Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 15, 2011

Palo Alto sued over California Ave. plan

Critics of proposed lane reduction say city violated environmental law when it approved project in February

by Gennady Sheyner

A Palo Alto resident and a California Avenue merchant have filed a lawsuit against the city this week, claiming that the city violated environmental law when it approved a streetscape project for the California Avenue business district in February.

The project, which includes a reduction of lanes from four to two and new street furniture along California, earned the unanimous approval of the City Council Feb. 14 despite opposition from a group of merchants and residents. Two opponents, Joy Ogawa and Terry Shuchat, filed their lawsuit Monday.

Shuchat, whose camera business, Keeble & Shuchat, is located on California Avenue, and Ogawa filed a suit with the Santa Clara County Superior Court asking for the court to halt the project and require Palo Alto to redo its environmental analysis. The plaintiffs claim that the city's "negative declaration" — an environmental analysis required by the California Environmental Quality Act — for the project is deeply flawed. They argue in the suit that it did not consider, among other things, an "adequate project description" and evidence from business owners about the impacts of project constructions.

"Business closures and resulting blight is an impact on the physical environment that must be assessed in the environmental document," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also claims that the city's environmental document failed to consider numerous factors, including approval from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and did not consider mitigations to the project's impact on parking. The city, the plaintiffs argue, also segmented the project into phases, in violation of environmental law.

Plaintiffs are calling for the city to "set aside" its approvals for the environmental documents and "immediately suspend all activities" associated with these documents.

In addition, Ogawa and Shuchat allege that the city violated state law governing Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan, which encourages "local-serving retail." Further, they claim the city "abused its discretion and acted in excess of its jurisdiction" before approving the streetscape plan.

The lawsuit also states the city violated the state's Brown Act by failing to make documents available to the public that were available to the City Council prior to its Feb. 14 meeting.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of attempts by a group of business owners and residents to derail the $1.7 million project. In early February, local attorney William Ross and a small group of California Avenue merchants attended a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and asked the commission not to fund the project. The commission is providing $1.2 million for the project through the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), while the city is chipping in another $500,000.

During the Feb. 14 meeting, the overwhelming majority of the public speakers spoke in favor of the project, which staff said would create a more pedestrian- and transit-friendly environment in the commercial stretch of California Avenue between El Camino Real and the Caltrain station. Shuchat was among the minority who argued against the project at that meeting, claiming that the lane reduction would create traffic problems and hurt local businesses.

"The current traffic flow on California Avenue is excellent," Shuchat said. "Business is difficult enough in the current economic times without the City of Palo Alto making it more difficult."

READ MORE ONLINE

The petition may be viewed at Palo Alto Online.

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

Comments

Posted by David, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:28 am

This issue has been vetted, and then again, many times. It is time for those selfish few who object to this plan to stop, and let it happen. You are wasting taxpayer money with this frivolous action. In particular, it is nonsense to think that reducing the 4 traffic lanes to 2 will significantly impair traffic. There are simply not enough cars on this street to warrant 4 lanes.


Posted by Robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

As long as the plan adequately covers bike lanes and parking.


Posted by New streetscape is needed, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

It's extremely disappointed to see Schuchat and others in such disagreement with an otherwise great plan. This is the same group that sanctioned the tree removal and they're preventing any form of improvement in the neighborhood. They're suing the city yet proposing no reasonable alternatives. Even a brief, simple and cursory review of similar projects elsewhere show that the new streetscape will be great for business. There will also be little impact, unlike this specious lawsuit indicates.


Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

What a waste of city money to have to respond to this suit! This project was analyzed every possible way, and it would be so GOOD for Calif. Ave. to update it and make it more people friendly. Terry S. you're totally wrong on this one... I hope the money for the project doesn't vanish with the delay this suit will cause...


Posted by They-Only-Listen-When-You-Sue, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

Fixing up California Ave's street surface, and maybe a little "beautification" is appropriate .. but downsizing the street is a waste of taxpayer's money, and will do nothing to increase the attractiveness of this very small retail district. It certainly will not make it "safer".

Caltrain is offering a significant amount of money to fund this project. This is a travesty, given that Caltrain is $30M in the "red" this year, and should not be wasting what funds its has on this kind of nonsense.

Hopefully, the suit will prevail, and this project will be downsized to fixing the street surfaces, which is a project that is long overdue.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

> This issue has been vetted, and then again, many times.
> This project was analyzed every possible way.

The only ones who vetted and analyzed this plan are in the city's planning department. The majority of CA Ave. business owners are against it.

> You are wasting taxpayer money with this frivolous action.

The plan itself is a waste of taxpayer money: $1.2 million grant from the VTA plus $550,000 from the city all comes from our taxes. Not a good way to spend money with a $500 million infrastructure backlog.

> This is the same group that sanctioned the tree removal.

Really? Most of the CA Ave. merchants were opposed to (and surprised by!) the tree removal.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

Well, we've heard from those who support the plan, but as one who has been stuck behind the gray group driving at 10-15mph on E. Charleston (which doesn't involve lots of cars that will be pulling into and out of parking spots), and seeing the traffic snarls the now two-lane road with much wasted space in the middle, I'm grateful they are attempting to bring it to full disclosure and attempting to stop the project.

I think it's yet another terrible plan of an increasingly arrogant gov't team that cares only for their own interests and never that of the population at large.

Instead of tearing things up and making them worse, I'd really like to see them resurface much traveled roads around town (as opposed to those special interest residential blocks in the most affluent parts of town).

Accountability, folks! Prioritize!


Posted by Flawed analysis, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

A comparison between Charleston and California Avenue is ridiculous and makes clear that these opponents have no IDEA what they are talking about. California Avenue carries LESS THAN A THIRD of the auto volumes of Charleston/Arastradero (which carries 16,000-18,000 cars per day). BTW, I commute on Charleston/Arastradero daily and RARELY have to drive as slow as "10-15 mph", except during the Gunn school commute times. Gunn is the problem. It always has been. Hyperbole is not helpful.

Keeble & Schucat, as a customer,I am deeply disappointed by your flawed analysis of the situation and your disregard for the community's clearly stated desire for a shopping area that is more accessible. I hope that your delay tactic doesn't result in a loss of the grant dollars that would have funded the street improvements. You will have done real harm to our community if that occurs.

Joy Ogawa, please name ONE project that you have EVER supported.


Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

Good for Keeble & Schugat. Good for the owner of Mollie Stone's.

This plan is brain dead. It's RIDICULOUS to ignore the economic impact of store closures. It's ludicrous to assume people are going to walk 5 miles each way carrying their groceries.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by They-Only-Listen-When-You-Sue, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

> BTW, I commute on Charleston/Arastradero daily and RARELY have
> to drive as slow as "10-15 mph"

This may be true for the few minutes a day that this driver is on Charleston/Arastradero .. but what about the rest of the day? The City does not provide timely, accurate, load/volume/LOS numbers for this important E-W roadway. If you happen to live on/near the C/A Corridor, you'd see that the 2-lanes have backed up traffic quite a ways during the "drive time" at the red lights. During these times, drivers are driving at 0 mph, waiting to cross streets like Alma, and Middlefield.

California Avenue is not heavily used, particularly at night. So, claims that downsizing the road will make it "safer" are either false, or hyper-hyperbole. It is fair to object to any comparisons between C/A and California Ave., however.


Posted by street smart, a resident of Ohlone School
on Apr 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

To bad the project is bogged down now. Proper environmental reports and procedures promote a lot of goodwill. The project planning seems split up, the City removed the trees on CalAve. where the old street trees existed, if the same trees remained standing, pedestrians would've walked straight into the trunks with the new streetscape plan. Moving smaller trees will be easy. I am for the new streetscape going forward. The closest secondary shopping district in North Palo Alto looks so bad. The grants will be going to another community now. Perhaps a community that fully plans projects, if the articles information is true.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm

California Avenue is now the uglist, starkest street in Palo Alto...


Posted by anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I'm with Terry Shuchat, They-only-listen-when-you-sue, and JoAnn in opposing reducing traffic lanes on California Avenue from four to two. Parking, especially backing out into the one available lane, will be very difficult.

I had no idea that some of the money for this project would be coming from CalTrain. Good grief, they need the money to keep the trains running!

And just wait until this summer, when the whole street turns into an inferno because of the lack of shade. I'm very disappointed with this whole project . . .


Posted by Well now, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

This is a misinformed lawsuit that is ridiculous, and flawed on its face. It is also rather humorous to see the strange bedfellows in this charade.

So, this is about business, is it? I don't think so; it's about getting one's way, and damn the community!

And since Mr. Shuchat has seen to defy the wishes of my community and it's duly-elected representatives, Mr. Shuchat has - as of the moment I write this - lost my (considerable) camera and photo service business until this lawsuit is withdrawn. As well, I will recommend that the three organizations I work with, who also frequent K&S (among them, two creative agencies), desist from purchases there until this lawsuit is withdrawn. I will alsop begin to spread the word in my neighborhood (adjacent to Mollie Stones) about this, and will also stop shopping at Mollie Stones (and urge that others do), because the owner of that enterprise supports (and is probably involved in and financially supporting) this lawsuit.

Last, imagine what Palo Alto would be like without the MANY projects that Joy Ogawa has opposed - including every housing project in memory, the library, school refurbishment, etc. etc. I, too, cannot remember a single Palo Alto project that Ms. Ogawa has supported, ever. She was no doubt marked by this retail group of a few retailers for automatic participation as the "token citizen" to join the plaintiffs, because her obsession for instigation and opposition is well known.


Posted by Response to anciana, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

The funds for California Avenue are NOT coming from Caltrain's budget. They are coming from the VTA budget for capital improvements. VTA is a Santa Clara County agency dealing with transit, traffic, and streets.

VTA also funds Caltrain, and VTA has been willing to fully fund Caltrain. It's San Mateo County (and to a lesser extent San Francisco City and County) that want to cut Caltrain's budget to protect their own county bus service.


Posted by resident who drives, bikes and walks, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm

It seems that the negative spokespeople for businesses on California Avenue believe that asserting over and over how worried they are about traffic impacts of the project on their business, without a shred of actual evidence that this will be a problem.

And now they're kicking dust up with a lawsuit since their lack of factual basis for their stated fears was evident in spades to anyone who attended the public meetings and heard the responses to planning commissioner or staff questions (and to anyone who actually read the reports that the elected and appointed officials read -- see links below).

For those who may just be tuning in, it's important to know that an independent traffic impact analysis found that peak period traffic counts in the peak location on Cal Ave are 4 cars per minute going east, and 4 going west. Any comparison to Arastradero peak period is completely ridiculous and uninformed.

The existing Cal Ave street design is left over from the 1950s before the construction of Oregon Expressway decades ago (when Cal Ave was open to Alma). 4 lanes of traffic are simply not needed -- not now, and not in any possible future scenario. One lane each direction plus right and left turn lanes at intersections where needed is more than generous in terms of accommodating motor vehicles using the street.

What is really sad is that Mr. Shuchat and Mr. Bennet are shooting themselves in the foot -- it's the status quo street design that will kill their business and the future of Cal Ave.

Drivers on a 4 lane street don't see the businesses they are passing. Having space where people can enjoy eating in a pleasant outside environment will bring in more people to the street (drivers, pedestrians and cyclists). Parking would be much easier with the one wider lane, and contrary to assertions of those who have never actually biked on California Avenue, this would be much safer for bicyclists.

All these things are not pie in the sky fantasies -- they are the actual experience in comparable cities who have wisely chosen a "complete street" design instead of sticking of what isn't working.

Staff report to the City Council on Feb 14: Web Link

Detailed traffic impact analysis report:
Web Link


Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I've waited for three light cycles to get across the tracks heading east on Charleston many times. The improvements in lane reduction may work when the traffic is very light. I've also waited at the light at El Camino because there was no space to move to on a green light heading east. I've lived in the area for 53 years and it's now a real mess.
Don't screw up California avenue any more. It was fine before the perpetrators cut down the existing trees. Stop!


Posted by Lots of misinformation, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm

There's a significant amount of misinformation here.

VTA is the funding source for the project, not CalTrain. Although their funds are intermingled, the funding is not directly from CalTrain. Here's the mission for VTA:

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is an independent special district that provides sustainable, accessible, community-focused transportation options that are innovative, environmentally responsible, and promote the vitality of our region. VTA provides bus, light rail, and paratransit services, as well as participates as a funding partner in regional rail service including Caltrain, Capital Corridor, and the Altamont Corridor Express. As the county's congestion management agency, VTA is responsible for countywide transportation planning, including congestion management, design and construction of specific highway, pedestrian, and bicycle improvement projects, as well as promotion of transit oriented development.

If you read that brief overview then you can conclude that they're doing their job by helping the community.

Virtually every place that's done this kind of project has received great benefits. Why Schuchat and Ogawa oppose improvement is a mystery.


Posted by Long time resident, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Look at Castro in Mt.View. Similar plan. My experience: No traffic or parking problem. Restaurants and shops always busy. It looks a lot nicer than Calif.Ave. My guess more traffic than Calif.Ave and still no problem. So, fight over a short term disruption versus a long term gain. Also, a much more pleasant customer experience, they will keep coming back.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

>… deeply disappointed by your flawed analysis of the situation and your disregard for the community's clearly stated desire for a shopping area that is more accessible.

If you are concerned about flawed analyses, where is your data showing (1) that CA Ave. has any problems now with accessibility and (2) the community's "clearly stated" desire for greater accessibility.

I shop on CA Ave. all the time and have no problems, other than finding a parking spot during lunch hours.

> Mr. Shuchat has seen to defy the wishes of my community...

Most of the store owners are against the lane cuts, so whose wishes is Mr. Shuchat defying?

> Having space where people can enjoy eating in a pleasant outside environment will bring in more people to the street …

The current plan does NOT widen sidewalks, so where areal these diners going to be sitting?

> VTA is the funding source for the project, not CalTrain.

Where do you think VTA gets its money? It comes from our taxes!

Re the independent traffic analysis: The city's planning regulations only allow for CURRENT DATA on traffic flow to be taken into account on changing the street lanes. Yet high density housing and office space for the California Avenue area is the stated goal of the Planning Department.

A new development on Birch Street has already been approved.

That means the current plan does not, and will not, take into account any future traffic increases generated by high density housing and offices around California Avenue.


Posted by Well now, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

"Why Schuchat and Ogawa oppose improvement is a mystery"

K&S has made important contributions to the tax base of Palo Alto, and has been a good corporate citizen. That said, using its bully "sales tax revenue" pulpit to squash change that has been vetted, approved, and most importantly <desired> by a majority of citizens is not a good idea.

Businesses live largely on good will. One can leverage one's "contributions" to a city just so many times.

The large parking structure behind K&S was built primarily at K&S request, and for its benefit. So, it has been a two-way street - until now.

As for why Ms. Ogowa is in on this lawsuit, I stated earlier that Ms. Ogawa appears to be reflexively against change of any kind. Clearly, Ms. Ogawa's efforts to stall progress in the past (all of them, failed)show that she's out-of-step with the general tenor of the very community that she resides in. She has a right to protest this change, but her reputation for causing dissension and upset around capital improvement or commercial development projects is clearly <not> something I would want to be associated with if i was running a business - anywhere.

Sure, this effort may result in PA losing the development money, but citizens and public officials who have worked so hard to vet this project in every which way will not forget. What happens to good will" then?

I can't recall how many dozens of times I have refrained from purchasing camera equipment online - also, imploring my commercial partners to follow my example. That action - i.e. the action to support local commerce - was based on principle and a large heaping of good will. This "back seat" effort has, in one stroke, eliminated any good will that took years to establish. K&S should think really hard about this action - really hard, because it's going to cost them <way> more money (attorney fees, loss of good will, etc) than they think a bit of construction will.

Last, it could also be that K&S and Mollie Stones are really hurting, with bad times impacting everyone. If that's the case, they should think hard about withdrawing this lawsuit and using that withdrawal as a plea to ask locals to frequent their respective places of business. That would help sales.

As for Ms. Ogawa, it's a wash, because she will be present this coming Monday, and every other Monday in Council Chambers, objecting to every little thing that comes up. She will continue to have her fun.


Posted by They-Only-Listen-When-You-Sue, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

> Although their funds are intermingled, the funding is not
> directly from CalTrain.

The funding sources for Caltrain come from a number of sources: Federal, State, Members and special taxes. From looking at Caltrain as an organization, it becomes more like a piece of Jello the more one examines its edges. Much of its capital budget comes from Federal sources--which means borrowed money from the Chinese.

Since there is a Caltrain station at the end of California Ave, it's pretty clear that VTA's doing this work for "Caltrain". VTA has absolutely no charter to reconfigure dead end roads at the cost of millions of dollars. It does have the responsibility to increase the safety of Caltrain properties, however.

VTA has its own funding problems. It also runs "in the red", since it can not operate its buses and light rail at cost--requiring hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers hard-earned money for subsidies.

Why VTA chose to fund this project might take some digging. And certainly there is no evidence that there will such an increase in retail sales that the tax generated from these sales will payback VTA's "investment". It might be interesting to ask someone "in the known" why this money was being spent downsizing this street, rather than installing surveillance cameras at the train stations, to better protect the riders?

> If you read that brief overview then you can conclude that
> they're doing their job by helping the community.

Like their support for the useless bicycle tunnel at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation? If VTAs mission is to "help people" .. then it's time to disband this organization--it's not doing a very good job.



Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Web Link
01/11/2010

The VTA, which saw its budget gap quadruple to $98 million in just four months in 2009, is cutting bus service by 8 percent and light rail operations by nearly 7 percent starting.

A projected $22 million deficit in June exploded into a $98 million shortfall in October 2010 as sales tax revenues took an unprecedented plunge and the state took millions in transit aid to reduce its budget deficit.

Tom Rubin, the former chief financial officer of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, has studied agencies across the United States and calls VTA the "worst transit agency in the country."

Thirty years ago, when the county began its push to create a regionwide bus system and build light rail, backers said tickets would cover 85 percent of the cost of a train trip. They scaled that back to 35 percent a few years later.

Today, it's a dismal 14 percent, one of the worst margins in the nation.


Posted by Bye Bye Keeble hello Amazon, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Makes no sense to fight something that so many people want. I agree with the majority of commenters here - it's time to reconsider where I make my photography purchases. It's one thing to participant constructively with the community and be a part of creating change. Many fine did people AND business did just that for this project. However, it's another to flat out fight it in court and potentially risk funding with no good explanation and no reasonable alternative or no other source of funding.

Amazon has far better prices too.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm

What's wrong with Cal Ave as it is? The road surfacing is awful, some of the buildings need some new paint, the trees have yet to grow to provide shade, and the fountain needs repair.

Let's fix these problems, just these. Let's not invent any more need. Two lanes in each direction isn't hurting anyone--more space for cyclists to maneuver around cars, less of a back-up when anyone backs out of a parking zone, and therefore a good trickle of traffic (people sitting at tables outside aren't gassed out by traffic jams)

Why the need to fiddle with the existing arrangement? Is the city simply unable to pass up the half-million dollars that the VTA should instead give to Caltrain?


Posted by former Mtn View, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Good to see this lawsuit. Castro St in Mountain View turned into a PITA after they took it from four lanes to two. California Ave is slow enough now; it doesn't need to be made slower.


Posted by Carlito waysman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm

For those complaining about these couple fellow citizens filing a lawsuit, the last I knew we are still living in the United States of America in which everyone has the right to be heard in Court.

If you want to control the minds of all citizens to think the same way as you do, you are living in the wrong place. You must try North Korea, China, or another country with a totalitarian regime with zero enforcement of human rights laws.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm

@carlito No one is denying that Shuchat and Ogawa have a right to file a lawsuit, nor has anyone made any attempt to control anyone else's mind!
All I can see in the comments is that residents are providing evidence that statements about traffic impacts (which is the only environmental impact at play here) or fears of negative business impacts have no factual basis. They were thoroughly considered by the City Council in recommending that the project move to the design stage.

As for the merits of the lawsuit, it's certain to occupy a few lawyers for more than a few hours... but not help California Avenue, that's for sure.


Posted by Chrisc, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 13, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I don't understand why Palo Alto and/or VTA is spending a penny on this project. There are streets that have huge potholes and they're going to raise all the utilities on us again. VTA should be spending money putting more frequent light rail into service. Palo Alto City Council should be spending time on funding problems for fire, police, and maintenance.


Posted by Jimmy, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I think the $1.7m could be better spent on more important projects related to schools, libraries or even other more pressing public works.

CA Ave looks fine (in spite of the missing trees).


Posted by Well now, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:25 am

Please keep in mind that the California Ave. corridor will see considerable development over the next decade. New housing will be built next to transport. In addition, Stanford is set to build a lot of new housing on El Camino and on California Ave (past Hanover) within the next decade. Thus, a lot of new housing and people are going to be coming along, with much better intra-urban and mass transit. Cal Ave could really be a phenomenally attractive and inviting place for walkers, bikers, residents, etc. Cal Ave is set to become a very cool little commercial corridor - and far more walker, biker, citizen friendly than it currently is.

Shuchat's lawsuit (Ogawa is just a token citizen, who agreed to enter the lawsuit on principle - she will not pay a penny to the attorneys), if successful, will delay these necessary infrastructure improvement that will bring new business, residents, and shoppers to the area. This is a very selfish and shortsighted action.

Some people like things as they are, and are afraid of change. Nevertheless, the community and our public officials have spoken. The really sorry thing about this is that Shuchat and Mollie Stones are really shooting themselves in the foot with this lawsuit, because they would profit from new anchor businesses on Cal Ave that would be attracted to improved retail infrastructure and appearance.

What a sad way to end the Shuchat legacy; this lawsuit will simply bury Shuchat's good will, as well as Mollie Stones. btw, the Post will probably come out in favor of the lawsuit, because Shuchat advertises in the Post. Also, thr Post doesn't want the Streetscape because they will be for the first time responsible for removing the blight of all their news boxes (other boxes would also be regulated, just like on University Ave.). So prepare yourselves for a Post editorial that supports Shuchat. I hope I'm wrong.

Man, what a mess! After YEARS of diligence, a few businesses and an obsessively negative gadfly get to gum up the works.


Posted by jan, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:46 am

to well-now. you obviously dislike joy ogawa and terry schuchat. leave your personal views out. what are your REAL interests here? are you secretly involved the council members or departmarts, perhaps making deals to help rally up people in the neighborhood. i think what you have written about ms. ogawa and mr. schuchat is unfair and immature. ms.ogawa has a right and should feel safe to speak her views without someone like you bad mouthing her actions. it's people like YOU who enjoys to intimidate someone speaking up. i'm happy about what they did! someone actually stood up to the city.rPxu


Posted by They-Only-Listen-When-You-Sue, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

> Shuchat's lawsuit (Ogawa is just a token citizen, who agreed to
> enter the lawsuit on principle - she will not pay a penny to
> the attorneys), if successful

If memory serves, Ms. Ogawa is a lawyer. The suit asks for lawyer's fees, if the plaintiffs prevail, which is typical of these sorts of suits.

> just a token citizen

This is pretty dismissive. It's a shame that people like this poster tend to engage in the "politics of personal destruction" (or its local equivalent) to marginalize people who oppose bad government policy--or spending programs that are not all that well-considered.

> Nevertheless, the community and our public officials have spoken

Hmm .. an article in the Daily Post quotes Shucat claiming that there were over 300 signatures from residents. Presumably these signatures were sent to the Council, but the City never seems to make this sort of information available on its web site (at least not in a straight-forward way). So .. how many signatures were submitted by the "Yes" folks? Without a vote, there is no way to know what people think about this project. The vote on the fountain pretty much showed a disconnect between our "officials" and the people willing to vote on the statue of choice. (Some past council members were elected with as few as 4,500 votes, out of 40,000 registered voters.)

As to the VTA, it's in a fairly big mess itself. The Santa Clara County Grand Jury has looked at it over the years. The following link is to the last GJ report on VTA:

Web Link

There are many problems with VTA, identified in these GJ reports. The following is one of the core problems with this sort of agency--

Lack of Transportation Experience. Recent reports on VTA governance have documented that new board members have no previous experience in the transportation arena. Board members' terms are for two years and may or may not be renewed. By the time a Board member is familiar with the issues facing VTA their term is expiring. As a consequence, the VTA Board is not effective in directing VTA staff or making well-informed decision

> Clearly, Ms. Ogawa's efforts to stall progress in the past
> (all of them, failed)show that she's out-of-step with the
> general tenor of the very community that she resides

Ms. Ogawa (and everyone else in Palo Alto) has a fundamental right to oppose "change".. particularly when it's being driven by money from outside the community that could care less about the impacts of this "change". The reasons for opposition to various projects varies, but generally people who have the courage to stand up to the Jim Baer's and Tony Carassaco's express concerns about "change" diminishing our (collective) quality of life. Certainly adding 25,000 people to the number of people living here would not be "good". Ms. Ogawa, and those who oppose "change" (like those community leaders who brought us Measure-R back in the mid-90s) have played by the rules, have not spread a lot of money (and misinformation)around (like the developers), and are not responsible for the ugly buildings like the JCC and 800 High. They tried to warn us..but not enough people were listening.

While Ms. Ogawa might not rise to the status of the kind of hero that a Medal of Honor winner is, she has had to courage to speak her mind, in a public way, to add her name to a number of efforts to stop wasteful government spending. Most people in Palo Alto stand by the sidelines, watching .. just watching. It's not hard to find a lot of people who will express an opinion, but only "off-the-record". They are more afraid of what people think of them, then being independent enough to take full advantage of their American birthright of "free speech". While Ms. Ogawa might lose in this effort, the community owes her a "tip-of-the-hat" for trying.


Posted by This suit is CRAZY, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2011 at 9:41 am

The new streetscape will be a great project for the area.

Schuchat and Ogawa made a bad move here because their fight isn't only with the city, but the overwhelming majority of people who want California Avenue updated and made better.

To the posters commenting on just the lane change - this is about more than just a lane change. This new streetscape is about a new neighborhood. And even if it were just a lane change the results would still be better as indicated by all the relevant research and anecdotal evidence from other projects.

To the posters commenting on keeping the street as is - apparently you haven't been on Cal Ave in a while. The bike racks, sign posts, trash cans and all the other amenities are nearly destroyed. They're awful. The place is a wreck. If Schuchat and Ogawa somehow stop this project then the street will continue to both be awful and deteriorate.

To the posters still not convinced about traffic - the impact will be slight with a dramatic improvement for pedestrians and cyclists. The data shows this. Hanging out on the street shows this.

To the posters commenting on wasting money - Cal Ave hasn't had a similar improvement with a similar investment in a VERY long time. So long, in fact, that no one seems to know when the last investment was. Creating a vibrant neighborhood with more businesses doing more business will only help to generate funds to invest in the various other projects others would like to see prioritized.

Let's hope the suit won't affect the project.


Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

They-Only-Listen-When-You-Sue

Thank you so much for your thoughtful defense of sanity and the public process!

Ms Ogawa's efforts have in the past, several times, led to better outcomes for her community.

I agree that to few in Palo Alto have the courage and/or take the time to become civically engaged. We may not all agree all the time but if more residents do not become engaged our city will develop according to the needs and benefits of city staff and developers, not all of whom reside in Palo Alto.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

Who better than the business-owners to know that their businesses will be negatively affected by the chaos of road-works etc. involved in the proposed project??

City council people don't know; they're not on Cal Ave on a daily basis.

I always liked Cal Ave because it evolved into a vibrant community by itself; it seemed real, unlike the glitter-gloss of University Avenue or the Stanford Shopping Center. But then the City started to meddle--the ludicrous "public" art, the felling of perfectly good trees . . .


Posted by Silly Insurance Agent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

As an insurance agent, I'm all for back-in diagonal parking. Keeps me in business with all the new accidents.

As a utility consumer, I'm less than thrilled at running businesses out of town because we'll only see more rate increases.

Good that Menlo Park and Mountain View will get the sales tax revenue rather than Palo Alto since Town & Country's such a disaster, Mollie Stone's will have gone the way of Midtown Market, the Co-op and JJ&F.

Now onto the really important questions like what color to paint the proposed bike lanes, how far out into the street the new bikewalks should extend...


Posted by coooper, a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:31 am

California Ave. is in decline and needs attention. I would rather see more parking, perhaps in the middle, than expensive-to-maintain median plantings that require U-turns to get around. A relatively small budget for façade improvement would go a long way. It's too bad about the trees: was their removal Phase I of this project?


Posted by frank, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

Comments and observations about the California Ave. would be helpful in the continuing debate if they deal with what actually happened rather than what might be politically correct from either side.

First, there have been multiple grant applications by the City. This grant does NOT provide funding for street resurfacing - city money would do that and like other City Street improvements has been deferred for over five years.

Second, the city application to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) wasn't exactly objective (untruthful some might say) - lane reduction was opposed by a wide spectrum previously--something that was left out-only offering two letters of support from the bike community.

Third, the city was contradictory in what was to be included in the grant first saying one thing and then the other - a good example is truck loading areas - which to no one's surprise are mostly accomplished in existing lanes during the day. Where this will happen if the Project goes forward is unknown, although precise location and further public review concerning actual construction - which is promised to not interfere with businesses - even though it will be done during the day, was supposed to have taken place by now.
What is most disturbing is the way Council decisions are made or how they are apparently made - long time residents and shop owners or operators say their piece and are largely ignored, yet non-resident representatives of the bike community show up make representations and criticisms (sometimes less than civilly) and their statements are accepted as Gospel.
I ride a bike, but I don't let that activity drive a position that is out of touch with reality...what difference does it make if I may be able to get to the train station quicker if there is no train to the Giant's Game?


Posted by Mike, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

People are misinformed because the City does a good job not to tell the whole truth! California Aveune is suppose to have been resurfaced, new trash bins, benches, long a go.....by now. The City has not kept their word for California Ave. so those who say the street needs TLC, please take it to the City. They have used and misinformed us by saying that this GRANT addresses these concerns. We are being used by the Council members and of course, the developers - Jim Baer and his team. They are also trying to build high density housing in the same area and does anyone ask why? Perhaps the high valued homes and income are not in this area to fight the City. The two people in the lawsuit have guts and they should be recognized for trying to save part of our community.


Posted by Kerri and Family, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Great for the two who filed. I will not have to look for a new grocery store for my family. Mollie Stone's is a wonderful grocery store, who has a great staff and produce. BTW, the camera store is a photographer's dream! This lawsuit will not hurt their business. In fact, it may increase it! I know many photographers who drive hours to come to this infamous store on California Ave. We need to get residents and members of community to be hired as Palo Alto City Staff.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Deeply disappointed in Schucat. I guess I'll have to my business elsewhere, since it seems they'd prefer to keep the mini-highway on California, as opposed to making it easy to bike/walk to their store, which is how I usually get there.

If you don't want my business, fine. And thanks for wasting taxpayer money.


Posted by Carlito waysman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm


Evan posted:
>Deeply disappointed in Schucat. I guess I'll have to my business elsewhere, since it seems they'd prefer to keep the mini-highway on California, as opposed to making it easy to bike/walk to their store, which is how I usually get there.

If you don't want my business, fine. And thanks for wasting taxpayer money.<


Typical hard core Republican knee-jerk reaction, when they run across a business that don't share their narrow minded views, boycott,boycott. So silly and immature.

I will start using K @ Schuchat for all my photographic needs from now on.


Posted by Stan, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Evan, "thanks for wasting taxpayers money"? Have you been reading what's been going on in the City? Palo Alto wastes ALL of OUR tax money, wake up and smell the coffee. You are only concerned with the fact that YOU walk and bike but what about others? If you want to bike and walk everywhere, move to SF. This is NOT SF! No one wants our tax dollars going to waste, look at the infrastructure backlog and how is it that PA can promise the $550K? We, the taxpayers, pay in the long run. At 66, I learned a long time ago that those who publicly say they will take their business elsewhere, NEVER did business at that location! That's why they can say that! I will assume you are much younger than me because as much as I enjoy walking and at one time biking (although healthy), age still can make some days difficult to do without a car and driving on city roads that has been shrunk with squeezed parking spaces, with added new distractions like bright signs with small fonts, unnecessary markers, etc can be exhausting! Make California Ave nice like they are suppose to! I can still remember when they planted those trees as a young man and to see them chopped down is disgusting! Do people really believe that PA cares about us? It is only about keeping enough projects going so they have a job!


Posted by Leslie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm

A resident of the College Terrace neighborhood: People do not file lawsuits out of fear. People file lawsuits like this because they are standing up for what they believe is right whether you agree with them or not. It's often those who have the courage to do so, understanding people like you are out to ridicule them shamefully and publicly, should have their legal rights observed. What if from this lawsuit, we find out, i.e., Jaime (Chief transportation) has connections with consultants, construction companies and they are are making money at the expense of PA community? Wouldn't you want to know instead of focusing on how this was filed because of some "fear". I don't think so. This takes a lot of energy. This was done because the city does whatever they want to do without majority interest of the community. Go back and read some highlights of how the city really has served us well. Now, we have water and trash rates increases...? Keep in mind large of percentage of the city staff do not live in PA. The increases nor roadways do not affect them after 5:30pm.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Some have noted that Cal ave is Ugly.
Most of that is the fault of the Business property owners (and some tenants).
Palo Alto residents assume that these businesses can affort the Time and expense of the "Palo Alto Process".
I remember someone at Mollie Stones telling me that it took almost 2 years to get through the process for what amounted to a "face lift" outside and in for a dowdy building left over from the Coop Market days.
Fill the pot holes.
Keep the trains running
And quite wasting precious $$


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm

> "... overwhelming majority of people who want California Avenue updated and made better."

About 300 people signed a petition AGAINST the plan. Where's your data to show the "overwhelming majority" is for it? If you're going to make an argument, please prove your point.

Frank, thank you for posting the FACTS, which are usually overlooked! Cutting the lanes from 4 to 2 was a condition of the city getting the grant. That's why the planning department and the council are ignoring input from CA Ave. business owners: no lane cuts, no money.

As for the future of the city, the state is pushing ALL cities in ways that are going to change the way we live. Presumably everyone in this utopian future will be riding bikes or taking (nonexistent) public transit.

Consider this horrendous projection:

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are sponsoring meetings to inform the public of the Initial Vision Scenario for the PLAN BAY AREA effort, released earlier this month. The Initial Vision Scenario sets forth a potential land use pattern for development in the Bay Area to accommodate approximately 2 million new residents, 900,000 new housing units, and 1.2 million new jobs through the year 2035.
The objective of the plan is to accommodate growth in ways that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and maximizes benefits of infrastructure investments. A meeting in Santa Clara County is scheduled for April 21st in Mountain View from 5:30-8:30 PM at Microsoft Corporation in Mountain View . The Palo Alto City Council & Planning and Transportation Commission will be discussing this scenario as well at some point in April and/or May, and staff will advise us of the specific date or dates of meetings. Go a step further by attending the April 21 workshop, where you can help build a better Bay Area using a fun, interactive Web-based visual simulation tool: Santa Clara County. Space at each workshop is limited; early registration Web Link is strongly encouraged. Let's plan together for future growth that enhances the economy, environment and social equity, and a community's livability. For more information about all nine workshops and what's happening in your county, visit the OneBayArea website at Web Link.


Posted by Some wild posts here, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Pat's comments aren't well founded. The so-called 300 person survey was not even remotely scientific. The header on the petition only stated an interest in the lane reduction and worded it in a peculiar way. It didn't mention the scope of the overall project nor the full benefits of a streetscape renovation. When presented with the full truth, many petition signers had an immediate change of mind towards being positive on the project.

To take this one step into an even stranger direction, most businesses on Cal Ave weren't as opposed as most have indicated. And many of the opposed businesses never heard the full scope of the plan. Even further, few realized that without this great the only thing that will happen is new pavement and we will all be stuck with old, destroyed and ugly fixtures and amenities.

Regarding evidence towards those in favor, look at the council. Like them or not, they voted unanimously in favor of the project. That means they all voted in favor of the project. In fact, they voted enthusiastically. Greg Scharff stated the council's opinion best when he stated that he found it hard to believe that this project would hurt the area. He should know, his office is on Cal Ave and in his comments he stated that he basically lives on Cal Ave.

Jardins made a strange argument that business owners know best. So far the only thing that a small minority of business owners have show is how to not cooperate and how to not provide any reasonable alternatives with respect to their objections. If you talk to the progress minded business owners they'll tell you that they like the plan, particularly when they understand what's in it.

Cal Ave will be a much better neighborhood when this is finished.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

@Some wild posts here: your post seems to be one of them.

If my post is not well-founded, please provide details about the wording of the petition so we can all be enlightened. I have not seen the petition, so I would be interested in knowing exactly what it said.

You say, "…most businesses on Cal Ave weren't as opposed as most have indicated. And many of the opposed businesses never heard the full scope of the plan."

"Most" and "many" are pretty vague. If you object to the 300 signatures being put forth as an example of opposition, could you please quantify the most and many?

To say that the council "voted unanimously in favor of the project" as an indication of its worthiness is really not a good argument.


Posted by Oh pat..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:53 am

Pat, it looks like those arguments are sound to me.

The people doing the petition approached me at Mollie's with a bunch of unreasonable information about traffic flow. Their points were all conjecture. They had no reasonable data to counter the independent surveys that were done.

Further, if you don't know the specifics of the unscientific and unprofessionally administered petition then why cite it as evidence?

I'd say a unanimous vote by a group of elected representatives, many who work, live or enjoy the area in question, is a pretty solid solid argument.


Posted by Vic, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Oh pat...do you think the traffic flow information provided by the city was accurate? How many times are studies done in such a way that it comes out favorable for one side? You may be misinformed. If you are going to make an argument in this area, read the study do your research and then write you comment with certainty. Palo Alto is a city full of people who if you do not agree with them or a particular group then you are oust publicly. For an academic community,there are narrow minded individuals that gives this place a new definition to "democracy". I think Pat has made good arguments whether I agree with them or not. Anyone reading this has to look at both sides and not react emotionally and especially by putting others down. It is unacceptable that we, as a community, can not have discussions in a safe forum without some people making those who speak up feel like that their views and beliefs shouldn't count. So, Pat, thank you.


Posted by Regarding Vic comments, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Vic, you're trying to show someone how to argument yet you make no credible argument yourself.

So far no one has come with any credible, verifiable engineering study that refutes the hard work of the well respected engineering firm that the city hired. None of the fine academics that you mention in Palo Alto, or elsewhere, have published a document indicting the work of the independent engineering firm objectively hired to provide real data.

In your case you've indicted this firm here. What can you show which proves that they may have published a false report?

It's not clear where anyone was put down. Various arguments have been put down for sure because they make no sense, especially yours. But there have been no personal attacks.

I agree with "Oh pat..." that Pat may have made fine comments, but the arguments aren't sound.


Posted by ct resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm

While I don't wholly agree with the plan the outright rejection of it is wrong. Look at the street now..ugly. Merchants perpetual whining for more parking or else they will go broke is old. People come if you have something they want at the reasonable price and not because they can park wright in the front of the store.
And by the way Joy Ogawa is not a resident of Palo Alto for some months now.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm

The more I think of it, the more the CA Ave project seems like "make work"...just like the Arastradero Rd. "experiment."
It's the only explanation.
I will make a point to support the two merchants.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

>" I'd say a unanimous vote by a group of elected representatives, many who work, live or enjoy the area in question, is a pretty solid solid argument."

You obviously have a lot more faith in the city council than I do.

> "The people doing the petition approached me at Mollie's with a bunch of unreasonable information about traffic flow. Their points were all conjecture. They had no reasonable data to counter the independent surveys that were done."

Regardless of what "the people" said, here's what the petition says:

California Avenue Streetscape Petition

We, the undersigned, believe the City of Palo Alto's future plans in the California Avenue Business District to reduce the number of traffic lanes from the current four (two in each direction) down to two (one in each direction) are unacceptable and we request that the City change its plans accordingly. We believe that the City should focus instead on making the street more attractive -- without reducing traffic lanes.

This seems pretty clear to me: Make the street more attractive, but don't cut lanes.


Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

not that it really matters "CT resident"; but i know that Joy Ogawa has been back living in Palo Alto at least since the first week of April.

I think the issue is, if the process was followed correctly . The lane reduction and diagonal parking could be easily achieved for much less money and disruption with paint alone!

The question is; should so much money be spent to do something that could be achieved for so much less...perhaps there were other projects more deserving?

Also, the MTC has not yet allocated the funds for this to the VTA.


Posted by Who cares , a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 1:51 am

To Regarding to Vic's comment, you sound like one of the city officials, well respected firm-you got to be kidding! Are you an employee of one of those firms getting paid by Palo Alto Community? No one in their mind says what you just said. What World do you live in? You are a person with issues.


Posted by Who cares, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 1:57 am

BTW, to ct resident, don't be concerned with where Joy might live. Why don't you spend some time on City Staff who don't live in Palo Alto? I am convinced people like you are actually City Staff or hired firms. Governments are so corrupt. This Project is great for developers and keeping City people employed. No big surprise here to the opposition.


Posted by Who cares, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 2:21 am

Hey, we need people like Joy and Terry in our City. Not afraid to fight. You two should think about running for City Council. I love the people who fights for their right, the right thing to do,and standing strong by their on their position You two are okay in my books. Thank you.


Posted by myhometoo, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 16, 2011 at 9:01 am

Well if they think that this project will hurt their businesses, let us as locals who approve the project just stop shopping there for a few months, we have a voice too, it"s in our wallet.


Posted by Weird hypocrisy, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm

One thing that doesn't make sense is that Schuchat originally supported the project AND the lane change.

See this link.
Web Link

The background statement says:

"In 2005, the California Avenue Area Development Association (CAADA) appealed to the City for streetscape improvements similar to the ones performed on University A venue. The requested improvements included street tree and street light replacement, traffic lane reduction,
addition of bicycle lanes and pedestrian crosswalks, new street furniture, new newspaper racks and fountain repair. The existing street trees were reaching the end of their life span, some were
conflicting with street lights and store fronts, and some had already been removed because of disease."

Schuchat was on the board of this group at the time. This was the same group that recommended a "uniform canopy". The result was the current uniform canopy - saplings.

Why support it then and oppose it now?


Posted by Suit should be withdrawn, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I'm glad to see so many people supporting the project here and am glad the council unanimously support the project.

The opposition to this project doesn't make sense and has created immense ill will. A large group of people constructively collaborated to come up with a plan to earn a grant to make the California Avenue business district much better. The plan includes many components, not just a lane change. These components will reduce the dreariness on the street today and greatly increase business vitality. The opposition apparently conducts business on the street and publicly states that they want no improvements.

The problem with the suit and the opposition from Ross, Schuchat and Ogawa is that they offer no alternatives other than to leave the street without improvements. They have no other grant in the wings. They have no other funding source or any constructive ideas on how to make the neighborhood better.

This opposition unacceptable when so many friends and patrons who frequent the neighborhood are excited about the plan. These so called "heroes" are making an effort to stop this plan to make the neighborhood better. So they're not heroes.


Posted by kate, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

curious to know what happened to the money from years ago (nothing to do with the grant) that is suppose to go to improve california ave. does anyone know?


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I absolutely agree with Pat from Midtown. This California Avenue project is a complete waste of taxpayer's money. Re-surfacing main street is the only thing that is needed - not lining the pockets of costly consultants. And, by the way, has the City provided an itemized budget of where this $1.2M will be allocated, if approved? Names and addresses please.

I'm a native of the Bay Area and have been a resident of Palo Alto for over 10 years. I witnessed the University Avenue disaster when the "city planners" passed funding to make University Avenue a pedestrian-only avenue. What a "wonderful" decision that was! I'd like to know how much money the City wasted on that project, and did they conduct an environmental impact study that assessed the impact on the merchants? If I recall, the merchants (and shoppers) were outraged and it didn't take very long for the "project" to be reversed. However, the 'wasted' money did not go back into the City's budget.....instead, taxpayer's money was wasted.

Finally, I've yet to read a convincing argument that outlines the benefits that the California Avenue project will bring to the merchants and shoppers. Please just re-surface main street, (a benefit to both merchants and shoppers), put the money toward the CalTrain deficit (which will benefit the merchants because the California Station will remain open), invest in seasonal decorations, and don't destroy the California Avenue charm.


Posted by Great for the area, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I live in the neighborhood and am excited about this project. This will be a great project for the neighborhood and it's great to see so many people interested in this project.

The project goes way beyond just repaving and a lane change. This project is a complete renovation and investment of many parts of the street. The result will be a place that's bicycle, pedestrian and auto friendly that will delight current visitors and attract new ones. Attracting new visitors will undoubtedly have a positive impact on business.

If we examine the current research and information published around just lane reductions, we'll find a number of articles related to a long list of benefits of just dropping lanes.

Emily Drennen wrote an interesting study on a similar project. She has no connection to Palo Alto and wrote the study before the California Avenue project. She mentions a long list of benefits in her study. Further, if you read the section on the impact on business you'll find that nearly every category is positive.

Here is the link.
Web Link

In a report published last week, the US Department of Transportation said this:

"Under most average daily traffic (ADT) conditions tested, road diets have minimal effects on vehicle capacity, because left-turning vehicles are moved into a common two-way left-turn lane.(1,2) However, for road diets with ADTs above approximately 20,000 vehicles, there is a greater likelihood that traffic congestion will increase to the point of diverting traffic to alternate routes."

Multiple traffic studies show that traffic on California Avenue is rarely above 5,000 ADTs or 4x less than the statement above.

Here's the report:
Web Link

For Nancy, Pat, Terry, Bill, Joy and the others in the small minority of opponents, we encourage you to do your best to understand both sides of the story. When you objectively educate yourself on these matters by spending 5 minutes reading some readily available information you'll realize that a lane change will actually be good. Add to the lane change all of the other great parts of the project and we'll have a great neighborhood.


Posted by More than a lane change..., a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

People seem to forget the key elements of the project. Here is a summary of what is included in the plan. Even a quick review shows that the plan includes more than the lane change.

1. Calls for the reduction in vehicular lanes from 4 to 2 between El Camino Real and Park Boulevard with the exception of turn lanes.
2. Produces one lane in each direction to be shared by both motorized vehicles and bicycles.
3. Adds a 3-foot paver band between the vehicular travel lane and parking area designed for safety and not to be used by either motorized vehicles or bicycles.
4. Does not include a dedicated bike lane, as implied in #2 and #3 above, and as per design intent.
5. Maintains the current middle lane between Park Boulevard and the plaza area.
6. Does not include a uniform widening of the sidewalks. Rather bulb-outs are to be employed at intersections to shorten crosswalks and at mid-blocks areas for additional plantings and outdoor seating.
7. Employs the use of "place-making" structures and signage along the avenue.
8. Adds American Disabilities Act compliant ramps at Park Boulevard.
10. Includes a minimum of 75 additional bike racks.
11. Calls for public art, landscaping, kiosks, tables and chairs, benches, and other amenities
12. Presents plan options for the redesign of the plaza area to include a new fountain (funded from a different source and chosen via a separate process).
13. Allows for some more generally elements of the project (e.g., mid-block bulb-outs, plaza area) to be finalized via community input in a forthcoming design phase.
14. Defers construction until June 2012 to allow adequate planning time for construction phasing.


Posted by more benefits, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm

this article has a lot of benefits listed.

Web Link

Vancouver, WA lane reduction project:
Decreased crashes by 52%
Decreased vehicle speeds by 18%
No queues blocking access to driveways or streets
Improved bicycle conditions
No traffic diversion impacts
Economic growth in adjacent and nearby businesses
Easier to cross street
Street feels safer to residents

Athens-Clarke County, GA lane reduction project:
Decreased total crashes by 53%
Decreased crashes at unsignalized intersections 60%
Decreased rear-end crashes by 45%
No significant changes to traffic volumes
Easier to cross street
Slower vehicle speeds
Perceived street number of lanes and width "just right"

Clear Lake, IA lane reduction project:
Decreased total crashes by 65%
Decreased aggressive speeding by 52%
Decreased vehicles over speed limit by 32%
Adequate traffic operations and mobility
More uniform traffic speeds closer to speed limit


Posted by Peter, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Tragic deaths at Charleston raises a critical point about VTA priorities, they admit that they have an on-going problem about safety at rail intersections. Deaths at Charleston emphasize the need for governmental agencies (including VTA) to recall that the essential functions of government-here intersection safety should be addressed and adequately funded before discretionary projects-sidewalk beautification and lane reduction (California Avenue) are even considered. What a waste. The money from this Grant should be spent on areas where it is needed.


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Peter, I was almost run over by an ignorant driver using lanes incorrectly on Cal Ave. Since safety is a big part of the project I'm all for it.

It seems almost disrespectful to confuse the tragic train accident with the Cal Ave project.


Posted by Who cares, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I think city staff and their friends should stop using this space for their own selfish. To more benefits and great for the area should include data should for other side. You are no different than what you say about the opponents. Your opinions are yours but don't trash others if they are not in agreement with you. I am beginning to take the side of those opposing lane reduction because I do not want to deal with people like you.


Posted by Comments are an interesting read, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm

As a neighbor and somewhat passive observer I find this article and the comments interesting. Frankly, the people in favor of the project make a great case. They show a long list of benefits a cite a number of relevant articles showing how this would be a great project.

The opponents aren't quite as successful. The last poster simply says a weak argument like "the city shouldn't post..." Well whoever may be posting is making great points that seem to be objective and concrete.

The last poster also said "show us your data..." It looks like some great data was posted here about places where the project was successful in many other similar places.

The last poster mentioned something about trashing. It doesn't look like there's been any personal attacks. Sure, the weak arguments have been attacked in an effort to make sure that both sides of the story have been fairly representative. But there haven't been any personal attacks.

Regardless, I appreciate the conversation and am now fully in favor of the project.


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