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Downtown Los Altos parking plan on horizon

The Los Altos City Council gave its initial approval for city staff to begin studying parking issues in downtown Los Altos.

The council voted unanimously March 13, authorizing City Manager Doug Schmitz to draft a request for proposal (RFP) to develop a Downtown Parking Plan.

The costs for similar parking studies range from $120,000 to $275,000 in Pasadena, Redwood City, Burlingame and Monterey, according to a staff report. Schmitz is expected to return to the council with the draft RFP sometime in April or May for public review and comment, according to Mayor Val Carpenter.

“I’ve certainly heard from property owners in downtown Los Altos that they really feel we need such a thing,” she said of the proposed parking plan.

Beginning the process of developing such a parking plan was a key item for the council in outlining its 2012 goals in December. At the time, the council decided to consider the parking issue after final approval of the Safeway project.

Exactly what the parking plan will entail remains to be seen, Carpenter said. She said the plan could be “wide-ranging” and believes it would examine parking management downtown as well as assess current and future parking needs. The report echoed Carpenter’s sentiments, calling for the development of a plan “with consideration of financing options for additional parking if needed, such as a parking in-lieu program, assessment district and public-private partnerships.”

“I really don’t have a lot of preconceived notions for what it’s going to look like,” she said. “We’re gathering ideas, and staff will put those together into an (RFP).”

Some residents were quick to share their suggestions for what the plan should entail.

Planning Commissioner Mike Abrams told the council he expects the study to take into account parking impacts on downtown now and in the future. He also urged the council to review similar communities conducting such studies, to “take a look at what has worked and not worked.”

“I would encourage you to examine and develop a through, comprehensive plan to address our parking needs in all of downtown” he said.

Passerelle Investment Co.’s Brooke Ray Smith told the council her company supports the development of the plan, noting that parking management is critical to the health of downtown Los Altos.

“All (potential retailers) are looking to see if there’s a clear, well-funded and well-implemented parking management plan in place in the downtown (area) before they decide to locate there,” she said.

In addition to the draft RFP, the council directed city staff to develop a capital improvement project worksheet that allows for the plan’s funding. The council will consider funding sources for the worksheet in June, Carpenter said.

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