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Open Letter To The City Council re: Downtown Parking Plazas

Original post made by Jim Lewis, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Sep 17, 2008

Honorable Mayor Cohen and Council Members:

Could someone tell me why the Downtown Parking Plazas are in such disrepair for such a long period of time?

The asphalt has many pot holes, cracks, low spots, alligatoring, loose material, faded striping and other obvious areas of disrepair and deferred maintenance. While many city streets are getting preferential treatment with fresh curb, gutter and asphalt, the Downtown Parking Plazas badly need attention and appear to be long overdue.

What makes no sense what-so-ever, is each parking spot generates INCOME. The income goes to merchants by way of sales, the income goes to the City by way of sales tax, the income also goes to the city by way of parking permits, etc. The parking plazas is a "golden goose". Yet, they seem to get little attention.

I'm not suggesting they come first; however, they shouldn't come last either.

I understand that one (1) parking plaza is scheduled to get paved in the near future. The "operative" word here is "one". There is something like a total of eight parking plazas. If one (1) of them is paved every other year or so, it will seem like a lifetime before they are all done. Is there any way to speed up the process?

I don't understand why the merchants don't speak up loud and clear about this. Maybe they do and it simply is not common knowledge.

Do you hear from the Chamber of Commerce about this? I understand they were given a nice presentation six months or so ago about a proposed project and were asked their opinion about various ways to lay out the parking, that is, 90 degree angles, 45 degree angles, 30 degree angles, etc. That is a nice courtesy to extend; however, it would be helpful to have regular updates, similar to the updates provided by the Community Development Department on various major projects being considered around town.

With approx. two months left before the election, perhaps it can become a campaign issue. Where do the candidates stand on this issue?

One need not look very far to see the condition of our neighboring city's Parking Plazas. I might suggest that sometime you take a look at them in the City of Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos to the south and Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont and San Mateo to the north. Maybe staff can do this and share the results with you.

It seems counter-productive for merchants to fix up their stores, such as the Left Bank on the south side and several others on the north side of Santa Cruz Avenue and have the asphalt parking areas in disrepair. To encourage the best from our merchants and our citizens, having parking plazas looking good may be an important element and perhaps one of the keys to attracting and retaining merchants and shoppers.

With the national and local economies being what they are, I would think trying to be as competitive, attractive, desirable and enticing as possible would be important. Afterall, isn't a community value taking pride in our city.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you or a member of staff on the status of our Downtown Parking Plazas.

Jim Lewis

Comments (5)

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Posted by what is he talking about
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2008 at 4:42 am

I guess Mr. Lewis doesn't look very hard. These parking lots are constantly being improved. The lot at the Farmer's market and Draeger's lot and the lot behind 800 Menlo (just done last year) all have been updated recently. The lot behind Flegel's is certainly fine.

As I understand it, money from parking permits is used to pay for upgrades, and they are being done. Mr. Lewis is off base here.

The money doesn't come in fast enough to do them quicker -- why don't the merchants who really benefit fund improvements?

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Posted by Mr. Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 18, 2008 at 11:36 am

The layout of the parking plaza behind JZ Cool is terrible. I hope that particular mistake isn't repeated when other parking plazas are fixed up.

And have you ever tried to push a shopping cart through the Trader Joe's parking lot? Not pleasant.

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Posted by Jan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 18, 2008 at 12:22 pm

I couldn't agree more about the parking plaza behind JZ Cool. A truly lame-brained design. Message to the city: PLEASE stick to diagonal parking that allows drivers to pull in and back up on one try. And design the lots to allow pedestrians to walk from one row to another along paved surfaces rather than having to stomp through a planted bed (or find one of the few paved passages from one row to the next).

Unless repair work has been done recently, there are huge, long potholes in the lot behind Boulanger (between Crane and Chestnut) in the row closest to the buildings. When it rains (remember when that used to happen?), you can float toy sailboats in a couple of them.

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Posted by Colin Jenkins
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2008 at 10:38 am

As a business owner on Santa Cruz Ave in front of lot 3 -

Responding to this statement:
why don't the merchants who really benefit fund improvements?

I would like to point out that a quick count of cars parked in Lot 3 behind my store shows close to 50% of the cars parked there have parking permits issued by the city. At 8:30 am, before retail stores are open, 40% (approximately) of the lot is full and most of the cars are parked close to the office buildings that front Oak Grove. I think I counted roughly 100 available spaces total. My non-scientific conclusion based on lot 3 is that 40% of the spaces are used by the office building occupants, 10% are used by the merchants for their parking and the remaining roughly 50% of the spots are left available for a combination of office building visitors - such as those folks that go to a dentist appointment - and shoppers. I would venture that at any one time 30-40 spaces are available for shoppers in lot 3. There are roughly 15 stores facing onto Santa Cruz Ave in front of lot 3. These rough numbers seem to tell a different story about whether the merchants are reaping the most benefit from the parking plazas.

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Posted by Downtown Shopper
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 25, 2008 at 9:13 am

It looks like the city is now in the process of repairing the asphalt parking area behind the Left Bank Restaurant and are doing a great job. The driveway entrance is being repaved as well as many spots in the driveway and parking areas. Whoever is responsible for this deserves a round of applause and a pat on the back, as the parking plazas were in a condition of disrepair, had much deferred maintenance, may have been a safety hazard and in need of maintenance and repair. It's great that this was done before the winter season. Hopefully other areas, such as behind the post office, can also be done, which certainly will help the shopping experience and be less harmful to one's car.

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

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