News

MacArthur Park proposal put on hold

Parks commissioners back off from vote on proposal to move historic building to golf course

A proposal to move the building housing MacArthur Park Restaurant to the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course was put on hold by the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission Tuesday, July 24, after members said they need more time to consider the options.

A three-member ad hoc subcommittee of the commission had proposed moving the 94-year-old, craftsman-style building to clear the land for a building proposal by developer-philanthropist John Arrillaga. Arrillaga has expressed interest in constructing a multi-story office building and performing-arts center, with underground parking, on the site, which is adjacent to the University Avenue Caltrain Station.

But the commission pulled back from a scheduled vote on the building-moving plan after meeting attendees said the move seemed like "putting the cart before the horse" since Arrillaga has yet to formally propose his project to the city.

Even ad hoc committee member Stacey Ashlund said she felt "this is a bit rushed into a vote tonight," adding that "some of the other property considerations haven't been given fair due."

Margaret Feuer, president of the historic preservation group Palo Alto Stanford Heritage (PAST), said the group favors preservation of the building, designed by noted architect Julia Morgan, wherever it ends up being located.

"As soon as we heard about the Julia Morgan building and Mr. Arrillaga's plans we were concerned, and our consensus was we want the building preserved," Feuer said.

"I came here tonight thinking, 'what a surprise that this was all happening and that Palo Alto -- given that this is the Palo Alto process we're always complaining about -- didn't seem to have much process regarding this particular location of the building.'"

City Recreation Department staff member Rob DeGeus said the issue first came to the commission because Assistant City Manager Steve Emslie asked for an opinion on whether the building could be moved to nearby El Camino Park.

After commissioners concluded there was not enough space there, the city asked them to consider whether the building might be suitable for other parkland.

DeGeus told commissioners Tuesday "it would be helpful to know a little more about the timeline of 27 University (Arrillaga's project).

"I'll see what I can find out about that, and it sounds like the ad hoc committee would want to do a little more work," he said.

As described in the March city staff report, the project concept includes "a new multi-story office building fronting El Camino Real, a separate theater building on approximately 60,000-80,000 square feet, and a three-level underground garage."

It also would include improvements to transit, pedestrian and bicycle connections. The city probably would need to rezone the property, most of which is owned by Stanford, to accommodate the new office building.

Voters may also be asked to "undedicate" a driveway next to El Camino Park --currently dedicated parkland -- to be used in the project, Emslie said in the March staff report.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

Posted by David, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

I am not a huge fan, but do wonder what the fate of MacArthur Park Restaurant will be if the development is approved. The restaurant has been at this location since at least the 1970s. Will it be provided a new home, or just close.


Posted by Stop attacking beautiful bldgs, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

>Assistant City Manager Steve Emslie asked for an opinion on whether the building could be moved to nearby El Camino Park.
It is sometimes hard to figure out whether Mr. Emslie's energy is applied for the benefit of the city or for the benefit of developers.


Posted by Sheri, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

Again we're thinking of undedicating parkland (even if it is just a driveway) for use by a private party?


Posted by Ralph, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

Everyone loves something when it's leaving. Mac park isnt even opened at lunch anymore, the restaurant has become a ghost town. A park that has been unusable for over a year?? We could have a state of the art performing arts center, but instead of appreciating Mr. Arrillaga's philanthropy, let's just throw him under the umbrella of another developer trying to take advantage of a poor city.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

How many of you remember when they moved all the houses down to the Baylands near Alviso to build Oregon Expressway. They sat there for many years - nobody bought them - then they were bulldozed into obliteration. If you move McArthur Park down near the Bay it too will be obliterated because no one will want it down there.


Posted by Stew Plock, a resident of Triple El
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

Preserving part of the Palo Alto-Stanford history by preserving the Macarthur Park building makes sense. If our region REALLY needs another huge performing arts venue (I count 3 within a couple of miles of each other already), couldn't Stanford grant the developer a little piece of the huge eucalyptus woods/dust bowl space along El Camino near the current site of the restaurant? A similar historic restaurant in a park in Vancouver is very popular..it's the menu and the chef that draw in customers. And the idea of moving the building all the way to the golf course seems extreme..and what about when the bay rises with climate changing the sea level?


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:52 am

@ Ralph: With the new Bing Theater about to open, the new Paly Theater that will be constructed and the remodeled Gunn Theater to also be readied + we have Lucie Stern....why do we need another theater?


Posted by Marianne, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Even if we don't need a theater, we need more office space of any sort. The point of this development is to unify Stanford and the downtown somehow. Further, it's about time that this dead area is cleaned up of all the transients that are living there given that the police is not effective enough.

Regarding the restaurant, it's always been an island and it's obviously been difficult for the management to lure customers when there are so many barriers to get there. There is not enough lighting and area is convoluted to navigate for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.


Posted by Ralph, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

@Cresent Park Dad, I beleive that many people would share your opinion, but if you look into what is being proposed, this P.A. Center,is closer to of a state of the art Flint Center as opposed to a high school auditorium.


Posted by Sandy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

...and don't forget the near-by Menlo-Atherton High School performing arts center. We're already on overload--ridiculous. We also DO NOT need another huge office building downtown. As residents, we have to resist the attempts of developers and our short-sighted city government and staff to turn Palo Alto into a giant tourist trap (has anyone else noticed the busloads currently wandering our town?). We LIVE here; we don't want Palo Alto transformed into Disneyland with start-ups!


Posted by Ralph, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Yeah, why would we want people visiting Palo Alto...they might spend money. And offices, they might actually bring people here who will eat and shop and add to the tax base...the taxes that help provide public safety. That's right, we shopuld take a stand....give me a break!


Posted by Jane, a resident of University South
on Jul 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I keep wondering why a theater would want to be next to the noise and rattle of trains going by, and the future will bring more trains.


Posted by Duh!, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:05 am

There would be enough space to move the historic building to El Camino Park if the massive office building and private theater proposed by Arrillaga were smaller and designed to support the park. There isn't enough room for the massive office complex on it's own site which is why there needs to be a vote of the citizens to undedicate parkland. Duh!


Posted by Christopher Schmidt, a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2012 at 3:53 am

Wasn't the building moved to its present location to save it once before--from SRI, I think??

I'd be thrilled if they moved it back to Menlo Park, to one of the vacant lots on El Camino Real--the further north the better.

With Little Copenhagen, Chevy's, the Acorn, Gaylord's of India, and Fontana's closed, a large section of El Camino is now almost restaurant-free.

Looking at the map, however, the obvious site to move to would simply be the opposite side of El Camino from where it is now; i.e. the corner of Quarry Road and El Camino, across from P.F. Chang.

I wonder why Arrillaga isn't proposing that site for his project? It would be even more suitable for his purpose: larger, vastly superior accessibility, and with a potentially symbiotic relationship to the shopping center's restaurants and parking.


Posted by bill g , a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 28, 2012 at 9:16 am

As Marianne said, few people go there anymore because of its location. Why would anyone want to go way out to the golf course to find a meal? There are many good restaurants much closer in Palo Alto and Menlo Park although Menlo Park would be a good fit.

If it is moved to the golf course and no one comes, who spends the money to maintain it? One guess - taxpayers from the shrinking General Fund because it's "historic".


Posted by Stop attacking beautiful bldgs, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Resident said
>they moved all the houses down to the Baylands near Alviso to build Oregon Expressway. They sat there for many years - nobody bought them - then they were bulldozed into obliteration. If you move McArthur Park down near the Bay it too will be obliterated because no one will want it down there.<
I think Resident got it right. Looks like that may be the plan.
Not the first time the city did that. They neglected Mitchell Park library so badly, then they said oh, it's so terrible, we have to demolish it.


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