Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 26, 2010

Palo Alto will focus on street repairs, bike lanes

Capital Improvement budget targets landfill closure and upgrades to Art Center, Main Library

by Gennady Sheyner

Rebuilt libraries, a new roof for the Palo Alto Arts Center and the closure of the city's landfill should top Palo Alto's infrastructure wish list for the next five years, a new city staff report recommends.

Six new bicycle boulevards are also on the list, as is a more aggressive effort to patch up damaged city streets. Also included are electrical and heating-system improvements to the Palo Alto Children's Theatre and the Lucie Stern Community Center, respectively.

But with the city facing a $510 million "infrastructure backlog," city officials voiced concerns Wednesday about badly needed items that currently have no source of funding. This includes replacement of the aging Municipal Services Center in the baylands, and upgrades to the city's police headquarters and two fire stations.

Members of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which discussed the city's capital-improvement program Wednesday night, had no major objections to the list of items, which would cost the city about $72 million over five years. But Vice Chair Samir Tuma asked staff what the city plans to do about the staggering backlog in infrastructure maintenance.

"I'm seeing buildings built in the 1960s and we're talking about not having the money to make the electric upgrades," Tuma said. "The infrastructure is in real peril.

"As I look at these backlog numbers and how it grows over the years it gets worse."

Lalo Perez, director of the city's Administrative Services Department, said staff is currently working on a plan to involve the community in the difficult process of setting priorities. Perez said the city might have to consider funding more projects through bond sales.

"We'll probably need to look at a financing mechanism issuing a bond debt," Perez said. "If we have very specific areas with specific beginning and ending dates and targets, the community is willing to listen to that."

But budget woes notwithstanding, city officials are preparing to spend more on street repairs in 2011. Mike Sartor, assistant director of the Public Works Department, said staff plans to make street resurfacing a high priority in the coming year.

The city is budgeting $5.7 million for street repairs in fiscal year 2011 an increase over the $4 million budgeted this year.

The city also plans to build six new "bicycle boulevards," with improved intersections and bike lanes. These include new lanes at Homer Avenue, Matadero Avenue, Park Boulevard, Everett Avenue and Chaucer Street. The existing bike boulevard on Bryant Street would be extended.

The bicycle-improvements program would be funded between fiscal years 2012 and 2015 and would cost an estimated $670,000.

The city also plans to spend $7.8 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to close the controversial landfill in Byxbee Park. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the landfill's closure and debate the future of the city composting operation on April 5.

Staff narrowed down the list of projects by using a set of criteria and a point system that grades projects on how well they fit these criteria. Projects that received the highest scores were those that respond to council direction, get funding from an outside source, and promote health, public safety, efficiency and sustainability.

Upgrades to the Art Center, expansion of the Main Library and improvements to the busy intersection of El Camino Real and Stanford Avenue were among the highest-scoring projects.

David Ramberg, assistant director of the Administrative Services Department, said the budget numbers are still tentative and will be revised in coming months by staff and the council. He called the list of capital projects a "starting point" for the budget discussion.

The council is scheduled to review the proposed capital budget in May and adopt the budget for fiscal year 2011 in late June.

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

Comments

Posted by Ron, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2010 at 8:30 am

They've been talking about building new bike routes in Palo Alto ever since they finished the Bryant Street bicycle boulevard. And that was in the 1980s. The next big thing was supposed to be an east-west bicycle boulevard from Arastradero Preserve out to the Baylands. I'm not holding my breath. Mountain View is so much more progressive in this area.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

"The existing bike boulevard on Bryant Street would be extended."

That's the phrase that confuses me. Extended to where? It pretty much runs the length of the city now. Whats missing?

I'd like to see them improve loop detection of bikes at signals. Or add more curb side push buttons so bikes can more easily cause the signal to cycle.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

A good idea would be to create a map of existing bike lanes and suggested bike routes around town. This could be on the City website and available in libraries, etc. The only way to find the best bike route around town is by word of mouth - even school bike routes are not advertised well.


Posted by SwimMom, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:25 am

It took me 1 minute to find the bike map on the City website. It's from 2007, but hey, it's there.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:37 am

Thanks SwimMom, this never used to be there.

Web Link

This is the only map I can find, it has no zoom capabilities and I for one can't find my way around town on this. I would like to think we can do better than this, but I agree it is better than nothing.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:40 am

Actually bike routes are pretty well mapped, on bike to work day, May 13th this year, visit an energizer station and pick up hard copies of area maps.

Here is a pointer to the online bike maps on 511.org

Web Link


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:43 am

Resident,

Zooming is at the top of the map, see the + - and percentage.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

How about resurfacing the Oregon Express approach to 101 North. It's no more than a block long, but it's a key transit location and it's so far beyond Mr. Toad's Wild Ride that it could easily pass for a mine field where all have been detonated. Teeth jarring is an understatement!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for your help, it is a lot better than I thought.


Posted by Art, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I'm all for bike lanes, but it doesn't make much sense to add a bike lane to Chaucer Street before the flooding threat of the Chaucer Street bridge is fixed.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Art - you are correct. Of course that means it will never happen since the Chaucer bridge will not be fixed in our lifetimes. Not trying to be snarky - just realistic.


Posted by Ron, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm

If you go to the city web site, you can find pretty good PDF bike route map. Since it is in PDF format, you can easily zoom or scroll it.

The map does have some serious flaws, so be careful. For example, one way streets are not marked on the map (like Homer Ave near the bike tunnel). Also, there are some big gaps in the routes; for example there are no bike routes leading to Foothill Park or Arastradero Preserve (Palo Alto's 2 best open space areas). And the map does not show public bicycle parking racks, which anyone using their bike for shopping or commuting will want to know.

The Bryant Bicycle Boulevard does not run the length of the city. Heading south, it officially ends at Meadow Drive. There is a very convoluted and poorly marked bike route south of that, which is so bad that most people take Middlefield or Wilkie instead to get to Mountain View.


Posted by Patrick, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm

This is great news! I'm so glad that council is looking at implementing parts of the 2003 Bicycle Transportation Plan. If anyone is interested in taking a look you can find it at:

Web Link

As for the Bryant street extension; it would extend through the Eichler circles to Mountain View.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Woodside
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm

The bike lanes on Channing are rougher than many mountain bike trails. Many other streets in PA remind me of the famous Paris-Roubaix bike race over Belgium cobbles.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Woodside
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Bryant st. bike bvld. already connects to Mtn View bike blvd through the old HP parking lot.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Woodside
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

What the bike blvd needs is a stop sign free route across the city and warnings for stopped cars to be on the lookout for bikes.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

What kind of scoring system rates the Children's Theatre and Art Center higher than police headquarters and two fire stations.

Isn't public safety the #1 priority in any city government?


Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 6:29 am

Elizabeth is dead on. Why don't they fix streets that obviously need repair? The government has plenty of tax money, but they waste it on useless things such as infantile class sizes and the like, meanwhile allowing our infrastructure to degrade to third world status. Bunch of inept thieves in government.


Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 6:30 am

Elizabeth is dead on. Why don't they fix streets that obviously need repair? The government has plenty of tax money, but they waste it on useless things such as infantile class sizes and the like, meanwhile allowing our infrastructure to degrade to third world status. Bunch of inept thieves in government.


Posted by City Waste, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

How do you expect the City to repair streets? They need $115,000 to pay the new Sustainability Coordinator whose job it is to find a new location Downtown for a Farmer's Market. Like we need another Farmer's Market!!! That's a budget waste if ever a saw it.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

Some of the decisions can be "explained" by the city priorities: economic or financial health; environmental sustainability; emergency preparedness; land-use and transportation planning; and collaboration for youth well-being.


Posted by Red Meat, a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Pat is totally correct. The ONLY City priority should be to cut the budget to the bone, then cut even more. Marvin and Fireman may wish to weigh in here too. Agreed?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm



We thought the PA council was focused on saving the planet and putting an end to the horror of climate changes such as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter--- how they let such climate change continue?

There should be a law to stop it


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm

How can the city be out of money? According to my tax returns, my taxes have gone up.


Posted by Red Meat, a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:51 am

Mike is right. Lower taxes way down as close to zero as possible and cut spending to the bone and way beyond the bone.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Mike - I'm not sure if you're serious or not. Let's say you are. The CPA problem is easy to analyze --- labor and benefits costs have gone up much faster than the CPA revenue stream. Energy costs, maintenance costs and other costs have also gone up.

Then add in the fact that many of the city departments did not set aside funds for eventual major repair projects. For example, the lack of planning for the storm water and sewage upgrades. Everyone knew it was going to happen, but no one had the guts to put money aside for the future need...so we get hit with another bond (tax) to pay for poor planning.

Every business has an "R&R" fund - repair and replacement. But we have not seen so much with CPA.

Further, CPA still allows a minority of citizens to dictate the use of operational budget on "cherished services" that may not meet the larger public's needs any longer - or has higher cost per citizen than other cities. An example would be the Palo Alto Library system. CPA has 5 branches for just under 60,000 residents...that's 1 branch per 12,000 people. San Francisco has 27 branches for well over 740,000 residents ... 1 branch per 27,000. And SF has much higher tax base due to the corporations and companies located in the Financial District. But no one at CPA has the huevos to do the right thing and pare down the libraries.

Why does CPA offer free shuttle service? The worst kept secret in CPA is that the shuttle service is a free school bus service. Why not charge $1 per rider - just a dollar. 65 or older ride free.

Our taxes are never going to go down. But the city could do a better job of lowering the number of free services or evolve them to pay services.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Report on priorities is at Web Link

Note Attachment E on pdf page 52. Priorities are defined on pdf page 58.


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