Big jump in downtown parking costs

City imposes stricter enforcement of two-hour time limit

Those who drive to work in downtown Mountain View be warned: the city is finally enforcing its two-hour time limits on parking.

As the City Council voted to increase parking permit fees Tuesday from $240 to $300 a year, City Manager Dan Rich revealed that the police department has stepped up enforcement of two-hour time limits in city parking lots and streets downtown to encourage purchase of permits for unlimited parking. The city is also looking into purchasing sensors that can tell when a car has overstayed the two-hour limit.

Council members noted that the two-hour limits downtown have seen little enforcement in the past. Those likely to face consequences of parking more than two hours are employees who park downtown, those who park and ride on Caltrain and those who attend long lunch meetings.

"In Palo Alto I've been given tickets when I'm 10 minutes late," said council member Margaret-Abe-Koga. In Mountain View "I've had times where I've been 30 minutes late and we just don't have that kind of staffing."

"People get shocked when they've parked in a place for hours and hours and someone starts enforcing it," said council member Ronit Bryant. "It is like, 'what's going on here?' It is important to really widely publicize it."

To park longer than two hours and avoid a $36 ticket, drivers must purchase a daily, monthly, quarterly or annual permit at City Hall, which can be highly inconvenient for those wishing to spend one day downtown, some said.

"Who is going to go downtown to city hall to buy a daily pass? It doesn't make sense," said Dan Smolkin, who said he represented a downtown business.

Council members discussed the possibility of placing permit machines in downtown parking lots where people can pay with credit cards.

"I know in San Francisco now you can just use your phone and pay for your parking spot right there," said member Margaret-Abe-Koga. "I think we need to be moving towards that."

The parking permit fee hikes passed on a 6-2 vote, with Ronit Bryant and Jac Siegel opposed.

Daily permit costs were raised from $1.60 to $4, monthly permits rose from $40 to $50, and annual permit costs rose from $240 to $300. A quarterly permit was created that costs $100. City staff said they only sell a few dozen daily and monthly permits a year, but have sold 674 annual permits this year, much higher than the average since 2007.

Council member Mike Kasperzak, who has advocated for more paid parking downtown to recuperate the cost of the city's pricey parking structures -- another of which will be needed soon -- wanted even higher permit fees. "You are giving away such a huge asset," he said, having noted that it can cost $30 a day to park in San Francisco.

"I think a 25 percent increase is just too much in one step, that's a lot of money to some people, so I have some problems with that," Siegel said, adding that the purpose of downtown parking "is not to raise money. The purpose is to have as many spaces available for retail (customers) as possible."

The city's parking permit fees generate $165,840 in revenue for the city a year, and raising the annual permit cost to $280 would have generated another $30,000, city staff members said.

City staff members said council members may be asked to approve a tiered pricing system for parking permits soon, like Palo Alto, which charges between $75 and $420 a year for parking permits, depending on the parking space's location.


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Posted by Must fund pension
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Oh good, another reason not to visit downtown.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

OK, so the city is going to get more money from permits. Some people will not pay more and will move to parking, as many already do, on residential streets in Old Mountain View. On my street these are largely CalTrain commuters. This new move should be accompanied by enforced 5 hour parking, or some similar duration, on residential streets. Residents can be exempted by permit. My street is heavily parked up during work days and entry and exit from my driveway has become more difficult to perform safely because of all the cars obstructing the view.

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Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Any sort of pay on the spot permitting system would simply start us down the slippery slope towards paid parking for all visitors. Whether it be meters or fancy new pay kiosks, its all the same. The residents and businesses of Mountain View have been rejecting paid parking for decades. Our city council shall no be allowed to sneak in a paid parking scheme.

The city should be allocating spots in the two city garages and the distant lots for daily parking for those that work downtown. The permits should LESS expensive than currently to encourage their use and enforcement should be more consistent.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Every city I have lived in or visited had time limits, 2 hours is one of the better ones. Either get a ticket, pay meter or day pass for parking. Why should workers tie up valuable parking, or park all day for free.

Castro St. 1 hour.
Parking lots. 2 to 5 hours.
Upper floors of garages 5 hours.
250 dollars for unlimited parking.

Charge to much you will send people into the neighborhoods.

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Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Enforcing the two hour limit will mean people won't leave their cars in the lots for ever. That will free up parking spots, which will benefit shoppers and downtown businesses.

Charging $4 for all-day parking permit seems quite reasonable. As noted in the story, the city needs to make it easier to buy such permits. I've lived in Mountain View for six years and I didn't even know they existed.

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Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The City needs to do a better job of explaining why they are doing this, and thinking through who it benefits.

Strictly enforcing 2-hour limits, without creating a convenient way for people to pay to exceed these time limits, will likely discourage some people from patronizing downtown businesses. But if you were to take some of the prime parking spaces and put smart meters in, where you can pay with a credit card, extend your time remotely by cell phone, etc - you would actually encourage people to patronize downtown because you've made parking easy and removed the uncertainty. Plus, the meter revenue can be reinvested in parking lot maintenance, security, downtown beautification, etc. which will help the downtown.

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Posted by Becca
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Can you please provide information on how downtown residents can get permits to park by their homes in the 2 hr street parking? The city website says permits are for lots, and the included map doesn't even extend to the El Camino end of the downtown parking zone.

Additionally, do downtown residents need to pay for permits to park on the street in front of their homes?

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Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I'm with Must Fund. This is just another reason not to shop in downtown Mountain View.

I already dislike the mess the city is making of El Camino with the new fad of allowing buildings to come so close to the streets, in keeping with their goal of building a concrete canyon from Palo Alto to Sunnyvale. Now we are going to add another burden on folks trying to operate businesses and those trying to use those businesses.

Los Altos must love our city council. They are driving business to a place that doesn't seem to hate cars and the people that choose to drive them quite so much.

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Posted by SAM
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 24, 2013 at 8:55 am

So when I eat dinner and go for a walk around town for 2.5 hours I can get a ticket. This is a good way to chase out the visitors.

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Posted by MVResident67
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 10:44 am

Snipped from the above article:

"Council member Mike Kasperzak, who has advocated for more paid parking downtown to recuperate the cost of the city's pricey parking structures -- another of which will be needed soon -- wanted even higher permit fees. "You are giving away such a huge asset," he said, having noted that it can cost $30 a day to park in San Francisco."


A) No Mr. Kasperzak, it's YOU and other like minded city council members who are "giving away a such a huge asset" every single time council approves developments with inadequate parking.

B) Mountain View is NOT San Francisco...nor will it EVER be San Francisco. To compare parking costs in Mountain View to parking costs in San Francisco is disingenuous and laughable.

There has to be ways to comply with SB375 and ABAG's accompanying housing mandates without destroying the quality of life in Mountain View. Instead of behaving like lemmings blindly running off the cliff, try slowing down, taking a few deep breaths and try to come up with more creative - and palatable - solutions to these mandates. Mountain View and it's residents deserve better than what we've seen so far.

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Posted by Glad to see it
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

Most of the time I come to Mountain View from a nearby community by bicycle or train, so the parking crunch doesn't bother me. But in the occasions when I drive, I would be more than willing to pay so there is more likely to be a space open when I want it if I'm in a hurry. And if I want to spend a few hours, I'd be happy to pay less to park in a structure and walk over. Giving away free parking is like free ice cream - you get shortages and lines.

Mountain View downtown draws lots of people because it is a nice lively place to socialize. If the people who preferred Los Altos because of the free parking all went there, I'll bet that there would still be plenty of people in Mountain View.

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Posted by Yes time to charge
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Love the free ice cream analogy !

Plenty of cities have done this before and learned that paid parking does not drive away customers but better still turn this problem into an opportunity.

There are technology solutions that help direct cars to spots and enable the city to experiment with dynamic pricing based on location and time of day.

So much time and energy is wasted by people searching for spaces, let's use technology to direct people to the open spots.
It would reduce traffic congestion and pollution downtown and differentiate Castro as a place that you can drive to without the stress of not knowing where you will park.

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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

I'm with "Glad to See It" and Mike Kasperzak. We need to manage the parking better instead of rushing to build more garages. It's silly to give people three choices: 2 hours max for free, monthly pass, or all day if you go to City Hall first. That last one is particularly inefficient.

I'd like to see sensors put in to detect cars. That way, we are set for more productive schemes like having the first two hours free, then start charging increasing amounts more on a per half hour basis, like bike share. The goals are the same--encourage turnover--without resorting to parking tickets for someone who's meeting ran 10 minutes long.

Redwood City has done a great job managing parking downtown by charging modest amounts that vary based on location. Walk a couple of blocks more and you pay a lot less. Modest, demand-based fees is the way to pay for new parking while at the same time encouraging carpooling, transit, walking and biking.

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Posted by Can't afford to park ?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Not sure that many businesses are coveting the type of customers (sam, psr and mustfund) that will stay away for the sake of a few bucks parking but if that is a problem you can always walk, ride or catch a bus to downtown. ( you could even use the gas savings to splurge on dessert :)

As a resident ergo, part owner of the public land that is used for parking I am glad to see the city make an effort to recuperate the costs. It should not be a profit center but we should not give it away either.

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Posted by Angela Hey
Mountain View Voice Blogger
on Nov 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Angela Hey is a registered user.

In the "High Cost of Free Parking" Donald Shoup suggests that if you charge for parking the people who park will shop quickly and there will be more shoppers so local businesses will benefit. However, with free parking in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Menlo Park and other cities paid parking may not work for Mountain View, yet. Shoup argues that the right price for parking is one that leaves one or two spaces. Then people don't waste time looking for parking spaces.

See Web Link - the right price for parking.

Book - Web Link

Donald Shoup - Web Link - lots more to read on parking prices.

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Posted by Audrey&Al Jehning
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Are you aware that Mountain View City 864 taxing agency receives money from business and property owners for downtown parking? It appears on the Santa Clara County tax bills.

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Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

In response to Can't Afford

I already pay plenty in property taxes to live in Mountain View. In their appreciation for that, my city council subjects me to overcrowding and hideous buildings due to ABAG, wants to narrow the streets that I pay for so that is more difficult to get where I want to go and now wants to charge me to park downtown to use local businesses? Sorry, I pay plenty already.

I would much rather spend my money in Los Altos, since they pay to educate my child and my city can't be bothered to even TRY to help solve the problem that they cause with their overbuilding, which is overcrowding the schools in LASD.

Do as you choose and think what you will, but I will support the people that show that they actually view me as a customer and not a cash cow.

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Posted by Slippery Slope
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 26, 2013 at 9:17 am

To allow the city council to start charging a "nominal fee" for parking is a slippery slope. Once they get their foot in the door, the price will keep going up and up just like it has in SF and SJ. They will always want more money.

City council needs to stop building apts/homes everywhere and anywhere without considering the impact it will have on downtown MV parking. Common sense should tell you that if there is no parking, we are all filled up!

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Posted by koolaid
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

the downtown is a cesspool of too many stupid people hanging around like it is a historic place. downtown has lost all its charm more than 10 years ago with the arrival of starbucks, pubs , fancy schmancy restaurants, yuppies,etc.. The only store I visit is the book store that sells old, used books, cds, dvds and that too only once a year..Other than that the downtown is a disgsuting..

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Posted by A Friend
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I can't believe the City did this! I remember, years ago, when it was brought up by Council and all of us were appalled by the idea. We had applauded the City for having gotten rid of all the parking meters years earlier and for having vowed to be more welcoming to all coming into the City--and, certainly, more familial to its workers. Is the City so "big", now, that it can thumb its nose at visitors--forget the inhabitants. Why on earth did the business community allow this to happen? Wow! I've been gone for almost seven years and am so glad I found this out: I know one town I won't be visiting--unless someone else drives me.

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Posted by TCE
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 28, 2013 at 12:35 am

To SAM and MVResident what ever- I am glad to see you found a parking spot. I used to dine every week in the DTA, until a couple years ago I could not find a parking spot. I after circling a few times, I remembered why I gave up trying to find parking in the Palo Alto DTA. I don't know who is filling up all parking on a Tuesday night, but after parking in a residential area about 3 blocks away from the DTA, I stopped going to downtown for a meal. If the parkers are commuters using the train station to avoid fines in their lots, then cite them, tow them, and enforce the two hour limit. The parking regulations are there to protect the locals.

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Posted by SAM
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Parking was never easy on a busy night, even at the South end by city hall where no commuter would park. But risking a $75 parking ticket just made meal and a walk into meal and go home. That does not fair well for shops for coffee, desert, books, Dr visit etc basically the double task visits where 2 hours will not be enough. Yes you are forcing people home and the small dollar bushiness lose the most.
Garrett has the right idea
Castro St. 1 hour
Parking lots. 2 to 5 hours you can even charge after 2 hours but there parking meters have to be convenient not issued by city hall. Charge to much you will send people into the neighborhoods.

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Posted by SAM
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I too have had to change plans because parking was bad. Special events seem to be a problem. Civic Center event overflow into the neighborhood. Are they dual tasking, dinner and show all in 2 hours? New apt with 1.5 parking per unit? No visitors no roommates expected? If the problem is not enough parking, time limits do not improve it. You just have a new set of cars fighting for it until someone gives up and goes to Sunnyvale.

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Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 30, 2013 at 8:51 am

Current technology allows for easier payment. Free parking is not really free. By charging for high priority spots along Castro you will get serious customers willing to pay more for food and other goods. If you want to go to a town with free parking, you will attract a lot of the people that hang out at coffee shops all day and read books.

Donald Shoup suggests varying rates depending on the market demand.

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Posted by TCE
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 30, 2013 at 11:12 am

Enforce the two hour limit 24/7. Also cite for overnight parking in the city lots. The lots and garages should be cleared out every night by 3am. Right now, you can park in a 2 hour spot, just before the two hour period is ends, which allows you to park for free all night and take the train to another city or event. The train station is a major draw to the city, and if you can figure out how to park for free, then people will do it and abuse it.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Night time and weekends aren't bad, yes some walking might be involved but even San Francisco is not this bad.

Almost every city has sort of parking limits where over staying will cost you a ticket. Even in Marysville, CA where downtown 10 years ago was dead in the middle of the afternoon. Only car on a full block, got a parking ticket just for staying over 12 minutes.

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Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 30, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Charging to park and enforcing parking limits are two totally different things. There should be some 2 hours spots and some longer term spots. However, if the city starts charging for anything but garages, I simply won't patronize the businesses. Mountain View is NOT San Francisco and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that.

In response to PI, I would like to say that although I don't make what you like to call a "serious" purchase every time I go downtown, I am far less inclined to trek to an unfamiliar area to make such purchases either. When I go into Los Altos, I park, take a walk, get a latte, pet a passing dog and go home most days. However, the last pair of boots I bought was there, as were 3 of the last 4 meals I ate at a nice restaurant, not in Mountain View, all because I feel welcome. As I walk, I see restaurants to try, clothes in shops and other businesses, all because I'm free to look, rather than having to run back to my car at top speed to avoid a citation. If visitors are made to feel as if they are a burden, they simply won't come.

Our City Council makes great noise about making the El Camino a "walkable boulevard", yet are turning it into a concrete canyon. Now they want to take the one truly walkable area, downtown, and make it less inviting to any residents that don't live within walking distance. I am not going to walk two miles from my house, wander the downtown, then walk two miles back. I'm willing to drive to do that, but only until I have to pay for the privilege.

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Posted by nothanks
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2013 at 10:40 pm

If it's not SF, I am not paying for parking. I don't pay for parking in small cities, I just go to cities that have free parking. MV is not that special.

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Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm

This is nuts.

The city council gives developers the power to decide what our town is turning into, yet they want to charge residents to patronize the restaurants and businesses in downtown? Really? I have to pay for a parking permit to go to the bookstore, farmer's market, yogurt shop, theater, library, post office, restaurant, etc? Are they really saying they are going to charge residents money for the privilege of parking on Castro Street or in the parking lots or the parking garage??!!

I'm still waiting for council to get behind that idea of "residents first", you know, the people that elected them and pay their monthly stipends and perks.

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Posted by Ed S
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I'm amazed at the sheer variety and creativity of the reasons that residents, business owners, commuters, shoppers, homeowners, and visitors use in claiming that they alone should be allowed free unrestricted use of a valuable public commodity. Bravo!

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Posted by Bitcasa
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2013 at 10:46 am

I'll pay for parking because I work on Castro Street. However, I'll take the added expense out of my shopping and dining budget normally reserved for local businesses on Castro Street, especially Cascal, RedRock Coffee, and Scratch. I'm sure those business owners will appreciate this new policy as much as I do.

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Posted by Even Steven
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Well, I ride a bike, so that leaves me with lots of money left to pick up the slack from those who cannot as easily afford this area. I particularly plan on spending more lots more money at Cascal, RedRock Coffee, and Scratch.

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Posted by Curious Observer
a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

What wasn't included in this article was the original proposed rates from the Community Development report (which is available on the city's website): annual $280 (17% increase), quarterly $75 (new), monthly $40 (no change), and daily $4 (150% increase). Councilmember Kazperzak thought the proposed rates were too low and wanted to go higher and at one point suggested $360 for the annual permit. The council then proceeded to play with the numbers until they came up with the current rate schedule.

Councilmember Kazperzak sees downtown parking as a revenue stream and wants to milk it for all he can (his comparison of Mountain View to San Francisco is laughable…do you really think Mountain View has the same draw as SF and should charge SF rates for parking?). Residents who want to keep the small town feel for Mountain View need to be weary of his actions…he seems to be bound and determined to charge for parking downtown.

There are going to a lot of people unhappy with 25% rate increase in the annual permit but it could have been worse if Kasperzak had his way.

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Posted by Flava Dave
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Flava Dave is a registered user.

"Posted by SAM, a resident of North Whisman
So when I eat dinner and go for a walk around town for 2.5 hours I can get a ticket. This is a good way to chase out the visitors. "

You eat dinner at 3pm?

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Posted by SAM
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Flava Dave, That's the question. Is this a 2 hour limit all day? Only 9-5? Is the parking problem only in the afternoon? I find 7 PM parking is a big problem. How will time limits help the late night parking? At the planners really solving the problem or trying to get revenue.

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Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 4, 2013 at 11:20 am

"Get a good job with the city, son. That pension deal is carved in concrete, it'll be there your whole life!"

---Joe Sixpack to his son, Detroit, 1964

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Posted by Danielle
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 5, 2013 at 12:10 am

We tried to purchase permits for our people but were told we weren't in the "parking zone." (We're next to City Hall) It's fine to enforce it but please let us purchase permits so they don't have to go move their car every two hours to various parking spots all over Castro St!

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