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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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All Parking Permits Should Have a Fee

Uploaded: Sep 13, 2014
I favor the residential permit parking program being designed by the city and stakeholder committee. I am grateful to the staff and committee for their long and hard work to get close to a resolution. We live in downtown south and have underground parking in our condo building but I recognize the strain put on workers, residents and businesses by parking challenges downtown.

I favor the wide downtown area being proposed by staff and the committee—going to Embarcadero on one end and from Alma to Guinda. I understand that this wide an area is needed to provide sufficient worker parking spaces to be part of a workable solution along with demand management strategies to reduce auto travel and parking capacity strategies to increase capacity and make better use of existing capacity.

Even if there are streets without a current parking challenge now, those streets will soon be filled if only a few neighborhoods sign up. That "solution" is no solution as it will only move the existing parking further out and crowd another set of streets. I also favor the wide area as a sign that we are all involved in solving the challenge.

And I favor everyone who wants a permit paying for the permit and would give low fee preference to low wage workers, not residents.

In our building we paid for our parking. An underground garage costs money and that added to the price of our units. The same is true for many residents who have parking in their homes in the downtown area. Parking spaces are expensive because land is expensive in our area.

People who live in homes without garages or driveways paid less for their home in price or rent than those of us with adequate parking. There is no reason that I can see to subsidize people who live in a less expensive place by virtue if not having land for parking or for people who have chosen to use their garages for other purposes or for people who find it more convenient to park on the street than in their driveway.

The parking fees can be higher for certain employees or their employer but the fees being considered for residents ($50-$200) are very low—I would favor slightly higher fees.
The fees are a very minimal test for residents as to whether they want to participate in solving a shared problem or sit back and talk about "intruders" and complain about paying a much smaller amount for parking than those of us who have parking bundled in the cost of our home or rent.

If people in our building needed to buy permits for vendors of visitors (it has not been a problem as yet), I would gladly chip in my share.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace,
on Sep 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I live in College Terrace. I was initially opposed to the RPPP in CT, because I lived away from the immediate parking problem, and I didn't want to pay any fees. However, I have changed my mind. Our RPPP has worked well, and I don't have to worry about spillover parking. It improves my property values, too. I would support it in any neighborhood that has serious parking issues, as well as for the potential spillover neighborhoods.

Posted by Why Resident Fees?, a resident of another community,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 9:32 am

It seems, Steve, that you are OK with the idea of residents being asked to pay for mitigation of development impacts. That's the kind of thinking that revved people up against Measure D and the continuation of that outlook will just serve as a permanent burr under the saddle. New development needs to mitigate its own impacts - not the affected community.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 9:51 am

I have mixed views about all this.

On the one hand, I can see how residents would feel about not being able to park outside their own home on the street. I have friends in another town living on a street where there are residential parking permits. The parking permits must be displayed and the plate number must match the number on the permit to prevent homeowners from selling or leasing their permit. When we visit our friends, they park on the street and we are able to use their driveway. All the homes have widened their driveways to allow several cars park in their front yards. Some have done it tastefully and put in planters with bushes and other plants. Others just look like a concrete jungle complete with the trash cans. The street does not have pleasant eye appeal as a result. I think each home is allotted one free permit and can apply for a second at a charge, but the cars have to be registered at the said address in both cases.

Anything that appears to be "free" is much more likely to be abused than something that is paid for. If people have to pay for something they are much more likely to value it and use it correctly.

Q. 1 How would you deal with homeowners selling or leasing their parking permits for daytime use when their own cars are not at home? Would you feel that this is an abuse of the privilege?

Q. 2 How would you feel about all the homes widening driveways to allow parking on the front yard? Do you feel the tone of a neighborhood would be lowered if front yards lost their landscaping to provide parking for multiple cars? How would you feel if these homeowners then leased out the parking on their yards to nearby workers?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ resident

I favor letting permit holders sell them as we do for the emission reduction permits.

but the stakeholder committee for some reason did not support this and it is not in the current plan.

I think the widening driveway ides is a tough sell. I had not thought of it before you mentioned the idea and do not have an instant response.

@ why resident fees

I think a small fee will help reduce there being too many permits issued to people who do not need them.

I also think some/many residents have benefited from lower prices and rents because their living space did not provide parking and some have used garages and driveways for other purposes.

The causes of parking overcrowding are NOT simply new development. Univ Ave has gotten more popular for eating and drinking. Many older buildings now have more employees and visitors.

Posted by Why Resident Fees?, a resident of another community,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The bigger issue is that the residents did not create the impacts to their own neighborhoods- unless, that is, they can be faulted for voting for the wrong people who blissfully created the unmitigated impacts.

Posted by Already Paying, a resident of another community,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Small/no garages or driveways is a good argument, as far as it goes.

A 4 bedroom house that has two spaces for parking in their garage/driveway, but owns 4 vehicles. So, 2 extra vehicles parked regularly on the street. Contrast that with a company that is only supposed to have 50 employees, but has 50 more contractors working elbow-to-elbow in the hallways...where do they park? The street of course. If you held these companies accountable for ensuring parking spaces for their staff, then this permitting system would not be entirely necessary. Penalizing the residents is not the way to go.

I would much rather see some POSITIVE incentives for residents that do not own automobiles. Why should they pay the same tax as the rest of us? Give them a tax credit.

Posted by AnotherTax, a resident of Community Center,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Steve - where does this money go? If it is just a tax to modify behavior, then I am quite skeptical of the approach. However if the money is earmarked to build future infrastructure, it might make sense.

Are we just throwing money down another rathole?

Posted by Cathy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

My objection to the scheme is that, yes, it is a wide area when you are looking at the distance from Embarcadero to the creek, but we live on University, between Guinda and Seneca, just outside of the proposed restricted area, and the result of the proposed parking scheme is going to be a parking nightmare outside my house. Reason is that the walking distance from many streets over by the creek, or near Embarcadero, to downtown are significantly further than the distance from my house to downtown. It takes maybe 5 minutes for me to walk downtown. If I were someone who either can't afford, or doesn't want to purchase a parking permit, they are going to be looking for the closest parking spot, outside the restricted parking area - ie my house. Regardless of whether I agree with restricted parking permits (for the record I am not a fan), the determination of the area affected should have taken into account the distance of residents from the expected desired parking area.

Posted by No worries, a resident of another community,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Don't worry Cathy. If parking becomes a nightmare in your neighborhood, the city will simply expand the zone to cover you.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

how about a payroll tax like SF had before (portion deleted) nixed that.
How much would that generate here?

with or without free parking...

I brought this up in a private meeting with Keene, Stump, Fehrenbach and seven council candidates recently (I am running for City Council)

Mark Weiss

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of University South,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

So we live in an area that has absolutely no parking problems at this time. Right now I'm looking out the window and there are probably four spaces for every car currently parked on our block. However, we are slated to be part of this parking permit zone. Never mind that blocks much closer to downtown are not in the zone. Never mind that no one working downtown is going to walk this distance. Apparently the expectation is that instituting permits closer to downtown is going to cause parking problems on our block, so we are now going to have to pay for permits to fix those problems.

What's wrong with this picture? We're going to have to pay to solve a problem we don't have because permits are going to cause this problem. That's just not right. Bottom line, I don't want to be in the permit zone, but if I'm forced to be, I certainly don't want to pay for the privilege. Either charge the businesses, or every resident of the city should eat the cost (i.e., take it out of general tax dollars); don't shove permits down our throats AND send us the bill!

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

I am saying we should be making money, public sector, on the phenomenon of tech miracle; we don't have problem attracting tech. We have the opposite.

(portion deleted)

and the connection back to the topic is that the tech people are causing, indirectly, the parking problem the RPP will try to remedy; it's really the builders.

(portion deleted)

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 11:45 am


If someone lives in this area with parking problems ... which are the result of city policies, they should not get a unilaterally cost assigned to them for the city's mistakes. The city is supposed to design and manage the civic infrastructure of the city, period. This is a City thing brought about by City poor planning and management.

If the City is allowed to push the costs of their mistakes onto the people in the form of fees, then the City has no correct incentive for right behavior, and will continue NOT to build and manage parking and new construction in the city.

That is, if the cost of the parking problem shows up on the City budget as an ongoing, small but regular cost that no benefit comes from, then the City has an economic incentive to do the right thing and fix the parking problem, by building more parking space, or better managing the parking places we have now - and in addition requiring developers to build parking.

The collection of fees is also just another way to get their foot in the door to seek revenue, which they have not proven they can even manage to this point.

Posted by Kate Vershov Downing, a resident of Ventura,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Everything is about tradeoffs. The residents have complained that people are parking on their streets, so the city is trying to do something about it. It seems like if residents don't want a permit program, then the other option is to build a very expensive, multi-story parking garage (I hear that it costs about $50k per spot to build a garage). If the city does that, that's still coming out of our taxes and that still won't necessarily prevent someone from parking in a neighborhood if the neighborhood is closer to where the person is going than the garage.

Residents own their lots. They don't own the public streets. So I'm not sure where this argument is coming from that residents are being asked to pay for other people's development. No, they're being asked to pay for a public good same as everybody else. Just because we've enjoyed this public good for free, doesn't mean we're entitled to it forever, and certainly doesn't give us any claim of ownership over it.

I favor charging fees for street parking for everyone because it rewards people who have decided to forego a car and because it incentivizes people to actually use their garages and driveways instead of parking on the street. I myself am guilty of this. My garage is used for storage, so I park in my driveway and have my guests park in the street. But you better believe that if I had to pay for that street parking, I'd clean out my garage.

You see this problem all the time in SF. SF is filled with homes that have garages, but they don't actually park in their garage. So their cars are in the street taking up space AND you can't park in front of their driveway. So they essentially take up two or more street spaces (car + driveway) when they already have a perfectly good garage. It's one of the reasons that parking in SF is such a bear.

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of another community,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

@CrescentParkAnon: if the city (all residents) should eat the cost of its mistakes, as you characterize them, then, to be fair, should the city (all residents) also eat the profit of increased property values due to the things it does right? After all, that should _really_ provide "correct incentive" to do things right. Right?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

"Reality Check", ... your "if and then" has no connection to anything, it's arbitrary and meaningless.

Why should the city have a right to "eat" as you say so objectively and reasonably (NOT) the profit from my house, to which I have contributed my taxes to a system that is supposed to maintain and manage said city. Is this an augment you or anyone else believes in either?

You are making too much of the word mistakes as if you think I am trying to be punitive, but on the contrary I am trying to describe incentives in place for the City to manage its work based on costs, and if they can just shift those costs onto the residents it is merely and excuse for picking our pockets, not a path to a solution of a city problem.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

augment - was supposed to be argument.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Crescent Park,

Even if more parking is built downtown, people will park in front of your house if it free, and the parking downtown is priced to recover the cost?

Surely you don't think everybody is entitled to free parking downtown?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Palo Alto's next door neighbor, Stanford, addressed the problem of allocating scarce parking spaces over 35 years ago - anything that is both scarce and free will result in big conflicts. There is no reason that parking in any public space, which includes public streets, cannot be better regulated by a permit and fee system.

Web Link

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 17, 2014 at 12:24 am

> Surely you don't think everybody is entitled to free parking downtown?

Yeah, I do, when it exists. But - if it doesn't exist, the city has fumbled, and temporary steps need to be taken. Parking in Palo Alto is a problem in lots of places because of many factors, and it is City wide problem, a civil engineering issue. Houses have garages that are too small, or driveways that force people to cars behind one another so they park on the street. People store stuff in garages or convert them to bedrooms because the land is worth so much that devoting so many square feet to cars is uneconomical.

New construction is not helping to fix these problems most of the time. There's reasons for all of it, but it is a City problem, so the City should manage it out of the budget it has. And what does the City do with all the money it collects anyway, and why is it always asking for more and doing less.

(Portion deleted)

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 17, 2014 at 12:28 am

(Sentence deleted)
Stanford is completely different than Palo Alto.
It does not have the distances.
It does not have the traffic.
It has a younger demographic who can walk and bike more.
They have more walking paths, and more direct, walking paths.
They have a cohesive social group and can take busses.
They exist for a purpose and can plan and manage that much more easily.
Stanford is campus, not a City.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 10:44 am

stephen levy is a registered user.


Again you make my case.

We live in a 17 unit condo that has 34 underground parking spaces. If parking spaces cost $50,000 to construct my two spaces added $100,000 to my home cost. If the spaces cost only 1/5 as much, each of us added $20,000 to our housing costs.

We paid for out parking.

You cite people without driveways or garages or who are using their garages for storage. why is that my problem? That was their choice. Why should it absolve them from paying a fee for a parking permit?

I paid for my parking. Why shouldn't everyone? The people without parking are paying less in price or rent than those of us who constructed adequate parking.

You write as if the parking challenge is only a result of downtown development. That is not true. There are many causes including as you mention people using their garages or who choose to park on the street when they have driveways.

It is a shared problem that is best solved by a shared solution.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Please note that Stanford does not charge for all parking!! Parking at Stanford shopping center is free. Palo Alto can start charging for parking downtown for shoppers, when all surrounding shopping areas charge for parking.

I would like Palo Alto to accommodate low wage workers and those of us who want to spend more than two hours downtown shopping or having lunch. I think there should be more one day parking permits at more reasonable prices. $17.50, the current day charge at the Bryant Street garage, is too high, imho. Palo Alto seems to facilitate reserving monthly spots for high wage workers, for whom it is a drop in the bucket or whose company pays the fee. Then they often don't use them every day, leaving lots of empty reserved spots unused.

Perhaps most of the monthly slots should be converted to daily spots that can be occupied first come first serve at a reasonable price. Or perhaps less desirable slots (i.e. rooftop slots) could cost less. Since many people would stay less than the full day, they would probably make more money. As the more privileged would also be scrambling for parking, they might be more motivated to figure out how to provide more parking.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 22, 2014 at 10:57 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

At the last parking meeting an interesting discussion took place about the relative pricing of parking permits for employees on the street versus in the garages.

I suggested that the city flip the proposed fees, which were less for on the street than in garages.

Perhaps $250/year in garages and $500 on the street--to incentivize use of empty garage space.

I also suggested for down the line, not in the first phases, that permits be allowed to be sold and that residents pay a fee.

Selling or trading permits is the efficient way to allocate spaces allowing residents who do not need permits to benefit and preventing the city from issuing permits that will not be used.

Resident fees are controversial but I pointed out that my family paid a lot for our underground parking that added to the cost of our condo and residents who did not have to pay for garages or driveways should not be allowed free street permits as they are already thousands of dollars ahead of my family and those others who paid for their garages and driveways.

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