News

College Terrace Centre clears final obstacle

Palo Alto City Council approves controversial development featuring JJ&F market, nearly 40,000 square feet of office space

The beloved JJ&F Food Store will remain in Palo Alto's College Terrace neighborhood, but it will soon have a new building and a host of new customers.

The City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to approve the College Terrace Centre, a controversial project that includes a new JJ&F market along with close to 40,000 square feet of office space, 5,580 square feet of other retail and eight units of affordable housing.

The vote followed months of public hearings on the dense development, which pitted the neighborhood's desire to keep the beloved grocery store in College Terrace against its opposition to adding a dense new office complex on the block.

The extensive debate concluded Monday night after hours of discussion when the council ruled that the new office space is a price worth paying for keeping JJ&F around.

"This is a council that's worked to treasure and keep our hometown businesses and community organizations," said Councilman Sid Espinosa, who proposed approving the project. "I think the council worked hard to keep JJ&F."

Vice Mayor Jack Morton, who in the past has been critical of dense new developments, also praised the project as one that offers a major public benefit -- the continued operation of JJ&F.

"I think we owe to this community to move forward with this project," Morton said.

Councilman Larry Klein said he was skeptical about the agreement between property owner Chilcote Trust and the JJ&F owner John Garcia. Klein added a condition to the approval mandating that the two parties sign a lease that would be enforceable against each party.

The lease must also assure that the grocery store remain in continuous operation at the site. It would have to be approved by the city before any building permits are issued.

Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto voted against the project, calling the office space excessive.

"As we're saying that this is moving toward a mixed-use zoning, but we're moving away from mixed-use to one that is much more tilted toward office use," she said.

The council approved the developer's request for a Planned Community (PC) zone, which allows greater density than the city's zoning ordinance allows. In return, the developer is expected to provide "public benefits" -- in this case a neighborhood grocery store, affordable housing and a $5,000 contribution toward planting of trees at the site.

Applicant Patrick Smailey said the project has evolved and improved over its long crawl through the city's approval process. He called the final product "absolutely superior" to the one originally proposed.

John Garcia, owner of JJ&F, said he was excited and relieved after Monday night's vote. He noted that his current store on College Avenue would remain in operation while design work is finalized for the store's future location.

"We have a project, program and design that carefully balances the needs and desires of the College Terrace neighborhood and the city as a whole," Smailey said. "College Terrace Centre will be an exemplary mixed-use project that preserves an invaluable institution, JJ&F."

"It is the right project at the right time."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Morris
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2009 at 9:48 am

This project took too long to move through the planning process, involved too many egos, and has painted a very clear picture of how difficult (or just plain crazy) it is for businesses to move into Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2009 at 11:24 am

Definitely agree with Morris. This took way too long. That being said, I'm VERY excited to see this finally approved. Can't wait for the new JJ&F. One caveat, they better still have the world-renowned "spread" in the new store. Mmmmmmmmmmm.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hypocrisy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 8, 2009 at 11:46 am

Web Link

"Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto voted against the project,"

Kishimoto talks about walkable neighborhoods, but then she votes against JJ&F. Hypocrisy???

We should remember this when she runs for assembly next year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm

What's with the "beloved" already? It's a neighborhood grocery store which is fantastic but save the "beloveds" for the deceased. I'm glad to see my old neighborhood store stay put and kudos to the Garcia's for their fortitude.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:34 pm

I think the offerings at JJ&F are seriously over-priced. I understand the value in supporting local businesses but when prices are than 50% higher than at neighboring markets, it's puzzling why people rallied to the defense of this store.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm

"Kishimoto talks about walkable neighborhoods, but then she votes against JJ&F. Hypocrisy???"

Kishimoto also voted against 800 High Street, as I recall. Why don't you wait and see what you really get on the site before you get all huffypuffy?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hypocrisy
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 8, 2009 at 1:07 pm

It does not matter what we really get, Paul. What we have is Kishimoto, the big supporter of walkable neighborhoods, voting against the beloved JJ&F. Yes, Kishimoto voted against 800 High Street and the voters decided to have it built. Kishimoto speaks out of both sides f her mouth--she is against any building and traffic, but wants tax revenue in the city.
All this will be discussed come the next election cycle when she runs for Assembly


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2009 at 4:00 pm

OK, it's plain your concern is to bash Kishimoto, not what happens at the to be former JJ&F site. So, for anyone does care:

I refer to the former JJ&F site because everyone listening to last night's council meeting heard that JJ&F will be on life support, sustained by the building owners' surplus income from their office component. But what happens if that money tree wilts or fails to sprout? Offices are not in demand in PA - a new office building on Homer has been vacant since it opened a year ago, and an even bigger one has since been built on Lytton. The Internet boom is over, and there's nothing to replace it anytime soon.

If the owners declare JJ&F an albatross, they will certainly find a way to get rid of it. The city will go along, Klein's precautionary amendment not withstanding. Our fair city has a very, very poor record of enforcing its "benefits" from PC zoning giveaways like this one.

So enjoy your new office/apartment building over there, gang. And remember that Whole Foods isn't very far away.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anne
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Unfortunately, what Paul has written is probably right on the money. The developer used the community's affection for JJF and the Garcias to his advantage and to drive this project through to approval. Had JJs not existed, it's unlikely an 8,000sf market would have been regarded as sufficient public benefit to warrant this zone change.

I did listen last night. Two of the speakers towards the end made some excellent points; the process was abused many ways and many times and that should concern people. It will be interesting to see if Sid Espinosa makes good on his comments about this and uses his influence to ensure that this City's established procedures are respected and enforced each time, not always "next time".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doom and Gloom
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Didn't the Garcia's have the opportunity to move to Mountain View and instead chose to stay in College Terrace, surely they must feel that they will succeed in the new environment.
It seems to me that Paul is one of those people who is hoping for the worst so they can say, we told you so. Anyway, forget Whole Foods, Country Sun and Mollie Stones are even closer. There does need to be an overhaul of the process in Palo Alto,as Morris alluded to above. Let's see if our new council will take the initiative in this matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2009 at 6:03 pm

"It seems to me that Paul is one of those people who is hoping for the worst so they can say, we told you so."

As a wise priest told me many years ago, knowing is not willing.

I do not doubt the Garcias' sincerity, and I'll even concede, for the sake of argument, that the developers mean well. However, the store will be dependent on resources it cannot control - the office rent market - which is not a safe business model. I would not fault the Garcias if they eventually moved to another location that offered them more stability for their business. Don't count on the city to be a white knight in that case either.

As you point out, JJ&F also has competition nearby. That's good for the neighborhood, but does it help them?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm


we wish jj&f well but how can they possibly compete with the new tj in t&cv ? the Trader Joe selection is much greater and much less expensive.

TJ is pulling in enormous crowds of customers, JJ&F may have a small advantage in their meat selection but how can they run a business on that alone?
Also their is an over capacity of office/ commercial space in Palo alto that will not be cleared for years


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Competition
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2009 at 6:54 pm

If tj squeezes jj&f that is all the better for palo alto. For too long our grocery store situation has been pathetic due the fear of having real competition for jj&f. It is about time that our city stop marching to the beat of what college terrace wants.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good Customer
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 9, 2009 at 11:07 am

YAHOO for JJ&F! I would wholeheartedly advise you to do a customer survey before you plan the new store. Just pass them out as customers come through or collect email addresses so you can send out a simple Survey Monkey survey. I love your store, but your deli is HORRIBLE! You need food that's more in line with today's leaner diets. Take a page from Whole Foods! Go visit Market Hall in Berkeley! THAT'S A SUCCESSFUL MODEL!

Very best wishes for many more years of terrific success JJ&F!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I used to go to JJF because it is walking distance from my home, but my shopping experience was usually walking around looking at price tags thinking "too expensive, overpriced, cheaper somewhere else". Now I can forego that experience and will gladly walk to Trader Joes to get more better food cheaper. I support small community business, but food prices at JJF are not competitive. Sad to see this center turned to office space since it may become another empty building along El Camino, and sad city council wasted so much energy and time over money and not community improvement.

Good luck JJ&F.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Good news... I shop at Trader Joe's a lot and realize that prices are a bit hight at JJF but I do make a habit of stopping in once and a while to buy some odds and ends and support a local business.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Millie in midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I'm not so sure JJ&F is all that more expensive. I was in the midtown Safeway the other day, shopping produce and everything except the lettuce was 20 to 50 cents a lb cheaper at JJ's. And the lettuce looked awful. Unless I'm shopping the club card prices, I really don't save any money there. Plus at JJ's you know you are getting quality and service. I look forward to continued shopping at JJ&F after the new store opens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Friend and customer of JJ&F
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm

If you think for one second that anything close to the existing JJ&F
is going to reappear in this new development you are in for a big disappointment. Don't ask the developer, ask the Garcias.

Concerned Resident


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Sadly think Friend is right but do have to give the Garcias credit and thanks for a great run. It will be terrific if JJs can return in glory but the odds do not favor that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I hope the entire project succeeds, but the Garcias have a risky and flawed business plan. If they go, so goes the "public benefit".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bambi
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm

At TJ's you can get nuts that are grown in own country and packed in another country. I rather like all the nuts around here. What is the bottom line, money? Not for everyone.


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