Fri08222014

Now is the time to expand parking: Editorial

Just a few short years ago, vacancies dotted downtown Los Altos. Property owners had a hard time attracting businesses because there was a shortage of customers. That is no longer true. Now, the cry is: Where are my customers going to park?

The city has spent many of our tax dollars studying the parking problem, with little progress. Among the solutions being floated is to reconfigure the current plazas. That may provide more spaces, but perhaps only for smaller cars.

We believe that the city should take a page from some of our neighbors. Mountain View has two parking garages that are very well used, and Los Gatos boasts an underground lot that eases street parking.

A parking structure is not inexpensive. The city’s last parking management plan, completed in 2013, reported that it could cost approximately $10.3 million to build a 276-space structure in one of the parking plazas. But shared costs among downtown property owners and the city could make such a structure happen. The spaces would certainly be used, and the investment should pay off, with greater downtown access generating more business. That’s why the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce is actively promoting the parking-structure plan.

It’s a five-year process that needs to begin now, especially with more businesses and employees coming to town to fill the current construction projects, not to mention their new customers. The increased “feet on the street” are generating more sales-tax income that could help underwrite a parking garage. Even more “feet” would produce more revenue for the city.

The project could spark creativity: An underground garage could also have a parklike setting on the ground level.

Los Altos has a very vibrant downtown now, with a mix of new and longtime businesses. Inaction by the city could lead to people avoiding downtown because they are worried about finding a place to park. That would be bad for business.

Let’s keep this momentum going and not return to the recent past.

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