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Guest Opinion: Downtown patrons demand parking

 

The city of Pleasanton is poised to adopt a seriously flawed Downtown Specific Plan Update. The draft plan does not provide the public parking absolutely essential to maintain downtown vitality.

The City Council, the Downtown Task Force, planning staff, consultants and many citizens have worked sincerely to develop this draft specific plan. But, they got bamboozled by the phony planning theory that if you do not build parking, people will take the bus, walk or bicycle to get downtown.


Peter MacDonald
Those of us who live or work in downtown know that from about 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. on any weekday, there are almost no available parking spaces within two blocks of the Main/Rose-Neal intersection.

The city's own Hexcel parking study in September 2013 confirmed the lack of parking in the core: That Hexcel survey, over multiple days, showed there were only 2.6 vacant parking spaces on average within one block of the Main/Rose-Neal intersection. Within two blocks there were only 27.1 vacant parking spaces, which equates to less than one vacant space per block of curb parking, given that 9.8 of those vacant spaces were actually on the distant railroad corridor by First Street.

That was before the city waived the 20 parking space requirement for the new Starbucks-Sotheby's building at the northwest corner of Main/Rose-Neal intersection.

As the parking scarcity worsened, private businesses were forced to hoard their spaces for their customers, exacerbating the scarcity. Our city planners seem to believe that people need to be like Rockridge visitors (by College Avenue in Oakland) and learn to walk five blocks when they visit downtown.

Not surprisingly, downtown sales have flat-lined. From 2014-15 to 2017-18 (a three-year timeframe), sales tax from downtown has increased by only 1.5%. That happened despite having some wonderful businesses and restaurants opening in downtown. Customers stop coming to businesses that are inconvenient to visit.

The Pleasanton Downtown Association and the Chamber of Commerce, along with many businesses and downtowners, have begged for inclusion of substantial public parking in the downtown core. Instead, we now have a draft Downtown Specific Plan Update that has no substantial public parking expansion planned within even four blocks from the Main/Rose-Neal intersection.

The plan does include a parking garage at the Bernal-Old Bernal corner, to benefit the city's redevelopment of its current Civic Center site and the ACE train station. But, that parking garage will be five blocks from the Main/Rose-Neal intersection and useless to support the retail core of downtown -- this isn't Rockridge or Carmel.

The draft Downtown Specific Plan Update is focused on moving City Hall activities out of the downtown to the Bernal property across from the fairgrounds. That requires voter approval.

This is a $150 million to $200 million project (phased over time). Unless the city is willing to spend even $10 million to build some needed public parking in the downtown core, and plan now for where that parking will be located, I cannot support their City Hall move or the draft Downtown Specific Plan Update.

If you want the downtown retail core, the real heart of Pleasanton, to be more vital, please weigh in with our city officials. With your voice, we can get this flaw corrected before the specific plan gets adopted.

Editor's note: Peter MacDonald is a real estate attorney and a former president of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the Pleasanton Downtown Association, who has worked in downtown Pleasanton since 1982.

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Additional note
a resident of Ponderosa
on May 2, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Editor should also note:

City of Pleasanton, 1982-1988

I believe he was the City Attorney

(From Mr. MacDonald's resume posted on his website).

Have to wonder why the PW failed to mention this important fact?


15 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 2, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Mr. MacDonald has a background in land planning, and as a former city attorney and longtime resident and business owner, he understands the downtown. I agree parking needs to be more central to businesses. Additionally, we are not yet a fully integrated, bike-friendly (or scooters) community.

We need to be better situated for local citizens and others we might hope to attract to restaurants and businesses who do not live in Pleasanton.

I still believe, however, that with no plan to include the school district as part of a new city center—an opportunity to improve buildings and access (one stop shopping for citizens using the two agencies) and to maximize use of taxpayer funds and the current sites those agencies occupy—the city’s plan as it is currently planned is a no vote for me.


3 people like this
Posted by Just my thought
a resident of Downtown
on May 3, 2019 at 5:51 am

Has anyone looked into the possibility that the parking scarcity during the weekday may be caused from over-flow parking from commuters using the Ace train? If this is the case, then maybe the City and Ace should look into building a parking garage directly on the Ace parking lot (on Pleasanton Avenue), not just on Old Bernal.


8 people like this
Posted by Just wondering
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 3, 2019 at 10:28 am

Just wondering is a registered user.

Thank you Peter McDonald for Raising this point.. Could not agree more. Yes we should make sure parking is built in downtown plan as this appears to be an oversight.

Had heard the lot on Spring street which Is now a bunch of high rise condos was earmarked as a potential site for city parking. What happened? This would have been perfect!




4 people like this
Posted by Rob
a resident of Birdland
on May 3, 2019 at 10:46 am

Just wondering: The (previous) City Council is what happened.


2 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on May 3, 2019 at 12:42 pm

It costs $60k - $120k per parking space to build and roughly that much to maintain a parking spot and lot over 40 years, depending on configuration.

We have a transit system that runs 15 minutes all day on weekdays. We know that transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the state. We know that priced parking increases carpool rates and shifts people to different modes, allowing for more people who must drive for disability reasons to do so (and handicap places aren’t charged). We know that rideshare is up and autonomous cars may quickly change the landscape about how much parking is needed.

So why should we be subsidizing free parking, inviting more cars into downtown, and making a massive bet that parking is the highest use of downtown space? Conglomerate private lots, yes. New garages, no. We have better things to spend money on.


5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 3, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

sjd, I’m no expert, but let me take a shot here. Truly autonomous cars are years away, but what if I do own a self driving vehicle (and people will choose to), will I not need to park? I don’t see a future where every trip I need or wish to take would be by hailing Uber/Lyft. It seems that would be pricy enough to justify having my own car.

It would be great if we could adopt a European model for local trips using Vespas/scooters/bicycles. Then, like Europe, you could park many more vehicles in smaller spaces.

Also, your town has a parking facility. Thank you! I use it often when I drive to your downtown.


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on May 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm

@Kathleen,

Thanks for the comments. I didn't want to focus too much on autonomous vehicles, because my other points stand as well.

Since you brought it up, like you, I think autonomous cars are further out than promised. That doesn't mean they are decades away though - I'm of the opinion that they will be 5-8 years (and I'm in the industry, by the way). It won't be 40 years, which is the life cycle of a new garage.

When they do appear, of course some people will still own them, but others will not want that and will use the Uber/Lyft style. My hope is also that this is combined with public transit - maybe you, for example, would simply take a smaller Lyft from your neighborhood to Stanley, and then take a bus to Livermore instead.

The price of Uber/Lyft will also certainly go down without drivers, as long as there isn't a monopoly there.

Livermore has certainly an... enthusiasm for free parking downtown. I'm not a fan of that either. We'll be closing the Oil Change place, tearing it down for an absurdly modest amount of temporary parking, and losing that revenue until the hotel is built. We're paving over dirt for temporary parking that isn't fully used anyways, only to tear it up in 2 years.


5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 3, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

sjd, the problem is our downtown needs parking now. Most of what we have is street parking, and much of the rest is marked for current downtown stores (True Value, Inklings, B of A, Chase, and specific restaurants). Unless those becomes public and/or everyone switches to smaller transport as I mentioned, the need has been obvious for years and we could easily need it for the life of any new garage.


3 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on May 3, 2019 at 7:22 pm

@Kathleen,

I hear what you're saying, but I'll challenge you a bit: Why don't people switch to public transit or bikes or scooters today?

Could it be because biking around town is dangerous due to the lack of safe bike lanes (in fact no bike lanes at all between Bernal and Vineyard, something the downtown seeks to fix)? Or perhaps because the buses are slow because of how they loop around downtown and where the stops are located?

What if fixing that well enough that parking demand went down cost less than building a new parking garage?


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 3, 2019 at 7:40 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

sjd, I am agreeing with you there. I worked in Palo Alto. The number of students on bikes was remarkable. Much more friendly to smaller vehicles in that community. Pleasanton is not there. I’m not sure we are even close.


7 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 3, 2019 at 9:38 pm

I'm downtown all the time. Never have to walk more than a couple blocks. 98% of the time there is parking on Railroad or Peters if Main is full. Add more handicapped, and the able bodied can walk a few. They'd have to walk from a garage anyway.


3 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 3, 2019 at 11:27 pm

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

Livermore's Downtown has shot past Pleasanton's.
Livermore is currently building their second Downtown Parking Structure.
Coincidence?


15 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on May 4, 2019 at 8:36 am

Bill- I’m agreeing with you, lived here my whole life and never have trouble finding parking, add more handicapped spaces on Main St. and everybody else can try walking a little! Really tired of seeing vehicles making illegal u-turns right in the middle of Main St to snag a prime parking spot.


5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 4, 2019 at 8:55 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Bill and Map, if the plan is to continue building—downtown or anywhere else—we will need parking. If we hope to attract non-Pleasanton consumers to businesses, we need parking. I frequent downtown and don’t mind walking, but often find myself in local neighborhoods. I’m sure, just like at fair time or during the Saturday market, they don’t appreciate it. And people make the u-turns precisely because there isn’t enough parking. Part of having a vital downtown is easy access with necessary parking.


2 people like this
Posted by One experience
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 6, 2019 at 9:52 am

I went downtown recently for a business meeting at 1:30PM. The meeting was on Peters Ave on a Thursday. All of the lots were filled. All of the nearby side streets were full. I finally had to park 5 blocks away. The person I was meeting with said I was lucky to even find that place!


2 people like this
Posted by Joe Crosslin
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 6, 2019 at 9:53 am

Peter & Kathleen, AMEN!


3 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on May 6, 2019 at 10:08 am

Jack is a registered user.

We don't need ENOUGH parking, we need an ABUNDANCE of parking! Shoppers and diners need to know with 100% certainty that they will find a place to park Downtown... Peter MacDonald is right, but the headline should read "patrons deserve parking," and this Task Force should be ashamed of themselves for not yet even talking about parking!


6 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on May 6, 2019 at 11:21 am

If the problem is that it's hard for people to walk a couple of blocks, then we need more handicapped parking. Make Main Street all handicapped parking and the problem is solved. Ta da. Not that complicated.


Like this comment
Posted by pope john
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on May 6, 2019 at 4:12 pm

pope john is a registered user.

There are numerous fine dinning locations outside of the downtown area with ample parking.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 6, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Sure. But neither you nor Julie are solving accessibility to downtown businesses for those who wish to shop or eat on Main.


5 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 6, 2019 at 5:41 pm

If new parking is needed due to development, require developers to include plenty of on-site parking for their new developments. No need for the city to foot the bill for that.


6 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on May 6, 2019 at 7:27 pm

Life is too short to be in a hurry with it.
Why not walk, savor the moment, appreciate your time on this earth.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 6, 2019 at 7:35 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

How will that be public parking? If you build a structure with a business and perhaps residences above, the parking will be for residents and customers—assuming they create enough parking for those purposes in the first place.


5 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on May 7, 2019 at 11:06 am

First redo main st and make it one way running north to south, add more handicap parking and lighted crosswalks, improve the lighting on our side streets and encourage the able bodied to get out of their cars and walk a little!! Everyone praises livermore and their downtown but I walk a lot further there than I do in pleasanton for parking.


2 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 13, 2019 at 8:38 am

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

It's not about anti-walking. Walking has nothing to do with it. It's about anti-uncertainty. It's about feeling welcome, all those "No Parking Here" signs. It's about lot parking spaces vs street parking spaces. Livermore's getting it right, Pleasanton's not.


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on May 14, 2019 at 1:04 pm

David is a registered user.

Given my age and health, I’m not biking or taking a scooter to downtown. And unlike Europe, biking is dangerous here because of wide, multi-lane straight streets with drivers who not not accustomed to bikes. Above all, it’s ridiculous to think people will take Uber to connect with a bus to downtown. Nor will I walk a 1/2 mile to a transit stop and then sit on a bus for another 20 minutes when I can drive it in 10 minutes. It takes too much time and hassle. By the way, the last thing I want is an over abundance of Uber and Lyft drivers roaming in downtown stopping in the middle of streets looking for and loading passengers. They are the worst and actually create MORE traffic than originally intended. If you go to San Francisco, you already know this fact. Build a centrally located garage in downtown or don’t build one at all—what a waste of money. Parking lot next to ACE Hardware, demo the unused City building next to Vic’s and close off Main Street connection to Bernal????? I think the plan wants a hotel there but a shared public garage could be good????


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on May 14, 2019 at 1:10 pm

David is a registered user.

Almost forgot, our high school kids can’t walk to school ergo the flap about the new parking lot remodel, but all the rest of us should walk, scooter or bus to downtown instead of driving? That’s ironic.


6 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

I think this is pretty simple. Expecting people to walk, bike, or use a scooter is ablist and discriminatory. Many people cannot walk for a mile up or down hills--as our community has--and do not qualify for placards. Furthermore, it's extremely family unfriendly. Very few people can strap babies onto bikes.

Let's end this fantasy of nonsense. It's just business. People go to Costco because they have parking. If we want to keep our downtown alive and thriving, then we need to provide parking to stay competitive.

And let's stop letting bike-only activists plan our cities. I have nothing wrong with accommodating bikes. But I didn't grant them permission to have their votes count a hundred more times than mine. The city needs to listen to the rest of us.


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on May 14, 2019 at 5:43 pm

Grumpy,

I get extremely offended when someone tells me my activism for safer biking, waking, and public transit is ableist, when my mother with MS was only able to get around with a trike and walking on roads where she was ridiculed and bullied.

My hometown was also full of hills, my mother had a trike with a trailer, later an electric assist trike, and she rode on the sidewalk wherever she could. Later, she needed every available curb cut to get around with her wheelchair, which I also advocate for. I challenge you that no “bikes-only” person is actually advocating for bikes only. You’re setting up a big straw man. I know people who can’t walk with bad knees but use an electric scooter to get around.

The city has been listening to “the rest of you” for decades and one more lane, one more parking spot is not going to get us anywhere. It does not scale. (changing the general plan for the trail along Main from parking as accessory use to maximizing parking and destroying the usefulness of the trail, for example)


1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on May 14, 2019 at 9:30 pm

David is a registered user.

Dear Sid, I think separated bike or scooter lanes to downtown are wise for access, safety and environment. But it’s not the sole solution. We still need parking downtown. Look how much busier and crowded downtown is now (I’ve been here for 30 years). We will need to add parking as population in the Tri Valley increases and people visit from Fremont, Castro Valley and more


Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on May 15, 2019 at 9:42 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Sjd, you should not get extremely offended, or even slightly offended, when someone points out that a stance is ableist, unless you really don't care about all the other people with conditions for whom your mother's solutions won't work and you think they're faking it or somehow not trying hard enough. I encourage you to look deeper inside and identify the source of your offense within, especially since it was not you particularly who was the subject of my comment. Surely, you can both recognize that neither you nor your mom was being discussed here until you brought them up, and that there are many other conditions that can lead someone to be unable to walk far, ride a bike, or take a scooter that still deprives them of a placard.

Also, I believe it is you who is building straw men, not I. I don't believe anyone here is arguing against adding bike lanes. In fact, if you cared enough to know my position, you'd discover that I believe that bicycles should have dedicated road surfaces protected by curbs from cars, as they do in Europe.

What I don't agree with is that parking is unsustainable in the specific case of downtown Pleasanton. Yours is an assertion of fact, and is easily disproven by traveling, as I said, to a Costco, who manages to make tremendous profits while having large parking surfaces.

We should be able to quantify this. What percentage of local citizens do you believe can and should walk, scoot, or bike to downtown? Is it 5%? 20%? 80%? If it's 5%, then 95% need parking. If it's 80%, then I'd wonder why you think the number is so high. If you don't know, then admit that you don't and that you ought not to advocate for a change until it's known.


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on May 15, 2019 at 7:42 pm

Grumpy,

I will take your offer to de-escalate and do so. I did get the assumption you were targeting me personally. Apologies.

I am well aware what worked for my mom (and doesn’t any longer - she needs parking now) doesn’t work for everyone. But I’ve personally been called ableist before by people who don’t know my story so I come off rather strong when accused on that charge.

Cheers,
sjd


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