News

Plan to cut lanes on California Avenue challenged again

Area merchant claims city has failed to comply with environmental law, earlier court ruling

Palo Alto's plan to reduce lanes on California Avenue from four to two and to add a host of streetscape improvements to the commercial strip is facing a fresh legal challenge from an area merchant.

The plan, which the City Council unanimously approved last February, was temporarily halted in November because of a lawsuit from resident Joy Ogawa and from Terry Shuchat, whose store, Keeble & Schuchat, stands on California Avenue. Ogawa and Shuchat had argued that the city violated environmental law in approving the project.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas ruled in November that the city has to rescind its environmental clearance for the project and reapprove the project. The council did that in late November.

Now, Palo Alto is facing a new lawsuit from Robert Davidson of California Paint Company. The suit alleges that the city's actions in November once again failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because the resolution approved by the council in November is virtually "identical" to the one that was rescinded.

Davidson's suit also claims that the city's readopted negative declaration (a document that evaluates the project's environmental impacts) "did not consider either the temporary or permanent impact of the project construct, which is still undefined, or the permanent lane reduction that would impede access to existing businesses.

"Specifically customers would be unable to reach businesses in the Project area, which could result in business closures. Business closures and resulting blight is an impact on the physical environment that must be assessed in an environmental document."

The new suit asks the court to invalidate the re-approval of the environmental documents because the city "inaccurately and inadequately described the project," improperly "segmented" the project for environmental analysis (essentially, did not analyze the project in its entirety, but in segments) and failed to evaluate construction impacts and possible mitigation strategies.

The suit is being handled by William Ross, a local attorney who also represented Ogawa and Shuchat and who has been a vocal critic of the re-striping plan.

City officials have consistently maintained that they have followed environmental law in approving the project, which would be funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and a $550,000 contribution from the city. Palo Alto has held numerous public hearings on the project before the council voted in February to approve it.

Council members and staff have argued that the new design will make California Avenue safer and more attractive for pedestrians and bicyclists and that it would help invigorate the commercial strip by making it more like University Avenue and Mountain View's Castro Street.

Comments

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Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

Enough of this nonsense. California Paint joins Keeble and Schuchat and Mollie Stone on my personal California Avenue boycot list. I have previously purchased from all three.


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Posted by agree
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

I agree with David. I used to regularly shop at Mollie Stone's and Keeble & Schuchat. If they continue to be anti-safety and anti-pedestrian, I'm not shopping there any more.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

There might be some upgrades in order on California Avenue, but I truly resent public funds being allocated to non-essential capital improvements while the city is fighting a budget deficit. We have been hearing from our city leaders and elected officials that the city is facing a financial crisis that has led to cuts in public safety and vital infrastructure needs. Yet somehow they come up with public dollars to give California Avenue a make-over. Enough already. The city is either experiencing a financial crisis or it's not. If it is, then non-essential projects like this as well as public art, playground construction and park improvements need to be shelved. The proposed 101 bike bridge and golf course remodel have to be significantly scaled back. New consideration has to be given as to whether or not tax payer dollars should be allocated to support the Children's Theater and several homeless programs.

It is time for our city leaders and elected officials to get their financial priorities straightened out, and to have their actions back up their rhetoric. If the financial outlook is as bad as they say, then stop the unnecessary spending and invest in vital, essential needs in infrastructure and public safety.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

You have to wonder if these guys would protest if PA just wanted to improve the street scape without going to 2 lanes. My guess is yes...unless they get some sort of financial "remedy" for the construction period.

CA Ave is so awful as is. It came become a destination - but not the way it looks or operates now.

It would be nice if these guys would once consider the benefits to all PA residents (and neighboring residents) that the project would bring. With a little pain will come a much improved environment for visitors and residents alike.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

I am completely frustrated by the amount of people in Palo Alto who think they can use a law suit, or threat of a law suit, to prevent things from happening in town.

No wonder our infrastructure is in such a bad shape, nothing can ever get done. From cell towers, to road improvements, to rebuilding a shopping plaza, Palo Alto is unable to do anything.

Except of course to build libraries, but wait didn't some tennis players put a stop to one of the designs a few years' back?


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:55 am

I agree with the boycott. I hardly ever shopped at Keeble and Schuchat - but Molly Stones and Cal Paint were regulars of mine.

It is so short sighted of these vendors to oppose something that will bring more traffic not less to the area.

To Marrol - you're confusing at least two separate budgets; these big improvements to California Ave are being paid for by a grant from Santa Clara county. You might have a point that the county is also feeling a fiscal pinch these days and should they be issuing grants like this but personally I think that projects like this will pay for themselves eventually with more sales tax revenue.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:03 am

I agree in principle Crescent Park Dad, but despite the improved environment that this project would bring, we as a city can't afford it. When families have their purse strings tightened, they do not go out and spend money on non-essential home improvement projects, buy new cars, or take an extra vacation. No. They make a few sacrifices, take care of their essential needs first, pay the bills they already have, and look forward to a better financial time when they can afford the extras.

Our city leaders and elected officials have been crying from the roof tops for the past few years that the city is in a unprecedented financial crisis, facing annual budget deficits, yet continue to spend on luxury, non-essential projects. They have recently floated the idea of increasing local taxes to pay for vital infrastructure needs that they have neglected and failed to plan for, while at the same time allocating funds to build playgrounds, make park improvements, and erect public art. Unreal.


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Posted by Cal Ave shopper
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

Although I buy my paint regularly at Cal Paint, I will now stop shopping there too. I have already stopped shopping at Keeble and Schuchat - had to buy my daughter's Christmas camera elsewhere this time. Just who do these merchants think they are helping by driving away the local shoppers with their continued lawsuits?


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thank you for the input Frank from the Ventura neighborhood, but make no mistake, the grant money will not pay for the entire project. Not even close. This project will still cost Palo Alto tax payers into the millions. Even with the assistance of grant money, the city should not embark on a project that will cost tax payers a single dime. Not as along as there is a long list of infrastructure and public safety needs that require overdue attention.

You mentioned it, but let's not forget that the Santa Clara County grant money doesn't come out of thin air. Whether a county, state, or federal grant, that too is funded by we as tax payers. In the current financial climate, I resent any of our tax dollars being used for non-essential needs.

I am not saying that the city should not make capital improvements such as this, or fund public art, or upgrade parks. What I'm stressing is that this is not the time to do it. Bottom line, we can't afford it right now. First things first. Priorities first.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

"Council members and staff have argued that the new design will make California Avenue safer and more attractive for pedestrians and bicyclists and that it would help invigorate the commercial strip by making it more like University Avenue and Mountain View's Castro Street."

The city should quantify "safer" by providing data on how many accidents there are now, and what reduction they expect with the new design.

And since the city says the design will "invigorate the commerical strip", the city should provide data showing the sales tax revenue before the design, during the construction, and after the construction.

If the city cannot establish the benefits with these two metrics, I think the plantiffs have a point in their lawsuit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reduce the lanes!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

Mr. Davidson is concerned about the "resulting blight" from reducing lanes? He cannot be serious. Have these merchant protesters walked on California Ave. lately?

If they're like my husband in Sunnyvale, they're likely holed up in their stores, having driven to work in the early morning, taking the back streets, parking in their rear lots and all the while never looking to see how the current footprint impacts pedestians, or what's going on in the street in front of their stores. Oh, they sweep their doorstep. But that's about it.

They likely walk up the street to get a quick lunch at noon, walk to the bank later that day and talking on cell phones the whole time, and never paying attention to their surroundings!

Hey! We are your customers on California Ave.! Hear us!

It's time for the City to make improvements that help pedestrians in crosswalks and for the PAPD to cite bicylists riding on sidewalks, while these merchants and their lawsuit madness holds up the work.

It's time for merchants to think about pedestrian safety. We are their customers. Personally, I do not want to boycott businesses. California Ave. is too convenient for me to use, as a stay at home mom.

Even if the lane reduction were not in the plan, street work would result in closing off the street for a while, till work was done.

But claiming "business closures" would result from making the street safer for pedestrians is a stretch. The longtime printer shop on Birch Street has already closed. Know New Books is closing too.
Business comes and goes. It's normal.

So just do it. It ought not take long. The end result will be great. I'm looking forward to it. The street is blighted now.
Please fix it?


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

Good for the merchants. I support them. They know their customers and their needs way better than some of the people pontificating here as if bike-riding is some kind of religion!

Are you planning to ride your bikes carrying several gallons of paint? Do you think the painting contractors going to Cal Paints walk or dide bikes to their jobs??? Get real.

Have you been in Town & Country recently and seen what a disaster that is? You can't back out of a parking space and the traffic is grid-locked.


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Posted by James
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

This goes on and on. Can anyone honestly argue that the existing merchants don't know better than all these critics what is best for their businesses? Give them a break, they generate sales taxes, provide excellent services, and they know what brings people to their stores.


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Posted by support for all of California Ave.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

Have a little sympathy for the owners of these retail stores. Retail sales are hurting in general and I am sure that the thought of the streets being torn up for many months (look how long the intersection on El Camino took) is a scary thought. Los Altos business have been greatly impacted by their beautification projects.

On the flip side, we all know how great it would be if California Ave. even got close to the great work that has been done in Los Altos. If we were really smart the people in Palo Alto would support the owners of California Avenue by listening and agreeing that this will be tough on them. Then we should all make a pledge to SUPPORT them in both their concerns and with our business. If we all make an active effort to let them know that while their streets/sidewalks are torn up we will all join in their inconvenience by fighting the mess and supporting them throughout the process. Are you personally willing to continue to go to California Ave. during the year that everything is torn up and that there is limited parking? I am and have done so for Los Altos but unfortunately not everyone is willing and that is what scares the retailers.


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Posted by Kim S.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

I also agree with Jo Ann and James. I think Cal Ave needs new streets and they could even look into changing the parking spots to parallel parking to allow for wider sidewalks but going to two lanes is a big mistake. I avoid Castro and University Avenues altogether due to the congestion. Changing to two lanes will also increase traffic on the surrounding residential streets.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Like I asked before: Why can't there be compromise?

Why can't they remove most of the existing parking spaces (except for the spaces reserved for the handicapped) and extend the sidewalks over those spaces?

This would preserve BOTH lanes while providing the bigger sidewalks at the same time. After all, there are plenty of parking spaces available along adjacent streets and in nearby parking lots/garages.

Anyone?


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Posted by Debbie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm

California Avenue is outdated and depressing. It definitely needs a makeover. California Avenue has the potential to be a great neighborhood. Can we get rid of the "art" too?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I drive to and shop/dine on Calif. Ave all the time. If it is only 1 lane in each direction, I will go elsewhere. I don't like sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and polluting the world around me. I am 72 and handicapped so you are never going to see me and my money on a bike or walking.Please remember the population is getting older every year until we are thru the baby boom generation.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm

To Debbie and others, it would be great to give California Avenue a makeover, but we can't afford it. The city is facing unprecedented financial difficulties and annual budget deficits. Under the current circumstances this project should not even be in the discussion. Priorities first. Essential, vital infrastructure needs and public safety. Period.


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Posted by Edward Perez
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I'll say it again. 3 lanes ... one in each direction and a turn-lane in the middle. You can still expand the sidewalks and add the cafés but with only two lanes you create a bottleneck if someone decides to pull over or wait for a parking space. With three lanes you can at least maneuver around the car in front of you.


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Posted by Capbreton
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Most of this discussion just verges on silly. California Avenue as it stands is not "dangerous" in any sense of the word. (In fifteen years I cannot remember a single fatality.) It's too small to ever be a "destination" for other than locals (like me), so spending very large sums tarting it up is simply wasteful.

Take 1/3 of the money and simply steam-clean everything monthly, repaint all the lines, grow the trees and replace the defunct fountain and we're all better off.

For those of you on the list pretending to boycott struggling merchants you'd prefer, what? Empty storefronts?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

with only two lanes you create a bottleneck if someone decides to pull over or wait for a parking space

--> Valencia Street in San Francisco, a street with substantially more businesses and in a much more densely populated area, used to be 4 lanes. They dropped it to 3 to install bike lanes. Then they dropped it to 2 lanes to install wider sidewalks. There are no bottlenecks. no congestion.

The only thing wasteful about Cal Ave is wasting space that could be used for wider sidewalks as empty asphalt. This project will be a huge success. And that's the sort of thing we should spend money on. It will improve business in a business district - that's as vital as infrastructure gets.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

You obviously haven't read Palo Alto's financial reports John Murphy of another community. We are facing an unprecedented financial crisis and annual budget deficits. Many cuts have already been made to vital infrastructure and public safety needs. A makeover of California Avenue shouldn't even be in the discussion at this point in time.


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Posted by Jaco P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm

@Marrol

The issue is about cash flow. Spend money now and down the road it will pay off in higher sales taxes, property taxes etc. The value of the buildings on the street will go up after the remodel is complete and when a property is reassessed we would gain that much extra in property taxes.

It may take a decade to see the money made back, but we will. Same idea with the new deal during the FDR administration. Build during a recession for the future, give people jobs doing construction and logistics then eventually the investment (renovating Cal Ave.) will pay off.


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Posted by long-time resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I completely support the merchants. Our tax dollars do not need to be spent on such idiotic cosmetic "improvements".


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Not now. Especially not now. We can't afford to pay the bills we have now. We simply cannot afford it.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm

It bothers me not at all whether Cal Ave is one or two lanes. What I see when I go there is that all the side lots seem to be full, the restaurants seem to be busy and the train station is well used.

I don't drive on Cal Ave, I don't expect to park on Cal Ave.

If it needs to be repaved, so be it, widening the sidewalks may help, but the crossings and intersections are fine provided pedestrians don't walk out without looking. Palo Alto pedestrians are usually not paying attention to traffic when crossing streets and I see that when I drive, when I walk and when I ride my bike.

I can't see that we need to do very much to make Cal Ave more vibrant when all the parking lots and restaurants are busy every day.


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Posted by floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

So some think that two lane University Avenue and Arastradero Road are improvements? Not if you live in the area (Arastradero)as I do and have to use it multiple times each day. Don't do it to California Avenue.
By the way, did anyone connected with the tree debacle pay for that malicious act. ........I thought not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Crescent Park Dad: "CA Ave is so awful as is."

Can you be more specific? If you mean that there's a lack of shade, our own fair city is at fault (and now the man who signed the order to cut down all the trees previously there has been rewarded, with the top Public Works position--wunderbar!).

If you mean that the buildings need some more paint, the owners can see to that.

If you mean that the road surface and the sidewalks need some repair, the city can see to that; our taxes are for such things.

Otherwise, this street and its businesses have evolved over the years perfectly well without any "promotion" or other interference from City Hall--until the last two or three years when people there have had the bright idea of developing the street, in order to help fill the city's coffers (after all, mismanagement of existing public funds does encourage exploration of other avenues, forgive the pun).

In these tough economic times I myself don't at all blame those merchants who're concerned about losing their businesses during the proposed construction period. Why should we expect them to gamble on the slim chance that the changes might be made quickly and efficiently? And I for one have no intention of sitting out on a widened sidewalk inhaling the fumes from vehicles backed up in either direction while waiting for a parking space to be vacated.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I love those stores, and I don't want the City to make it harder to get to them. I avoid University Ave. because of the traffic and parking situation. Also, money should be a consideration. The street could be cosmetically improved for a lot less money than a total re-do.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Wasting money on fluff projects in this economy is stupid. I will support the merchants opposing the plan. Guess I will boycott Frank, and David.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sherry
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2012 at 1:31 am

I'm glad to hear that another long time business is standing up to the City. I never understood why the City cares about California Ave now when for decades it was a neighborhood of insignificant interest. Follow the money, probably ends at the City Hall! No ones from the City ever mentions the cost of moving the drainage system for wider sidewalks. How about repainting the lines and repaving the street and replace necessary trash bins, etc.. Another place to waste our money. Any who says they will boycott a place because of this lawsuit probablt rarely shops at these busineeses. Leave these small group of merhants and residents alone, they know what is best for the area not the overpaid consultants, City staff or the Council members.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 8:17 am

I agree that as it is CA Ave is hideous and uninviting. However, being able to park along there and to pass double parked vehicles makes shopping there possible. Since parking in the nearby lots is very often packed, it would be counterproductive to take away parking. I agree that fixing up the area while leaving the road useful would be less expensive and still improve the experience of shoppers and merchants without further bankrupting the city. Unfortunately, this is Palo Alto and the only way to avoid a bad outcome is to become an obstacle as these merchants are doing. And incidentally, Arastradero is terrible for all concerned. While I'm all for riding bikes, I'm against forcing people to ride them. No merchant can survive on what customers can transport on a bike.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Well stated Sherry and Observer. And I agree, the emphasis on the whole bicycle thing is another example of the city buckling under to another vocal minority. I hope they have the good sense to scale back the 101 bike bridge project significantly, and lessen the burden on our already strapped budget. It's time for our city leaders and elected officials to consider the greater good, and curb the spend spending on non-essential projects.


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Posted by Palo Verde neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

I agree with everyone that says we don't need to fix the area because the city doesn't have the money. I go to California Ave frequently. I shop the farmers' market, I go to the restaurants, and I used to go to the used bookshop. I already find Mollie Stone's hard to get to or else I might shop there. There is nothing that needs to be fixed. This goes under frivolous spending that the city needs to learn to stop doing.

Also why do you need to ride your bike ON california ave? Wouldn't you ride to it and park and then walk (on the extremely adequate sidewalks that exist)?

Do city council members read these comments?


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2012 at 11:28 am

Believe me, generally speaking I'm very much in favor of civic planning that includes district upgrades, park improvements, public art, and other endeavors. The only issue I have is that during these unprecedented, difficult financial times, and with the city facing annual budget deficits, it is not the time to invest millions of dollars into non-essential projects. Especially when our city leaders and elected officials just floated the notion of raising local taxes in order to pay for vital infrastructure needs. All the while still allocating funds for park improvements, new playground construction, public art, the Children's Theater, and homeless programs that serve very few people with any ties to Palo Alto. Are you kidding me?

It's time for city hall to get their priorities straightened out and have a plan that addresses vital civic needs, and that starts with infrastructure and public safety. To spend on fluff and niche projects is flat out irresponsible.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

The various lawsuits wouldn't be necessary if the city council were performing it's job of providing oversight, instead of promoting their own idealogical agendas.

There's no data to show that there is a safety issues with today's configuration of California Ave.

And there's no data to show that the design will improve the busineess environment of the shopping district - quite the contrary, the business owners are saying that the design will hurt them.

This is a city staff inspired project, sold to the council based on special interests.

Between this project, and the addtional sales tax that the council wants to impose on retail in the city, it's going to be a rough several years for these businesses.


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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Relevant to the topic:

Santa Clara county is referred to as SANTA CLAUS county by illegals all over the country....

So where is all the money to pay for these improvements?

Your neighbor just to the South has tons of freebies which have turned their city into an illegal alien magnet

Rota-care

Food Bank

Unemployment Office

Welfare Office

Sick/Well Baby Medical...


....something will have to give because more spending may not be made available to Santa Clara County.

Reality can be harsh..especially when it comes to paying the bills.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I don't understand why there are people who say they will boycott businesses who oppose lane reduction. It's disheartening that there people out there who almost wish these businesses fail. My wife loves California Paint because they actually help her. We have done Home Depot and even Kelly-Moore, which we also like but California Paint is that old time family business that remembers you. If things don't turn out the way you hoped for after completing your painting project, Cal Paint always helps you to find other solutions. So, please stop this boycotting list and let's support these businesses who serve our community. I am so grateful that there is a paint store where I can call the person answering the phone by name because he or she remembers who I am. These people who encourage boycotting are going to cause these businesses to fail and help bring the big retailers in who will not be affected if a small community like Palo Alto boycotts them. Is that what we really need?


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I join you Paul in a plea not to boycott local, small businesses that have made a commitment to our community. The issue here is that our city leaders and elected officials should not be allocating public funds at this time to give California Avenue a facelift, whether or not grant money is being utilized. This proposal is not on the list of priorities that the city should be focused on, namely vital infrastructure needs and public safety.


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Posted by Jaco P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm

I don't think these local retail owners really realize how important this facelift is to the survival of their business. Ask any small retail owner, they are getting slammed by giant online retailers like Amazon and Ebay.

What needs to be done in order to attract more foot traffic to areas such as Cal Ave? If you improve the cityscape of the area it will attract more foot traffic thus improving revenue and perhaps even saving a lot of these small businesses from eventual collapse. What currently happens is people come to Cal Ave for a specific reason such as going to Molly Stone or Cal Paint or whatever and leave right after without checking out other stores. The whole point of this is to reverse the current trend and create a more inviting experience for the pedestrian.

Yes we all know that it's going to cost money and time and perhaps they will suffer for the few months it takes to renovate the area, but the eventual payoff of having this done will be well worth it.

I guess Palo Altans can continue to live in mediocrity and have sub par commercial districts that are laughable in comparison to our neighboring cities, or we can step up to the plate and make this city better for everyone. Your choice.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

> "I used to regularly shop at Mollie Stone's and Keeble & Schuchat. If they continue to be anti-safety and anti-pedestrian, I'm not shopping there any more."

Anti-safety? Nonsense!

> "Just who do these merchants think they are helping by driving away the local shoppers with their continued lawsuits?"

If they city paid any attention to the merchants, no lawsuits would be necessary. They are simply trying to protect their businesses from the short-term losses that construction will cost and the long-term losses that will keep people away if the street becomes as congested as University Ave.

> "I am completely frustrated by the amount of people in Palo Alto who think they can use a law suit, or threat of a law suit, to prevent things from happening in town. No wonder our infrastructure is in such a bad shape,…"

Our infrastructure is in such bad shape because the city neglected roads and buildings for the last 30+ years. Instead, they spent our money on pet projects and non-essentials and now they want us to pay more taxes and/or vote for another bond to pay for their fiscal irresponsibility.

> "… you're confusing at least two separate budgets; these big improvements to California Ave are being paid for by a grant from Santa Clara county. You might have a point that the county is also feeling a fiscal pinch these days and should they be issuing grants like this but personally I think that projects like this will pay for themselves eventually with more sales tax revenue."

Dream on. As Marrol pointed out, the VTA grant money comes out of our pockets. The ONLY reason the city staff recommends cutting the lanes from 4 to 2 is because that's the ONLY way they can get the grant.

> "…make no mistake, the grant money will not pay for the entire project. Not even close."

Absolutely true! Remember the Homer Tunnel? The city got grant money for that. But the original cost in 1998 was estimated to be $2.3 million. The ultimate cost was $5.4 million. Guess who made up the difference.

The tunnel was a year behind schedule (think of the loss of business to merchants during construction) and rivaled the eastern span of the Bay Bridge for being over-budget, percentage-wise. Web Link

Former Mayor Gary Fazzino said, "It so often happens that council members and city staff hear the siren song of matching dollars and private support for projects and, because of that fact, move otherwise unimportant or unnecessary projects to the top of the list." Web Link

"… we all know how great it would be if California Ave. even got close to the great work that has been done in Los Altos."

Have you talked to the merchants in Los Altos? They suffered great business losses during construction. Has business improved based on the new streetscapes?

"… there are plenty of parking spaces available along adjacent streets and in nearby parking lots/garages."

Good luck finding a parking place anywhere near the CA Ave shops during lunch or dinner hours.


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Posted by Jacob P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm

University Avenue 'congestion' doesn't seem to be hurting merchants. Last time I checked the rents downtown were some of the highest in the bay area.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Great in theory Jacob, but you know what? We can't afford it. It is entirely irresponsible to allocate even a nickel of public dollars for a non-essential renovation project. The city is facing an unprecedented financial crisis and annual budget deficits. This has already led to cuts in vital infrastructure needs and public safety. I can't believe that people don't get it. The city needs to set some financial priorities and stop spending on these fluff projects.


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Jacob,

Have you BEEN on University Ave and Hamilton recently? I don't think so. There are lots of empty stores due to the high rents, including the former Z Gallerie, Diddams. Waterworks.... When they stores are vacant, they're empty for years. Most of those merchants are thriving elsewhere but high rents drove them out of Palo Alto.

Wahoo Taco near Cal Ave at El Camino just closed due to high rents and they said they urged people to visit their other stores.

Re Los Altos, go TALK to those merchants! They got killed last year and said so quite vehemently.

And think of people's behavior. If I'm doing my grocery shopping, why would you think I'm suddenly going to go browsing paint or eye glasses?

Look at big cities like New York. They're known for having districts: the jewelry district, the rug/carpet district, etc.

Someone above said that beautification will raise taxes because assessments will rise. Do you think that APPEALS to the merchants that are already hurting in this tough economy?? And someone else said that wide sidewalks will help commerce. HOW?? Do you think the merchants are going to move their paint cans, eyeglasses, pedicure chairs etc. out onto the sidewalk?? Have they done that in Los Altos? Or on Castro?


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Posted by Jacob P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Actually I work downtown so yes I see it everyday and know exactly how much rent we pay etc.

Web Link <--- Relevant to Z Gallerie

The landlord of the building where Diddams was located didn't offer a new lease and thus forced Diddams out. Why you ask? Because he could get more rent.


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Posted by Jacob P
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm

A lot of people come downtown with no real reason other than to go "shopping." They end up going into multiple stores for no real reason other than browsing. I think that's the whole idea here.


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

And why did Bistro Elan and now Wahoo Taco close? Yup, high rents.

Why did the city recently rezone University Ave for more office/commercial space? Because it couldn't attract retail due to high rents.

What does the city want to do about lost sales tax? A) Raise it higher than towns 3 miles away offering much the same merchandise with less traffic hassles. B) Raise our utility rates again to supplement general fund.

How will they prevent more retail establishments from closing on Cal Ave due to a) high rents, b) higher sales tax, c) construction hassles, d) traffic tie-ups?

Oh, right. They didn't have to consider economic impact.


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Posted by Gail
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm

It's a shame that our "City Hall" keeps killing our small town charming environment with these ridiculous so called improvements. Former Mayor Fazzino was right about how quick elected officials and staff are quick to accommodate "free" money with unnecessary projects. We need to really support the people who are brave enough to stand up to the City by saying"no", first do your homework properly with real statistics providing us, Palo Altans with economic impact, traffic impact, parking etc..... The City has only one agenda, themselves! City needs to make sure they all have jobs to perform even unnecessary projects so they can get their paychecks at the end if the day.


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 8, 2012 at 1:26 am

Tell me again why Cal. Ave needs revitalizing! We went there tonight before a movie at Palo Alto Square.

10 minutes of circling and wasting gas to find a parking spoace,

2 hour wait to get into Spalti's,

30 minute wait for Joannie's

Yea, the place sure is a wasteland! NOT.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Spend the money on what DOES need fixing.


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Posted by frederickb
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm

The City's continued insistence on lane reduction on California Avenue is puzzling. They want to continue to pursue Grant Money yet they won't spend their own money--City or otherwise to resurface the Street.
The City Council is detached from what actually is happening on California Avenue--the majority of the businesses want improvement--street resurfacing--but not lane reduction. There is economic vitality now. The mix of businesses is something that is needed by the surrounding neighbors and businesses for basic day-to-day needs. If those needs are not there--supposedly being replaced by high end retail--something some Council members are "excited" about I do not know where the basic service businesses--Mollie Stone's, Stationary, Paint, small convenient restaurants, haircuts, nail salons, medical/ dental offices--all of which depend on car access will go, not to mention where I and others will have to go to get those services.

I also question why the City is pursuing this when the much more serious questions--the structural deficit have not been solved.

City Staff and City Council need to preserve neighborhood business centers like California Avenue for City residents instead of seeking to accomodate what increasingly seems to be a non-residential minority that claim that a yet to be designed project with an unknown time of construction will benefit the City.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 8, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I stand and applaud Joann and FrederickB!


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Posted by Harold
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

Great job frederickb! You are right. City is out of touch with the community except for the bicyclists. I ride quite a bit but I have to say I am tired of these radical bike people that think they can run the city. Go to Mtn View or Redwood City for your cause. You have done enough damage in PA. I'm not always happy with drivers even pedestrians who think they have all the right away but I do understand if the Palo Alto becomes bicycle or pedestrian city then we are out of balance. If we were a small town tucked away from major cities then being a bike town works. It does not work if you are tucked in between San Francisco and Santa Clara/San Jose.


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Posted by Why Not Even More Lanes?
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

If, as many posters here have suggested, more lanes are better than fewer lanes, why not go all the way to an eight lane Californai Avenue, four in each direction? That way, everyone will have plenty of room.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm

To why not even more lanes, there is a difference between common sense to outright ridiculous. If what you trying to make a point with your statement then why not even reduce all lanes in Palo Alto? Make El Camino one lane in each direction and wider sidewalks and have sharrow lanes with cars. Palo Alto has strange characters and city staff who has nothing more to do than to cause problems rather than to solve them. Use your common sense


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Posted by Louise
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Just a little reality check for the commenters who keep hyperventilating about how two lanes plus turn lane at intersections will create gridlock:
-- Total number of vehicles using Cal Ave is 6000 per day on a 5 block long dead end street. Do the math: 600 cars per hour in peak periods = 10 cars per minute. Seriously, four lanes is ridiculous leftover from the 1950s when Cal Ave connected El Camino and Alma. Two lanes is more than ample capacity for motorized vehicles if turn lanes are provided. Read the traffic study, silly rabbits.
-- The complete streets remake, reducing from 4 to 2 lanes, has been successful in revitalizing commercial areas all over the Bay Area even where traffic is 15,000 to 18,000 vehicles per day. And the merchants love it. Is Cal Ave special creation, where ugly and unnecessary asphalt expanses should not be revamped 50 years after usefulness was lost when access to Alma was forever closed?

The lawsuit is purely kicking up legal dust, there are no significant environmental impacts, and the truth is that the delays in implementing the project caused by meritless assertions have hurt the merchants more than well-phased construction ever would!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

Louise, remember the City cut the once beautiful lined street. If they repaired and resurfaced the streets as they were suppose to along with replacing or adding amenities. The traffic study which you write does not include foreseen projects which exists. By the way, if the City is trying to make Califirnia Ave a transit hub and a "destination" spot then the traffic study is inaccurate because projected traffic increase is not included. Don't replace an existing area that works well because it looks outdated. We all appreciated old buildings that are well maintained, take a look in SF or NY. To bring up consistenly that California Ave used to connect to Alma makes no sense because the whole area developed and streets were configured to the increasing population and traffic. It was not necessary because of California Ave but the needs of Alma. Please do not get fooled by our City staff. I was born and raised in Palo Alto and this I can tell you that our City officials and staff has been getting worse. They are overpaid, lack of creditials, wasteful and out of touch with the community.



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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

> "Make El Camino one lane in each direction and wider sidewalks and have sharrow lanes with cars."
See Major changes may be coming to El Camino Real at Web Link


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Pat. You got to be kidding! These guys live in another.


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