City Council members spent a considerable amount of time Tuesday night wrestling with a potentially huge parking problem in downtown Mountain View during events at the new Levi's 49er stadium in Santa Clara.
Thanks to expensive and limited parking at the stadium, city officials expect 500 to 600 drivers will be seeking parking spots in downtown Mountain View before taking light rail to the new stadium starting in August. From the light rail station downtown, the Valley Transit Authority (VTA) is going to be running 80 trains to and from the events on game days, instead of the usual 20, while making limited stops. As many as 3,400 Caltrain riders are expected to make the transfer to light rail in downtown Mountain View as well.
The new stadium holds about 68,500 people, and VTA expects to carry 10,000 people to events on buses and light rail. The first 49er game at the stadium is set for Aug. 17 and there will be a total of 17 events by April of next year.
City staff proposed that several parking lots near the downtown train, bus and light rail station be reserved for stadium goers, without the usual two-hour time limits.
"Our belief is there are a lot of unknowns," said City Manager Dan Rich. "One major concern is if we charge a substantial amount for parking in our lots it will drive a lot of those cars into the neighborhood, which we don't want to do.
But council members weren't satisfied with that approach, voting 5-1 to more actively manage the parking situation, potentially charging for parking and enforcing time limits in neighborhoods. Member John Inks voted no and Mayor Chris Clark was absent.
Council members asked city staff to come back July 1 with a plan to charge for parking and keep cars off nearby residential streets. Some said that such time limits might have to be extensive, given how far some people are willing to walk for free parking.
Council member Mike Kasperzak said the city needs to send a message early on to stadium users that "if you want to use Mountain View as event game staging, you need to pay."
"I have a little bit different take on this than staff," said Kasperzak, who led a shift away from the recommendation Rich supported. "I think Mountain View is really being put upon by the city of Santa Clara. I think this could potentially have some negative impacts on Mountain View."
Kasperzak said he thought the easiest way is to have stadium-goers use the city's new paperless online parking permit system that has been directed at downtown businesses who want their patrons or employees to be able to park longer than the two-hour time limits downtown. Others said the city needed to hire someone to stand in parking lots and take the fees. Either way, Kasperzak said parking fees should be 25 percent higher than whatever Caltrain decides to charge at its lot downtown.
City staff said it may take several months to see how stadium goers settle on preferred ways for getting to the stadium, which will be hosting other large events, like Wrestlemania, monster truck rallies and Supercross racing. "It's just going to get worse," said council member Jac Siegel.
There was some concern about stadium-goers drinking or having tailgate parties before the game in downtown. Barbecues and drinking alcohol won't be allowed, Rich noted. And while drinking is allowed on Caltrain, it won't be allowed on light rail, which will mean large bins will be provided for people to dispose of their drinks, city staff said.
There is also the significant problem of finding a new place for the Mountain View farmers market, which has been held on Sunday mornings at the Caltrain and light rail parking lot for many years. City Council members approved a plan to move the market when stadium events are in conflict on nine Sundays though April 2015. It would be held on a parking lot on Bryant Street between California and Mercy streets, where city staff say there would be plenty of parking in the Bryant Street garage and under City Hall. But it would have to be considered temporary, as the lot may be redeveloped at some point, Kasperzak said.
"It's a large animal to move. It's the second largest farmers market in the state of California," said Gail Hayden, director of the California Farmers Market Association.
Farmers Market director of operations Doug Hayden said the parking lot would be large enough for 160 stalls at the event, which usually has 170 stalls (some would be moved to the street). He told several residents who live directly behind the lot that noise complaints would be addressed immediately.