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Council noses into MVHS parking dispute

City Council members said they fear there is no immediate solution to the 40-year-old parking dispute between Mountain View High School and the surrounding neighborhood, even if they came one step closer to altering parking regulations outside the school during Tuesday's meeting.

After hearing concerns from high school staff, students and neighbors, the council passed the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would establish loading zones and unrestricted parking areas on Bryant and Truman streets, while also prohibiting parking on the corner of two streets. Parking is currently restricted on the campus side of Bryant and Truman during school hours.

But council members said there are other issues such as safety, enforcement and environmental precautions that need to be addressed before the debate can be resolved.

"The recommendation we see is a very small band-aid that will fall off very soon," council member Laura Macias said.

The Biking/Pedestrian Advisory Committee is now reviewing the ordinance and will give recommendations to the council in July, according to traffic engineer Mike Vroman.

Members of the high school community say that the additional 60 parking spots available on the street are essential for both volunteers and students as the school population continues to grow. They note that young drivers cannot carpool due to state driving restrictions. Also, limited parking results in fewer volunteers and adds to student tardiness, staff told the council.

"You can be tardy depending on how you park," MVHS senior Ross Rutner told the council. "It can be the difference between being on time or being tardy."

Neighbors encouraged students to bike and walk to school, arguing that additional parking only increases noise and litter outside the school. It is also unsafe for bikers, they said, especially with plans to extend Stevens Creek Trail to the high school.

Neighbors and the school have been arguing over parking since 1969. Two years ago, in an attempt to end the debate, school administrators asked the city to allow permanent parking on Bryant and Truman. After a council committee recommended the council retain parking outside the campus, council members said they would not approve unrestricted parking until the school added bike racks and 60 parking spots on campus.

The school community returned to the council last night after members of the parking committee had canvassed the neighborhood talking with neighbors and students, and the school had added bike racks, helping to double the number of students who cycled to school. Administrators said they plan to add more campus parking spots this summer, and increase parking enforcement on campus and reward students who bike or walk.

"The problem with parking is not something we take lightly," said Judy Hannemann, president of the Mountain View-Los Altos district's board of trustees.

Following two hours of debate and public comments, board members approved the initial reading of an ordinance to allow unrestricted parking on Bryant and Truman, with 6:30 to 9 a.m. drop-off zones outside Eagle Theatre and Packard Hall and an extended red zone from the corner to the staff lot. Mayor Tom Means also recommended that the school close the gate to the staff lot to reduce congestion.

"We feel very good about their recommendations," MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves said. "We can work with them."

But council members said the issue would not disappear even if they passed the ordinance, and that the school, city and neighbors should consider larger concerns of safety and the environment. Means showed a short video of students biking on the sidewalk and cars lined up for blocks during school drop-off time.

"I would be embarrassed as a student to drive to school," said council member Matt Pear, referring to the need to fight global climate change.

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