News - September 8, 2010

Parking changes coming to downtown

• In a test, the city will restrict parking to one hour along downtown Santa Cruz Avenue.

by Sandy Brundage

The New Year will herald new parking rules for Menlo Park. The City Council voted 4-1 on Aug. 31 to test a plan that changes time restrictions on downtown parking areas after the holiday season.

Two-hour parking along downtown Santa Cruz Avenue will be cut to one hour, with 15- to 20-minute spots added at each corner. Other streets, such as Oak Grove and Menlo Avenue, would double the current one-hour restriction to two hours.

Not everyone was thrilled about the changes. Shawn Blackburn, owner of Vizions Artwear & Salon at 644 Santa Cruz Ave., said the plan doesn't address the need of customers to park for longer than two hours.

"Most business customers are there for about two hours, on pins and needles the whole time, and sometimes they don't make it in time," said Mr. Blackburn. "It's hard to get customers, hard to keep customers, hard to keep them happy, and they're not happy when they spend $100 on their hair and then get a parking ticket."

Wilbur Smith Associates conducted a study that indicated that the two main complaints were the number of two-hour spots taken by employees, who then shuffle their cars from spot to spot to avoid a $42 ticket, and a lack of parking options for downtown trips lasting longer than two hours, since all eight parking plazas carry a one- to two-hour limit.

The $55,000 redesign would create 26 unrestricted spaces on the periphery of downtown to encourage employees to park farther away. In addition, annual permits for plaza two, between Crane Street and Chestnut Street off Oak Grove Avenue, will be reduced by half, and re-allocated among the other plazas.

Parking plazas one, between El Camino Real and Chestnut Street, and five, at the intersection of Santa Cruz Avenue and Evelyn Street, would provide two hours of free parking, then charge an hourly rate, giving people the option to buy more time.

"This has been a long time coming. The nastiest letters we get are from people who get parking tickets they think are unfair," said Councilman Heyward Robinson.

The council asked city staff to ensure there would be a 30-day grace period once the city implements the changes in January. Police would give out only warning notices with maps depicting the new parking scheme instead of tickets.

Remaining true to form, Councilman Andy Cohen dissented, stating he wasn't confident the plan would work. "I'm fully ready to eat my hat when you guys turn out to be right," he said.


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