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Downtown - Aggressive Parking Citations

Original post made by Concerned Citizen, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Sep 18, 2014

The topic of downtown - aggressive parking citations is an old topic that deserves a fresh review. The City Council had a study session on the topic that appeared to end there - like a dead end street that goes no where. Generally a Study Session is a prelude to an Agenda Item, but in this case, it was more like a social hour.

Merchants need more business. Aggressive parking enforcement stuffs the city's coffers full with nearly a million dollars a year, but robs merchants of shoppers who chose to go elsehwere, like Palo Alto, Stanford, Town and Country Village, Redwood City and San Carlos.

Excuse me, but new trash cans, hard metal benches and a new irrigation system is nice, but simply is a first step. What do other cities do that Menlo Park does not? Why is Menlo Park empty at night vs. thriving, flourishing and populated?

Ok, go ahead, kick the can down the road. Let next year's City Council deal with it. Meanwhile, the City gets rich at the downtown merchants expense.

Comments (15)

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The purpose of parking enforcement should be to maximize the use of the city's parking spaces not to generate parking ticket revenue.

Move the traffic enforcement function to the Business Development Office - that will change their priorities. Just imagine having Parking Assistance Officers.

Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:02 am

There's no aggressive parking enforcement, just people who choose to disregard or not follow the rules.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:34 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.


When a town of 32,000 people writes OVER 22,000 parking's aggressive parking enforcement.
It makes people go elsewhere to spend money hurting our already dismal downtown. We all talk about vibrancy, but it's only vibrant if people can get there and know they won't get a $45 ticket.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Posted by what do merchants want?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm

The premise of this article is that parking enforcement is reducing the number of downtown shoppers, but is that really true? The primary purpose of parking time limits is to encourage more shoppers, by preventing workers and residents from parking all day in parking spaces that short-term shoppers could be using. My impression is that merchants like this idea. Was this article actually written by a merchant, or just by some parking scofflaw who didn't like getting a ticket?

Now, if you are in favor of the city spending $100,000,000 to fancy new parking garages (like many other peninsula cities are doing), that is a completely different issue.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Although the city has upgraded the One and Two Hour Parking signs on Santa Cruz Avenue from one sided to two sided signs, they are not extending this same courtesy to the eight Parking Plazas. The entry signs should be double sided and reminders about the two hour parking limit should be shown within the parking plazas. Other cities do this, it's a mystery why Menlo Park does not. There are also some empty, unused, privately owned, parking lots near downtown. Perhaps the City can contract with the property owner for parking use during the day, such as an empty lot behind Refuge near Crane Street, the Church parking lot on Crane Street and other potential spaces. A novel idea may be to park in the empty car lots on El Camino Real for employees and office workers, and shuttle them to the downtown area in the morning and in the evening. I can understand the wisdom of Peter Carpenter's suggestion to change the enforcement to the Business Development Office. Their job is to encourage business.

Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Mike - the parking enforcement is incredibly aggressive. They actually follow people around, from lot to lot. It's legal for drivers to move from one lot to another, as long as they follow the rules. Being followed is harassment.

Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 22, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I've lived in Menlo Park for more than a decade and have never received a parking ticket in Menlo Park (knock on wood). It's not difficult to park within the lines and follow the posted time limits. If I don't, then I should expect to receive a ticket.

Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm

I never said it was hard to follow the parking rules. It not being hard has nothing to do with the enforcement being aggressive.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm


problem is that with our aggressive enforcement if you're a few minute over time you get a ticket. That's TOO aggressive.

Posted by Jim Lewis
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

Several cities have gone to a three hour parking limit, as a compromise. This may not be the entire answer, but perhaps an important element of the solution. If one has lunch and does shopping afterwards, the current two hour limit may not be enough time. I'd also like to see improvements to the electronic meters that extend the time available. At times they are hard to read, it would be nice to add time from a smart phone and perhaps they should be available in other parking plazas.

Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2014 at 10:55 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

If you need more than two hours, you can park for longer in one of the paid lots without worry. This is not difficult, and this has been the case for nearly three years. I am not sure why people find this difficult.

I do think that in a couple of the parking plazas the spaces are a bit on the narrow side, in an understandable effort to fit more cars in, but it makes inadvertently touching a white line a lot easier. That is something the city could fix the next time they freshen up the parking plazas.

I've also never had a parking ticket, because if I need more time I park in a paid lot, or even ride my bike downtown, and the bike parking is free and has no time limits. I know there are situations where biking doesn't work, but I bet there are a lot of people who could bike if they chose to.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 23, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Brian is a registered user.

It is not just time limits. Menlo Park likes to give out tickets in the parking lots if you don't have a front license plate, I have seen many cars get those (myself included). Many new cars don't even have places to put a front plate. Just as a side note when I went to pay the ticket I noticed a number of cars in the parking lot at the police station did not have front license plates either and of course no tickets on their cars.

As for time enforcement I have seen cars getting ticketed after being parked for only 5 minutes over. I personally know people who won't go to downtown Menlo just because of the risk of tickets. If Menlo wanted to encourage people to shop there they would issue warnings and then ticket if the cars were still there an hour later.

Posted by Freedom Fridays
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Here's an idea. How about declaring a once a week Freedom Friday Day, whereby there is no parking enforcement, either from 1 pm to 5 pm, or perhaps all day. This may provide helpful feedback on what works and what doesn't work. Afterall, if there is no beak, no vacation, no relaxation of the rules, it doesn't necessarily give the opportunity to see another point of view. If you say, no way, instead, kindly take a moment to reconsider the fact that there is no parking enforcement on Saturdays, that is, every Saturday, all year, year after year, and the world doesn't stop? Is there utter chaos downtown on Saturdays? The fact is, with no parking enforcement regarding being over the white lines, overtime one or two hour limits, etc. seems to work very well on Saturdays. If you agree, perhaps this practice should be extended to Fridays.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

Could someone please tell me why nearly every city from San Jose to San Francisco offers downtown parking garages? These are available to not only consumers, but for use by store and office owners and employees as well. With Facebook increasing from approx. 2,800 to approx. 10,000 employees in the foreseeable future along with the potential of other large scale projects soon coming to Menlo Park, wouldn't planning ahead for the increase in business be wise? Cars have to park somewhere. Proposals include underground parking, multi-story parking and creative approaches as seen in other countries. Whatever approach is taken, it may make sense to be thinking about it sooner, rather than later.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I will repeat my earlier suggestion - transfer parking enforcement from the Police Dept to Jim Cogan who is responsible for economic development. Cogan's rules would be designed to maximize the use of the city's parking rather than to generate fines.

And then build a parking structure which is beautifully designed and has lots of landscaping.

Here what can be done with a bit of creativity:

Web Link">Web Link

"downtown Brooklyn's plans to build an automated parking garage underneath a public park. Willoughby Square Park is scheduled to open in 2016, built upon 700 parking spaces that will be hidden from eyesight and 'reduce the amount of exhaust pollution associated with idling in traditional parking garages.'

The contractor, Automotion Parking Systems, will fit three times as many vehicles in the same square footage of a traditional parking garage.

The system is outlined below:

How Automotion Works: Park. Swipe. Leave. It's that simple. Each customer will follow the ramp beneath the park and drive into one of Automotion's 12 entry/exit rooms. Once they enter the large well-lit room, they will be greeted by a large flat screen TV that aids them in properly placing their car on a pallet in the middle of the room. Drivers park and lock their cars, then swipe their credit card at an Automotion Kiosk to initiate the parking process. Each vehicle is then transported automatically to its storage bay while the customer is walking away. When returning, the customer swipes the same credit card again and the car is returned back to the entry/exit room in less than 2 minutes, ready to be driven away. Since no one has touched the car, there is no risk of scratches, dents or dings, nor any chance of theft of goods left inside of the car.

Full sized trees, gardens, and other typical park features will hide the garage, and provide a space people can use.

- See more at: Web Link">Web Link

Here are the cost figures for the Brooklyn underground garage :
"Automotion's equipment costs roughly $25,000 a vehicle, which rises to $50,000 to $60,000 a car when the excavation costs are included, Mr. Milstein said. To build a conventional garage beneath Willoughby Square would run closer to $90,000 for each car, he said."

And note that this public-private partnership is costing the city much less than that per parking space:

What we need to do is think outside the box. Such a garage could go under two or more adjacent city surface lots to further enhance the surface area and lower the per space cost.

This is not "a solution looking for a problem." The parking problem has been carefully analyzed and a solution identified.

Figure D-6 and the associated language in the Specific Plan clearly support the City intention to build multi-level parking garages.

"Parking Garages
Due to their size, above ground parking garages are highly
visible and affect the character of the surrounding area.
Guidelines for parking garages help minimize their visual
impact and integrate them into the surrounding area.
E.3.7.09 To promote the use of bicycles, secure bicycle
parking shall be provided at the street level of public parking
garages. Bicycle parking is also discussed in more detail in
Section F.5 "Bicycle Storage Standards and Guidelines."
E.3.7.10 Parking garages on downtown parking plazas
should avoid monolithic massing by employing change in
façade rhythm, materials and/or color.
E.3.7.11 To minimize or eliminate their visibility and impact
from the street and other signifi cant public spaces, parking
garages should be underground, wrapped by other uses
(i.e. parking podium within a development) and/or screened
from view through architectural and/or landscape treatment.
E.3.7.12 Whether free-standing or incorporated into overall
building design, garage façades should be designed with
a modulated system of vertical openings and pilasters,
with design attention to an overall building façade that fi ts
comfortably and compatibly into the pattern, articulation,
scale and massing of surrounding building character.
E.3.7.13 Shared parking is encouraged where feasible to
minimize space needs, and it is effectively codifi ed through
the plan's off-street parking standards and allowance for
shared parking studies.
E.3.7.14 A parking garage roof should be approached
as a usable surface and an opportunity for sustainable
strategies, such as installment of a green roof, solar panels
or other measures that minimize the heat island effect."

One wonders why so many posters seem not to have even read the Specific Plan.

SF's Union Sq garage is a great example of a public-private partnership. In the 1930s, the Union Square Garage Corporation was formed and lobbied for permission to build the world's first underground parking structure.

"The idea of a private corporation leasing public land underneath a city park was also new. Because of this, Union Square became a test case before the California State Supreme Court, which ruled in City of San Francisco v. Linares, that the City of San Francisco had the right to lease the subsurface area to the Union Square Garage Corporation provided that the park proper was not destroyed."

"After a California Supreme Court decision, permission was granted and they broke ground on May 31, 1941."

If you look at the plaque at the Geary Street entrance to the garage you will see the names of the businessmen who led the Union Square Garage Corporation - I am proud that my grandfather, Russell Carpenter, was one of them.

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