Here Are Some Reasons Why East Palo Alto Has a Parking Congestion Problem

East Palo Alto has a parking congestion problem. I wanted to share some reasons I have gathered from talking with City staff, neighbors, and personal experience.

East Palo Alto has a parking congestion problem. It's a big topic amongst candidates for our November City Council elections, and I am constantly reminded of the parking problems when I bike through The Gardens or The Mid, or really any part of East Palo Alto.

While I have not seen data detailing the breakdown of parking, these are the reasons for parking congestion that I have heard from City staff, neighbors, and anecdotally:

  • Some homes in EPA have multiple families in them, sometimes up to 5 families in a home. The garage is converted to an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) so that is at minimum 5 cars: 2 on the driveway, 3 on the street. If a family has more than 1 car, then that can be a lot more cars.
  • Some people like to have multiple cars, particularly ones that they are fixing up. They will park those on the street.
  • Street sweeping historically has not been enforced (as of a month ago there is 1 community officer enforcing for the entire city), so people could get away with leaving their cars parked on street sweeping days.
  • East Palo Alto is in general pretty dense. The typical house is on a 5,000 square foot lot, whereas in neighboring cities typical lots are 7,000 - 8,000 square feet. That alone accounts for a 50% increase in density, not to mention more apartment units and rentals than neighboring cities.
  • I have seen numerous anecdotal stories about residents from Menlo Park and further cities parking their work vehicles here (pick up trucks, trucks) because their cities don't allow for overnight parking. Menlo Park does not allow overnight parking on its streets. Palo Alto has also restricted overnight parking in some areas.
  • East Palo Alto has a higher proportion of working class residents who need a car to do their job (e.g. gardener, truck driver, cleaner), and they may want a non-work car as well. So that would account for potentially 2 cars per adult.

In order to save parking spaces for themselves or to limit random strangers parking for several consecutive days in front of their homes, some EPA residents have taken steps to block the parking spot:

Donohoe Street Homeowner placing rocks in the right of way to block parking, phoot taken on July 17, 2022
Trash bins in the right of way on Kavanaugh St on non-trash days. Source

Thinking with my Public Works & Transportation Commissioner hat on, I think the parking congestion is a very difficult problem to solve. In general, I think we should go with incremental approaches which gradually shape parking by 1 or 2% at a time, rather than go with a sudden big shock to the system because then residents may be unhappy or they just might not have enough time to adapt (e.g. selling a car can take a month or more, as I recently sold my car which I wrote about here).

I would like to see more statistics on where cars are coming from (EPA residents or non-EPA) and how many cars a resident has. I have not seen such a study before, and I think having that data would be useful to help make more informed policy decisions.

I will be writing some follow-up posts with some ideas on how to reduce parking congestion. Generally, these will be things like having better public transit, making the city more walkable and bikeable, having jobs closer to where residents live, etc. Stay tuned!

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