By this point, everyone pretty much knows that traffic on Holly Street in San Carlos between Industrial Road and Old County Road is bad.
Most people know to avoid it if possible during certain hours of the day. But some don’t. And some can’t because they live there. The thing is, the people living on the street aren’t complaining about the traffic, but rather the city’s new policy to contend with the traffic. And that solution, or rather experiment, is to remove all street parking from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Right now, parking is restricted during rush hour — from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. westbound and 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. eastbound. That allows for an additional lane of traffic during the busiest times. And it seems the residents are OK with that. What they’re not OK with is adding the parking restriction into the entire block of each weekday.
In fact, many are angry and plotting their next move. And anyone who knows anything knows you really don’t want to have a whole section of a city mad.
City officials contend that the change is actually a compromise since traffic studies show that the congestion lingers past 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and is also bad on the weekends. In theory, restrictions could be extended during those times as well. And the fact of the matter is that no one has the right to park in front of their house. But try telling that to someone who paid good money for their house and has been able to park in front of their house until now. See how that conversation goes.
The city is sort of between a rock and a hard place on this one since there are not many cheap options to remedy the situation. The city could request a new northbound Highway 101 offramp at Brittan Avenue to alleviate some congestion but there are wetlands on that side of the freeway and, typically, Caltrans does not like putting new offramps so close to each other. Harbor Boulevard is another option, but that’s in Belmont territory and working with another city can be problematic.
At the July 14 San Carlos City Council meeting, the council voted 3-2 to extend the parking restrictions despite opposition from the Greater East San Carlos neighborhood, particularly those who live on Holly Street. The rationale was that something has to be done, and (my words) why not just yank the Band-Aid off. And it is being done amidst other improvements like restriping and resynchronization. Still, even with two lanes in both directions, the problem, in my opinion, is the bottleneck at Old County Road and El Camino Real where there are two red lights. Traffic moves fine as long as those lights stay green. That’s why I like Councilman Cameron Johnson’s idea of improving that area and perhaps even exploring a pedestrian overpass on El Camino Real to keep those left-hand turns flowing. That too will cost money, but will assuredly be cheaper than some of the alternatives like eminent domain. Besides, shouldn’t we be encouraging walking anyway?
And the fact of the matter is that it’s not clear if opening the lanes of traffic and eliminating street parking on those two blocks will really solve the problem. So the sum total is that you have a group of upset residents and a fix that may not really be a fix.
It’s too late now, but it might have been better to leave the restrictions as they are now while exploring alternatives like extending the green light times at Old County Road and El Camino Real. I get that the city overall is inconvenienced by congestion on Holly Street. But taking away street parking for a group of its citizens who have the same rights as others in a quest for a solution that may not work is not a solution at all. The council has a problem to solve, and must think of the greater good, but not at the sacrifice of a few.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.