How new developments, an uptick in Caltrain commuters and residential parking restrictions are affecting the demand for street parking in San Mateo neighborhoods were among the questions residents aired with city officials Tuesday at the Martin Luther King Community Center.

Aimed at gathering input on the residential parking permit programs in 15 zones across the city, Tuesday’s forum was the third of four meetings city planners have held this year to gauge how well they are working, said parking manager Sue-Ellen Atkinson. She said applications for new programs were put on hold in December to give officials a chance to discuss with residents the number of permits that should be distributed to each household, enforcement hours and permit pricing, among other aspects of the city’s existing program, to see if updates to the city’s residential parking policy could be considered later this year.

“It’s really just to take the opportunity to take a step back and look at the program on a whole,” she said.

Since the city policy allowing residents to apply for a parking permit program was adopted in 2005, Atkinson said some 4,100 permits have been issued to 2,100 households throughout the city. By issuing residents permits to park on their streets, the programs aim to prevent non-residents from parking vehicles on affected residential streets for extended periods of time. Though permits must be issued to residents living within a certain area, they are free and unlimited to households, which have the option to obtain temporary permits for those visiting homes in the area, according to the policy documents.

Though a permit program has been in place on streets near Central Park, 17-year resident Tim Berndt said he’s noticed parking near his home on Laurel Avenue has become more constrained in recent years. Because he is retired, Berndt said he’s able to plan when he runs errands around the traffic congestion he’s observed and avoids arriving home in the late afternoon in case the street parking spots near his home are taken.

But Berndt wondered how a four-story, 60-unit apartment building and a 33,500-square-foot office building with a combined total of 200 parking spaces being built on Ninth Avenue and El Camino Real could affect parking on the streets near his home.

“I think that’s really going to put a strain on street parking, and I don’t know how they’re going to deal with that,” he said.

Resident Laurelle Jones said she came to the forum to learn more about residential parking permit programs and the impact they might have on her street, which is a dead-end road some four blocks away from the downtown Caltrain station. Jones said in recent years she’s noticed an uptick in Caltrain commuters parking in her neighborhood during the day instead of paying to park in designated Caltrain spots or getting a ticket for parking in downtown spots with a two-hour limit.

Though no program is in place on Jones’ street, she wondered if it would help residents find parking near their homes, where she’s observed residents constantly on the lookout for open spots. She said she’s always aware of the time when she leaves her house and worries about getting a spot near her home when she returns.

“I always think about it,” she said. “If I get home and there are no spots, I have to find two-hour parking.”

Having heard concerns from residents about parking availability near homes, Martin Luther King Park and community organizations like churches, North Central resident Adam Loraine said he hoped residents from his neighborhood weigh in at forums like Tuesday’s session. But in learning more about the program’s current structure and variables — such as the number and type of permits, pricing and implementation — Loraine said he wondered how parking patterns could be analyzed to ensure permit programs aren’t simply moving the problem to a neighboring street.

“I have some concerns about making sure [that] if we have a parking problem in North Central, we embrace a holistic solution that gets at the root of it,” he said.

City engineer Jay Yu said in asking residents to weigh in on the parking issues they’ve experienced, officials have gotten a sense of the activities they view as parking generators, which has included multiple families in a single household, Caltrain stations and selling cars in front of single-family homes. After residents submit a written petition asking for consideration of a parking permit program, Yu said the city hosts a neighborhood meeting and distributes a survey to determine what residents believe are the parking generators in their neighborhood. He added at least 67 percent of residents need to approve a program before it goes into place to ensure it has support from the surrounding community.

Atkinson said the feedback gathered at the forums and through an online form will inform any changes to the city’s policy that may be recommended at a future meeting of the city’s Public Works Commission, which could be scheduled as early as July. If policy updates are considered, she said they would ultimately go before the City Council for adoption.

“The intent of the forums that we’re doing is to get out in the community and hear feedback on the current program that can feed into any recommendation we may make,” she said. “We really haven’t had that opportunity in the last several years to talk with the community as a whole.”

The last of the four open houses on San Mateo’s residential parking permit programs will be held 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. May 23, at the San Mateo Senior Center, 2645 Alameda de las Pulgas. Visit opentownhall.com/portals/237/Issue_6234?cookies=detect&noembed=1 to share input on residential parking permit programs in San Mateo.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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