Parking changes coming to Menlo Park

City agrees to test new configuration

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

Two-hour parking on 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, 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 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, off Oak Grove Avenue, will be reduced by half, and re-allocated among the other plazas.

Parking plazas one, off El Camino Real, and five, off Santa Cruz Avenue, 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 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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Posted by ParkingAnyone?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I hate to be a naysayer concerning the new parking allocations in downtown Menlo being tried by the City Council, but I am glad that we do not have a business there anymore. The short-term parking was a problem with our patrons before and I think that this plan will only exacerbate it. I read about Redwood City's meters in a previous post. Why not do that? At least explore this option. That gives you the option to spend as much time downtown as you need without penalty. Thoughts???

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Posted by Richard Masoner
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Did the transportation consultants make any mention that regulatory rationing in the form of parking time limits don't work well? It's expensive to the city (requires constant enforcement), nobody -- shoppers or businesses -- are happy with the results, and you *still* have a shortage of parking. Charge market rates for the parking space rental, and put the revenue directly back into the neighborhood (i.e. not the general city budget).

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Posted by Christian Brennan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

With the exception of one or two days a year (for example, the nasty Conn. Market, which is a whole separate issue!), there is never a lack of open parking spaces in downtown. As one of the few merchants still open downtown, I think this parking ticket issue is a total scam!!! I would be curious to know what the town pays those 2 officers who spend their entire days handing out $42 tickets. And I did notice that they got jazzy new little vehicles to do it in as well! It seems to me that the town wants to discourage people from shopping and spending time downtown! I have never been to a place that seemed so content being almost blighted.

I know that parking tickets are a necessary evil, but $42... seriously? Honestly when I started reading this article, I thought that the town had come to it's senses and relaxed the time limit. How foolish of me! Why wouldn't we want to penalize the people infusing the town with money and patronage?!

And since you brought up the issue of Lot 2 off of Oak Grove... Is this the lot that has that HUGE eyesore, creepy van always parked in it??!! Oh, but that is allowed since it has a handicapped permit in the window. Riiiight.... because that makes sense! So let me get this straight, I have a business, pay taxes, have a regular looking car....but still get tickets and that dilapidated van can park for YEARS bc it has a handicap sign?!

I think Menlo Park needs to think about re-evaluate here... before all of the merchants and patrons decide to go elsewhere.

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Posted by Knute
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 2:23 pm

It would seem to make sense to put elevated parking in the lots south of Santa Cruz; isn't the core problem that there aren't enough spots to go around? Raising parking fees and reducing the time limits for free parking just makes shopping in the Santa Cruz Ave. corridor more of a hassle, and chases away customers that the city needs. Expecting business owners and employees to go out every couple of hours and move their car around is also ridiculous- that does NOTHING to ease parking congestion, and just wastes time & resources. Why not sell a monthly parking pass?

Palo Alto doesn't seem to have had a problem adding parking garage space, why can't Menlo Park?

Like this comment
Posted by Kenneth Parcell
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Abstention Andy strikes again! How was this guy ever a judge, is my question?

Like this comment
Posted by Too Much Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm

There are WAY too many people making sense on this blog! So, why is it that people speak out who are citizens, patrons of downtown, and/or business owners, but we can't seem to put a lousy two story, brick, nice looking with gardens, parking garage?? You would hardly notice it. I listened to the countless discussions about the parking downtown, thru the downtown visionary process, and it seemed everyone was in favor of doing something like this. IT DOES NOT HAVE TO LOOK LIKE A CONCRETE BUNKER!! There are ways to hide it, or dig down one story, have one story at grade, and one story above that, hence a 3 story garage. Let's stop the nonsense, this would work, look nice, and be beneficial to trying to amp up our downtown businesses!

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Posted by Wow
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

Too Much Sense....BRAVO! Of course you realize your reasonable, intelligent suggestions will be ignored for some lunatic reason...perhaps another $100,000.00 study telling us the same thing the other ones have is in order...but it was nice to see such succinct, sensible, realistics ideas. With people like you, there is hope yet.

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Posted by Downtown Business Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I don't know about other areas downtown but most of the time, the parking in front of my store was taken up - at least for the 1st 2 hours of the day - by my neighboring stores' employees/owners. This isn't so much of a problem now that 1/3 of the block we're on is vacant but limiting Santa Cruz Ave parking would help my customers park close to my store.

On the subject of parking garages, my take is that the City is not planning on paying for the garages but would assess the business owners for the cost. What that really means is that the merchants would ultimately pay for it/them. I would love to see a parking garage or two downtown but right now, there is no way I could help pay for them and stay in business.

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Posted by Customer
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I tend to avoid downtown Menlo because the parking is too difficult. Who can eat at a restaurant for a nice lunch under an hour? I will go there even less when parking is only for an hour. Palo Alto has restaurants and garages.

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Posted by Downtown Business Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm

To Customer - the only change is parking ON Santa Cruz Ave. There is still 2 hour parking in the lots behind the stores.

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Posted by halle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Too bad. I'll probably not shop in Menlo much any more as I don't need tickets. I am a Menlo homeowner!

You can hire (as you do currently, at the least)people to give us tickets and have only one person patrolling to make sure we can cross a crosswalk without being hurt.

I am so tired of the complaints against Andy Cohen. He is the only councilman that I respect!!

Like this comment
Posted by what?
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm


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Posted by Amy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:58 am

If they are changing the parking again, why not change the name of the town at the same time to "MENLO can't PARK"?

Between Redwood City and Town & Country I can shop for all the same products on my to do list - coffee, books, housewares, kids clothes, stationary - and I still have time to explore a new shop, or pick up something on a whim. I have been ticketed in Menlo too often to allow myself this treat. If I have to go to Menlo now, it's strictly In-Out. Shame really since the town is so charming.

I think it's upto the Menlo shop keepers to lobby the parking powers that be. If Towh Hall is concerned that there aren't enough parking and makes it even harder, they may just get their wish - Fewer and fewer people will come to Menlo and Santa Cruz Avenue will be wide open for them.

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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Can someone explain to me why everyone thinks we have a parking problem to begin with? I have lived in Menlo Park since 1997. I shop and frequent downtown businesses often. I never have trouble finding a spot and I have never been ticketed. There is ample parking in the parking lots in the rear of all the businesses along Santa Cruz. More often than not, I can find a place on Santa Cruz itself. And, when I can't, I simply drive around back and find one in the spacious parking lots btwn. Santa Cruz and Menlo Ave. or btwn. Santa Cruz and Oak Grove. You might have to walk a block, but since when is that a problem? I have far more trouble parking in downtown Palo Alto or Redwood City than I do in Menlo Park.

So, I don't understand the need for an ugly cement block multi-story parking garage. Nor do I understand why the city needs to shorten the parking limit.


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Posted by Atherton Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm

There is nothing wrong with the parking in Menlo Park as it is now. Why does someone in power feel the need to change it? I have never once not been able to find a parking space downtown and like the last commenter never received a ticket. Shorter times are definitely going to discourage me from going downtown and spending an afternoon there with my kids, or a quiet morning there without them. Parking garages are a hassle and take much more time to enter and exit than a flat lot as they exist now. Maybe they can construct a garage in one of those lots with empty buildings on El Camino Real? Or how about the corner with the closed tanning salon/ bathing suit store?

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Posted by Downtown Business Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Again - the only parking times that are changing are those ON Santa Cruz Ave. There is still 2 hour parking in the lots behind the stores. It sure seems as if the perception is that this change drastically affects parking downtown. I don't see it that way at all and in fact, the limit on Santa Cruz Ave will help those who just need to pop in and out of a store downtown.

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Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I have been happy to shop in Menlo Park for years, but the current councilmembers seem determined to push me out. The restaurants can't guarantee that I'll get lunch in less than an hour. Beauty shops can't promise me a haircut or spa treatment in under an hour. The clothiers and other shops would love for me to keep shopping for 2 or 3 hours.

I agree with those proposing 2- or 3-level garages, maybe like the one off California Ave in Palo Alto. But PLEASE don't cut the already short parking times in Menlo Park.

Like this comment
Posted by tom h
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

we really need a new city council!
and this move proves it.

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm

So, yet ANOTHER policy decision/action this Council puts of until AFTER the election since implementation does not happen until Jan. 1st. We need leaders, not these guys (and gal). I'll vote for anyone who states he/she will make decisions and not just keep hiring consultants and putting off decision making until it is more politically comfortable.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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