Uploaded: Wed, Jun 15, 2011, 9:54 am Alma Plaza construction gets underway
Contentious project receives building permits, work begins on grocery store
A worker surveys the property of the former Alma Plaza site, on Alma Street north of East Meadow Drive. The redevelopment project, which drew criticism in the past, received its building permits this week. Photo by Kimihiro Hoshino/Palo Alto Online.
Alma Plaza, a south Palo Alto development that earned the City Council's approval more than two years ago, hit a milestone this week when the city issued building permits that will allow construction to begin.
The permits are a major step forward for the contentious project, which was approved in January 2009 after dozens of hearings and vocal opposition from a group of area residents. The development by John McNellis will ultimately include a grocery store, 37 homes, 15 units of affordable housing, a small park and a community room. The grocery store will be a particularly coveted amenity for a plaza that has been without one since Albertsons closed in 2005.
This week, construction is set to begin on the centerpiece of the plaza -- a mixed-use building featuring the grocery store. McNellis said the permits will allow workers to start digging out an underground garage at the site.
Though McNellis is still searching for a grocer, he said there's been some progress on that front. He has been in talks with an independent grocer to run the new 20,000 square foot store, though nothing has been signed to date.
"We believe we're close to a deal with a market for the whole 20,000 square feet -- the first floor and the basement," McNellis said.
As part of the city's approval, McNellis is required to sign a lease for the new grocery store before he can start selling the first half of the new homes. The remaining homes could start getting sold once the store opens,
McNellis has yet to find a builder for the new homes (the original homebuilder, Greenbriar Homes, pulled out and launched a lawsuit against McNellis, which has since been settled), but he doesn't expect the search to be a problem. The new homes would have to be built exactly to the specifications approved by the council in 2009, he said.
He said he is just now starting to talk to homebuilders and expects to have one in place in the next 30 to 45 days.
Meanwhile, construction of the building that will include the new grocery store is scheduled to be completed in June 2012, he said.
According to Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie, who emailed a progress report on Alma Plaza to the council Tuesday, there could be some "site vibration during this phase and footings for the foundation are installed."
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm
No, I am not "hung up" with the fact that you are using an acronym (like others have done) to "slur" those who disagree with your supposed support for development in Palo Alto.
The term connotes a reject-development-at-all-cost mentality in the people that you label "NIMBYs." Since you cannot possibly know the motives of those individuals, you shouldn't use such a silly term that lumps people together under a common, misguided acronym.
After all, people oppose certain projects for a variety of reasons. Some might oppose the idea of a development project because the price of their property could decrease. Others might oppose the traffic that it could create on an already busy thoroughfare. Still others might oppose development because it competes with a nearby business that they own. And, still others may oppose it because it adds commercial business properties on an otherwise residential neighborhood.
Regardless, it would be improper to label such individuals as "NIMBYs" because many of the individuals who oppose this development might otherwise welcome a development elsewhere...or in areas of Palo Alto that they think are better suited for commercial retail development.
As for the crime statistics: I don't know how to make it any clearer that the "statistics" that you provided are in error. I even did the math for you. Yes, there were a few more crimes in Palo Alto from the chart that you provided. However, those are not crime RATES. Those are total numbers of reported crimes.
Your pointing this out doesn't take into account the fact that Palo Alto is more than TWICE the size of East Palo Alto. IT doesn't take into account that most of the individuals who perpetrated those crimes in Palo Alto came from ELSEWHERE. In fact, look up the different crimes on front page of the Palo Alto Online website. Where were the suspects from? In most cases, they came from OUTSIDE of Palo Alto.
The comparison website for which I provided a link to earlier takes FBI crime statistics and allows you to compare any two towns. I did that comparison with Palo Alto and Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and other towns. In most instances, Palo Alto had the lowest overall crime rates and the lowest in all categories except for cases of theft and burglary. Give the high average income of the people of Palo Alto, I suppose that is somewhat expected.
Moreover, our city's state registered sex offender list contains 14 registered offenders. Mountain View has 45 registered sex offenders. East Palo Alto has 30. Redwood City has over 100!
WHY AM I SAYING THIS?
It seems like individuals often paint a negative image of Palo Alto as some sort of rationale for development. It is as if they assume that we NEED (or WANT) to be like other cities.
It reminds me of the Judaic story of asking for a king. The people demanded a king and Samuel asked why. The people replied, "So that we will be like other nations." Even though Samuel explained, "But you are not like other nations," the people still insisted on a king to rule over them.
To argue that we need every form of development is akin to saying buying every new cell phone, MP3 player or tablet PC when it comes out. After a while, you may have a drawer full of gadgets that never get used to their potential.
Palo Alto is unique. That uniqueness can easily be lost in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Have you ever driven through the length of the Peninsula on El Camino Real? From Redwood City to Daly City and from Mountain View to San Jose, it becomes a blur. Sure, there are some distinct places that set areas apart. Yet, for the most part, it seems like one giant, nameless urban sprawl. It seems like some cities have just lost their character.
Palo Alto still has a distinction that sets it apart from other places in the Bay Area. Remarkably, it has retained a small town feel in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Sure, the city has its problems. One thing that we can't seem to stand is the frantic rush that so many workers in Palo Alto engage in each morning and evening. Some times, it helps to leave for work a little earlier so you don't have to get worked up in a frenzy and flip off elderly drivers who drive the speed limit (imagine their audacity!).
Yet Palo Alto is still a wonderful place to live. IMHO, it is probably the crowning jewel of the Peninsula for having maintained its quaintness. Remember: This perspective is coming from a young Latina who was raised in rural Texas and performed migrant farm work throughout midwest and south. We have had several guests stay with us from California and elsewhere who truly enjoyed staying in Palo Alto! Several of them remarked about its "charm."
After my husband and I toured the East Bay and other areas along the Peninsula, we knew that this was the best place for us. We had traveled from Texas for interviews in the East Bay, Oakland (holy cow!), Richmand (double holy cow!) and congested downtown San Francisco. We came to visit Stanford because this was where my sister would attend school. As we exited 101 (during a weekday) following four nonstop days of interviews and noise, we were surprised at the difference that we noticed in Palo Alto. It seemed like an "escape" from the clutter of the SF Bay Area.
So, Palo Alto might not NEED a major change. Yes, it would be nice to have some limited development here (so that residents don't take their business elsewhere). However, I have to question the need for some of those things too. Do we need a Costco when we have two within a five mile radius? Do we need a Walmart when we have one almost across the street from Palo Alto? Sure, it would be nice to have cheaper groceries and a better selection than what is offered locally. However, the big Menlo Park Safeway isn't too bad (although they could use a healthy dose of competition)...and the Sunnyvale Target is just eight miles away.
Again, I am saying this to contrast to any claim that Palo Alto is a bad place to live...or in desperate need of development. Things just aren't that bad. Moreover, some of the problems associated with development/redevelopment can often be worse than the status quo. And, I don't think that anyone should be embarrassed or called a "NIMBY" (as some petty slur) for opposing a development project for whatever reason that the individual feels is important.
BTW, I hope that you aren't taking anything that I write personally. Like I said, there are some good development projects that I would support. I support the Alma Place project...but only after fully considering the pros and cons. In this case, I feel that the pros outweigh the cons -- both personally and for the city as a whole. However, I will applaud anyone who thinks enough of this city to voice our concerns. After all, I believe that our government of the people and for the people should be done BY the people. This sort of "groupthink" sharing of ideas and concerns can make some projects come about quite slowly. However, the consideration of the costs and benefits is better than hastily jumping in over our heads.
Anyway, it is getting late. I won't read over this, so please excuse me for any typos, run-on sentences, incomplete thoughts or grammatical errors. English is my second language and I usually double check my words. However, I am just tired. :-P
Have a great night!