News

Stanford backs away from divisive Dish parking plan

University agrees to go back to original proposal, with back-in angled parking

After pressure from the city and an outpouring of opposition from hikers who frequent the Dish, Stanford University is backing away from a proposal to reduce parking on Stanford Avenue and shift it to a location more than half a mile away from the popular hiking trail.

The proposal to change the parking alignment was spurred by a joint effort by Stanford and Palo Alto to build new trails around the Dish and along El Camino Real, a project known as the Stanford Perimeter Trail. The project received a boost in 2012 when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors released $4.5 million for the trails program.

In recent months, however, residents who frequent the scenic hiking trail have come out in opposition to the proposed parking realignment. Earlier this month, dozens of residents attended a City Council meeting to argue that shifting parking away from Stanford Avenue, which leads to the entrance gate of the Dish, to a site on Coyote Hill Road would effectively strip many Dish walkers of access to the preserve. Several speakers said they would no longer have the time to use the nature preserve.

At the same time, residents of Stanford Avenue and surrounding streets raised alarms about the already dangerous traffic situation in their neighborhood and urged Stanford to do something about it.

In response, Mayor Nancy Shepherd submitted a letter to Stanford asking the university to reconsider its parking proposal. She noted that the parking plan is the only aspect of the project that does not have public support. She argued that when the council agreed to support the trail program, the city had assumed that the project would include back-in parking, rather than parallel parking, on Stanford Avenue. The back-in parking would accommodate more parking spaces and compensate for the loss of parking on the north side of Stanford, a loss made necessary by the new trails.

Shepherd wrote that the change of plans, which would shift 33 parking spots from Stanford to Coyote Hill Road, is "not acceptable to Palo Alto."

"This proposal eliminates too many parking spaces on Stanford Avenue," Shepherd wrote in the Feb. 13 letter.

"In light of the Council's and public's concerns about long-established access to the Dish via Stanford Avenue, we ask Stanford to continue to work with us in the spirit of our joint application to minimize the loss of parking on Stanford Avenue while also providing additional parking on Coyote Hill Road, so that there is in effect a parking increase."

In response, Stanford agreed to reconsider the parking plan. Larry Horton, the university's senior associate vice president, wrote to Shepherd that Stanford is willing to revert to the back-in-parking plan. Horton noted that Stanford backed out of the plan out of concern that the County would reject it.

"Our application for this project is not yet complete and at this stage, we can go back to our original plan and we agree to do so," Horton wrote. "If both the City and Stanford jointly support back-in angle parking, I believe we will have an excellent chance of getting this program approved by the County."

Horton also agreed to Shepherd's request that 33 new parking spaces be added along Coyote Hill Road. The university also concluded that it cannot support adding parking to Junipero Serra Boulevard, finding that the roadway is too busy and would not be safe. Horton said the inclusion of back-in parking and the addition of Coyote Hill spaces would result in 91 parking spaces, 18 more than currently exist (now, there are 60 parallel-parking spaces on Stanford Avenue, between Raimundo Way and Junipero Serra, and 13 spaces east of Raimundo Way).

Horton also pointed out that reverting to the original plan, with back-in parking, would depend on County approval. Thus, even with Stanford's support, it is not a sure deal.

"I must point out that if we cannot achieve approval of the back-in angle parking from the County, Stanford will have to pursue approval of a parallel parking scheme on Stanford Avenue," Horton wrote. "But we will work diligently and pursue vigorously with you the County's approval of the back-in angle parking. I am confident that together, we will succeed."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:21 am

Of the ideas I've seen for the Dish access, this proposal has to be the worst. Motorists stopping, backing up in a travel lane and across the bike lane to park? And when departing, turn signals obscured by other parked cars, the driver will dart back across the bike lane to go in the opposite direction from which he or she came. There will be the craziest inventory of U-turns and other maneuvers in this stretch of Stanford Avenue endangering all road users. All this done so that more motorists can access the Dish?

I thought that the Stanford Perimeter Trail exercise was to improve the health and recreational opportunities for nearby residents. Where were those experienced in pedestrian and bicycle safety when this shameful scheme was hatched? Santa Clara County should put an immediate halt to allowing its money to be spent on the pursuit of this particular proposal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The facts on back-in parking are useful:

Web Link

"The trend for back-in angle spaces has been catching on rapidly in cities all over the U.S. For safety reasons, not one city in the U.S. has added front-in angled parking next to an active roadway since 2006 and the Downtown Pensacola Parking Management District (DPMD) has chosen to follow suite. After year one of introducing Downtown Pensacola to back-in angle parking, traffic accidents have decreased 100%."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:14 am

Wow, tough nut to crack. I feel empathy for all of the constituencies around this issue.

No easy answers here. Peter's Pensacola reference is interesting but I worry that traffic on Juniper Serra is moving on a largely unimpeded throughway. Less diligent drivers (after all 49% of drivers are below average) will not be expecting somebody to stop to back in (even with signal blinking) and will pull up behind the stopped vehicle, blocking access to the spot. Anybody that has tried to properly back into a parallel parking spot in any city will know what I mean. I can imagine more than a few horn honks and angry gestures.

On the other hand if proposal for the angled spots is that they are set far enough in with a full car lane width behind them then folks could get out of the traffic lane to back in. Ideally that lane should be on the parking side of the bike lane or cyclist safety concerns could be overwhelming.

Anyway, I hope there is a solution that opens up parking spots in this area. Stanford Ave residents deserve less congestion, but the Dish is an one of the most heavily used resources shared by Stanford with the local community. I'm grateful that Stanford has historically made this facility available to all and would be incredibly sad and disappointed to see it become less freely available.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"but I worry that traffic on Juniper Serra is moving on a largely unimpeded throughway."

No parking is being proposed for Juniper Serra.


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