There is nothing charming about spending more time trying to find a parking space than time spent dining or shopping. If the proposed office/retail two-story building at First and Main streets is approved and starts construction in the spring as planned, Los Altos residents will not only lose the current parking at Safeway and the old post office site, but also the available parking at First and Main.
Imagine the chaos created by the elimination of 204 parking spaces in downtown Los Altos – spaces that were fully occupied at the relatively quiet time of 10 a.m. Sept. 14. Now overlay the construction process of First and Main, Safeway, the old post office and the proposed city streetscape improvements along First Street.
Ironically, the city originally purchased the First and Main site to meet future parking needs. The current project at First and Main does not provide any public parking. It only provides what is necessary to park and satisfy its own needs.
There is no reason to rush to approve the proposed First and Main project at Tuesday’s city council meeting. First, we need a short-term temporary parking plan that can be implemented during the ongoing construction of these four projects, which will impact merchants and residents for the next three to four years. This plan should include construction access, parking for construction employees and the replacement of the 204 existing parking spaces lost due to the construction process.
The city of Los Altos is currently under contract with a local traffic and parking consultant to document existing parking levels and patterns, to project future parking needs and to help create a parking management plan for the downtown area. Unfortunately, this report will not be completed until the end of January. The study is a good step forward in helping to solve the long-term parking problems and the parking management of the downtown parking area. The city should use this information to develop a short-term parking solution during the ongoing construction process. Based on the timing of the report, it makes sense for the city to postpone final approval of First and Main until that information is available.
Who knows? First and Main may be able to play a vital role in solving the city’s long-term parking concerns. Why not wait to understand these impacts before we approve the project?
Robin Abrams and Bill Maston are community leaders active in downtown revitalization.