Is there a bad guy?

More Palo Alto community meetings are sparking conversation at my house – this time, a parking ban in a neighborhood of Palo Alto very close to us.

Melanie and I attended a Palo Alto community meeting several Tuesdays ago about potential parking restrictions in Crescent Park, a piece of Palo Alto connected to EPA by the scant Newell Bridge. Crescent Park petitions for these new rules stemmed from complaints about an overcrowding of parking by non-residents who also leave substantial litter and late-night noise in their wake. Apparently these disturbances have been a local issue for years.

On the flip side: those non-resident parkers are the residents of my own neighborhood a hop away in EPA, where parking is truly scarce. This is because, for the most part, families have multiple income earners driving to work, and an apartment could be housing multiple families. Even my own house = four jobs, four cars, one designated parking spot, and Melanie is the one who’s had the most history parking across that bridge on the Palo Alto side.

Both Mel and I came to that Tuesday meeting armed with the opinion that Palo Alto residents should absolutely not place a ban, since EPA residents had no choice but to park there. Where else would they park? This section of EPA is barred on all three other sides by University Avenue and the 101 Freeway. And who was really suffering here – Palo Alto residents who might walk an extra block to their second/third car, or the EPA non-residents who were walking 10 minutes from their crammed apartment to their car?

Of course, the debate is really complicated, which we realized as the meeting grew more heated. Voices ranged from angry to indignant to petty to wise, with some Palo Alto families displeased about condoms or syringes in their yards, and others with more EPA experience trying to shed light on the parking dilemma over here. The question of “Who is the bad guy?” became a bit more nuanced. That, and my housemates and I realized that EPA’s dominating real estate developer, Equity Residential, plays an enormously powerful yet silent role in this situation. It’s the country’s largest apartment developer, and relevant authority figures have been elusive, reminding me that there are larger systems at work around this seemingly small EPA-PA conflict.

Today, the news broke that the Palo Alto City Council approved a temporary parking ban for the neighborhood. I literally cannot imagine what the consequences will be like for the residents here and, though I won’t be here anymore, Melanie and Liz (our new housemate!) will experience them first-hand. For now, though, I’m glad that that last article about the ban points partly to Equity, the developer, and not completely to the EPA residents. It’s difficult and probably pointless to say who the “bad guys” are, but at least the public should know all of the potentially offending parties involved.

** Update: Sept. 6, 2013 **

East Palo Alto officials respond, and none too kindly.

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