By Steve Levy
A proposal for Monday Night's Office Cap DiscussionUploaded: Feb 28, 2015
The parking and traffic challenges being experienced in Palo Alto are real and reflect trends going on throughout the region.
In Monday night's discussion about addressing these challenges I encourage the Council to ask staff to explore the following alternatives
1) To address parking and traffic through approaches that dramatically limit auto trips associated with new and existing development, for example a "no net new trip" initiative
2) If staff is asked to explore an office development cap, part of that motion be to ask staff to
--a) explore how projects in the development pipeline are treated
--b) explore alternatives for how the cap would sunset
--c) explore the legal issues associated with implementing a cap
3) That all direction to staff be to explore issues and questions in the context of the Comp Plan update
There are two primary reasons for the first proposal
--a) available partial data suggests strongly that additional office space growth has not and would not be a primary driver of parking and traffic challenges at least downtown. I believe that full data will show that the primary drivers of this growth have been a) adding employees to existing space, b) the increase in the number of eating and drinking customers and employees, c) service workers and d) contributions from PAMF and Stanford related activities and overflow parking related to Caltrain
--b) the "no net new trip" movement is accelerating. Last Thursday night I heard a presentation from Gil Friend of the city staff on ideas for and the importance of moving toward dramatic reduction of single vehicle trips. Today in the paper there are stories about how Google proposes to do this for their new campus. We all know of the great success that Stanford has had in reducing car traffic and parking need. And I understand that city manager Jim Keene has talked to you about his recent meetings re auto trip reduction.
There are two primary reasons for the third proposal--to study options in the Comp Plan update process
--a) staff, especially senior staff is stretched thin with many projects already on their list. Johnathan Lait made that clear to the PTC in their last meeting showing the ongoing projects, many of which like the Comp Plan update need immediate attention.
--b) the council will shortly get a great deal of important and relevant new data and information. Staff is looking to get outside expertise on the retail and fiscal issues related to the Comp Plan update and many initiatives like the RPP will provide initial data in time to be integrated into the Comp Plan discussions.
The final suggestion comes from my experience working with public agencies like the state Energy Commission and Air Resources Board whose actions affect large private companies with access to significant consultant and legal resources. The public agency in these cases needs to have both a good case on the data and an airtight case on the law.