Stanford agrees to solutions for Dish-area parking problems

Stanford has agreed to support back-in parking on Stanford Avenue for Dish hikers as well as additional parking on Coyote Hill Road. If approved by the county, these proposals will create 25 percent more parking near the Dish.

Kate Chesley Stanford Avenue

More parking for hikers using the Dish trails is the goal of a Stanford proposal.

After engaging in months of public outreach, Stanford has agreed to join with the city of Palo Alto to solve long-standing parking challenges in the Dish area as part of a larger effort to expand public trails in the region.

The parking improvements are part of a comprehensive Stanford and Palo Alto plan – called the Stanford and Palo Alto Trails Program: Connecting the Bay to the Ridge – that was awarded $10 million by Santa Clara County in November 2012. Under that plan, the board of supervisors agreed to fund long-sought area pedestrian and bike path improvements that were jointly proposed by Palo Alto and Stanford.

Stanford's updated parking proposals are outlined in a letter from Larry Horton, senior associate vice president for public affairs. The letter was delivered Tuesday in response to a letter from Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd. Shepherd's letter highlighted recent community concerns about the loss of parking on Stanford Avenue.

In his letter, Horton agrees to Shepherd's request to resurrect a proposal to create back-in angle parking on Stanford Avenue near the entrance to the Dish. Stanford also supports the creation of 33 parallel parking spaces on nearby Coyote Hill Road to serve hikers walking the Dish, the Matadero Creek Trail and the proposed new Stanford Perimeter Trail.

Constructing the back-in angle parking plus the new parking along Coyote Hill Road will result in a 25 percent increase in the amount of parking available for the Dish. Horton said the proposals, if approved by Santa Clara County, will also result in "improved and safer bicycle and pedestrian routes."

The city/university comprehensive proposal includes a new Stanford Perimeter Trail stretching from Junipero Serra Boulevard to Quarry Road. It also includes the extension of a bike and pedestrian path along existing levee access roads of Matadero Creek and the completion of a design phase for a pedestrian and bike Adobe Creek overcrossing for Highway 101.

Since the county's November 2012 approval, Stanford has been conducting extensive public outreach to nail down implementation details. Among the most pressing issues in finalizing plans to present to Santa Clara County has been improving safety on Stanford Avenue.

In their comprehensive proposal to Santa Clara County, Stanford and Palo Alto had proposed creating back-in angle parking on Stanford Avenue and removing existing parking on one side of the block between Junipero Serra Boulevard and Raimundo Way. The street has seen dramatic increases in automobile, biking and pedestrian traffic because of the growing popularity of the Dish hiking trails. Stanford estimates that as many as 650,000 people now hike the four miles of service trails in the conservation area annually. The resulting traffic has raised significant safety concerns, especially on Stanford Avenue, including as far down as Nixon Elementary School.

Stanford modified the proposal for back-in parking on Stanford Avenue in favor of parallel parking as a result of concerns expressed by the county. The parallel-parking proposal, however, elicited concern from Dish hikers, who worry that access to the trails will be diminished as a result of a greater reduction in available automobile spaces. That reduction has, in turn, prompted concern among Shepherd and other city officials.

In his letter, Horton wrote, "Our application for this project is not yet complete, and at this stage, we can go back to our original plan, and we agree to do so."

He added, "If the City and Stanford jointly support back-in angle parking, I believe we will have an excellent chance of getting this program approved by the County."

After construction of the Stanford Perimeter Trail and the addition of parking on Coyote Hill Road, Horton said there would be 91 parking spaces in the vicinity of the Dish, as opposed to the current 73 spaces.

Horton said he is hopeful Santa Clara County supervisors will approve the back-in parking spaces on Stanford Avenue. But he notes in his letter, "If we cannot achieve approval of the back-in angle parking from the County, Stanford will have to pursue approval of a parallel parking scheme on Stanford Avenue."

"This has been a landmark Palo Alto – Stanford joint project," Horton said. "When the trails are in place, the entire community will enjoy them for decades to come. The power of partnership is potent, and I hope we see more of it."