Fremont City

Staff Report

STANFORD AVENUE STAGING AREA PARKING EXPANSION PROJECT STUDY - Stanford Avenue Staging Area Parking Expansion Project Study at Mission Peak Regional Preserve


Department:Recreation ServicesSponsors:

Item Discussion

Executive Summary:  The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD or District) has begun the process of assessing available opportunities to expand parking at Mission Peak Regional Preserve in order to relieve the impacts of cars overflowing into the neighborhoods. EBRPD is seeking general support from the City Council for a proposed project that will develop a new parking area within the park boundaries that could accommodate 200-300 or more cars. The potential locations for a new lot are on City-owned land leased to the EBRPD and will require Council approval of the final project.


BACKGROUND: Mission Peak Regional Park Preserve (Mission Peak) comprises approximately 3,000 acres and is operated and maintained by the EBRPD on land owned by the City of Fremont and the District.  The Stanford Avenue Staging Area that serves as the primary point of access for daily hikers has 41 parking spaces, which are insufficient for the number of daily visitors.  The popularity of Mission Peak as a regional destination has grown over the last ten years with hundreds, sometimes thousands of park visitors on the weekends and holidays throughout the year.  The Staging Area fills up early in the morning and remains full throughout the day as car turnover is roughly every two to three hours.  This has resulted in overflow parking on the adjacent neighborhood streets, sometimes as far as 0.8 miles away and as many as 300 carsResidents have expressed their concerns about increased traffic, illegal parking in front of fire hydrants, noise, and difficulty in finding parking for their visitors.


Both City of Fremont staff and EBRPD staff agree that the overflow parking is a problem that must be addressed, and that the amount of parking in the neighborhood is far more than anyone could have anticipated. There are daily impacts in terms of noise, trash, traffic, parked cars impeding visibility on corners, people walking in the streets, and cars blocking driveways and fire hydrants, and park visitor vehicles parked in front of houses all day long on busy weekends and holidays.


City staff has been working with EBRPD and the City of Fremont Police Department in an attempt to mitigate some of the impacts and to divert users to an alternative trailhead located at Ohlone College (College).


Online Staging Area Redirection: The City and the District have made changes to their websites such as removing the Stanford Staging area as the primary access point, highlighting the Ohlone College trailhead, and contacting social media sites. Unfortunately, magazines, newspapers, and social media sites highlight Mission Peak as a regional destination and recommend hiking from the Stanford Avenue side.  Hiking and backpacking groups from all over Northern California recommend the ascent of Mission Peak from Stanford Avenue as the place to train for larger endeavors like Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta and the Sierra’s John Muir Trail because of its elevation gain compared to its short trail length.  In addition, a number of online mapping sites direct visitors from the South Bay and Peninsula to Stanford Avenue. Staff will continue to contact these social media sites, but obtaining change is an uphill battle.


Ohlone College: City and EBRPD staff met with College officials in March to discuss the possibility of the two agencies paying for Saturday parking in order to offer free weekend user parking at Ohlone (parking is currently free on Sundays) in hopes of encouraging hikers to use the Ohlone College trailhead. Unfortunately, this was not a viable option for the College, which has begun to implement site improvements as part of a Bond Measure and requires the parking lots for facility relocation and construction staging. The College anticipates the work will take approximately 10 years to complete. Additionally, the College is considering charging for parking on Sundays. The College was very clear that it is not inclined to encourage non-student use of its parking lots until after its Bond Measure construction is complete.


Parking Enforcement: The Fremont Police Department (FPD) has increased parking enforcement more than twofold; 199 citations were issued from January-September 2012, compared to 108 in total for 2011. Although FPD has been able to increase enforcement, it is still significantly challenged with resource deployment. These duties are primarily carried out by Community Service Officers, who also handle calls throughout the City for residential burglaries, vehicle accidents, and traffic control, which are deemed a higher priority than parking violations.


To assist with enforcement efforts, Recreation staff organized a group of youth volunteers to properly paint red zones in front of fire hydrants. There has been a significant decrease in hydrant parking violations since the curbs have been painted.


In spite of the efforts of the City and EBRPD, the parking impacts have remained largely unchanged. It is the opinion of City staff that the only viable resolution is additional onsite parking.


DISCUSSION/ANALYSIS: The District conducted two park visitor surveys in 2007 and 2011, and a traffic study in October 2012. In July and August 2007, vehicle counts were conducted on two consecutive weekends and focused on the number of cars parked at the Stanford Staging Area (capacity 41 vehicles), and on Vineyard and Stanford Avenues from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.  At 5:30 a.m., the parking lot was full, and 24 cars were utilizing on-street parking.  The busiest time of the day was 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon, with an average of 163 carsLate afternoons from 3:30-6:30 reported the least amount of cars parking in the neighborhood, as several spaces were available in the Staging Area, while at 6:30 p.m. the parking lot was full again, and the amount of cars went back up to an average of 60 cars in the neighborhood.


In 2011, over seven days in the months of February, April, May and July, 2,151 visitors were surveyed at the Stanford Avenue trailhead and asked for their zip codes.  As expected, the weekends averaged 29% more hikers than on weekdays and 200 different zip codes were noted.  Of the 2,151 visitors surveyed in the park on the Stanford side, 33% (717 visitors) were from Fremont. 


As part of the EIR, traffic surveys were completed on October 19-20, 2012, from the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Very preliminary results are that on Friday (10/19/12), the trail had approximately 590 users during the day with a peak parking demand of 77 vehicles. On Saturday (10/20/12), the trail had approximately 1,900 users with a peak parking demand of 401 vehicles. The vehicle occupancy was 1.67 persons per vehicle on Friday, and 1.96 persons per vehicle on Saturday, resulting in approximately 969 cars from park visitors over the course of the entire day on Saturday.  It should be noted that while October is not high season for the park, the days were nice enough to bring visitors to Mission Peak.


Resident Feedback Regarding Expanding Parking Onsite: The residents living in the neighborhood are divided in their support of increasing onsite parking. All are in agreement that there is a problem and something needs to be done.


A letter publicizing the February 23, 2012 EBRPD/City Liaison Committee meeting was mailed to 302 owners and occupants in the Stanford Staging area. Approximately 30 residents attended the meeting. The majority of the speakers spoke against additional parking and several spoke in favor. At the end of the meeting, by a show of hands, it appeared that the residents attending unanimously opposed a new parking area.  However, the next day staff received a number of telephone calls from residents living on Stanford and Vineyard Avenues who were uncomfortable speaking up at the meeting, but were concerned that the parking project might be abandoned. 


To allow for anonymous input, the City conducted an online survey that was sent to the same 302 owners and occupants who were notified of the February 23, 2012 EBRPD/City Liaison Committee meeting. There are three neighborhoods adjacent to the Stanford Staging Area (Exhibit A). All are impacted by either traffic or noise. Two of the neighborhoods are gated and are not impacted by the overflow on-street parking.


Survey responses were received from 65 residents.  Respondents were asked their preference for a 250- or 300-car parking lot, lot location preference, and the impacts they were experiencing in their neighborhood. The survey was not intended to be a scientific tool, but rather a way for the residents to provide anonymous input on a very complex issue.  When asked which of the parking area options were preferred, 54.5% of the gated residents in Vineyard Heights and Hidden Valley homes chose living with the impacts of overflow parking rather than living near a new parking lot, while 45.5% chose the 300-car lot option, which is located a distance away from the neighborhoodThe residents living in Vintage Grove, a non-gated community, were divided among the options: 76.9% were in favor of an additional parking lot, 65.4% preferred the 300-car lot option, 11.5%, the 250car lot, 13.5% preferred to live with the impacts, and 9.6% chose not to answer the question.


Proposed Parking Project: The purpose of the proposed project is to construct additional parking to reduce overflow parking in the neighborhoods near the Stanford Avenue Staging Area.  EBRPD is considering two conceptual options that would yield approximately 250-300 spaces.  Both new parking area options would include public restrooms (non-sewer, vault toilets), picnic tables, and landscaping including vegetated infiltration swales that would capture and treat parking area run-off and provide visual screening of the new staging areas.  A more detailed description of the two conceptual design options is included in Exhibit B to this report. 


EBRPD first studied a parcel across the gates from the Vineyard Heights neighborhood as a potential parking site, but it required extensive grading, and for the cost yielded just 70 more spaces.  As a result, this was dropped as a potential option.  Looking inside the park boundaries, two relatively flat areas on either side of the current trail offer viable options for 250-300 parking spaces


The District is currently preparing an EIR that is expected to be complete in December 2013. The scope of the work includes conducting field reconnaissance and appropriate technical studies of local traffic (on Stanford Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood streets), biological resources, cultural resources, visual impact analysis, and preparing the environmental compliance document pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), including an analysis of the following alternatives


Option A would locate a parking area within the park in an undeveloped area of grassland that has a bowl-like topographyThis option would require a new vehicular road from the existing Stanford Avenue Staging Area and a new trail connection to the existing Peak Meadow Trail.  Under this option, the parking area would be visible from the homes of several neighbors surrounding this area of Mission Peak Regional Preserve and would alter the existing entrance vista.  Due to the topography of this location, Option A could be constructed with minimal, balanced cut and fill, and the rim of the bowl could help screen the staging area from the views from the neighboring homes. 


Option B would locate parking within the park in the area currently used by the District’s grazing contractor as a corral.  This option would require a new vehicular road, a vehicular bridge and a new pedestrian bridge across the creek, a new trail connection to the existing Peak Meadow Trail, and may require relocation of the existing livestock corral and staging area.  The new vehicular road would start from the existing Stanford Avenue Staging Area and continue on an existing trail alignment, which would be widened to accommodate vehicular access to the Option B staging area.  Construction of the vehicular bridge would include removal of an existing culvert.  The parking area under this option would be visible from the homes of two neighbors.


No Project Alternative: The District is also considering and analyzing a No Project Alternative.  With this option, no additional parking will be developed at Mission Peak Regional Preserve and all existing conditions will remain the same as they are now.


Project EIR: The District published a Notice of Preparation of an EIR in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act and hired LSA Associates to collect and review existing background information relative to the project site and prepare new technical studies as needed for CEQA compliance, as well as an alternatives analysis.  The alternatives analysis will include four alternatives.  Two of the alternatives will consist of each of the two conceptual design options identified by the District as described above, the third alternative will be a phased construction of both design options “A” and “B, on a reduced scale, and the fourth alternative will be the “No Project Alternative”.


Hexagon Transportation Consultants will conduct traffic studies, including Saturday and weekday parking surveys, to quantify existing parking demand, a "latent demand" survey to see if expanding parking would result in more trail users, surveys to determine existing weekday PM peak hour and Saturday peak hour trip generation, and the speed of travel on roads leading to the parkBaseline Environmental Consulting will complete the geology and soils studies, and another consultant, Andrew McNichol, will provide the visual simulation documents indicating views of the parking lots from the adjacent homes and the hikers in the park.


Public outreach is part of the EIR process, and the District anticipates three public meetings with the consultant. As of the writing of this report, the District is planning on hosting a Public Scoping Meeting regarding the proposed project and EIR on November 8 at the Teen Center, at which time the proposed Stanford Avenue Staging Area Expansion Project will be discussed along with the associated planning and environmental processes. After a brief presentation, the meeting will be opened to the audience to participate in the process.  The second meeting will be a Public Comment Meeting during the public review period for the Draft EIR, anticipated to be ready in Spring or Summer 2013.  A third meeting will be the District Board Meeting, during which the EIR and the project will be considered by the Board of Directors, projected for Fall 2013.


FISCAL IMPACT: The project is currently funded by EBPD through the Measure WW program.


ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW: The District’s EIR is projected to be complete in Fall 2013.

Document Comments

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends that Council support the East Bay Regional Park Districts Proposed Stanford Avenue Staging Area Parking Expansion Project at Mission Peak Regional Preserve.