Palo Alto Bond Poll shows voters don’t want to pay for parking structures

Palo Alto voters are reluctant to take on the cost of new parking structures via a bond measure, according to a recent poll commissioned by the City of Palo Alto. Voters feel more favorably toward investing in biking and walking.

But overall, the support for a bond measure was not definitive, leaving key questions for city council about whether to put the city’s infrastructure needs to the voters.

Only 42% of Palo Alto voters surveyed believe additional parking is an important priority to pay for, and 68% believe it is not a high priority to pay for. Voters are more favorably disposed to paying for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, 67% believe it is important to fund safe routes for bicyclists and pedestrians.

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Voters not eager to pay extra for parking supply

Parking structures did better when bundled within a package of investments to provide congestion relief and safe streets; that package all together did clear the 2/3 level needed to pass a measure.  However, based on the standalone unpopularity of parking structures, a ballot measure that included parking structures could be vulnerable to opposition to its most vulnerable element.

The poll did not ask, but it would interesting to know whether any of the opposition is due to residents resisting picking up the tab previously payed by downtown developers and property owners.  Palo Alto’s current generation of parking structures were paid for by bonds raised by business assessment districts, whose members then pay back the bonds.

Given the overall poll results, the big question for Palo Alto City Council is whether or not to seek voter approval for an infrastructure bond measure.  According to the poll, Palo Alto residents are very pleased with the performance of City government, both generally and in specific policy areas, and most do not see a major need for additional infrastructure funding; only about half of voters see even “some need” for additional infrastructure funding.

Majority of Palo Alto voters see little need for additional infrastructure funding

Overall, 66% of voters are supportive of a ballot measure to finance infrastructure
improvements – though most only tentatively.  A bond measure would require 2/3 vote to clear, however there are some available funding mechanisms that would require 50%.   Palo Alto City Council’s infrastructure Committee is discussing the results of the poll today, after which City Council will review and decide.

Update: as reported by Palo Alto Online, several Palo Alto Council members on the Infrastructure Committee looked on the bright side when interpreting the results of the infrastructure poll, observing that responses vary depending on how the questions are asked, and that there are enough undecided voters who could be brought to support a measure with effective campaigning. The next step of review will take place in August, when the Committee will discuss various packages of projects that could be included in a potential bond measure.


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5 Responses to Palo Alto Bond Poll shows voters don’t want to pay for parking structures

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  4. Scott says:

    It seems like the city is trying to force the new parking structures regardless of what the residents want. They should not need to have to repackage the garages together with more favorable proposals and launch PR campaigns just to manipulate the survey numbers for what they want.

    The survey result are clear. Most people realize that more garages means just more cars on the nearby street, resulting in more congestion, traffic, noise, and pollution. This just makes the town less livable and lowers property values.

    Why not just follow the survey’s lead, and have a bond to improve bike infrastructure to get more cars off the road. Then you don’t need the extra parking garages. For a tiny fraction of what a garage would cost, the city could instead install bike detectors at high usage traffic lights for example, thus creating a safer more livable community for everyone.

    • Adina Levin says:

      I agree with you on the solutions, but I am not so sure about the interpretation of the poll. If you listen to public discussions, many residents are still convinced that the solution to excess cars on the street is more parking garages, rather than fewer cars. But they want businesses to pay for the garages rather than residents.

      On the bright side, City Council and staff, and more constituents do seem to be coming around to the need to a mix of solutions. The more voters who say that they would *rather* prioritize reducing cars over building parking, the more Council will lean toward prioritizing reducing driving. Stanford has gotten driving alone down to about 40% of their employee population, not counting people who live on campus. Stanford did this with bikes, discount train passes, shuttles to the train, carpool programs, and other incentives. For the cost of a parking garage, Palo Alto could afford a very large amount of bike infrastructure, transit passes, shuttles etc.

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