Palo Alto High School students and faculty alike are learning to cope with the loss of parking space after construction on the new Performing Arts Center began over the summer, blocking off a portion of the Embarcadero Road parking lot.
The construction of the Performing Arts Center has taken up 107 parking spots from the Embarcadero lot, most of which were staff parking, and has caused the administration to paint 65 new staff parking spaces in the lot. Students have also gained 27 parking spaces to compensate for the loss of space in the Embarcadero Road lot; however, these spaces are on the other side of campus in the Churchill Avenue lot, where maintenance workers used to park. Once new construction for the Big Gym begins, 32 more spots will be lost from the Churchill parking lot. According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berskon, the combined construction of both the Big Gym and the Performing Arts Center will cause a net loss of 112 parking spaces.
Due to the reduced number of spaces this year, parking permits will first be issued to seniors only. Seniors can pick up parking permit applications starting August 21 in the Auditor’s Office, but it will be three weeks until enforcement of parking permits begins for the Paly lots, according to Berkson. The Associated Student Body, which decides the cost of a parking permit, has set the price for a parking permit at 120, as opposed to last year’s price of 80 dollars.
“It will be seniors only to start,” Berkson said. “If we figure out that there’s X amount left over, then we’ll probably have a lottery for juniors. Either that or other creative ideas: maybe there’s Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday parking permits. We’re trying to be as fair as possible without it being crazy.”
Berkson added that there will probably be 32 temporary parking permits handed out as well for spots that will be taken away once the Big Gym project begins during winter break.
Within the first week of school the limited number of spots has inconvenienced many driving-aged Paly students, like senior Megan Valencia. Since enforcement of parking permits has not begun, the imbalance between the greater number of students who wish to park and parking spaces has created competition for spaces.
“I’ve had to change my route and go to the Churchill parking lot instead of the Embarcadero parking lot,” Valencia said. “Since they aren’t enforcing parking permits yet, anyone can park there [in the Embarcadero parking lot] and there aren’t any spots.”
Construction for the Performing Arts Center is expected to last 18 months, which would make it end in the middle of the 2015-16 school year. Until construction is over, it is expected that parking permits will continue to be issued with senior priority, according to Berkson.
Once construction for the Performing Arts Center is complete, it is expected that 47 new student spots in the main Embarcadero lot will open up and that 25 spots will open up in the parking lot behind the Media Arts Center. Additionally, Berkson said that the senior-priority for parking will be dropped.
In addition to a lack of parking, the construction is also blocking off the path to the crosswalk leading to Town and Country Village. There are now two ways for students to get to the popular lunchtime destination. One alternative is located behind the 300 building where there is a gate that leads to the bike path that connects over to Town and Country, and the other option is to go up to the main crosswalk at the Embarcadero-El Camino intersection.
There are also new bike paths and pedestrian paths set up in place along the construction site to allow for better ease in getting students from Embarcadero Road onto campus. At the end of these walkways and bikeways, two new bike racks have been added near the Tower Building.
“This has become more of a bike commute area than before, so they put the bike racks in there [by the Tower Building],” Berkson said.
With all the new additions, Berkson stresses the importance of being alert and staying safe.
“If you are going to drive, be careful because it is a whole different configuration now,” Berkson said. “Even if you’re paying attention, that doesn’t mean the other people driving around are paying attention, so pay attention.”