Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
A consultant’s initial report on downtown parking trends concluded that Los Altos has an adequate supply of public spaces.
The conclusion was revealed during a Feb. 7 public meeting at Hillview Community Center to update residents on the study’s progress. The report, presented by Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum, also determined that the two- and three-hour time limits are “sufficient” for downtown visitors, but that additional downtown employee parking spaces are needed.
The Los Altos City Council initially approved the parking study in March 2012. Kleinbaum told the Town Crier that the city’s consultant arrived at the conclusions after studying historical parking data and new data collected in September and December of last year.
“I think there’s a perception among some segments that we have a significant parking problem (downtown), but the data didn’t show that,” she said, noting that the report does not recommend the use of parking meters or a reduction in parking time limits downtown.
Kleinbaum added that work is still being conducted to analyze future parking supply-and-demand augmentation options. That includes analyzing the possible reconfiguration of parking plazas and examining the benefits and drawbacks of a parking structure to increase the parking supply, she noted.
“People are very interested in those next steps,” she said.
Kleinbaum said additional stakeholder meetings to gather more input will occur prior to finalizing the report. She added that a final report will likely head to city council in March or April.
Kleinbaum revealed several data points about parking demands during the meeting, as well as a list of management recommendations.
Specifically, the report showed on-street parking demand peaked at 95 percent – thereby exceeding a practical occupancy threshold of 85 percent – from noon to 1 p.m. throughout December 2012 during midweek observations. Off-street parking hit a peak of 87 percent 1-2 p.m.
Parking Plaza 6 (behind the Masonic building) was the most impacted off-street parking area in December, averaging seven hours or more per day at above the 85 percent threshold. Additionally, plazas 5 (behind Starbucks) and 10 (behind Wells Fargo) averaged five to six hours per day filled above the threshold.
September 2012 data showed slightly less demand overall, with on-street parking peaking at 91 percent midweek and 92 percent on Saturdays. Off-street parking hit 81 percent occupancy midweek 1-2 p.m. but never exceeded 65 percent on Saturdays. Plaza 5, portions of Main and State streets and some side streets were most impacted on Saturdays, averaging seven hours or more at above the threshold.
Employee-permit users had the longest average stay throughout the overall study at just below six hours, while nearly 50 percent of nonpermit users reparked their cars throughout the day to avoid violations. The occupancy of spaces designated for those with permits exceeded 70 percent in plazas 3 and 10.
The study offered several recommendations to improve downtown parking, including a parking-enforcement system with increasing fines for repeat offenders. First-time offenders would receive a warning instead of a fine, the report noted.
Additional recommendations included increasing the number of employee-permit spaces, expanding bicycle parking, installing better wayfinding signs to direct drivers to parking areas and offering residents daylong parking permits online through the city’s website.
Nearby resident Andrea Eaton, however, said obtaining all-day permits online isn’t practical for all residents.
“A lot of people in Los Altos are older and don’t use computers,” she noted.
Finally, Kleinbaum revealed at the meeting that the city would receive three dual-head electric-vehicle charging stations at no cost as part of a grant. One station is proposed for placement in the civic center area – near Bus Barn Theater – with the remaining two located in Plaza 3, closest to San Antonio Road.
The city council was slated to consider the project Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.