Santa Clara brings back parking permit enforcement
Chapman Court is one of over 50 Santa Clara streets that require permits for on-street parking. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Santa Clara residents might find an unexpected new year surprise—they’ll need permits again to park in overcrowded areas.

    Residents on more than 50 streets, including neighborhoods near the Alameda, Levi’s Stadium and Rivermark Plaza, pay for street parking permits to prevent non-residents at nearby businesses from parking in the area. Santa Clara stopped enforcing permit requirements during the pandemic due to city staffing issues, but that changes on Jan. 2. when police begin citing cars without permits.

    “You have to remember that these neighbors asked for the permits to be put in place,” Councilmember Suds Jain told San José Spotlight.

    Santa Clara offers the parking permit program as a voluntary option for neighborhoods impacted by a continuous overflow of parking in busy areas like hospitals, transit stations and business complexes. Jain said when people can’t find parking near their homes, they can request their neighborhood be put on the council agenda for the program. But the issue can be controversial and not everyone wants permitted parking on their street.

    A sticker for Santa Clara’s parking permit program from 2020. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Santa Clara has struggled to provide adequate parking as the city’s population grows and its housing needs increase. It’s a common story across the Bay Area where the housing affordability crisis has deepened. Skyrocketing rents have forced some families to double or triple up in working class neighborhoods, resulting in every inch of curb space being packed with cars. For some, it has become nearly impossible to find a parking spot close to home.

    Santa Clara’s northern and southern areas are the most impacted, Councilmember Anthony Becker said. In his neighborhood, permitted parking started because street parking was being taken up by people visiting or working at nearby car dealerships, he said.

    “It’s the battle between employees that work at the dealerships as well as those living in the apartments. We’ve also had issues where people are living in their cars on our street,” Becker told San José Spotlight. “That might be a reason why residents decided they want permits.”

    The councilmember, who unsuccessfully sought the mayor’s seat in November, is on the fence about the program, but said he understands why residents would want it.

    Jain said it may become the future of Santa Clara parking, especially as the city continues to build more apartment complexes.

    San Jose explored the idea of parking permits in some neighborhoods flooded with cars, but ultimately decided against expanding it because many people in neighborhoods with multi-family households would likely be denied a permit.

    This could be a problem in Santa Clara as well because every household is allowed only two parking permits per year. Jain said the city is exploring other options to reduce car dependency and avoid parking struggles.

    Recently, Santa Clara and Cupertino received an $8.5 million grant to do a shuttle program for businesses. Jain also wants the city to stop providing free parking to discourage driving, as well as have apartment complexes provide spaces for car-sharing options like Zipcars—limiting the need for personal vehicles.

    However, the long-term solution needs to be better public transit, local leaders say.

    “I’m hoping that with Uber and Lyft and the scooters that we’ve implemented that people will use fewer cars,” Jain said. “But until we get better transit, there’s a transition period that we’re stuck in right now and we’re kind of forced to deal with a shortage of parking in certain areas.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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