News

Streets initiative will not impact Alma Plaza

City attorney's office says the drive to create street-width requirement will not apply to controversial development; Plaza opponents vow to fight on

A citizen initiative to create street-width requirements in Palo Alto will not apply to the controversial Alma Plaza development -- the very development that prompted the grassroots movement to widen private streets, City Attorney Gary Baum said Monday night.

This story contains 658 words.

If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have logged in. Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.

If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account, click here to get your online account activated.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 11:54 am

Hate to say this, but the train has already left the station as far as Alma Plaza goes.


Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

""Alma Plaza will not be developed with 20-foot blind streets and have the streets covered by FAR (floor area ratio)," Moss said. "If we have to go to court, or go to the ballot, by God we'll do it."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I have always wondered about the continued efforts over the last few years to stymie any progress on Alma Plaza. I have reached the conclusions that a certain group of people favor keeping Alma Plaza the way it is now.





Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On "time for debate" (from the article): A series of Councils have decided _against_ debating Alma Plaza and simply moved it along despite its many problems.

First, remember the amount of money involved. The developer bought the property for a reported $2M and turned around and resold 80% of the area to housing developer Greenbriar for $20.5M (Web Link) based upon confidence that Council would override the Comprehensive Plan and other stated City policies and priorities. (Note: Greenbriar has sued to get its money back - see preceding link).

Council's first decision was at a review on 1 May 2006. The Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) had done their review on April 26 and City Staff had pulled out all the stops to provide Council with a full transcript of the Commissioners comments (Web Link) as well as the extensive comments from the public. Despite the PTC's excoriating the proposal on an incredibly wide range of issues, the comments from the Council were to praise the developer and suggest that a few minor adjustments might need to be made. I saw no evidence in their comments that the Council members had read the PTC report or the public comments.

Roughly a year later, the proposal came back to the PTC (7 March 2007) and Council (16 April 2007) for decision. Again the PTC severely criticized the proposal and again the Council ignored them and the residents who filled Council chambers. What was especially galling was that one Council member--LaDoris Cordell--criticized the public for not making their comments earlier. At the Council review the previous year there had been so many residents speaking against the proposal that they not only went far past the allocated time, but that Council took a break to do other business before resuming the comments which then went late into the night.

The proposal that Council approved was one they hadn't seen--it was given to them at the beginning of the meeting. Although several of them said that they shouldn't approve it unseen, they ignored their own advice and voted for it.

In doing so, the Council employed a common stratagem: They asked the City Attorney whether they could approve it and change various items at a later hearing. The Attorney tells them that they can, but when that later hearing occurs, the Attorney tells them that their previous decision is binding and that they can't make changes. There are one or two perfunctory protests before making further approvals. Classic Kabuki theater: A cynic could view this as the City Attorney--who is hired/fired directly by the Council--giving Council members political cover for supporting developers against the interests of the City.

Palo Alto gets so many bad projects because developers have learned to play the game. If you follow one of these projects, what you routinely see is the developer taking a long time to resubmit plans that contain only trivial revisions and that fail to address almost all of the objections from the previous review. They start with a proposal that grossly exceeds the zoning and what good urban design calls for and then make a small number of minor corrections (labeled "compromises") leaving the project still far in excess of what is warranted. They then cite these delays--self-induced "hardship"--as an excuse for Council to approve their bad project (It is not uncommon for Council members to say that they don't like the project but that they are voting for the project so that something is done).

While delays for normal projects are costly, often deadly, that is not the case for these projects. By all appearances, these delays are budgeted into the project from the very beginning and are expected to provide a large return-on-investment by getting highly profitable exceptions to the zoning and the Comprehensive Plan.

Kudos to Council member Greg Schmid for being the only one willing to stand on principle and against this practice (he wasn't elected until after the developer had effectively won the battle for Alma Plaza).


Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Correction to my previous long post: Critical typo: The developer bought Alma Plaza for $6M (not the $2M).


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Wonderful discussion, most of the posts are deleted.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2009 at 11:35 am

I'm grateful to Bob Moss for organizing this citizen's initiative. I believe it should apply to the Alma Plaza development, and I'm willing to support an effort to see that it does apply. I disagree with Mayor Larry Klein, I believe Council member Greg Schmid is right in voting against this development and I thank him for his vote.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Nobu confirmed to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 25,360 views

And one more makes three
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 8,146 views

Secretary of Plate
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 2,604 views

New York College Tours
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,167 views

Family Planning: Both Agree Before Getting Pregnant
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 773 views

 

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 23 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $4 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE