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re: Draeger's loading zone–and rethinking how we use our streets

From: domainremoved <Katie>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2018 15:12:11 -0700

Dear city council,

Tonight you will be discussing the possible re-location of the Evelyn
Street loading zone that is used extensively by Draeger's (and to a lesser
extent by other downtown businesses, e.g. Pharmaca). There is no easy or
obvious choice–only a series of competing trade-offs.

On the one hand, you have a family seeking to develop their land–ultimately
to live there–which is surely their right to do. The Planning Commission
had lots of positive feedback on the design of the building.

On the other hand, you have a beloved community retailer, operating a
low-margin business with abundant nearby chain competition. Each side will
bring impressive lawyers/consultants/architects to testify on their behalf.
Both sides will make compelling cases. (We've heard the arguments in the
Complete Streets commission, twice.)

As a commission, we spent considerable time discussing the various
options–all of them, frankly, mediocre–and ultimately voted to recommend
option 4, which would relocate the Evelyn loading zone to the opposite side
of the street from the proposed development. We also recommended extending
the hours during which Draeger's could use the parking plaza for receiving,
noting that Draeger's has a private parking lot with plenty of extra
capacity, even during peak daytime hours.

The Draeger family has expressed reluctance to depend on their private lot,
averring that customers find it inconvenient and don't feel safe crossing
the street to get to the store. But what does this say about the conditions
in our downtown?

I think we are trying to solve the wrong problem here.

In fact, given the abundant pedestrian and bike safety issues along Menlo
Avenue (see map from TMP:
https://menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/18635/Menlo-Park-Central-Area-Map-Boards-090518_FINAL),
I hope that you will also discuss the question of whether loading zones
should be on these streets at all.

Why? Fundamentally, streets and sidewalks are, or should be, for moving
people places–not for storing vehicles. On-street parking may be convenient
for the individual driver (depending on their parallel parking skills) but
it makes the streets inherently less safe for other drivers, for cyclists,
and for pedestrians.

On Menlo Avenue, the parallel parking reduces visibility for drivers
exiting side streets and driveways. As a result, drivers seeking to exit
parking lots must pull farther out into traffic, impeding pedestrian
passage on sidewalks. The notorious "door zone" threatens cyclists who are
trying to thread the needle between parked and passing cars. Cars trying to
pass slower cyclists will often veer into the opposite lane, threatening
oncoming traffic. Almost NO ONE is looking for pedestrians trying to cross
the street.

Despite these challenges, any talk about removing on-street parking in our
downtown is highly contentious (as we saw from the Oak Grove bike lane
pilot). Merchants worry that any additional removal of on-street parking
will hurt their business. Many shoppers, especially those trying to run
quick errands, or those with mobility issues, worry about losing the chance
of parking right next to their chosen destination.

Concerns about parking scarcity are currently taking on an outsized role in
land-use and transportation policy decisions in the downtown area. Some
hope we can solve this problem by building a garage. But right now we
aren’t taking the most basic step to address the problem: charging for
parking. We currently offer up to three free hours of customer parking in
lots and on our streets across town. Those who do pay for parking, because
they need to stay longer than 3 hours, are the disproportionately hourly
wage employees who travel from far away to serve us in boutique shops, nail
salons, and restaurants.

Let me be blunt: we are off-loading the cost of parking on those who can
least afford it. And we still have parked cars clogging our streets and
endangering our residents.

Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if we started charging a modest
amount for hourly parking as they do in Redwood City. We could even vary
the charge based on time of day and proximity to downtown. Those who are
price sensitive might choose to walk or bike instead of drive, or park
farther away.

In the case of Draeger's, I imagine their free private lot, conveniently
located right across the street from their store, would see a lot more
action if people had to pay $2/hour to park in lot 4. And if Menlo Avenue
had bike lanes instead of parked cars, we might see a lot more shopping at
Draeger's by bike–especially if Draeger’s took a cue from Trader Joe’s and
added more bike racks outside their store.

Regardless, we should not be in the position of encouraging large delivery
trucks to occupy valuable downtown street space for hours every
day–especially not on a street like Menlo Avenue, which already has
significant safety issues. Adding trucks to this already overloaded system
will make our streets less safe, which means that fewer people will want to
bike or walk downtown, which will in turn exacerbate our parking shortages.

If you must maintain a loading zone near Draeger’s, please listen to the
recommendation of the Complete Streets Commission and stick with the
lower-traffic side street. But also, please, consider this episode yet
another symptom of a greater disease. Until we manage our existing parking
better and stop letting the threat of parking shortages drive our policy
decisions, we will continue to have these frustrating debates wherein we
somehow wind up pitting the viability of local businesses against the
safety of citizens, as if we weren’t all somehow on the same team.


It’s a false choice.

We can do better.

Thank you.

Katie


-- 
Katie Behroozi
650.804.1812 (cell)
Received on Tue Oct 23 2018 - 15:11:10 PDT

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