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Redwood City tackles downtown parking
January 30, 2013, 05:00 AM By Sally Schilling Daily Journal correspondent
Downtown Redwood City patrons are often struggling to find timely parking as construction continues taking up spaces and blocking traffic near Middlefield Road and Theatre Way on weekdays.

The first phase of the Redwood Tower project — one of the many office and retail development projects planned for downtown Redwood City — is relocating a storm culvert underneath Middlefield Road.

Businesses, particularly on Theatre Way, have been struggling with directing customers to available parking since construction began in mid-October.

"The last couple of weekends the parking situation has been really tough,” said Kamran Mahrou, owner of Portobello Grill on Theatre Way.

Mahrou has gone out to do his own survey of his customer's parking challenges. He found many drivers are unaware of the ample parking in the county garage on Middlefield Road near Veterans Boulevard.

"We realized we have a four-story empty parking space, but people go right by it and don't seem to know they can park there for free,” said Mahrou.

The bottom of the county parking garage — located next to the County Government Center — is county employee parking, but there are almost 800 spaces in the garage open to the public. These spaces are free in the evenings and on weekends.

The garage is a few blocks from Theatre Way, but Mahrou says drivers are spending more time trying to hunt for closer parking than it would take them to walk over from the county garage.

"People are going around looking for parking and causing a lot of traffic,” he said. "I think it's easier to walk a block than try to find [closer] parking.”

City looks for alternatives

The city has been working with downtown tenants and development contractors to ease the parking shortage.

"The city is trying to do as much as they can,” said Alpio Barbara, vice president of the Redwood City Downtown Business Group. "They know they have a problem on their hands.”

Barbara is part of a group of business owners who met with the city last week to talk about further parking options. The group is still mulling over the idea of having valet parking drop-offs near City Hall and near the Old Spaghetti Factory on Broadway, he said. The group is also discussing having a free shuttle run from the county parking garage to downtown.

"We're trying to find parking any way we can because this is going to be a problem for the next three to four years,” said Barbara.

Bill Ekern, Redwood City's community development director, is leading the city's dialogue with businesses.

"We will renew efforts to help businesses to orient customers,” said Ekern, adding the city is looking to create a smartphone application that will show drivers where the open spaces are downtown.

The multitude of development projects downtown is contributing to the parking shortage, but the city will not allow the numbers of construction workers coming in to take up commercial parking spaces, said Ekern.

When construction on the Redwood Tower buildings begins, there could be up to 300 people working on the site.

"We're telling the developers that we're not going to issue passes to contractors to use garage or street spaces downtown,” he said. "They need to come with us with a parking plan so that they are responsible for their parking.”

Theatre Way is now opened up to traffic on weekday evenings. There is a concrete delivery scheduled for this Friday in which about eight trucks an hour for about five or six hours will deliver a total of about 330 cubic yards of concrete starting at 6:30 a.m., according to city officials. The storm culvert relocation on Middlefield Road is expected to last until March. After this phase is completed, construction of the Redwood Tower project will begin. The project is expected to take at least two years.

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