Palo Alto's latest plans to renovate California Avenue, including a new proposal to add pedestrian streetlights to the commercial thoroughfare, will be weighed and potentially approved by the City Council tonight (Monday).
The project, which has been planned for more than two years, includes a wide range of changes, the most controversial of which is shifting the street from four to two lanes. While that component will not be revisited, the council will consider tonight other elements of the streetscape project, including the proposal to add lights. The city's Planning and Transportation Commission has already signed off on the lights, which could add more than $1 million to the budget, last month.
In addition to the lane reduction, the streetscape project includes sidewalk replacement, wider crosswalks and two plazas, one at Park Boulevard near the Caltrain station and another "flexible" plaza between Birch and Ash streets that can be converted from a regular street to a plaza for special events. It also includes new street furniture, including benches, newspaper racks, trash receptacles and game tables.
The addition of streetlights, along with other changes that the council had already signed off on would push the project's cost well above $4 million. The city has received about $1.8 million in grants -- $1.1 million from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and another $700,000 from the VTA's car-registration fees. The city would pay the balance of the project, which according to staff now has a budget of $3.4 million, not counting the light expenditure. The city hopes to begin construction this fall.
At tonight's meeting, the council will decide whether to install new lights, retrofit existing ones that were installed in the 1960s, or stay with the status quo. Staff is recommending removing and replacing existing street lights with a combination of standard roadway-height poles and shorter pedestrian-scaled lights at a cost of about $1.2 million.
"Replacing all of the existing street lighting ensures the best roadway illumination for California Avenue and ensures that costly repairs to not damage the new streetscape," a new report from Planning and Community Environment states.
The streetscape project on California Avenue, between the Caltrain station and El Camino Real, aims to turn the commercial strip into a second downtown for the city. In his "State of the City" speech on Feb. 27, Mayor Greg Scharff highlighted the project as one of the city's major 2013 initiatives.
"California Avenue will rival Castro Street when it is completed," Scharff said, referring to Mountain View's bustling downtown strip.
The council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. tonight. After a closed session, the council will meet in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.