not pay their fair share of taxes due to prop 13, MP might actually be able to afford things like a parking ramp and an expanded shuttle.


Posted by MPer2
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 24, 2016 at 3:24 pm

If the homeowners and commercial property owners who do not pay their fair share of taxes due to prop 13, actually paid their fair share, MP might actually be able to afford things like a parking ramp and an expanded shuttle.


Posted by Dana Hendrckson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2016 at 3:43 pm

MPER, First, I provided MANY reasons why a parking structure might not be a good idea. Next, I believe Nealon could provide some permit parking without negative impact on other users of the parking lot and think this is worth study. If it were free and served by a convenient shuttle I expect many permit users would prefer it to paying $500/year now. Next, day-long parking on streets near downtown could easily be restricted by the city. Finally, are you willing to pay your share of a parking garage? The one proposed for Plaza 3 in the Specific Plan could easily cost at least $30M. There are 17, 800 registered voters in our city, so your share, in some form, is a $1680 “obligation” ($30,000,000 /17800 = ) plus any annual interest payments. If interest was 3.4% = 340,000 => $57/year. And if your household has two registered voters you can double this "tax".

By the way your 3 comments use three different neighborhoods. Very strange.


Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 25, 2016 at 5:08 am

I agree with David Roise that we should basically try everything else before seriously considering a parking structure.

Most importantly, why are the costs of building such a structure and who would pay for it so conveniently avoided?


Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Mike, the city study will determine the cost and possible financing sources for a parking garage so these subjects are NOT being avoided.


Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2016 at 7:44 pm

Until I or others have to circle downtown MP searching for a parking place we have no need of a 'parking structure'. I don't think I have ever had to park more than 1/2 to 1 block away from where I was to shop. This idea is bizarre. Are we nuts?


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2016 at 3:10 pm

@Dana

You have failed to give any credible evidence that the people using parking at Nelon wouldn't be inconvenienced by your plan. It is only your opinion and a option for you as you most likely do not use the parking there. Your "study" gives the solution for those people, they can park on the street. That sound inconvenient to me. Further if the city is forced to eliminate all day parking on residential streets because your plan simply pushes permit parkers to the surrounding streets, then these people will not be able to use the street as parking. You also have not explained how a shuttle will be paid for? How? You posted this idea on other forums and no one thought it was a good idea. Why, because it is not a good idea.

Also, I am already paying more than my fair share of property taxes as a recent buyer. Dana are you paying your fair share, you've lived here for 30 years. My guess is no.



Posted by parking downtown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Seems to be lots of parking downtown. If there were a problem, the Nealon idea is not the answer.


Posted by SUgrad
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 27, 2016 at 3:58 pm

I agree, taking parking away from people who use / work at Nealon Park & Little House only to bus others downtown makes no sense.


Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2016 at 4:16 pm

How much would a downtown parking garage cost? I'm guessing $50 MILLION to $100 MILLION for a small multi-story garage. Does Menlo Park really have enough downtown business to justify that cost? Are business owners willing to tax themselves to pay that?


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

How did/does Palo Alto pay for their parking garages?


Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2016 at 1:08 pm

MPER (and SUgrad): I have not actually proposed creating permit parking at Nealon as I have not studied all the trade-offs to determine if it could work NOR have I claimed that I did. Instead, I simply offered it as an example of something that MIGHT work and encourage the city to explore (study) it (and other similar possibilities). I am surprised you would oppose this POTENTIAL partial parking solution without any analysis to support your own opinion. If you have performed a sound analysis please share it with others so we can all benefit. Decisions like this should be based on sound data and assumptions and well-reasoned logic, not simply opinions. Agree?


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

@Dana

Your proposal or example or whatever you call it is full of assumptions you made. You previously proposed the same idea on Nextdoor and not one commentor thought it was a good idea. I don't need to do a comprehensive study to know that taking parking away from the patrons of little house and Nealon in order to bus permit parkers a 1/2 mile is not a good idea. It is not even a good example.


Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm

This post is titled Guest Opinion, Dana. Why when faced with opposing Opinions do you ask for a detailed study to support that opinion? Are you the only one who can have an opinion not backed by any real study?


Posted by Makes no sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Let me get this straight

1) Make seniors and park patrons park on the street and not in the parking already belonging to little house and Nealon
2) Give Nealon parking to day long downtown workers for Free (rather than a revenue generating $500/yr).
3) Bus downtown workers on a Free Shuttle 1/2 mile to downtown (where there is plenty of parking)

my questions

1) how does the city recoup revenue lost from getting rid of permit fees
2) who pays for the "free" shuttle







Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 1:33 pm

This is my response to all who oppose the Nealon Park idea I have presented on my website. 1. The city IS spending money on a study of a downtown parking garage because the city council perceives more short term parking is needed either now or in the future. (2) Their effort is consistent with the Specific Plan which recognizes potential parking problems and solutions. (3) It is not clear how much more downtown parking is needed.(4) A parking garage is expensive and the city might not be able to fund one - alone or with private or public assistance. (5) Even IF a parking garage is doable it would not be built for at least another five years. (6) Therefore I believe the city should seriously consider alternative solutions. (7) One approach is too see how the city property could be better utilized. For example, allocating more plaza parking to short term parking rather than permit parking and finding ways to still provide permit parking nearby. (8) Any change will likely require trade-offs that impact current users - some will benefit and others might feel disadvantaged. The kind and amount of both impacts matter. (9) If a central premise is that NO ONE will suffer any inconvenience then nothing will ever get done. (10) Nealon Park has public parking spaces and likely MORE could be added (11) I have proposed that the city understand (study) how this public resource is currently used and identify what changes MIGHT be reasonable. (12) I believe the idea is worthy of investigation and would accept whatever sound determination is made. (Would you?) (13) You are welcome to believe that either the city does not or will not have a downtown parking problem. (14) The best way to find out is to study the problem (which I advocate) and study potential pragmatic solutions (which I also advocate). (13) All your "challenging" questions would then have fact-based answers. (14) Are you afraid to have the facts? The results of a comprehensive analysis? Why? Do you simply believe you "know better"? Why?

I enjoy your "indignant" comments and assume many others do, as well. You should provide your names so they know who you are.


Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Resident: If you are going to spend time criticizing my ideas at least understand them first.

"Why when faced with opposing Opinions do you ask for a detailed study to support that opinion? Are you the only one who can have an opinion not backed by any real study?"

The central themes of my opinion piece are (1) that the city should study ideas that I feel are promising and (2) residents should become well informed about problems and potential solutions and then express their views to our city council. I did not recommend a study AFTER receiving criticism.

I actually welcome constructive fact-based criticism as it benefits all readers but do not care for unsupported opinions as they are not persuasive.


Posted by Makes no sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 29, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Dana

Why do assume that no one understands your proposal? I understand your idea and posed the questions that you still have yet to answer.

1) how does the city recoup revenue lost from getting rid of permit fees?
2) who pays for the "free" shuttle?
3) why is it OK to force old ladies and park patron to park on the street?

Maybe instead of getting defensive, you could simply answer the questions.



Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Makes No Sense: I do NOT assume that know one does not understand my idea. That is simply your posturing. I have presented information and a concept for a potential solution and recommend the city study it to see if it has merit. You do not like it and simply repeat questions that could only be answered accurately by collecting relevant data and rigorously analyzing the results, i.e., studying it. So we could get stuck in an endless loop and that's a waste of everyone's time (and you know it). So I will not participate in that kind of exchange. By the way, what solutions do you propose? Why do you feel they are reasonable? How will you know? It's easy to throw stones. Do you have any constructive ideas to contribute? Finding additional parking is a complex problem; so solutions will not be easy. It's also so easy act as an anonymous critic. Smile.

I will provide one obvious answer: The city would pay for this project IF it "makes sense".


Posted by Makes no sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Dana

Here's some alternate ideas to adding even more surface parking to downtown.

1) Force new developments to include public parking
2) Sell some of the city owned lots and build a more efficient parking ramp with the proceeds
3) study how other cities (PA, RWC, MV) have financed parking ramps and measure the economic impact
4) Do nothing - the popular choice in MP for many years, so why not now

All worth a study.

It is extremely hypocritical to expect me to have a detailed study behind my comments when you offer none to support yours. You won't even speculate to what the answers to very legitimate questions might be.

[Part removed. Please make your point without negative characterization of other posters.]


Posted by Joe Biacoloa
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Makes No Sense asks some good questions regarding this proposal.

Given the detail of the proposal, surely the author would have speculated as to how permit revenue would be replaced, how a shuttle might be paid for and why it would effect park and little house patrons who will lose their parking.

I do agree with Dana, his proposal does need more study to answer questions that were not considered in the first place


Posted by more parking
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I suggest the city study adding additional parking in front of Dana's house and provide a Free Shuttle to Downtown


Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Make no sense.... I have proposed the idea of ADDING permit parking spaces and possibly REPURPOSING some existing ones. A specific proposal cannot be made until we know how many spaces could be added and how the existing ones are currently used during weekdays. So I have proposed that the city determine the answers and the economics of such a project.

RE: "It is extremely hypocritical to expect me to have a detailed study behind my comments when you offer none to support yours. You won't even speculate to what the answers to very legitimate questions might be. "

I did not ask you for a detailed study as that would be unrealistic. I simply asked you how Menlo Park can add more downtown parking spaces. The Specific Plan recommends and the City Council believes we need them and I am recommending we identify alternatives to an expensive parking garage. I have not questioned the validity of your concerns - and there are likely more. I have simply stated that a study is needed to collect the data we need to address them.

More parking... I would love a free parking shuttle between my home and downtown!


Posted by Makes no sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

Dana

Based on your inability to even attempt to answer any questions about your proposal, how do expect anyone to take it seriously?

You obviously spent some time preparing this post, drawing diagrams and counting parking spaces. Yet you never even thought of basics, like how does a free shuttle get paid for? You can't even propose how right or wrong. Is it that answering the questions might poke holes in your proposal or that is wasn't very well thought out in the first place?


Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Makes no sense. Since you persistently ignore my answers and stubbornly repeat the same questions I will no longer attempt to explain my idea to you. I know who you are and my previous efforts to address your concerns have never satisfied you. So enuf is enuf. Peace.


Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:33 pm

A back-of-the-napkin rough cost analysis should be performed right from the start, otherwise this whole discussion is pointless. Are we talking $1M, $10M, or $100M to build a parking structure? And who is expected to pay for it?


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