Tonight: Weigh in on possible parking structure in downtown Menlo Park


The topic of whether to build a downtown parking garage is back on Menlo Park's priorities list. To gather feedback on the details of what locals want in a potential downtown parking structure, the city of Menlo Park will host a community meeting tonight (Monday, April 16) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at 701 Laurel St. at the Menlo Park Civic Center.

Topics scheduled for discussion include whether to pursue a stand-alone parking structure or a mixed-use development; if affordable housing should be a use considered there; what the size and number of parking spaces should be; and how the structure might compare with structures in other cities. According to the city website, a 2010 downtown Menlo Park parking study found that 80 percent of parking spaces were in use during peak hours in the downtown area.

A 2015 Almanac story pointed out that the topic has been discussed extensively for many years. "Four-level parking garage downtown?" was an Almanac headline from 2005; "Parking garages near top of city priority list" from 2004; and "Menlo Park takes new look at parking garages" from 2003. There were also innumerable discussions during the five-year specific plan process.

Most recently, in December, a group of Menlo Park business owners and supporters presented the City Council with a petition voicing support for a parking structure. The council added the topic to their top priorities list in January.


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2 people like this
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2018 at 12:25 pm

I'm encouraging residents to attend tonight's meeting 6:30-8:30 at Menlo Park City Council Chambers or email the council at with their views. Here's my statement in support of a downtown parking structure with a movie theater feature on the top story:

Dear City Council:

I am writing in support of the downtown parking structure/first-run "mainstream" movie theater combination about which I heard for the first time at the special Feb. 13 City Council meeting on "goals-setting" for 2018. I represented the over 4000 signers of our Save the Guild Theater petition for indie film at that meeting, and I pragmatically supported the Peninsula Arts Guild proposal for the Guild property, because it was the only viable option, and was had the support of several City Council members. Fundamentally it was because the PAG expressed a priority for indie film programming at the new Guild and petition signers could contribute to that priority as we have continued to do.

Why not housing at the proposed location? While I definitely support low-income/"affordable" housing in Menlo Park, I believe there are better locations, including on currently city-owned land, that are supported by housing advocates whom I've heard speak at various Council meetings. The downtown core is probably not a good location for dense housing, and we should focus on other locations to build, and give developers good incentives to build. Adding residential housing to our core business district would reduce business development there and would also increase downtown traffic and possibly contribute to short term parking congestion.

Why a downtown parking structure?
If the 2010 Downtown MP Parking Study found 80% of parking spaces (nearly 2000 at that time) then in use during peak hours in the downtown area, the percentage must be higher 8 years later, and in the near future even higher, including evening parking, especially considering the new residents at the Station 1300 development and Stanford's at the other end of El Camino who can't be counted on to walk downtown, especially at night. Local merchants and nearby restaurants will have increased revenues when more residents and visitors will have this parking option, and if there is a parking fee, as we now have in city lots with 2-3 hour limits, it would free up short-term parking spaces for quick trips downtown, and the city will have additional revenue to defray building and upkeep costs.

Why is an advocate who organized the Save the Guild Theater petition, and who supports the priority of the "new Guild" to include indie film screenings there supporting a competing "mainstream" movie theater? I am also a moviegoer for first-run, mainstream films and I profoundly dislike gigantic multiplex theaters, and big parking structures where I easily "lose" my car, and would rather contribute my entertainment budget to a local, Menlo Park movie venues and local restaurants. I welcome another theater option that will not compete with the new Guild's focus on indie and art films. The city can attract moviegoers with both tastes in film. I see the venues as complementary, not essentially competitive. I want to enhance MP's "image" as a thriving, friendly town where there are new entertainment options, like the new Guild's live entertainment and occasional indie films and occasional small film festivals in its theater configuration seating option with approx. 120 padded theater seats. Our Save the Guild campaign is also identifying other indie film venues, including the main Library, the Menlo Park Senior Center in Belle Haven, and Little House, potentially with films from UNAFF (see their current "special screenings" for UNAFF CAFE and UNAFF for Seniors programming).

I believe I am not alone among MP and other peninsula city residents in my preference for a smaller, 2-3 screen theater nearby with good parking options as well as mainstream films. I treasure that we would still have a "small town" atmosphere with modest changes that will increase our movie options, especially if the proposed parking structure will have a low profile consistent with our existing 2 story buildings downtown, with most of the parking underground and the theater at ground level or at most on a second story above-ground.

9 people like this
Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 16, 2018 at 12:37 pm

According to Donald Shoup (Web Link), the average cost of building a parking structure is roughly $34,000 (for underground) or $24,000 (for aboveground) PER SPACE, and those costs don't even consider the cost of operating the parking structure or the lost opportunity of using the land for a higher and better purpose.

In this era of declining car ownership and increased interest in alternatives to the use of private automobiles for transportation, why in the world would we waste money building such a thing???

4 people like this
Posted by Reality bites
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Parking garages are really profitably businesses. That above ground space can probably be paid off in 5-6 years at $1-2 per hour, and then most of the revenue is pure profit for the rest of the life of the building.

Basic math.

Just don't do something silly like let a vendor or builder take all the profits while the town incurs all the costs.

9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 16, 2018 at 1:57 pm

How much is this garage going to cost? Who is going to pay for it? Will they charge users large enough fees to pay for the land and construction costs? Or will this project be mostly subsidized by city residents?

11 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Building a parking structure on the Peninsula is VERY EXPENSIVE.

Simply read about Palo Alto's recent experience with RECENT bids for expanding parking near California Avenue.

Existing Parking Spaces: 321
New Parking Spaces: 315

Cost per additional parking space: $40.4M /315 = $128, 254 !!!

Web Link

"The long-awaited project now has an estimated price tag of about $40.4 million, roughly four times what it was in 2013, when the council was putting together its infrastructure plan.

Most of the increase can be attributed to the Bay Area's construction market, which continues to sizzle. Assistant Public Works Director Brad Eggleston said the market-driven escalation raised the price tag to about $34.8 million. The council's subsequent decision to "maximize" the parking capacity of the new garage and pursue a bigger facility than initially envisioned added another $6 million to the cost, Eggleston said. The 2013 plan calls for 460 parking stalls.

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Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Judy Adams' idea is a good one even if the Guild is saved and transformed into a multi use entertainment venue. Two and a half years ago I sketched an idea for a theater backing on a new parking garage facing a pedestrian walking street on a converted Maloney Lane. Then the theater is at street level and accessible rather than on top of a structure.

5 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

The best way too "test" the viability of a downtown cinema complex is to simply ask someone in the business if they would be interested. I doubt the answer would be "yes". This idea has been circulating for years and "has no legs".

ALL my friends are very happy to go to the movies in Redwood City and enjoy the vibrant Court House Square after a show. Why replicate something that's already conveniently located nearby when aA 10-minute drive is NOT a big deal. Please use our valuable downtown city land for something new and different. Something we would use more than a few times a month, at most.

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Posted by Meg Davis
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm

I wanted to go to the MP downtown Post Office a week or so ago. I went around and around (this was mid day) and there was NO parking available. I ended up going to the PO off Marsh Road. I have had this problem behind Walgreens and other areas. We need more parking not another movie theatre. My husband and I share ONE car, and have done so for over 10 years. There are too many cars coming into Menlo Park downtown especially at mealtimes. Get realistic. More parking...a simple structure with plenty of handicapped parking on floor one.

1 person likes this
Posted by Z
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Be careful quoting unit price/stall parking garage costs. Project cost (including soft costs and design) vs construction cost (excluding soft costs and design)? How efficient is the specific piece of land for a parking structure? Short span vs long span design (short span is less expensive while long span is far easier for cars to navigate - fewer columns)? Exotic skin design? Is there a high water table? Total stall count (the larger the number the lower the price/stall)? Below grade levels? Above grade levels? Realistic escalation costs included? Solar panels? Electric car chargers? All these factors impact the unit price per stall. Anyone throwing out parking garage unit pricing without giving due consideration to all these variables is not being responsible with their pricing. Engage a professional experienced in parking garage design/construction to evaluate specific designs on specific sites in order to provide reliable pricing.

5 people like this
Posted by Count first
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 18, 2018 at 3:04 am

Do we really need a garage? I have never had to walk more than a block or two to find parking. Big new projects are being built as we speak.
Shouldn’t someone count how many spaces will be coming soon?

I support a new parking-only garage dowtownn IF there is a new big need, such as to replace parking if Santa Cruz were to become pedestrian-only.

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

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