Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 12, 2010

Less housing, more businesses for East Meadow Circle?

New 'concept plan' for growing neighborhood also includes highway overpass, bike path

by Gennady Sheyner

A bustling business park, a fresh crop of stores, a new overpass above U.S. Highway 101 and a bike path along Adobe Creek are all part of Palo Alto's latest vision for a neighborhood in the city's southeast corner.

The traditionally industrial neighborhood around East Meadow Circle has witnessed an explosion of housing units over the past decade, prompting city officials to revise the zoning code and to create a new "concept plan" for the area.

The concept plan, which was unveiled to the city's Planning and Transportation Commission Wednesday night, is part of the city's revision of its Comprehensive Plan — the city's land-use bible.

The East Meadow Circle neighborhood is one of two areas scheduled for an extreme makeover. The area around California Avenue, which includes Fry's Electronics south of Oregon Expressway, is facing a similar re-evaluation.

Both areas have seen major changes in the past decade.

Around East Meadow Circle, major new housing developments, which include Echelon, Vantage and Altaire, brought more than 500 units to the neighborhoods, frustrating nearby residents and prompting city officials to look for new ways to restrict housing.

"We're attempting to close the barn door after the horses have left, in case there are any more horses out there," Commissioner Arthur Keller said Wednesday, referring to the city's effort to discourage new residential developments in the area.

The concept plan for the area — which includes Fabian Way and portions of San Antonio Road and Charleston Road near the Mountain View border in addition to East Meadow Circle — was created over the past year with input from area residents and businesses.

It seeks to bring new research facilities to East Meadow Circle and new stores, including possibly a supermarket, to Charleston Road. It also envisions a new overpass spanning U.S. Highway 101 that would give residents better access to the baylands. City staff and residents are also pushing for a new pedestrian and bicycle path along Adobe Creek.

The commission supported the bulk of the staff recommendations, though members split over some components of the plan. Commissioners Samir Tuma and Lee Lippert both said they'd like to see much more retail in the area.

Planning commissioners Keller and Eduardo Martinez supported staff's proposal for economic revitalization and argued that the new plan should specifically restrict additional housing.

"We have to take housing off the table," Martinez said. "You can't have research parks next door to apartment buildings."

Property owners and neighborhood residents also said they would support an effort to revitalize East Meadow Circle and restrict housing, though a few cautioned against changing the zoning just yet.

Developer Jim Baer said many of the buildings in the East Meadow Circle area were built about half a century ago and have been degraded by age. He praised the new concept plan as an "exceptional document."

But he also asked the commission to refrain from making any specific changes to the city's density regulations at this time.

Boris Foelsch, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, said he and his neighbors support the city's effort to improve bike and pedestrian access in the area. He also said residents feel new jobs should take precedence over new housing around East Meadow Circle.

The commission will have at least one more public review of the concept plan, which the city plans to integrate into the Comprehensive Plan. The plan is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by REM, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 11, 2010 at 10:52 am

How about moving FRY's over on East Bayshore across the street from IKEA. I believe there is a vacancy.. It was called Circuit City....

Why don't we have a honest City Council that will honestly say "Developer (Contractors) Lobby, Developer (Contractors) donate to our reelection and we will approve!!!!"

It would be great if the City Council learned a new word – NO or new phase – DISAPPROVED….

There is no sane reason for this PROBLEM except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and not care about the people of Palo Alto or ANY of the other communities …..


Posted by Greenhouse resident, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:02 am

REM--get with the program--the old Circuit City site is in EPA--the idea is to keep Fry's in Palo alto for the tax revenue. Anyway, that place is no a Mi Pueblo grocery store.
Must you always post the same tired diatribe in every thread about development?
That said, I am against any new retail development near the San Antonio/Charleston area--traffic is bad enough already there. How about putting new retail development in College Terrace, Midtown or Charleston Meadows? those neighborhoods do a pretty good job of perpetuating the NIMBY attitude--maybe now they should start helping with increasing our ax revenue by allowing big retail in the area.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:13 am

Frys generates a lot of sales tax revenue for the city. The city is not going to kick them out during this economy.


Posted by davidv, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

Mr. Martinez comment needs scrutiny. He said:
"We have to take housing off the table," Martinez said. "You can't have research parks next door to apartment buildings."

In today's world, where one goal is to minimize traffic congestion, having businesses, including research centers, and residential in proximity is actually considered a useful idea. Take a look at Mission Bay in San Francisco, as an example.

Also see the the article about how Silicon Valley is losing its competive edge to the rest of the world. The lack of housing in the area could be one of the reasons for that.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

The new housing is already there. What isn't there are services for this housing - not even a coffee shop! This is going to generate traffic as those that live in the new housing get in their cars to drive to buy coffee or go to an atm. Housing produces traffic anyway and housing needs the service businesses to provide the community feel to turn housing into a neighborhood. We already have business parks which should remain, but we do need the service businesses and retail to serve what has already been built.
Most of the offices around here are vacant anyway and vacant buildings can lead to all sorts of things we don't want.


Posted by SAV, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:48 am

Can I ask what are the boundaries of East Meadow Circle? It's not defined in the article ... and I live near East Meadow Drive.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2010 at 11:56 am

the old Circuit City is already filled with a grocery store--that had been sorely needed in EPA


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

From the meetings I attended, the area is described as the circle of business offices at the end of Meadow Drive where 2 housing developments are already being built, the area of Fabian down as far as Palo Alto Joe's/Kiki's site, the part of Fabian across from Charleston and comes out on San Antonio, and the area on Charleston across from Home Depot and beside Bed, Bath and Beyond. At least, these areas were discussed at the neighborhood meetings.


Posted by Bruce, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

What about a school to lessen the impact on Palo Verde?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Bruce

This was brought up at the meetings. The answer we got from the City was that the school district is free to put a school wherever it wants and if they want to put a school there they can, we should petition with them if we want a school.

In other words, the City has no clue how to provide a school as it is not their jurisdiction. And of course, PAUSD won't even consider buying land to put a school in a high impacted enrollment area!!

We did try!!


Posted by Greenhouse resident, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm

"the area on Charleston across from Home Depot and beside Bed, Bath and Beyond"

Does anyone know exactly where the Mountain View/Palo Alto Border is on Charleston? And isn't it an Orchard Supply Hardware and not a Home Depot?
Is the Taco Bell, KFC in Palo Alto?


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

According to my map, OSH is in Mountain View, but there are a couple of blocks on the other side of Charleston that are in Palo Alto (Commercial St, Industrial Ave, Transport St).


Posted by Just Asking, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm

What about putting Frye's in the former auto dealership location at the Arastradero/El Camino intersection? Or put a Tesla dealership there? It has been vacant for a LONG time. It's a great location...with state highway and cross-town arterial access in both north-south/east west directions. Highly visible to high auto volumes. Access to 101 and 280. Plenty of parking for a business like Frye's.

Can the city provide incentives to get Frye's in there? I'm not sure what the traffic volumes would be for a Frye's, but I'm guessing it might have less impact than another high density housing project. I might be wrong.


Posted by Too much traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

How will this new proposed retail development go along with the city policy of "no new net car trips" in Palo Alto? Will the retailers be required to provide housing for all their employees? Or are those demands that are made only of Stanford in order to get more money and concessions from them? Or is our former councilmember wrong in stating that it is one of the city's mantras?


Posted by employee, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

What was said about the satellite manufacturing facility?


Posted by mike, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Why do people want to move Fry's? It's in a commercial park and a great convenient, local business. Apparently, people in this city seem to have a problem with everything. Stop being so negative everyone!


Posted by Morris, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm

> There has long been talk among city officials of finding a new
> location for Fry's, but no precise location has been proposed.

There was a time that companies found their own locations, paid for their own property and site improvements--and then succeeded or failed, based on their own corporate identities and efforts. How is it there here in Palo Alto that the City, and its unelected "Commissioners" (or maybe Kommissars) have taken over the planning for Fry's future business operations in Palo Alto? Where did they get all of this knowledge of retailing and site selection?

And why does Fry's have to say about any of this?


Posted by Sheri Furman, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm

To Greenhouse resident,

You said "How about putting new retail development in College Terrace, Midtown or Charleston Meadows? those neighborhoods do a pretty good job of perpetuating the NIMBY attitude--maybe now they should start helping with increasing our ax revenue by allowing big retail in the area."

Excuse me, but wasn't that what we were trying to do with Alma Plaza? And where, exactly, in Midtown would you like to see "big retail"? Love to hear your specific suggestions.


Posted by Ellen, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

The Arastradero/ECR property is far too small for what Fry's would need. Just look at the amount of parking at their present facility. And the size of the building they'd need wouldn't allow for a parking structure.


Posted by Train Neighbor, a resident of Ventura
on Feb 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm


Here are links to the Palo Alto Planning Commission Agenda: Web Link

and the East Meadow Concept Map: Web Link


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I think the current Fry's location is fine. It is easily accessible from El Camino, Oregon Expressway, and Page Mill Expressway, so you don't have a lot of traffic spillover into neighborhoods and especially into school zones. If they aren't asking to move and customers don't want them to move, then why is this subject even open for discussion?


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Relocating Frys is open for discussion NOT because of any officials wishing to be helpful to Frys or their loyal customers but rather because they covet the land it now uses.


Posted by Greenhouse resident, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Feb 12, 2010 at 6:43 am

Sherri Furman:

"Excuse me, but wasn't that what we were trying to do with Alma Plaza? And where, exactly, in Midtown would you like to see "big retail"? Love to hear your specific suggestions."

What you were trying to do with Alma Plaza is to prevent any development on the site. There is a clear history of obstructionism with this project. Of course now that it is vacant, that may be a good place for Frys.
You have adjacent drug stores in Midtown--one is enough. the other site could be used by Frys.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

We do not need a Frys next door. Time for some of the other neighborhoods that benefit from our tax revenue to bear some of the burden associated with raising this revenue. As a self-appointed "neighborhood leader" you shoule be aware of this matter

NIMBYism is alive and well in the neighborhoods I mentioned.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

Strangely enough Midtown is vibrant and even though there are 2 drugstores, both appear to do OK. This was not the case 10 or so years ago. Now it is often hard to find parking for cars or bikes!! The mix is great and although there are a few vacant store fronts which would be wonderful to fill, it serves the community very well.

There is nothing like this near all the new housing at the JCC and E Meadow Circle. Those residents are likely to need a car every time they leave their home. And for anyone who works in the area, they will need to use their car for lunch unless they are near Chipotle or KFC.

If you are complaining about the traffic on San Antonio and Charleston, think about who the people are causing the traffic. Apart from the am/pm commutes, a great deal of the traffic must be from local residents or local workers driving to get what they need. Local amenities, similar to what is available in Midtown, or Piazzas area would possibly cause less traffic in the area, not more.


Posted by Greenhouse resident, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:29 am

Resident:: plenty of the traffic is from people heading to and from 101, so I doubt that you can say that "Apart from the am/pm commutes" the traffic is local, when much of the traffic is from commuters heading into and out of the city. There is a Best Buy down the block, not sure that Frys would want to be so close to that and with Piazza's a few blocks away, I am not sure that the "local amenities" are not already in place.
If they do allow more retail in that area, then steps will have to be taken--Charleston will have to re-widened to two lanes in each direction from San Antonio to the Cal train tracks and the speed limit on Middlefield will have to be increased.
We will need to do an EIR, traffic studies, hire consultants, appoint ad hoc committees and then after all of that is done, the council will see how the NIMBYIsts, naysayers and self-appointed neighborhood leaders feel and make their decision based on input from this tiny minority.
I am not expecting anything to happen soon.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Greenhouse.

You seem to be disagreeing and agreeing with me simultaneously. I said that apart from the am/pm commute a great deal of the traffic may be local and you said that the traffic was for commuters getting to and from 101, typically commuters travel during the am/pm commute time. I know that there is a lot of commute traffic but outside the commute times we have to ask ourselves about the traffic. Possibly, residents in say the new JCC may be going to Piazzas which is there but they have to drive even if all they want is to meet a friend for coffee or drop off some dry cleaning. If there were some services in the immediate area of the JCC, then perhaps they could walk instead.

The traffic studies, consultants, etc. have been meeting with neighborhood residents and interested parties so much of this has already been discussed and this is now the result of at least 3 public meetings where it has all been discussed and is now going to the City. Were you at the meetings? They were well publicised and well attended by local residents and the City were represented and were listening.

As to whether anything will happen is one thing. The rezoning is what is being discussed and much has already happened in that connection.


Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Yesterday's Palo Alto Post article said that Fry's is "struggling" in its current location. Is that statement coming from Fry's, and are they agitating to move to a more lucrative or accessible site? Or is that analysis coming from the city (on the basis of taxes collected), and if so, could that just be the current economy rather than the location? Whether or not Fry's actually wants to move should have some bearing on this discussion.

Fry's location now is great for us, but it's a regional draw, and would probably do better if located nearer to a freeway. The light-industrial development on Charleston near San Antonio is probably nowhere near the "highest and best use" of that property, and reconsidering it for redevelopment into a Fry's + restaurant(s) + grocery store seems like a good idea for me. The only caveat is that yet another stop light on Charleston would probably be required for people coming from the west to be able to turn into a parking lot there.

As for the old Volvo dealership, I agree that it is way too small to hold a Fry's and its parking, plus it is not easily accessible from the freeway, plus traffic in the area is already horrible in the early mornings and midafternoons as parents go to/from Terman and Gunn (and Bowman) to deliver/pick up school kids. So that location idea would be a non-starter.


Posted by Mistake, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm

The article mentions Altiara, Echelon, and Vantage condo developments but neglected to mention the Trumark development.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields