Parking crunch feared as construction affects graduate parking

Oct. 30, 2016, 10:47 p.m.

Finding a parking spot in Escondido Village (EV) is expected to be more difficult in winter quarter when construction begins on a new 2,400-bed housing complex for graduate students. Closures of parking lots within the site boundaries will reduce parking capacity in EV by more than 800 spaces for the duration of the project, which should be completed by the summer of 2019. The prospect of this substantial change in parking within EV has aroused concerns among many graduate students that they won’t be able to find parking within a reasonable distance of their residences. News about the housing project and, specifically, how it will affect parking has been a frequent topic at recent Graduate Student Council (GSC) sessions. Residents with young children have been particularly involved in discussion about the consequences of the closures.

Brian Shaw, director of Parking & Transportation Services (P&TS), who has been involved in discussions with student advocates, said that his department is working to meet the needs of the affected residents given the information they have from other Stanford departments involved in the construction. Shaw emphasized the size and complexity of the project and the difficulty of communicating plans far in advance based on the slippery schedules of construction.

Shaw also stated that there is capacity elsewhere in EV and in nearby parking lots to accommodate drivers displaced by the closures. He pointed to P&TS statistics which show that EV parking lots have had the lowest utilization on campus in recent years, with a rate of below 75 percent on most days. All the same, he does agree that parking will become more difficult during construction.

“It’s going to go from an easy parking situation to one that will be a bit more constrained,” Shaw said.

Students with children see additional challenges

The Daily spoke with several residents who advocated for students with children living in areas that will be affected by the parking closures. Rachel Pinto, whose husband is enrolled in the Graduate School of Business, has presented to the GSC about the heightened concern residents with young children have about the effects of several years of constrained parking.

Pinto, who has four children under seven years old, said she doesn’t consider satisfactory the proposed solution of creating loading zones during the project to lessen the inconvenience of parking far from residence units. She said she doesn’t believe it’s safe to drop her children off at her residence while she goes to park the car, nor does she relish the idea of shepherding them back from a distant parking lot. Pinto doesn’t think the upcoming parking changes are an issue unique to students with families, though.

“This isn’t a just a problem for parents with young kids, it’s a problem for everyone,” Pinto said. “They haven’t been as vocal because, for them, the discomfort’s not dangerous.”

Bryan Merrill, a graduate student in microbiology and immunology, said that he has been frustrated by the level of communication from the Stanford administration about the impacts of construction.

“The biggest problem has been communication,” he said. “Often, it’s not even one-sided.”

Housing to parking ratio cited as key issue

Zachariah Rodgers, a second-year graduate student in management science and engineering who has been working with Pinto and Merrill, expressed concerns about the ratio of parking spaces to beds planned for the new residences. The project plan calls for an underground parking structure beneath the residences, which, combined with some replaced aboveground parking, will provide approximately 1,400 spaces. That will result in a ratio of 2,400 beds to 1,400 parking spaces.

Rodgers said this is a similar ratio to the one used for the recently constructed Kennedy Commons housing, which he believes has worsened parking conditions in surrounding lots because of too few spaces being added for the new residents.

“You can’t apply a faulty ratio to a new project without doing something to alleviate the need to have a car,” Rodgers said.

Shaw, when asked about the planned parking ratio, said he thinks that there will be enough parking after construction. He said that the ratio has taken into account a range of factors including declining trends in car ownership among young adults, the different composition of population in the residences to be constructed compared to those living in the area now (the new buildings will house singles and couples, not students with families, who tend use parking spaces at a higher rate), and recent examples of similar projects at other schools.

“It’s a balancing act. You want to Goldilocks it — we don’t want it too big or too small,” he said.
In addition to expecting a lower car ownership rate among the students who live in the new residences, Shaw also said his department is exploring programs to make it easier not to own a car, such as credits for Uber and Lyft or sponsored memberships with grocery delivery services like AmazonFresh and Safeway.

Other residents also concerned

Some students without children are also wary of the upcoming constriction in EV parking. James Byers, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in developmental biology, used to live in one of the housing units in McFarland Court scheduled for demolition. He was relocated to Comstock Circle this summer, so he has been familiar with the project for some time.

When he lived in one of the soon-to-be demolished buildings, Byers never had trouble parking. Since his move to Comstock Circle, he and his roommate have found parking more difficult, but still within a reasonable limit. What will happen when the closures begin, though, worries him.

“Our parking situation right now is definitely worse, and we know it’s going to get even worse,” Byers said.

Byers also echoed Merrill’s comments on communication from P&TS when asked how well he felt communications he’s received so far have kept him abreast of changes in parking caused by this project.

“I’ve felt pretty uninformed,” Byers said.

“I know [P&TS] send out their huge update emails every once in awhile, but I’m pretty busy and they’re very cumbersome to read,” he added. “They’re not at all targeted. They try to make these one-size-fits all emails for everyone in campus.”

This article has been updated to include additional comment from Shaw and details about alternative programs P&TS is exploring to help residents.

Contact Cyrus Ready-Campbell at cyrysrc ‘at’

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