Thu11272014

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Chamber of Commerce seeks parking discussion with city

The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce wants to talk to the city about parking – or lack thereof – in the downtown area.

According to Julie Rose, chamber president, the organization aims to present at a future city council study session its own downtown parking report that calls for the construction of a multilevel parking structure. A chamber subcommittee unveiled the report at a meeting last week. The subcommittee includes Rose, former Councilman Ron Packard, property owner Jeff Morris and Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves.

Rose said the report outlines the growing need for additional downtown parking, as well as possible design and funding scenarios for a parking structure. Rose noted that she hopes to get the report “in front of the city” in the near future. She said the chamber subcommittee began working on the report in January and is slated to present it to other community groups in coming weeks. A copy of the report is available for public review on the chamber’s website at losaltoschamber.org.

“We’re hoping to get the conversation moving on parking downtown,” Rose said.

Groves, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, added that generating momentum on a downtown parking solution is “at the very top” of the chamber’s priority list for the year.

Groves noted that the group’s work included reviewing the city’s downtown parking management plan and engaging finance professionals and architects to flesh out possible scenarios for city officials to consider.

“It’s the item that keeps coming up as an issue over my five years (on the chamber board) – that and increasing the economic vitality of downtown,” Groves said of the downtown parking issue. “One of the things that would really support (economic vitality) is to pursue a parking structure for downtown.”

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos public information coordinator Erica Ray said the chamber’s opportunity to publicly unveil the report “will likely” come in the form of a 10-minute presentation at a future city council meeting. From there, she added, the council can choose to schedule a future study session with the chamber.

An expanding problem

The report noted that the addition of the new and larger Safeway on First Street, the Enchanté boutique hotel at 1 Main St., Morris’ 400 Main St. project and the new mixed-use building at 86 Third St. would lead to a 22 percent square-footage increase in the total building inventory downtown. That increase, the report added, “will most likely have a material and negative impact” on the city’s street parking and public plazas.

The city’s parking management plan – adopted in 2013 – outlined a potential shortage of up to 144 spaces downtown by 2022. The report, however, states that the shortage does not take into consideration the 22 percent square-footage increase from the new properties in question.

In turn, the report calls for the future construction of a public parking structure on one of the city’s rectangular plazas – including Plaza 7, located across from the new Safeway store. Preliminary schematics outlined in the report call for a three- to four-level garage that could add a net increase of 175 to 275 spaces to the downtown parking supply at an estimated cost of $12 million to $14 million.

The report lists possible private and bond funding scenarios under the assumption that the final cost of a structure would be split between the city and downtown property owners. Working toward a parking structure solution, Groves concluded, will likely take several years, making the need to start the process all the more pressing.

“This could take four to five years – and in that time, the problem could be more acute,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to wait for other things to happen before looking at the parking.”

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