Palo Alto eyes major changes to Cogswell Plaza | December 16, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 16, 2011

Palo Alto eyes major changes to Cogswell Plaza

City seeks to deter 'unsavory activity' by changing landscaping, adding tables to downtown plaza

by Gennady Sheyner

Seeking to spruce up and revitalize one of downtown's most neglected open-space areas, Palo Alto officials are planning to add new landscaping, furniture and lighting to Cogswell Plaza.

This story contains 606 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Dennis, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

One of the best features of Cogswell Plaza is that it partially blocks the noise/visual/exhaust pollution of Bryant Street traffic. This is a benefit whether one uses the actual Plaza. Whenever I pass the plaza, it seems to be a place for smokers to enjoy their slow, public suicide.
The real issue is probably the unsavory people who enjoy a respite in the shade of the Bryant end of the plaza, endangering the bourgeoisie comfort of the Palo Alto Way.

Posted by vern , a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

What about the people who are now hanging around the back of the new lytton plaza?

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm

I vote for more benches over more tables. The changes will certainly make the Park more user friendly.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Why don't we wait until the giant new building at the corner of Bryant and Lytton is finished, and see if those new people -- office workers, I presume -- use the park and therefore make the homeless and at risk people less noticeable?

I am afraid this is the opposite -- that the developers of the new property are asking us regular folks to subsidize them -- to roust the alleged vagrants such that the prospective new tenants don't see the great unwashed sleeping or smoking or what not across the street from their palacial new prospective digs.

I hope the commissioners poll some ordinary residents and not just listen to the developers. I hope staff -- whose salaries we citizens pay -- do likewise.

This is the same potential problem as Lytton Plaza where a small group of people have a disproportionate influence over what is supposed to be a public asset. For example, there is a proposed ordinance affecting "amplified music" per se which is really an anti-vagrancy act designed to give public safety rationale to hassle the people at the Plaza; this topic is now part of a sub-commission of the Rec commission. Existing noise ordinance is sufficient; the new ordinance may conflict with First Amendment rights.

I worry that this problem is endemic and epidemic, that developers have way too much say over policy in Palo Alto. That they pack council and staff and commissions with their operatives. It is hard if not impossible to get on a commission or council without kowtowing to this small group of powerful people, one of whose offices perhaps coincidentally is located across from Cogswell.

Cogswell Plaza is named for a longtime editor of the Palo Alto Times, which was kitty-corner to the park, replaced by realtors and vcs; the diminution of the press here -- and nationwide -- is a real problem, no disrespect to Gennady et al but they are not the Times Tribune. The real estate interests affect what is reported and how. More so at the other paper.

And further, the plans presented would make it impossible to bring back the Brown Bag; again, why not wait and see. Maybe the developers of the new massive building could underwrite the programming, which would bring people to the park and displace the ones who some find offensive-looking. $150,000 would underwrite about six seasons of Brown Bag.

Posted by A need, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Lets just make it another Plaza for the Downtown gang to hangout. Turn it into another Lytton Plaza for the druggies; lets just spread them around!!

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