News

New plans surface for 27 University Ave.

As City of Palo Alto halts its outreach process, design students Thursday pitch their own visions

A year after Palo Alto pulled the plug on a proposed office-and-theater complex near the downtown Caltrain station and committed to more transparency and public participation in planning for the central site, the rules of the game are once again shifting for 27 University Ave.

The 4.3-acre site, which lies on the border of Stanford University and downtown Palo Alto, has been under heavy scrutiny since fall of 2012, when billionaire philanthropist John Arrillaga proposed building four office towers and a performing-arts theater and removing the historic Julia Morgan-designed building that currently houses MacArthur Park Restaurant. Under his initial plan, the tallest of the office buildings would have been 162-feet tall, more than three times the city's 50-foot height limit. Though the revised plan brought down the two tallest buildings to heights of 103 feet, critics continued to decry the proposal, citing what they called a lack of transparency in the planning process.

In response, the City Council opted in December 2012 not to pursue the Arrillaga proposal and instead to launch what was supposed to be an extensive community discussion about the site's future. Last June, the council approved a staff proposal for six to eight public meetings and creation of a new stakeholders' group that would develop a new "vision" for the site.

At the time, then-Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd described the decision as "the beginning of the restart process"; Councilwoman Liz Kniss praised the plan to get the community involved; and Councilwoman Gail Price said the council had received a "loud and clear" message that "individuals and community members want to have more engagement and meaningful engagement."

The six meetings never took place. Instead, the politically charged topic fell off the council's radar, eclipsed by broader land-use debates and angst over downtown's worsening traffic congestion and parking shortage. Earlier this month, City Manager James Keene mentioned during a "year-in-review" presentation that staff has decided not to conduct outreach specifically on 27 University but to fold it into a broader conversation about downtown.

The process that the City Council endorsed in June was quietly shelved.

But now, new ideas for 27 University's future are emerging from a different source -- Stanford University's architecture program. Since October, graduate students from Stanford and partnering universities abroad have been putting together their own concepts for the site as part of a project coordinated by former Councilman John Barton, director of Stanford's architecture program. The program has students working in interdisciplinary teams (disciplines including landscape architecture, urban planning and social sciences) on issues that blend theory with real-world applicability, Barton said in a recent interview.

Though Stanford would have gained plenty from Arrillaga's proposal (revenues generated from the buildings were to be donated to the university), it's not the administration but the design students who apparently are steering this process. In the last few years, Barton said, the interdisciplinary students from the program had worked on projects in Europe. This year, the program was set to come to Palo Alto, with participants focusing on 27 University Ave.

Their assignment, according to a statement, was to study the area and make a proposal for a "21st Century Research Park" at the site, which can range from mainly offices to an "18-hour place vibrant with retail, office, services and housing" or "something in between or something new." Each of the six student teams will make "rational and defendable decisions about density, height and uses whether they be consistent or not with current zoning," according to the statement. Students will also have to take "an affirmative stand" on whether Caltrain and the planned high-speed-rail system should be placed underground, a wildly expensive but locally popular proposal.

The statement also includes a brief background on local land-use history. The city's planning documents, according to the project statement, are designed to "protect the vast area of the city that is built as single-family homes."

"These residential neighborhoods jealously protect their space, quiet and peaceful areas," it states in explaining why the city generally limits new development to 50 feet.

The statement calls Palo Alto's resident stakeholders "very vocal, very educated and very entitled," with each one often being able to make a good claim to be "the smartest person in the room."

"As a result our political dialogue can be heated but focused," the statement says. "This area is not close to many residents but the specter of tall buildings can make the blood boil for many residents. On the other hand there is a growing sense that Palo Alto, and other cities, can no longer be suburban enclaves and need to become small cities with the density that requires."

The six teams, which include students from Germany, Italy and Switzerland, plan to present their concepts for a "21st Century Research Park" on Thursday morning, Jan. 23, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The presentations will begin at 9 a.m. and will take about one hour each, Barton said.

The City Council, Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission have been invited, though Barton indicated in an email that officials needed to let him know of their attendance so that issues with the Brown Act, the state's open-meeting law, could be managed.

The presentations are also open to the public.

Barton, both in the statement and in the interview, emphasized that the point of the exercise is not to pre-empt the grassroots "vision" process undertaken by the city but to "augment it."

"At the end of the day, all the information is valuable, it's just not equally valuable," Barton said. "This is just another set of information that a bunch of people have been working on. If the only thing that comes out of this is students learning to present ideas to people who are highly engaged in a particular project, that's great. If cool ideas come out and the community rallies around some set of ideas, that's great too, but it's not our expectation."

The city has largely been on the sidelines for this exercise, though Mayor Nancy Shepherd addressed the group in October, when she was vice mayor and the program was just launching. City Economic Development Manager Thomas Fehrenbach also addressed the group, Barton said. The role of the city officials, he said, was mainly to answer questions. Though he invited the council and local commissioners to the Thursday presentation, he stressed that the project is not being undertaken "for the city."

"It's an academic exercise that may have some value for the community," Barton told the Weekly.

Keene made a similar point in an interview Wednesday. The Thursday presentations, he said, are "primarily a design exercise for the students" that is "in no way connected to any agenda of the city."

When asked about the staff's decision not to proceed with the visioning process that the council approved last June, Keene said the new approach made sense given the broad range of related issues that have surfaced since the summer of 2013. These include the city's ongoing "downtown cap study," which aims to determine downtown's capacity for new development; proposed parking-permit programs and transportation-demand-management programs; exploration of new downtown garages; and the city's update of its land-use bible, the Comprehensive Plan.

Keene said staff will present ideas for approaching 27 University and related downtown planning issues on Feb. 3, as it introduces its new initiative, Our Palo Alto. The topic may also come up on Feb. 24, when the council is scheduled to discuss the Comprehensive Plan update.

"In June, we were looking at is as a one-off issue," Keene said. "Now, we're having a much bigger conversation about the whole city."

"It seemed to us that it would be confusing and potentially redundant and presumably even cost ineffective to try to be running some separate parallel process when we are having a much grander discussion around the Comprehensive Plan," Keene said.

"The question of whether that project or any project should go forward at that site is up in the air" and will not be answered until the broader conversation over the Comprehensive Plan takes place.

He added that the council can always redirect staff to launch the specific 27 University dialogue as originally envisioned in June.

"We're very focused on this broad community dialogue that I think will take several years," Keene said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I don't want to see any increase in height limit, period, unless the project seriously includes a substantial provision for senior low-income housing. This is a far more appropriate place for it than Maybell, the City has expressed how urgently we need it, and having such housing within such a development increases safety.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Isn't if fun how the City Council ignores its own legal rules to cater instead to the whims of one of their own who happens to have some bright young architectural students who know better than our own voters much less our elected officials... and our very dearly paid staff.... and endless hired consultants. But then... in the Republic of Shallow Alto... who you know and reading the minds of whoever has power behind the scenes is more important than efficient, timely and transparent legislative processes. Good job, PA Weekly in sniffing out this latest joke on the voters!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eagle
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Hope the plans include undergrounding the train.t


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:41 pm

If this is a Stanford "academic' exercise why is the presentation taking place in Palo Alto City Council Chambers? Where public and honest hearings are to rake place?

Who are the Teams of experts from around the world? What do they know about PA ?

Had this article not come out how were the residents to know about the meeting Thursday ? Was Barton and his team really going to invite the public? When?

The statements about Palo Alto residents are insulting and mean spirited. Why was this going on behind our backs?

On December 2nd ( 2013), in the wake of Measure D outcome, Mayor Scharff siad in a public hearing "that 27 university had been killed by council last January" and urged residents to quit bringing it up.

Guess 27 U was not "dead" since Fehrenbach and the Vice Mayor Shepard, were secretly meeting with this group.! Are we to believe others on Council were unaware of theses efforts?

Is this the sort of relationship with Palo Alto and process that Stanford's Board of Regents condones?
The statements about residents are contemptuous and the process seems biased and secretive.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:57 pm


FYI ---- here is a link to the statement that was written by Barton referred to in the article…..

Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 21, 2014 at 9:12 pm

So what height can our fire truck ladders reach?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kay
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 21, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Palo Alto really needs to ban P.C's. They have completely changed the feel and livability of this town. They are basically a giveaway bonus for developers who have connections at City Hall. As for 27 University, just say NO. Once this is developed, we will never get the land/openess back. It will be gone forever with some concrete office building type structure and some low cost housing/BMR units. Stanford has lots of green space and track fields even as they build out the inner lands. Palo Alto does not need any more office/professional buildings. Stop giving away our heritage and think about supporting more green space, schools, parks and libraries. Interesting that the Arrillaga headquarters was approved on the east side of Bayshore with very little public outrage. I know 1 friend who opposed the building at the City Council Meeting when it was approved. It was WAY out of zoning compliance......well now that Arrillaga has their headquarters in town, they are not just going to be passive bystanders to their development interests!


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Posted by Just watching
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm

"At the end of the day, all the information is valuable, it's just not equally valuable," Barton said.
In other words, everyone is equal, but some of us are more equal than others. This man is a gift to the humorist.

He wants to obey the law -- the Brown Act.
How refreshing! I don't recall his ever wanting to do that in the past.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not impressed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Will Barton be reviewing these proposals and giving his recommendation? Barton praised 801 Alma. Didn't he call it a "fabulous" piece of architecture when it was under review? Does he still think so?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm

so …"unequal,' not valuable information serves what purpose?????

Worth it to whomever payed for all these young experts to be imported here housed here feed Probably feed some "unequal" not valuable information ….etc..etc…

Wow… so many willing to sell our land, our community for simple profit.


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Posted by Just watching
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Two questions:
1)Who gave Barton permission to use the Council Chambers for a private project? The venue gives it a flavor of "officialness."
2) Who is paying for the students expenses and project expenses? Arillaga? Stanford?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:16 pm

I don't think we need more "creative" architecture claiming to make some sort of statement, in Palo Alto. I expect the worst from this project.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:50 pm

I doubt the student proposals will be worse than Arrillaga's, so might as well let it play out. Maybe they will come up with something good. It could end up serving as a counter point to the developers and their city council.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Given the way we are being required to put in more housing for every job we produce, City Council should not approve any more office spaces unless it can show where the housing will go and that it will not continue to dramatically change the character of the City and cause unaddressed problems to safety and traffic circulation.

And then City Council should go to the state and tell them to stop requiring this ridiculous developer giveaway of housing densification through this ludicrous idea of housing jobs balance within every town border, since this area acts as a metropolitan region and towns like Atherton have lots of housing without commensurate jobs, and we'll stop providing all those jobs for the state tax base if they don't stop requiring us to put in housing our infrastructure can't support.


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:41 am

@Greenacres has it right. If there is going to be more office space / jobs the planning is only half done at most. The plan should include housing to balance the jobs and transportation to get people to the jobs and to the housing.

Stop development that adds jobs without the needed housing and transportation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Sommer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:54 am

I would love to see what the students present. Its always good to have refreshing ideas from around the world.

John, can you please post the six proposals online, for later viewing?

Thank you,
Martin


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

Lipstick on a four legged animal with a curly tail! Maybe we should add some wings too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Incredulous
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:57 am

It"s just incredible how much deceit their is in this town: Planning Commission, City Council, Developers, ARB all complicit and colluding in it. All self-interested. No thought for the people who live here whom they are supposed to serving, not ignoring.

Bad enough the rest of the Peninsula is laughing about our Board of Education. Now they can laugh at our leadership as well.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

I agree with Martin,but would take it one step further. John, please publish the studies today, and reschedule the meeting for a time next weekend when more people can attend.

I believe that it would be better to pick a new location….using Council Chambers creates confusion and certainly gives the impression that many senior staff and many city council members condone the process and outcomes.

Please remember the young experts you have selected for this "academic" exercise are, just that, selected by you and may not represent abroad view of what the real stakeholders, the residents want.

Please make public who paid for and approved this academic exercise. In other words was there a larger body of Stanford decision makers involved????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:24 am

No mention of PA's support of eliminating lanes on El Camino, something the surrounding communities have opposed?

Will the study consider gridlock?

See Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by margaret
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:25 am

I'm sure that Mr. Barton and his group will have devised a plan for 27 University which leaves intact and in place julia Morgan's building. As an architect, he is doubtless aware that the American Institute of Architects awarded Morgan its 2014 Gold Medal, the most prestigious award an American architect can receive. Morgan is only the seventh architect to receive the medal posthumously, and the first woman to be so honored.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Authenticity and public process
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:39 am

The students should have to pitch in a public meeting. That's what the pros have to do. It would be a more authentic experience and learning experience for them...and for our City Council and staff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Abraham
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

I'm not against the development--i.e., I'm to open to considering something there--but I'm happy this story didn't once use the term "arts district," which was a joke. Put up a bunch of office buildings, and one theater, and it becomes a "district"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:57 am

Anon and Just Watching make good points. While this sounds like an intriguing project (it is certainly a creative approach) the way it has been presented here the day before the presentation in Council chambers and with references to meetings that have been held despite statements that the project was "killed" feeds the concerns many have in Palo Alto that our Council,City Manager,Staff and other officials are duplicitous. It's no wonder that there's a "Palo Alto Process" - the very people entrusted to run the City leave residents little choice but to scrutinize and question everything - including GOOD ideas. Seems Palo Alto is ridiculous more often than not.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:03 am



The report Does not mention the Julia Morgan building other than this description of the site, 27 University.

…." Now referred to as 27 University Avenue, which has been largely vacant,. "…..

hmmmmmm…...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:20 am

The building in the left background is an egregious plagiarism of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral, which was built to prepare the Apollo moon rockets for launch and later the Space Shuttle. It was never meant to be a thing of beauty, and it ain't.

But c'mon people, if you must design ugly buildings, be original.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:36 am

Another Academic effort...... That will go nowhere...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

Got to wonder if this meeting violates the Brown Act, in any possible way?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Barton
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I think we all need to take a deep breath. This is an academic exercise that is not endorsed by either the City or Stanford. It is simply an intriguing problem that suited this group of students well. Our presentation is academic in nature - feedback to the students on their designs.

As part of the learning process we thought it would be good to present in a formal way in front of people who might have an interest in the project that this would enhance the learning of the students. The location does not make it more than it is. And once again: It is not part of the process for the city or Stanford and is a learning endeavor.

We are happy to have visitors tomorrow, and hear your comments, but please see the event for what it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by question
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm



Will this meeting be broadcast/recorded for those of us who cannot attend?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Either the meeting will generate significant and meaningful information in Council Chambers (outside of a public hearing)or the information will be insignificant and meaningless. It's one or the other!

If the meeting generates significant and meaningful information that Council Members and Commissioners learn during the ex-parte contact, and not simultaneous to the public, then there are Brown Act issues and ex-parte contacts that will require more than just dismissive disclosures. How will Council Members and Commissioners document and disclose what they learn in a day long meeting? What part of the proceeding and all the side conversations will be entered into the public record later in public hearings?

If this meeting generates only insignificant and meaningless information, then you have to wonder why Barton, Stanford, and the international teams would participate in such a meaningless exercise?

So, if Barton, Stanford, and the international teams maintain that their Design Studio has any academic integrity, then any Council Members and Commissioners that attend will need to have material and substantial disclosures in subsequent public hearings. If this meeting influences their ability to make fair and open minded decisions based only upon information learned in subsequent public hearings, then they will need to recuse themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm

In the abstract, the concept of a student project relating to 27 University
Ave is a good thing.But nothing is in the abstract in Palo Alto. In the context of the last several years and the interests involved here, residents are right to question every aspect of this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by breathing deeply
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Deep breathing isn't going to make people more trusting.

1. Your comment about residents:

"Palo Alto has a very vocal, very educated and very entitled set of residents. Each is smarter than the others and in many cases each can make a good claim to be the smartest person in the room. As a result our political dialogue can be heated but focused. This area is not close to many residents but the specter of tall buildings can make the blood boil for many residents. On the other hand there is growing sense that Palo Alto, and other like cities, can no longer be suburban enclaves and need to become small cities with the density that requires. As a result, there are some voices arguing for taller buildings – particularly in an area with few residents. Finally there are many voices that will argue that density that could pay for undergrounding the trains would be a great trade-off."

2. Why is Dan Garber prominent in your invitation?
From: John Barton
Date: January 17, 2014 9:13:17 AM PST
To: ARB, Planning Commission, City Council
Cc: Tony Carrasco, Daniel Garber, Thomas Fehrenbach "Keene, James"
Subject: Re: Invitation to Final Review of Project Studying 27 University Site

Garber was on the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Committee, but left when the City hired him as a consultant to do the urban design for John Arrillaga's original 27 University proposal. He is also past president of Theatre Works and long-time board member. Maybe that explains why a shell for Theatre Works was the "public benefit" on that proposal. Web Link

Why not invite all the other architects in the city who might provide feedback to your students?

3. Why wasn't a public invitation announced on January 17th when you sent the invitation to Council? Your email invitation sure makes it sound like an official city function. Doesn't Stanford have any big meeting rooms available?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julian
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm

@Incredulous and others - Just to clarify: the city council, administration, etc do not work for the citizens, they work for the developers. Hope this makes things easier to understand.

(deep sarcasm, for those can't tell)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hillary Giltelman
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I am the new Planning Director for the City of Palo Alto and would like to emphasize that the student project being discussed in Council chambers tomorrow is not endorsed by the City, and the City does not have a plan for the 27 University Ave site, other than to ensure community input about this and other possible development sites in the course of the ongoing Comprehensive Plan update. If you are interested in planning and design, I hope you will participate in the update process as it moves forward. Watch Web Link for more information.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Hey Mr. Keene ,
I would like too use the Council chambers for a private event as well; who does the scheduling and what are the rate to rent the room???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just watching
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

John Barton writes: "Our presentation is academic in nature - feedback to the students on their designs."

And he cc's: Tony Carrasco, Daniel Garber, Thomas Fehrenbach "Keene, James"
Garber works for Arrilaga, not for the city.
And he is a Board member of TheatreWorks which wants a huge theater built for them at 27 University - as a so-called public benefit.

The duplicity is so evident, it tells you everything you need to know about the manipulations surrounding 27 University. An academic exercise. :~)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Why John Barton didn't schedule a room on the Stanford campus, rather than the Council Chambers, removing any obvious concern that the city government was involved in the plans he and the students developed and will be presenting?

Given the secrecy associated with 27 University in the past--it's hard to believe anything anyone associated with the project has to say.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

This exercise could be interesting. I think all the student presentations should be displayed at a Stanford site that is open on weekends and during the week. The Stanford museum (cantor) would be ideal. Parking is expensive during the week, but free on weekends. The exhibit should occupy as much of the museum as necessary to display each proposal in full. The public should be provided cards on which to vote for the best and offer comments and grades for each. The exhibit should be open for a minimum of three weeks, including weekends.
Projects should each adhere to city zoning regulations, including height limits, density, parking. The site should include a significant number of below market rate and senior housing units. Senior units should offer on site continuing care.
I would prefer to have a action of 2 parking spaces for each unit. Parking must be provided for visitors and each business.
Theater works already has a good venue in mountain view. If a theater is included it should be for our small local theaters such as Dragonthe Pear.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by question
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Mrs. Gitelman,

If the student presentation is to "ensure community input about this and other possible development sites in the course of the ongoing Comprehensive Plan update" that sounds pretty big, huge?

Just to be clear to the students, many of us who objected to 27 University were not concerned about our view, but about process and governance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Grandmother
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm

First - I find it very frustrating that the proposals are not available online for readers to download and evaluate. Why can't everyone in the city see a copy of what is to be presented before it is presented? Clearly it is finished and I would bet the PA city staff and Council already have it.

Second - why do we need yet another research facility? Google has taken over the Shoreline area, we have Stanford, SRI, Facebook and myriads of smaller sites which are all focused on technology. It's not clear to me why we think that technology is the only thing of value in Palo Alto.

So I propose that instead we encourage the city to solicit funds from the local billionaires to build an artist colony with affordable housing, art and music studios, classrooms designed for art and music teaching, a performing art center, a gallery to house rotating displays and keep McArthur Park as the centerpiece of a culinary academy. We could draw artists of all kinds from around the world to be part of a highly unique development.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:33 pm

One of my kids' childhood friends was the child of a diplomat from Japan, Tokyo specifically. When they left to go back, the mom expressed to me this effusion of gratitude that her child had been able to experience trees and grass and open space for that time in his life. She was literally in tears that she could share this natural beauty of Palo Alto with her child at that stage in his life.

We should not be so quick to give away the farm (literally) and look like every other soul-deadening urban space in the world. Booms will come and go, but once the natural beauty is gone, it's gone.

I really don't want more office space if it means we have to pack in that much more housing, and without the state having any regard for the consequences to our open space, natural environment, infrastructure, and emissions from gridlock. Please stop.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm

to Palo Alto Grandmother
What a great idea!! I wish our local millionaires and billionaires would remember that charity begins at home, and think about how they might invest in a future for our town - because our City Council will destroy it if given the chance!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm

"So what height can our fire truck ladders reach?"

Fire department takes their safety cues from planning and transportation, who will no doubt find "no impact" no matter what is planned.

So your answer is -- they don't care.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm

and what do I call Stanford: "very entitled..."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric F
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

The whole thing does have a funny odor, doesn't it. I doubt this episode will do much to improve the current low level of resident trust in Council and Staff. And the phrase "not close to many residents" apparently excludes the Downtown North residential neighborhood, which 27 University is next to.

I hope the students will at least look at impacts on things like traffic, city services and infrastructure, and ultimately school crowding as more packed-in professional housing follows. And not confine themselves to, "we only do architecture, not those other things."


Maybe the most telling piece of this is the statement about the "growing sense" that Palo Altans should basically turn into downtown San Francisco. That sense is very likely true with respect to the Staff, much of the Council, and of course Architecture and Development professionals everywhere.

But you have to have pretty serious tunnel vision to believe that feeling extends to a voting majority of Palo Alto residents. It's not a truth universally acknowledged among residents, that any piece of land must be in need of a giant building.

The Council and Staff have mothballed the "get the community involved" effort. Conspiracy theorists will delight in this, but perhaps it's as it should be. The community involvement instead looks like it will be the November election.

There is a clash here between two radically different visions for Palo Alto. Will it be Vision A: a moderate-density family town with good schools to send your kids to? Or will it be Vision B: we'll be San Francisco South, the financial and professional capital of the Peninsula, with dense, high-rise office towers and a lot of places to eat well, but also with unsolvable traffic, congestion, and infrastructure problems, and with lots of private schools since there's no more space in the public ones. Because these things come with Vision B, and you can't have both visions at once.

It's clear which vision City Hall supports. Student designs to replace 27 University with a 21st-century research park, with "defendable decisions" about zoning? Uh, check.

Vote wisely this year.


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Posted by Don McDougall
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm

I am encouraged that fresh, bright, unbiased minds are spending time on Palo Alto issues. It's just possible some interesting new innovative and useful ideas might come their efforts. But I expect that any input they can provide us will be missed by people not even willing to listen to what constitutes free consulting and thought stimulation. Palo Alto is losing its ability to be an environment of innovation and useful growth and it's not surprising entrepreneurs are moving to San Francisco and San Jose. Eventually as Palo Alto loses its vitality and declines (and the tax base declines) the city will not just stop growing but die as I expect is the desired outcome.


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Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Don

"Eventually as Palo Alto loses its vitality and declines (and the tax base declines) the city will not just stop growing but die as I expect is the desired outcome."

What has the increasing tax base done for residents other than increase the need to raise taxes?

Please do tell me what I (resident) have gained with the supposedly increasing tax base to date?

And Palo Alto will not die, where do you get this kind of baloney? If you mean by "dying" that instead of 18 yogurt shops, we'll have 2 yogurt shops, that is not dying. Please.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Don, what makes you say "unbiased minds" ? Have you met the group??? heard what they have to say?
might they want to please a prominent prof. from STanford for future recommendations referrals jobs favors?

your dramatique tale of Palo Alto's demise seems equally unfounded. If palo alto doesn't become San francisco south it will wither and die…why would that happen?


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Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Along with the restaurant, our local Red Cross chapter is in the Julia Morgan building. Unless they moved and I didn't notice. Bet they're not being considered for the new project.


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Posted by American
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm

In addition to the fact of the Julia Morgan building being an irreplaceable historic treasure; do you know that veterans of wars still meet in her building…. the Hostess house/MacArthur Park???

Veterans of world war II came to speak when 27 University went to council last year, but when it went so late into the night they gave up' and went home

This place is this profoundly important to preserve honor and retain to keep our city whole and balanced.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Not that I'm in favor of the 27 Uni project...I'm not. But to be fair, the Arrillaga proposal included *moving* the Morgan building to a new location; not to tear it down. And you also need to acknowledge that the Morgan building's first location was in Menlo Park, not where it is today...so moving it wouldn't be the first time...


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

true…..but it doesn't seem to getting the attention it deserves


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Posted by breathing deeply
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Sure, it's nice that "fresh, bright, unbiased minds are spending time on Palo Alto issues." But how many of those minds and bodies will be living in Palo Alto after they graduate? There are plenty of bright minds among Palo Altans. We're the ones who should decide what we want the city to look like!


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm

This thread (with the exception of Ms. Gittleman's & Mr. McDougall's efforts to inject some rationality) shows an alarming level of hysteria, and even some racism, over this development. Are the citizens of PA concerned about THAT?

Geez -- the students are not part of any cabal, and there is no cabal. Can you folks consider that you might hear some interesting ideas from the students, and regret some of your conspiracy theories?

OMG -- Can PA citizens ever resist attacking their elected leaders the day after they elect them?

This property's zoning/future use was part of a legal agreement made between Palo Alto and Stanford years ago. The proposals for a mixed use development at this site are totally consistent with that contract and with the zoning.

Palo Alto will change...Silicon Valley and Capitalism guarantee it. Planned change can inject some order and preserve this area's intrinsic beauty.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Arrillaga was willing to move the Julia Morgan building to the Maybell site, where it could be a (badly needed) community space again, and close to the VA... There are 100 established trees there that don't need water. Interesting that they would go to Stanford students for ideas to develop 27 University but not take residents up on their request to allow them to come up with an open space use for that parcel that saves the orchard and provides a much needed community meeting space on a side of town that has so few (which includes neighborhood residents offering to figure out how to pay for it, as they did Bol Park).

City Council still spending all their time on their development toys while things like parking, safety, and infrastructure take a back seat.


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Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Neighbor, (from Another Community)

The racist comment you're trying to give credence to, my bet it's a troll. Whoever posted it, nice addition to make it from Crescent Park.

You say "Planned change can inject some order and preserve this area's intrinsic beauty." or "Palo Alto will change...Silicon Valley and Capitalism guarantee it."

I think you may have the conspiracy theories.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:18 pm



' Planned change can inject some order and preserve this area's intrinsic beauty"

really ???? How about just following the existing laws in PA…..Comprehensive Plan and Zoning?

Following laws IS what makes order.,.otherwise there is chaos, unpredictability and unfairness.


Quote…

"This property's zoning/future use was part of a legal agreement made between Palo Alto and Stanford years ago. The proposals for a mixed use development at this site are totally consistent with that contract and with the zoning."

How so….? It is zoned PF with a nationally recognized historic building and adjacent to another; the train station.

Please be specific in describing what you think the statement about the "legal agreement " made years ago btwn PA and Stanford means/allows under current zoning?



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Posted by Scared to put my own name behind my opinion!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Don McDougall, I admire your willingness to stand behind your opinion. I rarely see negative comments published when folks have their name attached to it. I imagine they would be embarrassed to actually be associated to what they are writing. So congratulation to you, I really paid attention to what you wrote and it made sense. Thanks for sharing.
Scared.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Hi Scared to put my own name behind my opinion!,

sorry for your jittery nerves! since this forum does not require that we identify ourselves by name ( a choice them PA weekly people have made) why assign any relative authenticity to comments made by those stating their name versus not… in other words, what difference does it make???? stating a name etc… does not guarantee who anyone is anyway.
Just a thought… wouldn't it be better in general if opinions were judged on merit NOT the by the names that claim to author them????


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:51 pm

If you look at Page 1 of the San Jose Mercury today, 01/22 you will see an article about the development of North San Jose which will be the technology center for Silicon Valley. The article is about a new SAMSUNG super site and the plans for the surrounding area. The noted architect and planner is the Peery Arrillaga firm. I am very familiar with this area and it is going through a huge growth period very fast - starting with a huge super Target, restaurants, market, finance companies, etc. across the street from SAMSUNG Also a lot of huge apartment complexes. Of course the surrounding area has Cisco Systems, Dell Computers and many other companies on the stock exchanges. This is NOT the world of non-profits, except for Second Harvest Food bank which is next to the new Samsung site. The one thing they have is property that was not previously built on and the lite rail system. It notes that they are going to WIDEN Montague Expressway.

So look at Palo Alto - we had a noted firm and somehow undid that relationship, we have no lite rail, no BART,and we are not widening main thoroughfares, we are trying to reduce the number of lanes on main thorough fares. Possibly a difference is the mayor of San Jose is elected - Chuck Reed. There is a more formal process and more accountability with an elected mayor. City planning has a longer range of direction versus what we are experiencing in PA.

I have nothing against foreign students using the 27 University site as a basis for a competitive contest of ideas, and we have no commitment to implement those ideas. The area that has space available is in the East Bayshore area - a lot of buildings sitting empty - For Lease, and Stanford has a substantial amount of property that is not built on. What if the students worked on a project which is on the back end of Stanford -HWY 280. A lot could be accomplished there. If BART could be extended and connect to san Jose through the back end of Stanford then the idea of building around a transportation center would be a realized concept.
The 27 University site is unique and beautiful as is - like an oasis. Maybe clean up a bit with a formal garden.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 12:02 am

Wow…thats a concept…widening lanes in response to intensification of density/development versus reducing lanes ( in Palo Alto, California Ave Arastradero…maybe El Camino Real to make a designated lane for anticipated new VTA busses….. ) in response to intensification density of development!


So,go figure???? Does all of this make any sense?


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Posted by One hand / Other hand
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:27 am

On the one hand:

People need to cool their jets. It's an academic exercise. It makes perfect sense to have students try to plan for a site that they can go see with their own eyes, and one that is being talked about for real in terms of redevelopment.

It's also reasonable for them to be given some parameters to work with in terms of how to think about the site, even if that's not what everyone in Palo Alto would like to see done with the site.

It's also reasonable — and realistic, and fair — for the students, who will be interacting with real citizens, to be told, in essence, "Expect the townies to be *Difficult*." (And John, you might encourage your students to read the comments here to have some idea of the sorts of reactions they might get from us townies.)

Also, some of the proposals might actually be set-breaking and thought-provoking.

On the other hand:

If this really is just an academic exercise, it was amazingly tone-deaf of someone who used to be a City Councilmember (and who presumably is still informed on city politics) to have scheduled this meeting in City Council chambers, and at a time, during a normal workday, when many stakeholders — and especially those not working in city government — would not be able to attend. The "appearance of conflicts of interest", so to speak, certainly presents itself. Maybe the intent was to be as "realistic" as possible for the students, but this goes too far.

The meeting should be rescheduled, and held either at Stanford on an evening or weekend (when parking is free, too), or at some other "neutral" location, to make completely clear that these presentations are not "official" anything.


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Posted by Kay
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:35 am

Thank you very much Eric F. Palo Alto certainly seems to be heading for Plan B---San Francisco South. In terms of the schools, there are plenty of children in Palo Alto going to private schools (I am one), home-schooling, and unhappy with the public schools. Palo Alto Board of Education does not track children leaving the District and where they go. Quite a few families rent to send their kids to school here with the real intention to stay if the schools and community are a good fit. A lot, throw up their hands in frustration and leave. I bet if they really examined the surveys (Board of Education) they would see there are serious problems with many of the public schools here in town. Of course, if you mostly focus on test data, which comes out high, in comparison to other Districts. To me Bigger is not Better. High schools supporting 2,000-2,500 students is way over the top.
The traffic and congestion on El Camino, East Meadow, Loma Verde, Churchill seems to have doubled in around 5 years, and it is only getting worse. Let's have some common sense to vote in council persons who have a vision of a livable city with a medium sized population that can enjoy the parks, libraries, school and build community with their neighbors.


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

NO. You want skyscrapers, move to LA or NY. Palo Alto advertises itself as a "residential community". We used to be - we were happy. Now its a mess like any other big City. "We can't go home again", so cherish your memories and try to save what we can still save.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

one hand /other hand said:

"The meeting should be rescheduled, and held either at Stanford on an evening or weekend (when parking is free, too), or at some other "neutral" location, to make completely clear that these presentations are not "official" anything."

is correct…..STOP this meeting at Our council Chambers today. The public was invited ONLY as the result of the
meetings existence being "leaked "to the press. Barton wasn't going to invite anyone but council, Planning commission and a few select individuals, including former Planning commissioner Dan Garber, City manager Jim Keene. Garber left the planning commission to work for Arrillaga planning 27 University and was paid to do so with city of PA funds!. AS president and an avid member of there Board of THeater works he had been working for years with Arrillaga to find a suitable place for a joint/ theatre works giant office complex to benefit himself and Stanford.
How can he not have had a conflict of interest while serving on the commission.

The corruption is so deeply a part of the culture at city hall that it is just "business as usual"……it needs to stop now!


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 8:37 am

"American" Yes, your comments are racist. Are there too many Jews in PA as well? Too many black people? Too many hispanics?

Nothing un-American happening in PA. Note that our American economic system does not prohibit investment from citizens of other countries. If you are against this, start lobbying against foreign investment -- Lots of luck there.

But "American" is just one of the hysterical people on this thread and many of their comments lack credibility.

Folks, the economic forces in Silicon Valley are intense and continue to change the landscape. That's a natural outcome our local exploding economics. Maybe you should try to imagine how the existing legal contract (negotiated with PA years ago when the economic pressures were not as strong) would look if it were written today.

Wild capitalism would put skyscrapers on the valuable land in Palo Alto -- 5 story bldgs. are a huge compromise. That is very valuable land. It will never be open space and low density parkland.

Urban planning tries to shape the physical impacts of economic prosperity so that development fits the city as much as possible.

Planning is not the enemy. The students are not the enemy. Where they present their projects is totally irrelevant. There is no collusion -- but the citizens of Palo Alto are giving the students an excellent lesson in citizen hysteria.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:14 am

@Neighbor
You have it exactly backwards. Planning should not take a back seat to
developers as you have it. That is exactly the problem in Palo Alto.Your bias is quite clear.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:15 am

"it was amazingly tone-deaf of someone who used to be a City Councilmember (and who presumably is still informed on city politics) to have scheduled this meeting in City Council chambers, and at a time, during a normal workday, when many stakeholders — and especially those not working in city government — would not be able to attend."

Barton can be supremely arrogant and dismissive, but he's not tone deaf. In this case he is showing perfect pitch. This is how one puts something through the process behind the curtain.

Corollary lesson: don't get caught.

"Maybe the intent was to be as "realistic" as possible for the students, but this goes too far."

The word here is "realpolitik." The students are learning the real Palo Alto process.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:59 am

@resident:

I never said or meant to imply that planners should take a back seat to developers. Quite the opposite. Was saying that planning can guide development.

Please refrain from false attributions and such nonsense. Thanks.


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:32 am

Some of these commentors are forgetting that 27 University Ave belongs to Stanford University, and as such it has the right to develop the land as it sees fit, not while disregarding the restrictions the the jurisdiction mandate. That means that the City of Palo Alto nor it's citizens can dictate what happens in the lands.

Open space is generally a wonderful idea, but as it stands is the the land where homeless go poo and the drug dealers lurk. Something needs to be done with it, and the City is better off limiting the resistance to Stanford's plans.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Discriminatory legislation like you are proposing would be un-American. That's not how our system of Capitalism works.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm

It was meant to be tongue in cheek but I'm sure flew over too many people's heads, I have a feeling that folks either would rather not acknowledge or just aren't aware of the history Palo Alto has with that sort of legislation.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Maria.
Certain parts of Stanford land are unding P{alo Alyo Zoning,the research park, Shopping center and yes 27 University
so they do actually y need to conform to the zoning laws just like everyone else!


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm

No offense "Greenacres", but your version of the planned future for the Morgan building is your wishful thinking. You've been trying to promote this idea since the beginning of Measure D.

The truth is that there was no location proposed for the Morgan building when the 27 Uni master plan was announced. Web Link


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Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2014 at 6:14 pm

John Barton calls Palo Alto's resident stakeholders "very vocal, very educated and very entitled," with each one often being able to make a good claim to be "the smartest person in the room. As a result our political dialogue can be heated but focused," the statement says. "This area is not close to many residents but the specter of tall buildings can make the blood boil for many residents. On the other hand there is a growing sense that Palo Alto, and other cities, can no longer be suburban enclaves and need to become small cities with the density that requires."

Why should insulting Palo Alto residents be included in a statement about an exercise in architecture?

Remember, this is the same man who insisted about the Alma Plaza redevelopment that "something is better than nothing" and that he was tired of hearing about the project. Look at what we got and what we lost (a neighborhood shopping center that could have been revitalized in better, less greedy hands).


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:07 pm

@Sheri
Barton also strongly supported 801 Alma during the approval process and called it a fabulous piece of architecture as I recall. You are right,
his comments about the residents are gratuitous and completely inappropriate
but revealing about the dynamics of what is taking place.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 12:17 am

@Crescent Park Dad,
"No offense "Greenacres", but your version of the planned future for the Morgan building is your wishful thinking. You've been trying to promote this idea since the beginning of Measure D.

The truth is that there was no location proposed for the Morgan building when the 27 Uni master plan was announced."

I said:
"Arrillaga was willing to move the Julia Morgan building to the Maybell site, where it could be a (badly needed) community space again, and close to the VA... There are 100 established trees there that don't need water. Interesting that they would go to Stanford students for ideas to develop 27 University but not take residents up on their request to allow them to come up with an open space use for that parcel that saves the orchard and provides a much needed community meeting space on a side of town that has so few (which includes neighborhood residents offering to figure out how to pay for it, as they did Bol Park).

City Council still spending all their time on their development toys while things like parking, safety, and infrastructure take a back seat."

Can you please tell me where I said or even suggested that this was a "planned future" for the Morgan building? I said, "Arrillaga was willing to move the Julia Morgan building to the Maybell site" because I spoke with John Arrillaga about it and he said he was willing to do that. First person account. I suggested the idea as a solution long before Measure D, but in no way have "been trying to promote" the idea since, "promote" implies proactiveness. There was a point early on when we naively thought the community had any input that some of us were putting ideas forward. But all of us involved in Measure D made an overt decision not to PURSUE alternative plans while PAHC might still be considering building a revised project there.

(You have a really strange take on this if you think anyone tried to pursue the orchard idea as you imagine. Do you understand how hard it was to accomplish what we did with Measure D? Three former mayors told me it was impossible to win a land use referendum here, so don't bother even pursuing it. If we had put any focus into pursuing the orchard as parkland, it would be a park now.)

If you must know, I really don't care if they put the Morgan building there. It would be a neat way to save the building, but way back when I proposed the idea, I didn't realize the Macarthur Park people weren't closing it, and if they want to move it somewhere they can still operate the restaurant in it, more power to them.

At this point, I'm bringing it up again to highlight the City Council hypocrisy in proactively seeking ideas from Stanford students for 27 University while ignoring Maybell residents' many calls along the way - and now - for a working group to come up with a solution for the Maybell site that works best for all. Such a working group saved the Terman school site from development 20 years ago and resulted in 92-units of affordable housing next to it. Some of the same people involved in that working group were leading the charge against Measure D.

We are in the midst of a historic drought, the City is spending significant resources trying to restore some of its lost canopy, and here we have the last piece of historic orchard in Palo Alto, with 100 established trees, don't need water, with a nesting redtail hawk, across from an existing park, in a part of Palo Alto with very few community assets, where we are known for finding ways to pay for our own parks, and where we have been taking more than our share of density and gridlock without getting any of the open space supposed to go with it. Do you know who suggested the idea to me? A former City employee, who pointed out ways we could get grants to save it. The same people involved in Measure D could far more easily save the orchard than wage the election they just did, if the City was even a fraction as interested in listening to its own residents as to Stanford students.

Why DO you think the City is so keen to cut down those trees and not just let the RESIDENTS have a chance to work out something? (Including paying for it ourselves if need be?)


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2014 at 6:42 am

@Crescent Park Dad,
By the way, you seem to have conveniently forgotten that I brought up the idea of moving the Morgan building to Maybell in a serious request to Council to put senior affordable housing at 27 University, an idea I have "promoted" far more. The location is steps away from PAMF, Stanford, Avenidas, transit, downtown, etc.

Given how they bludgeoned us at Maybell about the need for it, let's do a little hypocrisy check and see if anyone on the Council asks the Stanford students to envision it in their plans at this much larger and more appropriate location for it...


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Posted by Much adoo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2014 at 9:28 am

I just read today's article about what actually occurred at the event yesterday. It appears that it really was just a student exercise. The alarm expressed by many posters in this thread looks to be unfounded but somewhat understandable given the headline of this article. Why has the Weekly not corrected their miss-conceptions. We have enough legitimate issues without exaggerating and inflaming things.


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Posted by green acres senior
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

The 27 University Ave is not a good place for senior housing - unfortunately Maybell would have been the best place for such housing. If you love living next to the railroad tracks you move there. And as far as being near amenities perhaps you think all seniors have the money to shop at Whole Foods and use PAMF for their medical needs.

Green Acres Senior


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm

This development project and it's zoning were determined by legal agreement between Stanford and Palo Alto several years ago. This project is not a surprise at all.

Note: Another part of the agreement was that PA got to put a park on SU property at Page Mill & El Camino. Want to to give that back?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

"Note: Another part of the agreement was that PA got to put a park on SU property at Page Mill & El Camino. Want to to give that back? "

YES!!! It's where PA children deeply marinate their lungs in exhaust fumes playing soccer at Palo Alto's busiest intersection. Why not give that back?

City hall patted itself ecstatically on the back thinking it got a "real concession" from Stanford, while Stanford is still ROTF over the gullibility of those rubes across ECR.


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Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Hard to find many details about those student ideas. One photo of posters of them on PAOnline and just a few sentences, too. Few of those students seemed to take into account legal realities.

So, exaclty how is the parcel zoned now? What would that zoning allow now with respect to uses and parking, and building height, setbacks, and square footage? What exactly does the contract between the City and Stanford say about that parcel? I've yet to find those details in the PA Weekly.

Or, do we all get to wait a loooong time for whenever the powers that be finally decide what should go there? (Ooo... current zoning law is irrelevant? Does that mean my Palo Alto school and utility bill taxes are also irrelevant?)

Given the Maybell slap in the face to the entire City Hall (which still has not woken up to the new residentialist majority) and this newly exposed Council delay on getting formal voter input for the 27 University parcel by throwing its zoning into the huge new "Our Palo Alto" tarpit..... I am thinking, if the Palo Alto City Council wants to fart around with it for years and years of endless Palo Alto Process..... a.k.a. do a virtual Constitutional Bill of Rights "taking" of the property by tying up its private uses in red tape for an unlimited amount of time.... why not just buy the whole dang thing and turn it into a public park while moving the historically designated Julia Morgan structure to a place with more parking or let Stanford build a whopper profitable underground parking lot there now. Just like SF's Union Square?

I noticed in the PA Daily the owner of a little historic cottage on Lytton downtown got a large fee for selling its "development rights" to another owner so s/he could build bigger elsewhere. Would Stanford consider such a deal with the Julia Morgan building to be able to build elsewhere what Palo Alto wouldn't otherwise let them build?

Ever since the Red Cross' decades-long lease on its building next to Morgan building expired last month the clock has been ticking on how Standard can use its property there. City Hall knew jolly well for a long time of that deadline for any zoning change for a parcel tied up in a very long old lease. Too bad we citizens can't quickly cut off City Hall for blowing that deadline as it does us for failure to pay our utiltity bills. I plan to vote every incumbant out of the City Council as long as a majority of them perpetuate this sort of in-bred, closed door, bring-on-any-delaying-tactic planning fiasco.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Thumbs up to the student presentations in the City Council chambers yesterday.

Five teams of six students each took turns presenting their semester projects in front of their peers, faculty mentors and a handful of community observers, including one council member who was there for most of the morning and another who stopped by mid-day.

It's a pity that more residents who have an interest in architecture and urban development didn't stop in for at least one of the presentations, if only to get clear on the real nature of the exercise.

It was also a chance to see the fruits of an interdisciplinary approach, where each team had expertise in several disciplines related to urban planning. The international group of students first met at Stanford for 10 days in October to get acquainted with the program, form teams, meet their mentors, and begin work on the assignment.

The task was to design a research park for the space between El Camino Real and downtown, from University Avenue to San Francisquito Creek. It would have to satisfy a multiple criteria rubric for evaluation at the end of the semester.

To narrow the range of variables and make projects comparable, they were to assume that railroad tracks had been placed underground.

Students then returned to their home campuses and communicated with each other and faculty mentors online as they addressed the project through their own disciplinary lens. Then they problem solved to make a coherent plan that they developed and defended with the aid of conceptual metaphors, supporting data, abundant visuals and a physical mock-up that they had only a few days to work on when they gathered again here at Stanford over the weekend.

Yesterday's exercise gave them an opportunity to present their ideas in a wonderfully appropriate setting, the City Council chambers. It reminded me of holding Mock Trial competitions in actual courtrooms when I was a high school sponsor.

Elements of Complex Instruction and Design Thinking in education that have been pioneered at Stanford are key to the program. It was a privilege to see how the procedures of collaborative, project-based learning that I have experience with at the secondary school level carry over to advanced university studies.

They all learned a great deal, that was clear. And we learned a great deal from them about how architects, planners and builders bring concepts to physical expression.

What's also clear is that they are not experts being called in to advance someone's development scheme.

By the way, If you're interested in this general approach to learning, you might look online for "Extreme by Design." an excellent locally produced documentary on Stanford's popular Design Thinking course that aired on PBS last month





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Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Jerry,

Good to know.

If the atmosphere wasn't so charged, it could have been even more interesting.

People are asking for building moratoriums, so this kind of feels like having your appendicitis operation being discussed in a town square meeting, where you were not even invited, and while you have pain.









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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm

@Greenacres senior,
Let's not rehash the whole election issue again, shall we? Maybell was a terrible place for senior apartments. If you think WF is such a terrible place to shop, you should know that it's where PAHC was advertising as the nearest grocery in their funding application at Maybell. And guess what? They were listing that same PAMF location near University as the local medical center, after the Planned Parenthood (for seniors).

But now that we are talking about 27 University, let's explore a little bit about why that's a PERFECT place for seniors, not just low-income seniors, but a real senior development. And since ANY office square footage that goes into this town is going to end up requiring us to put in housing, why shouldn't we require any large office development to simply find a place for ALL of the housing allotment we'll be forced to take, make it part of a mixed-use design our Council is so in love with? That way, the designers will have something other than the sky's-the-limit to consider against the size of their developments, and they have to deal directly with the consequences of their design decisions.

Being next to the main transit hub for the city gives seniors the opportunity to be completely mobile and travel to all parts of the bay area, cheaply, by bus, train, shuttle, and even bike, just steps away. Have you ever heard of Avenidas? Seniors can get low-cost or free meals there, and community, enrichment, classes. That's downtown, steps away. Downtown is full of life and energy. Stanford has lectures, music art, theater -- seniors already volunteer to pass out programs to see these events free, but often they are low cost or free for seniors anyway. The campus is lovely to walk around, too, and there is the Cantor Museum. PAMF and Stanford would be moments away. Where else do you think seniors are getting their medical care around here? (Ever heard of Medicare?) There is a wonderful farmer's market downtown, and a Trader Joe's quite near. (Where did you think the seniors were going to get their groceries at Maybell? The application was saying Whole Foods and Walgreens! Well, they have those downtown too, only closer and you don't need a car or a walk on a substandard street without a sidewalk to get there.) But actually, being right there with transit means virtually any shopping or recreation near transit is then available to them.

The location is so good, having a real senior center instead of just apartments that segregate low-income people and would have required moving out of when people became frail (as at Maybell), would attract people of all incomes, thus making the whole project more financially viable in the long run. Some of the full-paying seniors will end up destitute anyway, better to just have a full senior center where (like at Channing House) it's possible to provide for those people with dignity so they can remain where they are. May I remind the Council promoted the increased safety that comes with seniors - it's real, and it would mean the business center could benefit from the additional 24-7 life and security.

@much ado
The neighbors asked for just such a process, a working group to problem solve and examine ideas and options. Here the Council invites students in from Stanford to do essentially the same thing for 27 University (I'll bet there's no affordable or other housing), but refused to do so at Maybell, even though some of the same people against the overdevelopment at Maybell were involved in a working group a few decades earlier that saved the local middle school site and resulted in the affordable housing being built at the same time.

Now who's being a NIMBY? Greg Schmid says there were plans to put some low-income senior units on the top of Lytton Gateway, and when someone said, "You mean, those seniors are going to get those views?" they took it all off and paid the in lieu fee (probably why Council was pushing so hard to push those units on Maybell).

I'm told that Mrs. Arrillaga was a big advocate of low-income senior housing - it sure seems like just considering it as part of an idea exercise would have been more than appropriate.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres

A senior residential project at 27 University would be wonderful, with all the advantages you describe for occupants.
But it's not likely doable. What would the cost be, where would the funding come from, what other competing and perhaps compelling uses for the land would intervene?

Maybell/Clemo, on the other hand, was a pretty good site for a low and moderate income senior housing project. Not a great one, certainly not as good as 27 University. But it was not only possible, it would have been built but for the strong opposition movement that killed it at the polls.

Putting together a deal is not a trivial matter. The students who worked on the 27 University exercise were spared the task of specifying how their dream project could get funded. PAHC doesn't have that luxury. If it can't be funded it can't be done.



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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm

@Jerry,
I don't want to argue Maybell anymore. We already know your perspective. You already know I and the majority of your neighbors disagree with it. Can you give it a rest? If PAHC had begun by working with the community, rather than beginning with their wish list despite the community, they might not have designed themselves into that corner with no room to maneuver. The referendum didn't happen overnight. A great many people, including me, put a lot of effort into trying to get PAHC to scale it back to something closer to the neighborhood long before the rezoning, and to get the safety issues addressed. They didn't think they had to compromise, so they didn't. They bore as much responsibility for the strong opposition as anyone else.

Why wouldn't a senior residential project at 27 University be doable? Or are you just determined to shoot it down before trying? Geez, for such a dogged $OB, why are you giving up before you start? I'm sure at this point you know what a PC zone is. If, this time around, the community is a part of the conversation, and the goals are laid out from the start, it is possible it could be a reality. (That is if our closet NIMBY City Council doesn't sink it before it starts.) I think a lot of people would be on board with a senior community in the most transit-friendly location in Palo Alto -- so well-situated, it would realistically be possible to make a requirement of residency a No-Car Pledge.

I'm still trying to figure you out, man. When your neighbors said they care about senior affordable housing but they didn't want the neighborhood developed to that scale, they meant it. The Maybell project is over. Stop trying to beat a dead horse. Do YOU really care about senior affordable housing? If you did, you'd realize a lot of your neighbors would only be too happy to find a better way to make that happen now, such as through a working group, maybe at 27 University. A lot of us were never happy having to fight PAHC or fight against the goals. I think you need to decide whether you enjoy going after your pounds of flesh better than seeing those goals realized.

Just a question -- you admit Maybell isn't the greatest place for senior housing. What about housing for families with disabled children integrated with saving some of the orchard? Universal design generally means single-story, something neighbors would only be too happy to see there. That location is right across the street from a school for the most seriously disabled children in Palo Alto. Some of your neighbors have been involved in other civic projects, including finding funding for them. Why wasn't that ever considered? The program at JB OH has declined in recent years as Palo Alto has become increasingly unfriendly to the disabled (of any income level), far more so than seniors. The disabled are a far more under-served group, and here is a location across from a park and school for the disabled. Why wasn't the community involved early in the conversation? Most of us, myself included, would have been far happier to put our energy into something positive.

The whole point of a working group would be to hash out the logistics. Hopefully, such a group would be made up of people who wouldn't just throw up their hands before they even try and say, Oh Oh, but nothing anyone could ever conceive of again could ever be paid for, except that exact project at Maybell which was the only opportunity EVER to build anything ever again in Palo Alto so we may as well just never try again!

Putting together a referendum to fight a land use is not a trivial matter. If you want to continue to believe your neighbors fought that because they are NIMBY's, well, I can't help you, you're missing out on what they could have or could be doing to put that energy toward the same goals you say you have.

Where does the City Council stand on putting some housing at 27 University? As I said, given our current propensity for mixed use, any major office project from now on really should include all the housing we'll be required to add because of the office space. Why shouldn't it be for seniors?


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 25, 2014 at 9:33 pm

@Jerry,
Sorry, I just find it really amazing that you would say something like "But it was not only possible, it would have been built but for the strong opposition movement that killed it at the polls."

Oh? What about the fact that the plan had to exceed the existing zoning by many times in order for them to want to or be able to build it? You're talking about the erstwhile plan as if it was a shoe-in (when even if they had won the election, they still faced some serious obstacles because of how seriously the proposal violated the Comprehensive Plan) and 27 University, which is still in planning stages, like no way in the world could anything ever work.

Like I said, I don't get you, man. 27 University is a beautiful place for a senior center. If there were a performing arts center, all the better. I personally think coming up with a really good plan to include a senior center is probably one of the only ways the developer is going to get the community on their side to exceed the zoning by an inch, and even then, it will be a hard sell to go much over.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I emailed the community Services staff of the city to inquire about renting space at City hall, including cCouncil Chambers. I have reprinted the reply below.

Regardless of how you file about the A"academic exercise" why was the classes final presentation at City hall Council Chambers not at Stanford???????


Dear-----------

Thank you for your interest in reserving our facilities. Unfortunately the City does not allow reservation of the facilities at City Hall. Currently we do allow reservation of Cubberley Community Center and Lucie Stern Community Center.

Sincerely,

Erwin Gonzales
Lucie Stern Community Center
650-463-4900


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Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:57 pm

anon, To answer your question, as George Orwell would say, "Some animals are more equal than others."

Vote the incumbants out. That is the only hope to change City Hall.


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