Menlo Park survey: Most residents want above-ground parking facility

Residents like Menlo Park, except for the traffic, and they give it low marks for shopping

About two-thirds of Menlo Park residents support an above-ground parking facility, according to a new city survey by Godbe Research.

The research firm conducted the survey in 2015 online and over the phone, which garnered responses from 744 of Menlo Park's 24,777 residents ages 18 and older, according to Bryan Godbe of Godbe Research, who presented the results at the Jan. 12 City Council meeting. The results are a representative sample of the city's adult population, he said.

Jim Cogan, the city's housing and economic development manager, said he was happy to see the support for a garage. A parking garage, he said, is "the linchpin in development opportunities for some of the things people would like to see" in downtown Menlo Park.

Menlo Park received low marks in the retail category, with only 35 percent of respondents saying Menlo Park is a good or excellent place to shop.

Participants were also fairly lukewarm about downtown Menlo Park, with about 56 percent saying they were somewhat or very satisfied and about 30 percent who were somewhat or very dissatisfied. When asked what they'd like downtown, about 26 percent said they'd like to see more restaurants and bars.

Overall, though, 90 percent of the Menlo Park residents who participated in the survey said Menlo Park is a good or excellent place to live. The approval percentage is down from a 97 percent rating in 2012.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said their Menlo Park neighborhood is a good or excellent place to live, while 84 percent said Menlo Park is a good place to raise children. Seventy-nine percent gave Menlo Park excellent or good marks as a "visually attractive community."

Two-thirds of respondents said the police department was "excellent or good" at addressing neighborhood concerns. Sixty-six percent said Menlo Park has a strong sense of community.

Traffic woes

One aspect of Menlo Park life receiving negative ratings, for an overall score of "somewhat dissatisfied," was traffic flow on major streets during commute hours.

The city scored around a "neither satisfied nor dissatisfied" rating on neighborhood traffic flow and on its land use, planning and zoning services.

City Manager Alex McIntyre said the community survey is like a kid's report card. A teacher may tell parents on a regular basis that their child is doing well, but it's not until the report card comes home that weaknesses are revealed, or one is assured that "the kid really was doing great," he said.

Mr. McIntyre was pleased with this report card, though he added: "I'm not suggesting it's all positive. We certainly have work to do."

Generally, the items people expressed dissatisfaction with are things "we were already aware of," he said.

The survey also broke down ratings of different city services. Overall, people were most pleased with police emergency services and library facilities. Parks and Recreation scored highest on overall attractiveness and cleanliness of park facilities (which Mr. Godbe said was rare) and the ease of access to parks, and lowest on organized sports for adults.

In the category of public works, residents were most satisfied with yard waste, recycling and garbage pickup and least satisfied with traffic signal timing.

The libraries scored highest on customer service and lowest on library hours and programs for adults and teens, though people were still "somewhat satisfied." City communications scored highest with its activity guide and lowest on the website,, but still registered "somewhat satisfied" marks.

Mr. Godbe said that Godbe Research is in the process of further organizing the data to show results from different geographic segments of the city, and will share those results with the city when completed.

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12 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I estimate that a parking structure that would add about 450 net new spaces would likely cost more than $25M so Menlo Park will need BOTH a private partner who would we willing to invest in it AND substantial outside public funds. At this point Menlo Park does not need an exhaustive study. Rather, the City should research possible partners and funding sources to see what financial support might be available AND what the City would need to provide and accept in order to transform this "dream" into a "reality" in the next 5 to 10 years.

There is an analysis of the need for additional downtown parking in the Specific Plan and possible identified solutions are summarized at Web Link.

A cost model is described at Web Link

15 people like this
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm

The way the survey was worded looking at the report on the town website didn't give respondents an alternative to Above Ground Parking. For example, the question could have asked Rank On A Scale the following (a) no change to current parking (b) underground parking (c) single multistorey car park (d) multiple multistorey car parks (e) Other. The survey could also have asked for number of floors for a multistorey and preferred location for a car park (El Camino, train station, University/Santa Cruz/Oak etc.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jym Clendenin
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Jym Clendenin is a registered user.

I thought the City had already decided through the visioning process to build parking structures. Most shoppers don't mind ground and 1st floor parking in a structure that is designed with good lighting, etc.

The logical way to utilize a parking structure to maximize surface parking (beyond the structure) for shoppers is to build the structure with underground as well as possibly 3rd floor rooftop parking, then charge low rates on the extreme floors for all-day parking while prohibiting it elsewhere. Since about 1/3 of present surface parking is all-day (employees, etc), this should open surface parking for shoppers.

10 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I question why they led with the parking. I was surprised by the numbers who feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods, at night. What areas and how many respondents for each? Also, the number who think MP is a good place to live has gone down steadily. Why? More resources for safety, infrastructure, low-cost housing - not for garages to park cars. I've lived here a long time and only at Christmas have I had trouble finding a nearby parking place.

The city officials need to prioritize and address those most urgent needs, then consider the likes and such that are very costly.

9 people like this
Posted by Marianne
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Jan 14, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Good grief! People want more bars and restaurants; we have more than enough downtown as it is. Don't people eat at home anymore? As for traffic, well, with more bars etc., I guess we'd need more parking. However, if people know parking is difficult, perhaps they'd be encouraged to car pool in the evening. I don't see how a parking structure would ease the traffic congestion downtown. Even if the convenience of parking along and around Santa Cruz is removed, there will still be many cars driving along Santa Cruz and El Camino. As for the expense--again, good grief.

4 people like this
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Assuming Ms. Hendrickson's estimates of the cost of a new parking garage, the math works like this:

$25,000,000 / 450 = $55,555 per space.

Cost per space is the most transarent means of communicating parking costs to the electorate.

7 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2016 at 10:42 pm

People were asked whether they want a parking garage (in the abstract), not whether they want a parking garage given the cost of construction.

Perhaps a better survey would be "Would you be willing to pay a tax increase of $XY to fund a parking garage?"

9 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2016 at 9:38 am

I question the long-term “need” for any such multi-story parking garage once Menlo Park is fully transformed into “Menlo Office Park”. When all the unique and useful local retail businesses have successfully been driven out of town by the ridiculously high rents, who would ever want or need to come to Menlo Park? This includes the restaurants some like so much. which will also be forced to leave. Menlo Park is fast losing its former unique identity, which is being replaced by a bland and boring office park with no soul; our once-charming city will soon have lost what remains of its unique character. There will no longer be any traffic congestion caused by shoppers and diners driving to and from downtown because there will no longer be any interesting or useful retail destinations within our city. (Yes, the moving parking lot that is all too often El Camino will remain, but Menlo Park will just be a place one has to drive though on one’s way to and from somewhere else.)

And most surveys are designed to give the answers the organization paying for those surveys wants. This one may have been no different. I do not know for sure, as I was not part of this survey. I, too, question why this survey was not broken down to state important demographics: age, gender, income level, residential area, length of residence in Menlo Park.

(FWIW, about 3% of our city’s adult residents were surveyed.)

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


how would offices being built on ECR drive out retail establishments on Santa Cruz? They are zoned differently. It's not like the building owners on Santa Cruz can convert retail space to office space. The people in those offices are going to want to eat somewhere.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Actually offices on ECR will increase the demand for good quality retail establishments in the downtown area.

And quality sells - anyone notice how busy Collettes is?

7 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

The garage -- like all parking -- should be paid for by user fees. Otherwise, you are forcing those who walk or bike or take transit to pay for parking either through taxes or built into the price of goods.

It's high time motorists paid their own way. "Free" parking, like anything that's "free" just means the users are enjoying massive subsidies at the expense of non-users.

The myriad other problems with free parking have been extensively detailed by Professor Donald Shoup in his seminal and excellent book "The high cost of free parking". See: Web Link

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

How about instead of the parcel tax the MPCSD wants and doesn't really need, we do the same parcel tax to pay for a parking garage? I'd have no problem with that. It's money that's actually needed.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2016 at 8:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The garage -- like all parking -- should be paid for by user fees."

""Free" parking, like anything that's "free" just means the users are enjoying massive subsidies at the expense of non-users."

Stanford figured that out over 40 years ago - here is the report:

Web Link

Caution - it is a big file.

Like this comment
Posted by Bull Feathers
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 15, 2016 at 9:43 pm

Reality Check,

Quit drinking the Kool Aid. Less than 20% of gasoline taxes goes to maintaining and building roads. The rest goes in the general fund--And our feckless Governor Jerry Brown wants to increase gasoline taxes more.

I have a novel idea. How about using the existing gasoline taxes for roads and parking. Then CalTrain, MUNI, SamTrans, and BART can wean themselves from gasoline taxes and we can build all the garages we want without borrowing any money from anyone. How would you like that?

Hardly anyone could afford to pay to use public transportation if it received no subsidies from gasoline taxes. Gasoline, by far, subsidizes far more alternative transportation projects than any other transportation group. Parking garages are a public benefit that benefit the largest group of people who travel.

Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 15, 2016 at 9:43 pm

General Motors just invested $500,000,000 in Lyft. From Time Magazine:

The “future of mobility” concept is gaining lots of steam in Detroit. Ford CEO Mark Fields, for instance, has been talking about what he calls “smart mobility” for at least a year. The Dearborn, Michigan company is experimenting with projects like car-sharing apps and Internet-connected bicycles. It has also opened an office in Silicon Valley, along with other car companies.

Taken together, these moves and others represent an acknowledgement among automakers that our relationship to vehicles and transportation is on the verge of a potentially massive paradigm shift. For decades, a big part of the American dream has been a house in the suburbs with one, two or even three cars in the garage. But self-driving cars stand to upend all that. Why would anybody spend tens of thousands of dollars on a vehicle that sits idle for most of its life, when they could just hail a self-driving car with the tap of an app instead?

Fewer cars and self-driving cars mean less demand for parking. Do we really want to build a parking garage at this point in time?

Like this comment
Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 16, 2016 at 2:28 am

Rational is a registered user.

MP Resident: I don't have a strong opinion about the parking lot, but I think you're being too optimistic about the paradigm shift. It will start happening in the next few years, I agree, but it will take a generation to mature. I have an 11 year old car and plan to drive it another decade. Many people will continue to buy conventional cars for quite some time and drive them far into the future. And self driving cars will need to be parked somewhere when they're idle. Meanwhile Menlo Park and surrounding areas will continue to grow, so even if self driving fleets reduce the number of cars per capita there will still be a lot of cars that need to be parked.

Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 16, 2016 at 7:24 am

RE Parking fees, POPULAR neighboring retail areas like the Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, and the Palo Alto Town & Country - Menlo Park's primary "brick and mortar" competition- do NOT charge for shopper parking for a good reason. They want to ENCOURAGE shoppers.

A parking structure MIGHT be affordable if Menlo Park can secure public funds from the county, state and federal government AND businesses who are incentivized to join a partnership. These options should be investigated BEFORE the city spends a lot of time, money and staff resources on project designs.

The Palo Alto Town & Country offers an appealing mix of shopping experiences and is THRIVING. Menlo Park cannot emulate Palo Alto and Stanford but could strive to attract the types of retailers eager for a place at the PA Town & Country but cannot secure the space. I personally feel Menlo Park has enough restaurants but welcome more outdoor dining and one or two "pubs".

Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Bullfeathers: Please have a look at the research. There are lots of myths about transporation funding which cloud our decision-making process:

Do Roads Pay for Themselves?: Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by timing is everything
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Knowing Menlo Park, we'd build a big parking structure right in time for autonomous cars and carbon taxation to fundamentally change how we get around. Good times!

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 18, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


at the rate we are able to get things done in this town you're probably right.

Like this comment
Posted by whoa nelly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm

whoa nelly - why is anyone talking about parcel taxes, funding sources, new partners?

Garages downtown were proposed in the Specific Plan as public amenities. The beneficiaries of the plan's significant upzoning were supposed to help fund public amenities. Yes, the projects that were given development rights were expected to give something back in addition to buildings something new.

The Council is failing us by not imposing a way to fund the improvements that helped sell the plan. On the developers, not us residents.

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

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