News

Amid uncertainty, Palo Alto golf course revamp delayed by a year

City considers canceling bids, waiting until next spring to launch construction

Palo Alto's ambitious plan to renovate the city-owned golf course in the Baylands will be delayed at least until next spring because of an ongoing permitting dispute relating to a nearby flood-control project.

The City Council is preparing to reject on Monday night the construction bids that it solicited for the $9 million redesign of the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, a long-planned project that would relocate 15 of the course's 18 holes, replace turf with native vegetation, upgrade aged irrigation systems and give the course what officials refer to as the "Wow!" factor. The revamp would also accommodate a long-planned flood-control project, which includes as one of its components the construction of a new levee on the golf course.

The council unanimously approved the golf course revamp project in June 2012 and authorized City Manager James Keene in July to award a construction contract to Duininck Inc. for the work. But with the flood-control project now on hold because of permitting issues, staff had determined that it is no longer feasible to pursue construction this year.

Both the city and the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, the agency behind the flood-control project, had hoped to launch the respective projects this year. Now, however, it looks like the contract and the work will have to wait at least until next spring. The flood-control project, which includes new floodwalls, a widened creek channel and reconstructed levees, remains mired in bureaucratic limbo, with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board refusing to grant the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority the needed permit to commence the work. At the same time, the water board has declined to give the city a permit for the golf course renovation until the flood-control issues are resolved.

The resolution, however, is no longer expected to happen any time soon. The water board last week notified the creek authority that despite more than a year of negotiations, thousands of pages of newly supplied information and a revised application with a modified design, the application remains incomplete. Some of the information it requests in the latest letter includes details about the settlement rates of levees; documentation that proves that the levee height is sufficient to protect both East Palo Alto and Palo Alto; and information that proves that the project does not preclude future flood-control projects upstream of Highway 101.

The Aug. 29 letter from water board Executive Officer Bruce Wolfe also requests information relating to (among many other things) the creek authority's "mitigation and monitoring plan," the impacts of removing trees on Baylands habitat and a more detailed "operation and maintenance plan." The board also recommends splitting the project into two phases so that the first phase could be approved "expediently" while the creek authority continues to work on resolving concerns about the second phase.

Wolfe's letter was put together about two weeks after dozens of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park residents attended a public hearing on the flood-control project in Oakland to urge the water board to issue the permit. Many wore "Permit our Project" stickers and testified about the massive flood damage their homes suffered in February 1998. After hours of testimony, members of the water board said they expect the project to be approved soon. Board Member Jim McGrath said he has an interest in "a resolution as quick as possible" and predicted that the project will "eventually" be approved.

"I think we all sense the urgency," McGrath said.

Yet the latest letter from Wolfe suggests that it will be at least another six months before either the golf reconfiguration or the flood-control project moves forward. In a staff report, Palo Alto's Public Works officials acknowledged that the latest letter from the water board creates "even greater uncertainty regarding the timing of the Water Board certification" of the flood-control project. Because of this delay, staff has determined that "it is no longer feasible to begin construction of the (golf course reconfiguration) project in the current construction season, and that construction must be postponed until at least Spring 2015." Staff proposes to reject the construction bids it has received in June and to request new proposals in the fall.

"In spite of repeated efforts to provide supplementary information and justification to help resolve the Water Board staff's outstanding issues and the City Manager's personal entreaties to the executive officer of the Water Board, requesting his personal intervention to expedite the permitting process, the Water Board has still not deemed the City's application to be complete, and the Water Board will not provide us with a clear road map and timeline," the Public Works report states.

The latest delay is expected to add to the city's and the creek authority's considerable frustrations with the prolonged permitting process. Len Materman, executive director of the creek authority, told the Weekly that his agency is considering its response to Wolfe's latest letter and acknowledged that staff is far from certain whether simply providing more information will suffice. Materman said his agency had already received assurances from Wolfe that the flood-control project is the least environmentally damaging and practicable alternative and that it has already answered countless letters, only to be confronted with new questions. Some of the issues now being raised, he said, do not even relate to water quality and are not in the purview of the water board.

"It's not their purview, for example, to say our application has to demonstrate that it will not preclude any flood-control options upstream," Materman said.

He also had concerns about the water board's proposal to split the project into phases, noting that creating protections for just one side of the creek would place the other side at greater danger. If the creek authority were to focus the flood-prone residential area of East Palo Alto in the short term, it would further imperil the section of Palo Alto that includes the regional water-treatment plant, the golf course and Palo Alto Airport. The phasing approach would also require the creek authority to conduct new environmental analyses and commission new studies, creating many more months of delays.

"We'd be delaying the necessary work to protect East Palo Alto by making such drastic and unnecessary changes to the project," Materman said. "The quickest thing to do is to protect both sides. The slowest thing is to make drastic changes that, again, aren't necessary."

While flood protection remains the top goal, the delays in the golf-course reconstruction carry their own consequences. So much of the construction season has already been lost that it is unlikely that the project can be completed before Aug. 1, 2015, as initially scheduled, Public Works staff wrote in a report. Now, if things go as planned, the renovated golf course would open in the summer of 2016. Even that, however, is a "best-case scenario," according to Public Works staff.

"Continued delays in permitting for both the JPA flood protection project and the (golf course) Project would significantly jeopardize our ability to begin work in March 2015," the report states.

Because of the expected delays in starting construction, the city plans to keep the golf course open for the next six months. Staff also calculates that the delay will result in a loss of $645,000 over the next three years. City officials also believe re-bidding the project may result in higher price bids.

"Prices of irrigation equipment have increased over the past year and the improving economy has increased the number of golf course projects in construction, which has in turn driven up bid prices," the Public Works report states.

Staff estimates that bids may increase by up to 10 percent, or about $957,000.

Related content:

Despite permit snag, Palo Alto approves funds for golf course revamp (June 2014)

Golf course, flood projects on hold (March 2014)

Despite financial risks, gold course revamp moves ahead (February 2014)

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Another delay???

Palo Alto never seems to be able to get anything done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

People are out playing golf. The golf course is hanging in there. What I don't see is the "soccer field" coming along. A lot of dirt leveled and flattened out but it is not clear how that is suppose to turn out.
As ideas go that was a bad idea - you still have the giant frog pond next to the baseball diamond.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Duh. Maybe Palo Alto can hold another design contest for a new golf course redesign :-)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

This is criminal negligence on the part of the Water Board, and the radical environmentalists who are engineering this behind the scenes (including certain so-called venerated Palo Alto residents who should be ashamed of themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Resident 1,

The golf course might not be a great place for kids to play soccer. The EPA has recently released a study of lead emissions at general aviation airports, and PAO is not doing very well:

0.33 ug/m^3 (San Carlos, CA)
0.17 ug/m^3 (McClelland, CA)
0.12 ug/m^3 (Palo Alto, CA)
0.09 ug/m^3 (Reid-Hillview, CA)
0.07 ug/m^3 (Gillespie, CA)
0.07 ug/m^3 (Merril, AK)
0.06 ug/m^3 (Van Nuys, CA)
0.06 ug/m^3 (Auburn, WA)
0.04 ug/m^3 (Deer Valley, AZ)
0.03 ug/m^3 (Brookhaven, NY)
0.03 ug/m^3 (Stinson, TX)
0.02 ug/m^3 (Harvey, WA)
0.01 ug/m^3 (Republic, NY)

At 0.12 ug/m^3 Palo Alto Airport is only 0.02 below the EPA's limit of 0.15 ug/m^3.

EPA Airport Lead Monitoring Program Update: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:50 am

As long as this table keeps getting reposted, maybe the arithmetic should be checked.

"At 0.12 ug/m^3 Palo Alto Airport is only 0.02 below the EPA's limit of 0.15 ug/m^3."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:13 am

I think the San Carlos area is affected by the giant metal breakdown operation in Redwood City Harbor. This is where fires keep breaking out unleashing toxic fumes all over the peninsula. The EPA is suppose to be working on a clean-up of that site but the CARGILL development keeps poking it's head in that cities grapple with overdevelopment - in this case the salt flats Go figure - put a housing development next to a giant hazardous waste business. What are people thinking?

As to the golf course situation that is truly weird. PA makes its money on adult leagues that play on the soccer / baseball fields - I know - I was in one. This is not about the children - it is about the adult leagues. It is time to stop catering to the soccer crowd who would level this whole city if they could - I know - I was there. PA Recreation knows that - it is their business.

Add to that the desire to have the Embarcadero Road add parking and have one lane each way. If you go to that area east of 101 there are dirt hauling trucks, car delivery trucks, large trucks with unknown delivery points. Also a lot of traffic. Guess what - there is plenty of parking for the people that work in that area. I think a lot of City of Palo Alto offices are located in that area which may be tweaking how this is all working out. Maybe they are looking for the shuttle service to take them downtown and need an excuse to pay for it. They just cannot leave well enough alone.
I am GLAD that the golf course is still open and playable. YEAH!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

I will tell you what is criminal, dumping dirt all over course and destroying what course there was before getting permits to proceed with the redesign. Further grand larceny occurred when they stole the couse for yet more soccer fields for the soccer moms. The seniors in town get kicked to the curb yet again.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Hey Musical

Duh check your math :-))


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Golfer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

There are a few levels of incompetence here, and if this were controlled by private instead of public employees, they would be out of a job. First is the water board. Are these people elected or appointed? I notice that the Chair's term expires this month. Hope she isn't running for re-election. Then there is the short-sighted city people who, as mentioned above, closed down holes and crippled the golf course without having gotten the permits to start work. Our city continues to lose money (a LOT of it)because people don't want to play there, and that will continue now through next Spring (taking bets on it happening then?). People should lose their jobs at both places.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Is it me, or is this article burying the lede? OK, golf course delayed, bummer, but the real story is the further collapse of progress on flood prevention. We have gone 16 years since the floods, we are potentially heading into an El Nino, and have made no progress on the ground at mitigating the flood risk. And now we are stuck with some petty bureaucrats dictating the future. What a gross mess.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Musical,

0.15 ug/m^3 is a fail, and the resolution of the measurement is 0.01, but if you want to quibble about the math to distract from the issue, we can call it 0.03 ug/m^3. I have provided some figures, and a link to the report, so people can do their own math, and make their own assessment.

EPA Airport Lead Monitoring Program Update: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Thank you, Jetman, for the clarification. It was unclear to me whether 0.15 is a pass or a fail. In a 25mph zone, I've always thought 25mph was a pass. I'm not trying to distract from the issue. If anything, a discussion of the numbers does the opposite. I'd like to understand them. Like how San Carlos at one end can have less traffic but higher numbers. And how Republic at the other end can have more traffic and almost non-existent numbers. I'm sure there will be more appropriate threads to discuss this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Let's follow the bouncing ball here. The golf course is partially disabled so that it loses money - for a year + - and then what? Do the city "fathers" then determine that it is in the cities best interest to convert the whole thing into MORE SOCCER FIELDS? Or more baseball fields? Or worst yet there is such a clamer to build some income producing venture. Maybe expand the airport so we have commercial business? Is that what removing all of the trees was about?
This is such a set-up! You can smell it a mile away. The soccer field is still a pile of dirt.
Go to First Street in San Jose just off HWY 237. A field was converted into a soccer field within two months - it is next to the Second Harvest Food Bank Facility.
Time to determine who voted for the soccer field.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Musical - San Carlos has higher numbers because there is a hazardous waste facility in the Redwood City Harbor. It catches on fire periodically and we have long discussions as to why it is allowed to remain there. The EPA is on the case.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Have Mercy!
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Is this after the 500 trees were removed????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm

@res1 -- plausible. San Carlos Airport is two miles from that facility, and Palo Alto Airport six miles. Ergo San Carlos should show a factor of three higher than Palo Alto if all the lead was due to Sims Metals? Or should it be inverse-square? Or take into account prevailing winds toward Palo Alto? Point is we'd need measurements at more intermediate locations or higher time-resolution to convincingly demonstrate the contribution of the metal recycling to the airport data.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Have Nercy - the conversion to a soccer field was after a building was removed - 1st Street, San Jose. All of north San Jose is in a giant building boom.
As to the PA site - I think all of the trees have been removed from what the supposed soccer site is to be - it is hard to tell - it looks more like a flood dike - maybe that is it's real purpose - it is posing as a soccer field TBD.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Resident 1,

"This is such a set-up! You can smell it a mile away".

I have to agree with you, something is getting teed-up out there. Add to the removal of the trees, the banning of the public from the boardwalks, and the neglect and closing of the nature center.

The removal of the trees is a dead give away. The first overt sign that developers had set their sights on California Avenue was the removal of all of the mature trees at taxpayer expense. Developers always want to get the trees out of the way first, to take the "tree huggers" off the chess board. If they can figure out some pretext to have the public foot the bill, and have the local government take the heat... well all the better.

Here is something else to consider. The city staff should know how to file a complete application with the Water Board. So, maybe they "accidentally on purpose" filed an incomplete application with the board because they actually WANT the project delayed, but want to be able to blame it on the Water Board?

"Palo Alto admits mistakes in negotiations with developer"
Palo Alto Weekly ~ September 4, 2014 Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Looks like John Arriaga will have to find another place to dump his dirt from Stanford construction projects. And the $1,000,000 in revenue that Jim Keene was expecting will not transpire. Who's on that Water board anyway? And what ax do they have to grind?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I forgot to add that the $1,000,000 is just for tipping fees from the dirt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm

This all becomes more important as to who we vote for in the next election. We appear to be lacking program management, engineering and technical skills on the current PACC. Or they are putting staff on these jobs that do not have the right skill mix. But that choice is killing us. What are the background qualifications of the staff assigned to the many projects - is it a fit?

Look at the back ground qualifications of the people running for office. Assume everyone CARES because they went down and filed the required paperwork. The people that are included in the interaction on this project may or may not be local long time residents so that qualification has no import here. The required skill mix is working many engineering projects with successful outcomes with many government agencies.

Suggest that Seelum Reddy has the right qualifications and the background experience of working government projects along side university personnel - note that UC Irvine is a top Engineering school in the system. It is also subject to State of California regulations and requirements.

You need people who can look at project and know what the risks and opportunities are - we need to assume that the opportunities are in favor of the residents of the city and the financial outcomes are predictable and positive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:02 am

I was just reading another stream which indicated that there was suppose to be a trade to build up the playing fields in the baylands in exchange for a reduced price on the 7.7 acres in Foothill Park. So now the 7.7 acres deal is off - does that mean the supposed trade for building the playing fields in the baylands is off - thus a pile of dirt that looks suspiciously like the pile of dirt further down the road in the baylands? We have matching piles of dirt. I do not believe that many people wanted a soccer field in that area except the adult leagues that would play there.

The extent of ruination here has affected the whole flood control project and put many disputes into play with a number of government agencies. A number of deals have all collapsed on themselves. This also affects relations with Stanford on further flood control projects on the Creek since any number of "deals" probably involved trade-offs which will not come to pass. What a sorry mess.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:32 am

The problem here is that we no longer know what to believe any more. We have so many unfinished projects around town and everybody in authority seems to blame somebody else. Even the Oregon Expressway work, which was done by the County, isn't finished. The Ross lights are still not switched on (should they be treated like a 4 way stop now?) and the ramps on and off 101 and Greer are full of potholes.

Mitchell Park, El Camino are both a disgrace and now it seems that the Golf Course, the athletic center, the boardwalk and interpretive center are similar situations. Even the Moonlight Run last night appears to have blocked up access to the Airport which must be bad planning, as well as the inadequate bike parking and dogs on long leashes adding to the melee I hear about in the aftermath each year.

Somehow, I have my doubts about what can be achieved. We must have a CC and a City Manager that knows how to run a city, start a project and more importantly finish it in an acceptable time frame.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident 0
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm

@ resident 1

The pile of dirt at the landfill is a mix of topsoil and compost to meet the cities spec for the final cap off.This comes mostly from residential excavations nearby.

The other pile of dirt near the golf course is mostly from Arriaga/Stanford projects, this material is meant for the levee/golf course project.The city of Palo Alto receives tipping fees for this soil.According to Keene They have a $1,000,000 deficit due to the delay of this project due to not receiving the tipping fees.

The soil was supposed to meet a certain spec at time of bidding (3/4" minus, meaning nothing more than 3/4" inch rocks were allowed).After the bid was awarded the city did not enforce the spec. furthermore they allowed trucks to travel down Oregon expressway for an additional 50 cents a ton. None of the other bidders were offered this special consideration.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I don't know what a "tipping fee" is - can you please explain that.

I do know that excavations of raw, untreated soil - baylands pile - is not the best stuff since a lot of us live on fill. I have a map from the US Survey on the soil types from the bay upward and there is a lot of change - all of which affects how an earthquake will affect your house. The coastal range has a lot of variation as you move upward.

My other sore point is that the silt from Searsville Lake could be removed and trucked down for use in the baylands / golf course - it is salt free and should be very high quality with a lot of nutrients in it - better than excavated dirt that is untreated. That silt can also be used on the 7.7 acres that need some help to bring it up to a healthy state. I gather that the 7.7 acres needs some help. The silt is a valuable asset that is going to waste and conflicting the health of the Creek from top to bottom.

I do not know where this ends up going -I think the government flood agencies are knowledgeable about / suspect what is going on and it is creating a problem in approving any actions to assist in the bigger problem of flood control.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Gate fee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Gate fee. A gate fee (or tipping fee) is the charge levied upon a given quantity of waste received at a waste processing facility. In the case of a landfill it is generally levied to offset the cost of opening, maintaining and eventually closing the site.
Gate fee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_feeWikipedia


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

This whole event needs further comment and review of the golf course planning before starting up the activity again. The WOW factor as an excuse for some dramatic change sounds like what happened at Mitchell Park Community Center. It started in good shape financially then people started adding WOW factor changes which blew up the whole activity while in process.
We need more eyes on the golf course plan to avert a waste of dollars on unneeded stuff - TBD. We need to understand what the financial budget is for the planned activity, schedule, and who responsible. Taking out the trees as a beginning point is a waste of money if they are not in the field of play.
It looks like the baylands needs a lot more attention and review before the city staff is allowed to start tearing things up. This is game on, eyes on.
AND - if dirt was dumped then the city should be paid - no more dirt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

there are lots of good memories of playing at palo alto muni golf course. palo alto is so high-falooting now and elite that it's good to manicure this golf course. keep up the good work. just find out if you can afford the current cost of living and such. enjoy golfing


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