Holly Street residents say they are outraged by the San Carlos City Council’s plan to greatly restrict on-street parking and suggestions like allowing larger driveways or having the city purchase two properties on the thoroughfare for temporary parking doesn’t provide much salve.
At an emotion-packed meeting Monday, the council voted 3-2, with councilmen Matt Grocott and Cameron Johnson dissenting, to prohibit parking on the city’s main gateway between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays as a way to ease congestion by making it two lanes in both directions.
Along with the vote, city officials and staff threw out some ways to mitigate the takeaway, some of which were received better than others.
The first was a free permit program for homeowners needing vehicles parked during prohibited hours for an extended period of time, such as for deliveries. Holly Street resident Octavio Jara called the idea “ridiculous” to expect a worker to go online for a free permit, park in front of a house to unload materials and laborers and go park somewhere else.
“What if I order a pizza? Does that guy need a permit too?” Jara asked.
Mayor Mark Olbert also suggested temporary permits to park in the Laureola Park lot although that carries its own challenges such as competition with park visitors for limited spaces.
Another is tweaking the city’s zoning restrictions of setbacks to let homeowners create larger driveways on the property. Olbert said after the meeting he is willing to considering allocating some city funds to offset the costs of building the larger parking areas.
City Manager Jeff Maltbie may have provided the most out-of-the-box idea: purchasing one home on each side of the street and converting the land into a permitted parking lot exclusively for the use of Holly Street residents, contractors and guests.
Olbert concedes a designated lot wouldn’t be as convenient as parking directly in front of one’s home but said it would be safer. He also said the city cost of doing so is a worthwhile investment.
“While it would cost money to do so, personally I find it a reasonable trade-off: the entire community gets better traffic flow so why shouldn’t the community allocate some resource to mitigate the problems creating from realizing that improvement?” Olbert wrote in an email to the Daily Journal.
City staff will come back by late summer or early fall with some answers.
Olbert and Grocott said there was no talk of using eminent domain to take a home but the plan, if ever implemented, would likely rely on a house coming up for sale.
The idea is worth looking at, said Councilman Ron Collins, but is not necessarily the best solution.
“The ultimate long-term answer is to buy all the houses on Holly Street,” Collins said, adding that the homes were built before the highway on and off ramps. “Houses no longer belong on that road.”
Traffic counts cited by the city show an average of 600 or more vehicles passing through Holly Street in both directions every hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the week.
Jara said standing outside his home Tuesday morning he saw Holly Street traffic moving through within 90 seconds between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. which makes him question the city’s data.
But city officials have said after years of grumbling about Holly Street congestion now is the time to finally pull the trigger on changes.
Residents of Holly Street and the surrounding greater east San Carlos neighborhood balked at the plan, saying the city needs to look at other roads into the city and try first creating solutions through restriping the road and synchronizing traffic lights.
The city is also doing those two actions and staff is due back in six months to report on how the trio of changes is working. Theoretically, an evaluation could show the extension isn’t that significant and the restrictions possibly scaled back, said Mayor Mark Olbert.
Ben Fuller, president of the Greater East San Carlos group, said he isn’t optimistic of a return.
“Once these things are done they’re done. They never go backwards,” he said.
Fuller said the neighborhood knows the rest of San Carlos will get a tremendous gain from the change but that it is a tremendous loss for that community. Some members are considering legal options based on expected property value losses, he said.
Grocott voted against the ordinance because he agreed with residents that they weren’t well notified of the plan and also thinks the city should start off with incremental changes before heading straight to a day-long ban. He also suggested banning trucks and buses on Holly Street because their longer length disrupts the rhythm of traffic flow.
“I just felt like it doesn’t do any harm to us as a city to do the other two parts of the project and have more discussion of the parking,” Grocott said. “After Transit Village or Wheeler Plaza or PAMF, if we find we need to do that other thing which is more painful for people, we do it then.”
Collins said you can’t do one without the other because, for instance, two lanes of traffic with restriping could have motorists running into parked cars.
“You either do nothing or you do everything,” Collins said. “We chose everything.”
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