Menlo Park Needs To Develop A LONG TERM Downtown Parking Plan Now 2


Whether you agree or not that there is a big parking problem in downtown Menlo Park today, it should be clear that one WILL exist once the Greenheart and Stanford projects are completed, and an even bigger one, if the city is successful in attracting more residents to downtown with appealing civic improvements. It’s important to keep in mind that any big solution like a parking structure (s) will take several years to build IF we decide its a good idea. The Specific Plan identified three likely locations for parking structures. So what should Menlo Park do in 2015?

I recommend that our city council:

  • Determine whether Menlo Park can afford a parking structure. Develop a funding strategy and identify potential private and public┬ápartners.
  • Evaluate above ground, underground and hybrid structures. Evaluate different architectural designs and landscaping.
  • Assess the trade-offs of building one or more at a time, e.g., cost, impact on downtown during construction.

  • Develop short term solutions to current parking problems which appear most troublesome around lunch time mid-week. There are hundreds of unused parking spaces within a short 5-minute shuttle ride to downtown. That could be used for daily permit parking and would free up downtown parking spaces for shoppers.

Downtown Parking Today

A look at existing downtown parking and recommendations in the Specific Plan. View now.


Parking Structure Building Cost Estimates

RSMeans is a leading provider of construction cost data for hundreds of cities in North America. I have consulted the online information they provide for building parking structures in Palo Alto in order to estimate the cost of building similar ones in Menlo Park. Please note RSMeans provides 2013 data so the numbers are lower than costs in 2015 or the future. My goal is to simply “ball park” estimate different options. For my analysis I assumed that 2015 costs were 30% higher than 2013. This may still be low given the strong local economy.

If Menlo Park were to build Parking Structure #3 as identified in the Specific Plan 438 NET new parking spaces would be created (650 new minus 212 lost).

Option 1 – Build surface and above ground parking structure

  • The estimated cost per space: $31,700.
    Total cost: 650 x $31,700 = $20.6M
  • Cost per NET ADDED parking space = $20.6M /438 = $47,000

Option 2 – Build surface and an underground parking structure.

  • The estimated cost per space of underground parking is $37,300.
  • Total cost = 650 x $37,300 = $24.2M
  • Cost per NET ADDED parking space = $24.2/438 = $55,250

View the assumptions and calculations for Option 1 and Option 2 options.


Community Discussions

Menlo Park survey: Most residents want above-ground parking facility (The Almanac – January 14, 2016)


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2 thoughts on “Menlo Park Needs To Develop A LONG TERM Downtown Parking Plan Now

  • Peter Carpenter

    It would be a tragic mistake if Menlo Park chooses a short term solution (one parking lot) to solve a small part of a long term problem( a more vibrant downtown) .

    Take all the public property including all the parking lots, all of Santa Cruz Ave and all the cross streets between ECR and University and Menlo and Oak Grove and put it into a design competition to create a totally walkable, bicyclable, playable, shopable surface area with ALL the parking underground. This total publicly owned land is incredible valuable and developing it in three dimensions could provide an exciting opportunity that would attract capital and encourage the current downtown property owners to either find ways to connect their current buildings to this project or allow their properties to be acquired by the City via eminent domain (which has great tax advantages to the current owners) and then placed into the pool for the new integrated design.

    All it would take is vision, leadership and courage.

    • Dana Hendrickson Post author

      Peter, I like the boldest of this idea but you left out one important consideration – MONEY. I suspect Menlo Park residents would not want to pay for it. Putting all the Plaza Parking underground and building a park above would likely cost at least $60 to 75M. We can build one above ground parking structure and convert Santa Cruz between Doyle and Crane into a beautiful and vibrant 3-block long pedestrian promenade for less than half of that figure. This would help our existing businesses which will in turn attract new ones. Add a micro-brewery and Barronne 2 and we’re in business. If in 3-5 years we need more parking then build another parking structure either above or underground depending on what we know at the time.

      Peter: To make your idea less “pie in the sky” I suggest you do a little research and then illustrate your ideas with a simple economic model and clearly show your key assumptions. If it makes economic sense the marketplace will take it on; otherwise, it comes across as simply “wishful thinking” and we already have too much of that at times. Go for it.

      Please include your parking fee assumptions when talking about leasing a parking garage. Note: developers generally want an 8% annul return so if a parking space costs on average $50,000 that would mean annual income of $4000 per space. Also, since neither the Stanford Shopping Center nor Palo Alto charge parking fees, why would it make sense for Menlo Park?