A provision in the Palo Alto municipal code that reduces the number of parking spaces developers have to provide for projects in the downtown and California Avenue areas could be off-limits for the next year or so.

The city council is scheduled Monday to consider a city staff recommendation to extend an "interim urgency ordinance" establishing a moratorium on the parking exemption provision's use through Dec. 28, 2013.

The idea is to avoid worsening the parking crunch already prevalent in downtown while the city studies the problem and develops solutions, according to a city staff report released Wednesday night.

"Staff believes that the interim ordinance extension is necessary to assure parking availability for businesses and to protect nearby neighborhoods from further parking intrusion," the report said.

The provision is a relic of the 1980s, when the city was seeking to encourage development in the face of tougher building regulations. Today, it is infrequently used by developers, according to the report.

However, Charles "Chop" Keenan and David Kleiman are hoping to use the provision in their respective upcoming projects. But it will fall on the city council whether to grant the developers an exception.

The projects are the only ones that would be affected by the moratorium, according to the report.

At 135 Hamilton Ave., Keenan is looking to build 19,960 square feet of office space and two residential units. The project has been under discussion for more than a year, has been reviewed twice by the city's Architectural Review Board, and is scheduled for likely final review in January.

Kleiman wants to construct a similar 4,900-square-foot mixed-use project at 636 Waverley St. It was submitted to the city on Sept. 10 and received preliminary architecture review on Nov. 15.

Without the exemption, Keenan and Kleiman would be forced to build 40 and 15 parking spaces, respectively.

City staff is recommending exceptions for both projects. But the developers should help pay for a parking study and the construction of spaces elsewhere, according to the report. In addition, the city council should require transportation demand management programs that reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips by at least 20 percent.

"Staff believes that, while there are important reasons to imposed this moratorium ... it is also important to recognize that such a moratorium works a financial hardship on applicants who have submitted development plans to the city and that the moratorium may project an undesired image to the business community that rules may be changed mid-stream," the report said.

Some council members expressed sympathy for the developers when they enacted the urgency ordinance on Oct. 15.

"I'm a big believer in fairness and equity," Council Member Sid Espinosa said then. "I think sometimes we forget the amount spent both in terms of time and costs for people to take projects through our city systems."

Email Jason Green at jgreen@dailynewsgroup.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: The Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to consider extending for one year an interim urgency ordinance establishing a moratorium on the use of a parking exemption provision in the downtown and California Avenue areas.
WHEN: Monday, at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.
MORE INFO: To read the city staff report, visit http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/32307