Thu10302014

News

Report reveals few temporary parking options downtown

A recent city staff report revealed that Los Altos has limited options available when it comes to augmenting its public parking temporarily during downtown construction.

Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum’s report outlined three options, one of which is already slated for completion this summer – increasing the number of employee parking spaces on the outer edges of the downtown triangle. The additional white-dot spots aim to “redistribute employee demand out of the on-street spaces and the central parking plazas,” the report noted.

The report, discussed by the Los Altos City Council June 11, also listed the option of establishing valet parking at one of the downtown public parking plazas during construction, at a cost of approximately $2,000 per week. A third option to develop public-private shared parking agreements netted just 20 available spaces to the city.

“When you look at this, you do realize that we have very limited options as to how we magically park cars somewhere without having land to do that,” Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw said.

The report comes on the heels of a council request in April to explore potential short-term parking solutions to counter the loss of more than 100 spaces as a result of construction along First Street, including pending development at Safeway and the First and Main streets property.

The council sought an exploration of alternate parking means after Kleinbaum noted that downtown parking would reach a peak occupancy level of 88 percent as a result of the lost parking – above an 85 percent threshold commonly used by parking consultants. Once Safeway’s 129 shared parking spaces are available after construction in late spring/early summer 2014, overall peak demand would lower to 86 percent, she added.

Council reaction

Reacting to the report, several councilmembers noted that offering year-round valet parking was simply too costly at its current price tag of $104,000. Instead, some councilmembers favored extending downtown holiday valet parking, a 2012 pilot program, by more than two weeks.

A few councilmembers also rebuffed the idea of entering into a shared parking agreement for 20 additional spaces because of the increased costs – in terms of liability insurance – and risk to the city. Fishpaw, for one, called the overall idea of shared parking “a great concept” but added that it’s “a lot of work for a small return.”

As for the addition of more white-dot spaces, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins noted that the city’s parking program could only succeed if downtown business and property owners encourage employees to use those spaces instead of prime spots for customers.

“We’re putting in these white dots – that’s our contribution to this,” Bruins said of the increase in spaces, likely to be completed in August. “But the only way this is going to be effective is when the employers get their employees to use these (parking) stalls. I think LAVA (the Los Altos Village Association) and the business owners and property owners – whoever – in the downtown need to step up to the plate.”

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