By the Daily Post staff
In an unexpected move, Palo Alto City Council tonight (Feb. 110 put the brakes on building a $29 million, 324-space parking garage at Hamilton Avenue and Waverley Street until the city can come up with a strategy to deal with downtown parking.
Several council members said they were concerned that building the garage — which they said would attract more cars — would contradict their goal of fighting climate change.
Before the vote, Chamber of Commerce head Judy Kleinberg reminded the council that previous councils had promised to do three things to address the downtown parking shortage — start a residential parking permit program, create a Transportation Management Association to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips and build another parking garage. She said the business community supported the first two items and expected council to deliver on the third.
Councilman Tom DuBois was hesitant to vote to stop the garage because he said the council’s agenda didn’t really explain stopping the garage project was an option council was considering. He argued unsuccessfully that the council should at least set a date for when the garage would return for another vote.
Nonetheless, he joined the other six council members in voting to indefinitely postpone the garage.
The garage had been in the works for several years at City Hall, and architect Ken Hayes even presented designs for the garage at tonight’s meeting. Council did approve an environmental impact report for the garage, but it will now sit on a shelf at City Hall in the event the garage project comes back to life.
Councilwoman Liz Kniss apologized to the business community for her vote against the garage, but said she was persuaded by her concern for climate change and the city’s lack of a strategy for downtown parking. She noted that she has been waiting six years for the city to install sensors in its other garages to tell drivers whether any spaces are available.
After the city comes up with a parking strategy, “maybe we’ll come back and look at another garage,” Kniss said.
The newest member of council, Alison Cormack, said she was also concerned about a lack of parking management and said she agreed with the other council members about their climate change goals.
DuBois appeared ready to vote in favor of the garage last night, saying “the more we delay, the more the cost goes up.”
He disagreed with other council members who said they wanted more data on downtown parking trends.
“I don’t want to see us spending money for another traffic study when we have data that is less than a year old,” DuBois said.
Mayor Eric Filseth seemed relieved the city wasn’t going to build the garage right now.
“Personally, I think that corner looks better without a 50-foot building on it anyway,” Filseth said.