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By Steve Levy

My Home Was Built by a Developer

Uploaded: Feb 12, 2014

Town Square is full of angry comments about developers who have built office buildings recently in Palo Alto and council action with regard to these developments.

I believe that new developments should be required to provide or contribute to paying for parking and some past decisions about parking requirements have not helped the city.

On the other hand, I hope we can calm the language and anger by remembering a few points.

Our current home at Forest and Gilman is in a condo complex built by a developer. We are grateful that he went forward with the project and, by the way, it has sufficient underground parking. But our two previous homes in single family neighborhoods were also built by developers as were most of the homes in Palo Alto.

That's what developers do--build structures in demand by residents and businesses. I hope we can drop the "greedy" language and accusations unless posters want to call the folks who built their home by the same names.

There are, indeed, commercial structures in downtown that do not provide enough parking for their employees or customers.

But there are also homes in the downtown area that do not provide parking for any or all of their residents. And there are residents who have converted garages or, as we did a long time ago, bought properties where the garage was already converted to other uses.

I think two points are important here.

One, is that when the city finishes collecting data, we will find that not all "extra" parking in neighborhoods is the result of commercial building "under parking". Residential developers in some cases also did not provide enough parking and people moved in with full knowledge about this.

Two, is while some of the parking deficiency is the result of recent decisions as the city data show, much of the challenge is the result of what I will call "legacy parking deficiencies".

The apartment buildings surrounding our unit do not all have sufficient or any parking provided. Some were built long ago and I assume the parking that was not provided was legal at the time. Since then the neighborhood and surrounding commercial core has grown and what worked for parking decades ago does not work now.

The same is true for downtown. I have worked in four offices downtown-all built long ago. Three had parking, one did not. We bought permits for employees who needed them. But there are many buildings downtown built long ago, where the original owner and tenants are long gone. The Epiphany Hotel and Apple store are on the site of former tenants and owners as are many of the offices and stores downtown.

I don't know all of the rules about parking requirements when new uses take over a long ago built property. But much of the parking deficiencies that have come with growth have roots in "legacy parking deficiencies" where there is no recourse except to try and solve the problem today—no villains to castigate or compel payment from.

That is why I support the city goal of a three part solution—manage demand and existing capacity, evaluate additional capacity and work out neighborhood parking management programs.

I don't know the exact mix of these solutions or the mix of payment responsibilities. These merit calm discussion and evaluation of information about who is parking downtown and what the potential solutions are.