California Avenue changes OK'd, no test of two-lane plan | July 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 27, 2012

California Avenue changes OK'd, no test of two-lane plan

City Council unanimously backs streetscaping plan; merchants continue to blast lane reductions

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's contentious drive to make California Avenue more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists zipped past heated opposition from dozens of area merchants Monday, July 23, when the City Council opted to eliminate two of the street's four lanes without first implementing a test run.

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Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:38 am

Hey merchants - your customers aren't lanes, they are people. Trading lanes for more people will help your businesses. I'm sure it will be rough during construction, but hang in there.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:10 am

I would not consider University Ave or Castro bike friendly. It can be an obstacle course for bike riders, especially when delivery trucks are out during the weekday - and it's the side streets too. When the Fedex, UPS or delivery trucks double park, bikes and cars are forced to move around into oncoming traffic.

Most likely this will push traffic out onto the parallel streets, Cambridge & Sherman, and in the alleys behind the stores as well (did this get bought up)?

Longer term, California Ave will turn into a restaurant row, just like University & Castro have (for better & worse - if you like eating out, there will be more choices; if you want "walkable" shopping for everyday items you won't find it; instead get in your car and go to Mt View).

Posted by Gunn Mom, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:14 am

We live near CAL Ave. and will continue to shop & dine there. We bike, walk and occasionally drive and really don't think there will be major traffic issues. I think the lack of lunch time parking is the biggest problem.

We look forward to more outdoor tables, safer biking and wider sidewalks.

Thanks to City Council for approving the project. It has been delayed too long!

Posted by Jean, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:26 am

So happy it's moving ahead! Looking forward to the lane reduction, as well, since that will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. As it currently stands, it is very challenging for drivers to safely navigate their way through the pedestrians at the California Ave./Birch St. crossing during a busy time of day. Adding cyclists to the mix makes it even more treacherous. Eliminating two lanes on California Ave. will make it less complicated and safer for everyone involved.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

@commonsense Menlo Park's Santa Cruz has 2 lanes and angled parking and it has a number of businesses that support errands. There is ACE Hardware, a stationary store, a toy store, along with boutiques and restaurants. Draeger's supermarket is around the corner on very low speed University, where cars wait for others entering/exiting the parking lot, and pedestrians crossing the street.

@commonsense yes, the subject of parallel streets came up. Council members and staff mentioned that these side streets have very low traffic and can easily handle more cars. Personally, if I drive to Cal Ave rather than biking, I drive down a side street, park in a lot or structure, and visit multiple businesses.

At the Council meeting, a couple of PABAC members gave public comment on the safety advantages for bikes. Having one wider lane would make it more clear where bikes should go, and the wide lane would reduce potential conflicts between cyclists and parking cars.

Posted by safety first, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

I am always reluctant to visit California Ave because the pedestrian situation is so poor. The wide streets and no stop lights make pedestrians a sitting duck for the frequent stop-sign-running cars. Not sure exactly how many pedestrians have been nailed on that street in recent years, but the number is not small.

That bicycle/pedestrian tunnel connecting California Ave to the east side of the train tracks also needs to be fixed. It is currently much to narrow and steep for wheelchairs and bicycles towing child trailers. Improving pedestrian access to this business area is just as important as improving the area itself.

Come on Palo Alto. If we care about pedestrian safety, then put some more money into pedestrian infrastructure. Why are we spending $100 million on local freeway improvements while our local sidewalks are so terrible?

Posted by John Murphy, a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

Walkable shopping for everyday items? For example... Paint? As for cameras, as Mr Shuchat will be more and more painfully aware, if you want a camera, go to the Apple store or Verizon store.

Posted by finch, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

What will council members say when Mollie Stone's closes? Greg Scharff is quoted in this morning's Post as saying, essentially, that he knows more about retail than the store's owner. That kind of confidence wasn't reassuring to hear. Pat Burt thinks he knows about retail because he worked at a store when he was a teenager. I hope the council is held accountable when Mollie Stone's closes.

Posted by David, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:46 am

Mollie Stones will not lose business in the long run. Its about time this project moved forward.

Posted by Mountain View Bike Rider, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

When Mt. View proposed a "bike friendly" streetscape, I was initially thrilled that riding through downtown would become safer & easier.
BUT quite to the contrary, the final plan made the lanes so narrow that it is far more dangerous for bikes! Bikes now have to merge with traffic, and many drivers don't allow that. And it is hard to ride in stop & go traffic. Also, cars trying to parallel park (or pulling out of parking spaces) can't see the bikes for the shrubbery and sidewalk eating spaces. It's great for walking, but I now ride & drive down the back streets.
I hope California Ave. doesn't make the same mistakes.
Also, El Camino Real @ Cal Ave. is a traffic nightmare - how much further is El Caminot going to back up with only 1 lane going into it?

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:17 am

@mountainview it is perfectly reasonable for a pedestrian-oriented shopping street to not simultaneously be a rapid through street for cars or bikes. People park their car or bike and then walk around to different stores or window-shop. Both Cal Ave and Castro have poor bike parking, with bikes parked to trees and street signs. The Palo Alto PTC recommended adding bike corrals on Cal Ave which would be a welcome improvement. Bike parking is a major benefit for merchants since 10 customers with bikes can fit into the same space as one vehicle.

Posted by Fed Up, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:28 am

I never go to downtown Palo Alto's University Ave. because of having to creep along, and the same for Castro St. in M.V. I have really liked California Ave. and have shopped there for decades. I will hate to have it wrecked and lose favorite merchants. Why not a trial period? Why is anything south of Embarcadero viewed with distain by the city govenment?

Posted by Adrift-In-A-Sea-Of-Bozos, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

> Councilman Pat Burt, who had served on the planning commission
> before joining the council, attributed the high level of
> opposition to "misinformation" put out by merchants.

Ok, Pat—rather than speaking in sound-bytes, why don’t you actually provide some examples for a change. What misinformation can you identify—and who do you think is responsible, other than “the merchants”?

> "I really take issue with this constant chime of people
> saying they haven't been heard," Espinosa said.

Sid—what evidence can you show that the city has actually been “listening” to the concerns of the residents and the merchants about this project? Yes, there were some meetings, but it’s pretty clear that the city staff came with a closed mind, and left with a closed mind. But what about you, Sid—how many emails from residents and merchants opposing this project did you read, and respond to? Just how many, Sid? Or can you produce a list of changes that resulted from concerns of residents, and merchants?

It’s bad enough that we have to suffer the consequences of these people’s poorly thought out decisions—but to listen to them ramble on like this definitely adds salt to the injury.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

We avoid California Avenue when possible because of the limited parking. I can't understand how making it even more difficult to drive and park will improve the situation for potential customers.

Posted by Yay!, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

A HUGE win for rationality, and yet another loss for "Council Watchdogs" who sue our city, willy-nilly, over anything they don't like. So, finally, after YEARS of costly delays that cost TAXPAYERS and MERCHANTS and our CITY (revenue), the disgraceful rat pit on Park Blvd. is going to have some housing built on it, thanks to Harold Holback - a good man who got caught up in the web of absurd "Council Watchdog" delays that cost EVERYONE but the Council Watchdogs, pain.

Same with the Cal Ave lane reduction. Here we've had a concept plan, introduced at first by the very SAME merchants who came to oppose it, with - guess who? - those SAME "Council Watchdogs" ready at the fore to sue the City, causing MORE TAXPAYER waste, more dissension, etc. etc. The merchants who sued should hang their heads in shame, just for aligning themselves with a crowd (including one very unpopular ex-Council person) that seems to thrive on dissension.

I hope the City Council thinks hard about the small cabal of Council Watchdogs who cause most of these problems, and from now on just politely listens, and disregards their inputs.

Just look at the MONEY this small group has caused - the Emerson St. housing complex, Page Mill Road, extension, Alma Plaza, Edgewood Plaza, the Cal Ave fountain (for crying out loud!), the Cal Ave, lane reduction, and on and on and on. We're talking about no more than a dozen people, and you can see them for yourself, at every Council meeting, "contributing" their opinions of EVERYTHING, posing as "experts". It's pathetic, and it's about time for it to stop.

I'm not naming them here because the Weakly doesn't have the fortitude to name names, unless it suits the Weakly's purposes - unless it wants a cheap headline.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm

There are a few things about this projects that need to said:

1) Some of the "merchants" are also Palo Alto residents; city staff is driving this project not the residents, and the appearance is that staff is driving this to get the grant money. Just like the recent High Speed Rail vote.

2) City council has not defined any metrics for this project; city staff says the project will increase the "vitality" of the business district - if that's so, present the business case on rents, occupancy and sales tax revenue 1-2 years after the project is done, versus today. Nothing presented on this.

3) City staff says this will make the roads safer. As posters on this topic have said before: safer than what? how many accidents have there been, and what is the predicted reduction? A trial of the lane reduction would help determine this, as well as the traffic congestion issues.

City staff has not said how they mitigate access during the construction - that's probably what has many merchants upset. Perhaps Sid or Pat can explain the mitigation, since they said they've been listening.

City Council needs to set out oversight parameters: what and who will be accountable for this project? What are the consequences for the city staff: Jaime, Curtis & Jim Keene if traffic congestion worsens, or sales tax receipts aren't increased significantly?

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I'm SO glad that the genius traffic planners responsible for the Embarcadero/Town & Country fiasco is at work again.

Posted by Ridiculous, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Commonsense says it all.

I want to know where the Farmers Market people are going to set up their stands when they find that give broad street they have been using is diminished to a squishy point with no room to walk stand to stand.

Also, the added room on the sidewalk will just allow restaurants more space to put more tables and chairs out to block the flow of pedestrian traffic.

If anything going from 4 lanes to 2 will make things more dangerous for bike riders.

One thing they could do is get rid of all that ugly art and take away all the bushes that obscure crosswalks. At nighttime you can't see anything.

This is a bad decision on the part of the council. It is a bad use of Palo Alto funds at this time. They should have listened to the business owners about what they wanted. If it doesn't work out, there will be you-know-what to pay!

Posted by lobby, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I bet these group of Experts respresent the developers where the money are heading...

Posted by Sally, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm

The Town&Country mess came about because the owners specifically avoided having to do any traffic planning. They staged the remodel in steps, each of which was small enough to avoid triggering an overall traffic plan. The city engineers had to sit and watch helplessly. Only when Trader Joe's was added was the city able to get involved, and by then it was too late to do a thorough plan from first principles. They could only mitigate the mess that had already been created. Cal. Ave is a totally different situation and the city has a different set of traffic engineers now. Comparing the two is silly.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

(A small correction to Gennady's opening paragraph "heated opposition from dozens of area merchants Monday..." I counted 11 speakers for the project, 10 opposed, 4 I was unclear of their position. Of those, at least 10 wanted a trial, at least 5 didn't want a trial. So maybe a dozen spoke against, but not dozens, though he could be referring to the 55 who signed a petition against the 2-lane configuration.)

I bike and drive to Cal Ave nearly daily for coffee on my commute, and weekly to the Farmers Market and store shopping, and we frequently go for dinners, groceries, services. I support locally-owned businesses and think this project is going to be great for businesses there.

This is a dead-end, 3-block-long street, most people don't drive through, they drive and park and become pedestrians to shop. As pedestrians, they will have safer street crossings, and the wider sidewalks will provide more seating while clearing obstacles.

The traffic study is available at Web Link and it has vehicle counts starting on pdf page 21 (figure 4). Level Of Service (LOS) is explained in preceding pages.

Traffic volumes are really low, about 5280 vehicles per day (vpd) on busiest segment of El Camino Real to Ash, and the traffic lanes will be about 15' wide, with an additional 3' buffer between the lane and the parked cars. Compare to University at 18,700 vpd or Castro at 20,000 vpd both with 12' lanes. So despite the single lane, there will be plenty of room to avoid bikes. With painted 'Share the Road Arrows', bikes will know where to ride safely to avoid parked cars. Look at the report yourself, you'll see that concern about traffic is way overblown.

@'Mountain View Bike Rider', who wrote 'how much further is El Caminot going to back up with only 1 lane going into it?' ... Look at the traffic study. The busiest hour of the day has 314 cars entering Cal Ave from the ECR intersection (147 right turns + 108 Left turns + 59 straight from other side), that's 5 cars a minute, regulated by the traffic light. A single lane on Cal Ave is not going to cause backups on ECR. Less than 3 cars a minute turning right from ECR to Cal Ave.

@'Adrift-In-A-Sea-Of-Bozos', you should know what you speak of before casting aspersions. If you'd actually attended the meeting, or watched the webcast (Web Link, channel 26 [in a couple days or weeks the video will be posted at Web Link]), or listened to it on the radio (90.1FM), you'd have heard Pat Burt's detailed list of concerns which have been raised by opponents and addressed by staff or council. I'll paraphrase from memory, it was something like, "first they complained there was no parking, but the plan adds 4 parking spots. Then they complained that the sidewalks weren't getting widened, but the plan now has widened sidewalks. Then they complained that the traffic study was done in the summer, so the counts were redone when everyone should be back at school and work. Then they complained that there would be traffic snarls, but the repeated traffic studies clearly indicated this is a non issue. Now they want a trial, but there's no evidence that they will accept the results or that it is even feasible to effectively and accurately test the scenario." Something like that. I appreciate and respect Burt's bravely telling it like it is.

I can understand wanting to do a trial project if there was any realistic doubt that there would be traffic impacts to this plan, but there is zero evidence to support this fear. I could understand doing a study just to convince skeptical opponents, but it is expensive (quoted at $60K last night), it risks the grant funding worth $1.2M, and there is little evidence that the die-hard opponents would even accept the results.

Council made the right decision last night, and I'm glad this project can finally move forward again. There will still be opportunities for business and community to be engaged with this project, send staff an email to be added to their notification list, and watch for updates.

Posted by another resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm


City Council should be fired!

Stop making making bottlenecks in Palo Alto!

If city planners reduce the number of lanes on California Ave there will be more gridlock on El Camino!

There will be no space for people to drive through to the train station at commute hour!

Palo Alto city planners are ruining Palo Alto by adding more high density housing and reducing lanes on main roads.

Posted by Happy Shopper!, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Council made an excellent decision last night. It will be a joy to shop in that district, when all the work is finished. O, happy day! Thank you, Palo Alto Council! Well done!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

@Ridiculous - There are many great farmer's markets on 2 lane streets. Take a look at this picture of the great Santa Monica farmer's market. The stalls go where the cars normally park, and you have more than enough space to walk around.

Web Link

Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

What happens when you no longer can drive, or have access to a car?
Making Cal Av appealing to pedestrians, while retaining full access by autos, is really a smart thing to do.
I think the whiners really need to get out of their cars and experience life from a different perspective.

Posted by finch, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I like Wayne Martin's letter in yesterday's paper about how we test drugs before they hit the market, and we test planes before they are flown by paying passengers ... but the city won't test this lane configuration before possibly ruining the livelihoods of the businesses along this street.

I also thought it was clever of the staff last night to claim that you couldn't improve the sidewalks without reducing the street to two lanes. Of course you can improve the sidewalks without a street widening. But the staff said that the only way to make the sidewalks better is to widen them. Once the staff said that, the council echoed that idea as it tried to push back the opposition from the public.

I was also struck by the false comparison Pat Burt made between Cal Ave and several other downtown areas that had two streets. What he didn't say was that those other downtown areas aren't dead ends like Cal Ave. Again, very clever.

I'm amused that at every Council meeting I've attended in the past few years, Pat Burt has accused the people with whom he disagrees of being liars. He did it again last night. (Pat, can't you say you simply disagree with somebody? Why do you always have to call them names?)

But if he thinks he can read the minds of his opponents, I'll try to read the minds of council members.

1. Council likes this project because they know they can get some easy votes this November from the bicyclist groups, and their affiliated environmental/anti-business groups. (See Cedric de La Beaujardiere's post above if you don't believe those groups are thrilled by this project to destroy small business.)

2. Council figures (incorrectly, in my view) that the small independent business owners who fought the two-lane plan don't live in Palo Alto, and therefore can't affect the election. So it's OK to screw them.

3. Council also figures if it goes forward with this project, it will get some donations from developers who will be the big winners on California Avenue. It works like this. The city will stretch out construction long enough to force all of the independent stores to close due to a loss in business. (Palo Alto Public Works knows how to foul up a construction project so they take twice as long as planned, e.g. Mitchell Park Library.) Then developers buy up these businesses at fire sale prices. They redevelop the buildings and bring in the chains like Banana Republic, The Gap or a Verizon store. The developers will make generous donations to all of the elected officials who assist them in this effort. When they talk about "revitalization" and "redevelopment," that's their vision -- more chains, less independents. Besides, those independent businesses can be so contentious toward City Hall.

Four council seats are on the ballot in November -- those of Burt, Schmid, Espinsoa and Yeh. Espinsoa and Yeh aren't running again. Schmid voted for the test, so keep him. But I'm voting against Pat Burt.

Posted by Self dealing, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

>Greg Scharff is quoted in this morning's Post as saying, essentially, that he knows more about retail than the store's owner. That kind of confidence wasn't reassuring to hear.
>Pat Burt thinks he knows about retail because he worked at a store when he was a teenager

Also, Burt's office is on California Ave. No doubt he checked the legality for his participation, nevertheless it is unseemly that he was an active participant in a project that will directly affect his business.

Posted by Kirsten, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

So sick of the delays, like the plan, let this be the end of the controversy! If the merchants sue one more time, I will never patronize them again.

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@finch, you're going over board here, "1. Council likes this project because they know they can get some easy votes this November from the bicyclist groups, and their affiliated environmental/anti-business groups. (See Cedric de La Beaujardiere's post above if you don't believe those groups are thrilled by this project to destroy small business.)"

"easy votes from the bicyclist groups" Uh... OK, that 10% of the populace is going to trump "destroying small business". Whatever dude.

Pro Environment is easily Pro Economy, especially local economy: save energy, water, materials --> save money.

I go out of my way to support locally-owned businesses, I'll even pay more out of pocket rather than spend less at a corporate mass chain store. I support the Cal Ave streetscape project because I think it will help the businesses there, and improve an area I visit almost daily.

One of the comments I forgot to make last night is that Council could consider taking steps to limit chain-stores. It's a bit tricky because you've got places like Stanford Shopping Center chock full of chains, and it's a big revenue generator. At the same time, all over the city, property values and rents are obviously high, so it would be a shame if high-rents push out local biz in favor of big chains. It can be in the community's economic interest to encourage locally-owned businesses, where a past study concluded that $1 spent at a locally-owned business recycles through the community seven times more than $1 spent at a chain store.

Posted by Hooray!, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

This will be a boost to California Avenue, and I can't see how it will hurt the merchants - I drive down Cambridge to go to Mollie Stones now, anyway. Please bring it on!

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Mollie Stones said they will leave if this crazy project goes through.

When Mollie Stones leaves that half of California Ave will be a dead link-the only anchor will be Antonio s Nut House.

The neighborhood will much less safe at night, other businesses will flee and the local property values will decline.

The crazy plan does not make human, economic nor environmental sense.

Posted by Seer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:49 pm

It is wonderful that you can see into the future so clearly. Why waste such a talent on issues like this when you could make a fortune in the stock market?

Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I hope it works out. I think Ca Ave is fine the way it is but if it is going to change it is going to change. I worked at Country Sun for a few years and really enjoyed it. Stopped going to University Ave for a regular basis back in 89 and every time I do go it gets worse and worse. Town and Country parking and entry/exit is aweful now, so it has kind of negated the benefit of the Trader Joes, and I try to bypass Embarcadero every chance I get.

Ill be sure to take some pictures before the street is torn up, and if I dont like it when I am done, its just an opportunity to take my business elsewhere.

Peace out,

Posted by Tim, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I hate it how council members constantly assert that they know more about business than the actual business owners. This decision proves the city is at war with small independent businesses.

Posted by Tim, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

If this two-lane plan is such a good idea, why wouldn't they want to test it. It makes you think that they know it will be a disaster!

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

@ posted by Seer, a resident of the Crescent Park

In fact we made a fortune in our investments by making good decisions based on evidence and probability theory.

The crazy decision about California Avenue will end in disaster for local property owners-

-based upon the evidence and probability

Crime will increase dramatically in the area-it will harm evening train commuters and will spread through the tunnel to other residential areas on California Ave and adjoining areas.

This is a crazy decision and businesses and property owners should put a stop to this madness ASAP.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Wait until the traffic is backed up all the way around the corner and onto El Camino when someone takes their time exiting a parking space. For those who already walk and bike to California Avenue, yes, the street will be more pleasant. For those of us who stop off in our cars on the way home to pick up something at Country Sun or Mollie Stone, it will no longer be a convenient option.

Posted by Grapevine , a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I like Mollie Stones a lot and go there about once a week. I heard Mollie Stone's had threatened to close when the Farmer's Market came in too. It's still there. Doing well, as is the Market. Two lanes will be great.

Posted by CC, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

1. The traffic study does not consider the slow down of the traffic due to parking on a single lane street.

2. When the popular/crowded restaurant(J.S.) locates right at the junction of El Camino, it's not hard to imagine how easy the traffic backed up all the way around the corner.

3. Lastly, 5 cars/min during the busy hour could MEAN 30 cars in minute.. We all know that the traffic has a pattern and not a random thing for sure!

Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Another brilliant and ever-so-democratic move by the city council.

When will those people wake up and realize that they've become dupes of the city manager and his staff--and their endless supply of consultants, sucking the community dry?

How come OUR TAXPAYER MONEY is being spent in ways we don't want????

Posted by Jim H, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 25, 2012 at 5:10 am

The merchants that oppose this project should as there customers whether traffic is a problem. I think what they'd find is that paking is the main derrent to shopping on California Ave.

There is never any real traffic on California Ave except for cars looking for parking space!

The area needs more parking, like University Ave. to better help merchants service.

Try go go to Starbucks from noon til 5PM. Every space on the street is filled as well as the lots behind.

If folks can't park, they can't shop at your store Terry Shucat. Time for you to see the real problem.

Posted by pbisis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

This lane reduction plan is so idiotic from any standpoint that I will never vote for any member of this City Council again, no matter what they are running for.

Posted by Jimby, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2012 at 8:34 am

Too bad the credibility of the city and city council has been erroded due to the decision to cut down the trees...thereby driving businesses nuts. Although the improvements to the downtown are long overdue the tree chopping could have waited until after the plan was formally approved and closer to construction. The new plaza upgrades will be great for bicyclists and pedestrians and should provide a great canopy to hide the newly approved high speed rail viaduct. Maybe additional amendments to the design should take this into consideration as the blended approach could be tossed in lieu of a direct 4 track system to allow for freight and BAR to operate safely side by side. More redwoods could be added to shelter noise and visual obstructions to residences and businesses. d HSR has no business operating on track shared with 100-car 15,000 ton coal trains running at 70mph max anyhow.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:09 am

My view is that parking is the real problem, particularly for those not coming from ECR.

If I drive, I come from under the Alma bridge on Oregon and turn immediately right and start looking for parking in one of the lots. If it is anywhere near lunchtime I won't get a spot so sometimes I park near Alma and walk through the pedestrian tunnel.

I once tried getting to Cal Ave from the Southgate area and ended up parking near the park and walking because of the barriers.

If I need to get to the Caltrain station, I only drive the immediate block of Cal Ave near the station and park in 30 mins parking.

I don't think in all the years I have lived here I have ever driven from ECR onto Cal Ave, and I visit Cal Ave frequently.

I am not alone in this. I don't expect to park outside a business on a street like Cal Ave so don't bother trying.

On the other hand, I have driven Castro Street many times because it is a through street and one of the few Caltrain crossings. Castro is a difficult street to drive, but once again I never expect to be able to park there. It may not be an apples to oranges comparison, more like an orange to lemon comparison.

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

Re the Town & Country /Embarcadero traffic mess, I doubt the shopping center owners had any say in putting up two traffic lights near the high school -- one for the driveway and one for the crosswalk.

I doubt that the shopping center requires the city to keep those two traffic lights going in the evening and late and night when the kids are home in bed!

The turn lane for El Camino South routinely backs up traffic to under the underpass.

Again, even the police think the Cal Ave fiasco will be just as bad. I still suspect someone's getting kickbacks for this ridiculous project which we CAN'T AFFORD.

You think maybe our lazy traffic light manager can get off his rear and check the traffic light timing>??>

Posted by Fire the Art Commission, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

A few recommendations:

1) Please, no more hideous scultures/art at taxpayers expense on California Avenue.
2) Remove the existing weird "art."
3) No fountain that squirts and serves as a bidet, for the homeless, like the fountain installed at Lytton Plaza on University Ave.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

@Yay! You wrote: "I hope the City Council thinks hard about the small cabal of Council Watchdogs who cause most of these problems, and from now on just politely listens, and disregards their inputs."

I've come to believe that talking to City Council is usually pointless b/c it's growing increasingly clear that decisions are made outside of Council Chambers and the community input step is essentially a required formality. That said, having people who care enough about the community to spend the time to pay attention to what city government is doing is a good thing. It's amazing to me that these people even bother, particularly since they are usually ignored and often treated with disrespect. Governments at all levels need to be accountable lest we find ourselves in an even bigger mess than we are in now.

@Yay! also wrote: "I'm not naming them here because the Weakly doesn't have the fortitude to name names, unless it suits the Weakly's purposes - unless it wants a cheap headline." That's an interesting swipe from someone who is commenting under a "nickname". I think it would be great if this forum required real names.

@Ridiculous - I agree with your assessment. If I had a vote on this I would vote againist it b/c I think it likely that Cal Ave will become a traffic quagmire like Univ Ave. I am a frequent bicyclist and shuttle user and I avoid both Univ Ave and Cal Ave b/c they both make me nervous. I also think there are more compelling expenditures for our dwindling dollars.

Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

@Posted by Jimby, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, 2 hours ago: "Too bad the credibility of the city and city council has been erroded due to the decision to cut down the trees...thereby driving businesses nuts." ***********************************

Jimby- the PA Department of Public Works RECOMMENDED to the CAADA Board, an organization that represented the district from 1957-2010, and that collected dues, that the trees be clear-cut, in order to carry out the vision of the CAADA Streetscape Committee, that always wanted a "uniform canopy". Their vision was for the street to have 1) a uniform species, and 2) a uniform pattern of growth.

Chairperson for the CAADA Streetscape Committee was CAADA Board member Terry Shuchat. He worked with CAADA Board member Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop, AND with Public Works to create the Concept Plan that was later included into the City Comprehensive Plan, each used to apply for 4 grant applications to do the project(only the most recent was successful).

Two lanes were ALWAYS a part of the project, and the Comprehensive Plan. Trees were ALWAYS going to be replaced. The question was HOW: clear-cut, or phasing.

While Public Works recommended a clear-cut, the CAADA Board vote was 3-1, approving their recommendation. I was the sole vote to phase.
(CAADA Board members Shuchat, Bishop, Goldberg voted to clear-cut.)

Any merchant at any time could have shown interest in the Streetscape Project from 2004, when discussions began, through 2005, when it was being designed (by Shuchat/Bishop/Public Works) and up to & including 2006, when the first grant was sought (not obtained).

By Spring 2009, the Cal Ave Streetscape Concept Plan was being included in the city Comprehensive Plan, but merchants that wanted to lend a voice to the Project STILL had right up until July 2009, to speak up with their opinion about what was at that point going to happen quickly (after FIVE years of planning). NOT ONE DID.

They were all too busy. The only time a few came to CAADA meetings was in 2009, but ONLY because Utilities were being discussed - restaurants needed gas and electricity, to stay open.

So people that showed up to CAADA meetings made the decisions. Regarding the tree clear-cut, 3 directors prevailed. I was the sole vote to phase.

To the person that wrote he/she doesn't plan to vote in council elections in the future - I'd rethink that, OR do not wait until the 11th hour, and then complain when circumstances do not happen as you would have liked them. The adage: "If you snooze, you lose" applies.

Annette is correct in applauding people for becoming involved. The only problem is when council takes to heart the OPINION of someone that is based on no facts, or twisted facts. Some people have an opinion about EVERYTHING, and on the two lane issue, a few people were just plain wrong.

Like the statement about there being another street plan. I once asked a blogger to prove that, and he did not answer me. My question to him stopped the blog. Why? He had no proof. It's like taking a wad of things out of your pocket and throwing it against the wall, and if something sticks, it becomes your reality.

When the project was brought to council in 2009, it was 100% consistent with what stakeholders had been asking for regarding the Cal Ave district from 2004-2009. That's five years. Research it - facts are everywhere.

So good for Pat Burt, for mentioning this on Monday night! Kudos to council for their leadership! I applaud them for believing in this project! Public Works deserves thanks for their work on this phase!

Public Works in 2009 dropped the ball regarding *notifications* about the project, trees Phase One. They told me on July 31 (6 weeks before work was to happen) that notices would be sent out to everyone w/in 500 feet of the Project, and it would be handled like the successful San Antonio Road project. But instead, they asked me to "notify everyone", and it was on Sept. 9, only days before the project started.

But ever since then, with the street phase, PW has been excellent!

I wonder how many people on this blog sharing opinions ever attended meetings about this, and I mean regularly. Not one or two.

How many ever came to a CAADA meeting? Board meetings were open to the public. There was even time for non-agenda items to be broached by anyone, at the beginning of each meeting. There were rarely any takers from the public or from merchants that were all "too busy".

Yet, experts abound - people sharing what they've read in newspapers. Thankfully, council is better informed, and they did their homework regarding this project. It will be lovely!

Regarding the grant money - if Cal Ave didn't get it (or anywhere in Palo Alto, for that matter) cities like Saratoga would grab it in a heartbeat, as they have tons of projects funded, courtesy of YOU.

Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

One question about the Cal Ave plan I have not seen addressed is the projections for the future. If this plan makes Cal Ave a more desirable destination one can predict that the traffic will go up. Basing a traffic plan on the modest traffic seen now in the area seems short sighted. As to the excess traffic using the side streets, it will be a squeeze. At meal times those streets' parallel spaces are all full and the streets are tiny. One person parallel parking and one car in the oncoming lane is all it takes to stop traffic while we wait and hope that person is good at parallel parking and the space is large enough. Furthermore, a lot of the side street traffic now is hoping to make up for lost time. Stop signs for only one street at an intersection are hair raising as we try to venture across the street with right of way. It is like meeting a fast car in an alley.

As to walkable and bikeable, people from Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Redwood city are not going to walk or bike. The increase in traffic comes from people faraway who hear of this great new district. We locals all know what a great place Cal Ave is, and we get there however we get there. We locals are the ones responsible for the modest traffic. It won't be modest for long, and the street won't adequate.

Posted by Silly , a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Regarding the grant money, how much is the city putting up besides the grant?

Just because grant money is available doesn't mean that the city should grab it.

Has the city ever done a study of how much tax revenue goes to Menlo Park and Mountain View as people avoid University Avenue and Town & Country because of the traffic mess?? I routinely go to the Menlo Park Trader Joe's and usually run into PA neighbors there who do the same thing.

Probably not because they have no motivation to do so because they can always raise our utility rates to supplement the general funds.

Re traffic, now that Embarcadero is such a traffic disaster, people are switching over to Oregon Expressway and you can see how much longer it takes to get to El Camino on that, too.

Posted by I Love Crowds!, a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm

You people don't know what crowds are - I'm from New York. Silly: good thing you're not on the Palo Alto council. You have "Founders Syndrome", people that never want to see any change, at any cost.

Some complainers say they never go to Castro Street in Mountain View anymore, because it's too crowded. So it's good Silly pointed out increases in sales tax there. Don't forget there is a Trader Joes in the San Antonio Shopping Center too, and open, during renovation of that shopping center.

One need not go Embarcadero Rd. to get to University Ave. El Camino Real flows well, getting to downtown University Ave, heading from the south, & at rush hours, well, some traffic is expected anywhere.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

> We're talking about no more than a dozen people, and you can see them for yourself, at every Council meeting, "contributing" their opinions of EVERYTHING, posing as "experts". It's pathetic, and it's about time for it to stop.

> I hope the City Council thinks hard about the small cabal of Council Watchdogs who cause most of these problems, and from now on just politely listens, and disregards their inputs.

We’re talking about a lot more than a dozen people. And I would say that people who are running a business—-some for decades!--on California Ave qualify as experts, much more so than Councilmen Burt or Scharff.

I’m not sure how one measures the size of a cabal, but 55 merchants paid for an ad opposing lane reduction. That’s actually a majority.

> What happens when you no longer can drive, or have access to a car?

Odds are that when a person can no longer drive, he/she won’t be doing much walking and certainly won’t be riding a bike.

> I think the whiners really need to get out of their cars and experience life from a different perspective.

Why is anyone with a different opinion from yours a “whiner”? So easy to label people. Then you don’t have to engage in a rational debate.

> This lane reduction plan is so idiotic from any standpoint that I will never vote for any member of this City Council again, no matter what they are running for.

Holman and Schmid voted FOR the traffic trial.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

> City council has not defined any metrics for this project; city staff says the project will increase the "vitality" of the business district - if that's so, present the business case on rents, occupancy and sales tax revenue 1-2 years after the project is done, versus today. Nothing presented on this.


Wayne Martin posted the following at Web Link .

Let’s pursue this issue of “revitalizing the business district”. On face value, this might seem like a worthwhile thing for a City to want to do—providing that it knew what to do to achieve this sort of “revitalization”.

But how many City Council members have ever revitalized a business, much less a whole business district? If the answer is none—what makes any/all of their comments meaningful? Even with their endorsement, will any of them be responsible in any way if the business climate on this short street segment does not wildly

Pushing this point just a little, did anyone on the Council ask any meaningful questions, such as:
o) How does the City define “vibrant”, in terms of measurable economic activity?
o) How many people utilize this business district today?
o) How many people will utilize this business district after the project is completed.
o) How many business are in this business district today?
o) How many businesses does Staff believe will be drawn to the Business District because of this street reconfiguration?
o) How big is the current economic base, in terms of dollars?
o) How big will the economic base be, after the street configuration, in terms of dollars?
o) How much money does the City receive today from sales taxes in this district?
o) How much will the City received after the reconfiguration?

What are the odds that anyone at City Hall is doing anything remotely like this?

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Curtis Williams' objections to a trial simply do not hold water:

"And if the city were to repave and restripe the street to make the trial possible, it would be difficult to come up with criteria for judging whether the trial is a success or not, Williams said. "It's very difficult in a trial process to really replicate the safety and aesthetic benefits of the project. We feel like the trial itself would be a visually unattractive thing to do."

How is it that Willliams used traffic data to declare success on the Arastradero/Charleston reconfiguration, yet cannot “come up with criteria for judging whether the [CA Ave.] trial is a success”?

As for aesthetics, no one wants or needs to replicate those in a trial. It’s simply a matter of traffic flow, not beautification, that’s at issue.

Posted by m3, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Pat from Midtown, they don't want to test it, so they'll say anything, make up any ridiculous story to stop a test.

The city staff's job is to prep Cal Ave for the developers to come in. That means using a year or two of construction to run out the local businesses and force the property owners to sell. Then let people like Jim Baer take over.

How did we ever elect such a pro-development council? I know I'm not voting for Pat Burt in November.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm

A trial would have been a way to bring the different communities together; instead Burt, Espinosa & Klein are acting like they are Princes of a Kingdom, and get upset at those who don't agree with them.

Too bad we can't have more like Holman & Schmid on the council. At least Espinosa isn't running again.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

In denouncing the misinformation put out by the opponents, Council member Burt should have also denounced the corresponding misinformation put out by the advocates (City Staff and residents). When the advocates thereby indicate that the decision will likely not be based on facts and analysis and that they probably have a different agenda from the stated one, they create an environment of distrust and fear.

1. One could start with the misrepresentation repeated in para 8 of this article "The council has consistently and unanimously supported reducing lanes, with the hope of turning California Avenue into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly thoroughfare, akin to University Avenue or Mountain View's Castro Street."
- CalAve is _not_ a thoroughfare.
- My experience is that CalAve is far more bike- and pedestrian-friendly than UAve or Castro St.

2. When the advocates talk about improving pedestrian safety, the study that they cited involve two streets that were nothing like CalAve -- they were thoroughfares with large volumes of traffic and a speed limit of 35mph. What they refuse to talk about is the actual situation on CalAve.

3. Staff states that no traffic increases are expected. However, CalAve has been designated a Priority Development Area and Staff Reports, backed by Council, repeatedly characterize CalAve as being populated by buildings that should be replaced by much larger buildings.

Posted by anon, a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Just because the councilfolks aren't agreeing with you doesn't mean they are not listening to you. They hear every word you say, how could they not the way you repeat yourselves over and over and over again. They simply think you are wrong. Run for council if you think you can do better. It's an election year, no?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Was on California Ave yesterday/Wednesday at 3PM. I parked on Birch in front of Romona's. There were was 2 other available street spots at that time on that block.

When I crossed CA Ave while driving on Birch, I counted the number of cars driving on CA Ave (both directions). Between El Camino and the train station, a grand total of 5 cars. That's it. 5 cars driving.

I'm sorry, I'm not buying the traffic jam imagined.

Posted by California Ave Shopper, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I am sorry to see the City Council pave the way for developers to take over California Ave.

I do most of my shopping there, usually during the non lunch hours, when it is relatively easy to find a parking space. I often buy four bags of groceries at Country Sun and several at Mollie Stones. Every Sunday our family goes to the Farmer's Market, where we buy most of our fruit and vegetables for the week. For these shopping trips, we need to take our car to transport our purchases. The farmer's market not only serves the needs of hundreds of people who come each Sunday, but has played a major role in bringing customers to the California Avenue businesses.

When I need camera equipment, I shop at Keeble and Shuchat, where I have been purchasing binoculars and cameras for 40 years. I often chat with folks behind the counter whose knowledge about new camera features has been incredibly helpful for four decades.

When I need office supplies, I patronize the stationary store on California Avenue. When I need paint, I shop at the California Paint Shop. For art supplies, I also shop on California Avenue. Every Saturday, our family stocks up on bagels at Izzy's bagel shop.

These stores mean a lot to our family, and I have deep respect and appreciation for the merchants that run them. They take a personal interest in me as a customer, sometimes putting in special orders for me or sharing their expertise about various products.

Ignoring the opinions of the California Avenue merchants, many who have been on the street for several decades or more, shows disrespect on the part of the City Council. It's obvious that they don't care about the merchants.

This decision should not only be about the aesthetics of the Avenue and whether grant money is available. The decision should take into consideration how the street functions and the needs of the citizens of Palo Alto who shop there. The health of the California Avenue businesses should be a key factor in any decision, and the concerns of the business owners must be taken into consideration in a respectful manner. The fact that the Council completely disregarded and ignored the concerns of over 50 business is of deep concern.

It is ridiculous to think that reducing four lanes to two is not going to cause a traffic jam, especially during peak hours. University Avenue and Castro Street are examples of two-lane streets clogged with traffic. In addition, streets with only two lanes are considerably more dangerous for bicycles, not less dangerous, because it is difficult for cars to go around the bikes. How many bicycles do you see going down University Avenue? As far as wider sidewalks, not needed. I've never found it difficult to pass on the sidewalk. Basically, tearing up the sidewalks and increasing the construction period is part of a strategy to get rid of the grocery stores and the farmer's market and replace them with more restaurants that have sidewalk tables.

As for a plaza at the far end of the street, please note that the area is extremely noisy when the trains come through and a poor location to invest City funds for a plaza. Have any of our City planners tried sitting there for an hour during peak train time?

It's time to vote out Burt and other Council Members who not only are not listening to Palo Alto citizens, but make rude comments when citizens speak out. We need to let our votes speak.

Let your Council Members know if you disagree with their decision. Construction has not yet started, so the decision can still be reversed. Help retain our shopping street with the stores that we need and the businesses we care about.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm

@California Ave Shopper - you say you are a farmer's market shopper, as am I. Guess how many lanes of traffic California has during the market? Zero. Does it turn the neighborhood into a traffic disaster? Nope. It is craziness to say that 4 lanes are required for such a small area. There are multiple streets to enter and exit on anyway.

University is clogged because it is thoroughfare between Stanford and the 101. It is clogged because there are probably 10 times the number of businesses and parking spots bringing people in. And despite that, while it can be annoying to get stuck for a minute while someone backs out on University, it isn't even that bad.

Posted by xSIpar, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Thanks finch and m3 -- I finally understand why the Council has been pushing this so hard.
Restaurant-row redevelopment in the name of "streetscape improvement".
This has been so contentious for so long (with PA about evenly split, as far as I can tell), I wonder why it was never put up for public vote?

Posted by xSIpar, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Mr. Recycle: ...uh, the farmer's market is on Sunday morning. Not really peak traffic hours.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

This was a done deal the moment the city clear cut the beautiful mature trees. Such a waste of money. And I cringe to read new "street art" is planned. One can only imagine--"Go Momma" anyone?

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2012 at 2:27 am

@xSIpar Sunday isn't peak traffic for El Camino or Page Mill, but for California and the adjacent streets, it is very crowded, parking gets maxed out, and it isn't a big deal despite all 4 lanes being closed.

Posted by Ralph, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:58 am

My family lived on North California for 20 years; we walked, biked, or drove to California Ave shopping. I live in South Palo Alto now but often drive to get haircuts, health food stuff, stationery, banking, copying, and food. It's easy to drive, park and walk NOW. The merchants know best. I don't see what's broken and needs this fix.

Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I still don't see the logic of redevelopment that is outright aimed to increase traffic being planned with no test of what that increased traffic might look like. And then claiming that the test is not needed because traffic NOW is negligible. But business people are very bad at logic or math beyond counting $$money$$.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I oppose taking away one lane each direction. I think it's a stupid thing to do, grant or no grant.
I remember the trial on Middlefield - that was informative and prevented a nonsensical debacle with taking away a lane. Here, I will likely just take my business elsewhere, time is money.

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Ronna Divincenzi:

Thank you for reminding everyone in this forum and at Monday's City Council meeting that it was Terry Shuchat who was the co-author of the California Avenue lane reduction. Terry Shuchat spoke after you did at the City Council meeting, but he did not contradict what you said about him, nor did he say his position had changed from being in favor of two lanes on California Avenue. Terry Shuchat's silence in response to your repeated statements that he proposed the reduction from four lanes to two lanes on California Avenue makes me wonder why he would file a lawsuit against the two-lane project. Is the lawsuit just a phony lawsuit by a proponent of the project that was filed to make the true opponents of the project think that something was being done so that they didn't have to file their own lawsuit?

Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

So if you go throughout the day, and look, your eyes will tell you there is very little traffic, except at lunch, but there's lunch hour traffic throughout the bay area, so big woop. The city did not one, but two traffic studies, and ... drum roll please ... it confirmed, there's very little traffic. So planners and Council believe their eyes, and they believe the results of an independent traffic study, and every evidence before them indicates that the proposed changes will have negligible impact on traffic, and the streetscape changes will improve the pedestrian/shopper/diner experience, and business will go up, as it has in all the other places which have had similar transformations (Castro in Mountain View, Murphy Ave Sunnyvale, etc).

But oh, no, it must not be that they believe the evidence. Surely they're ACTUALLY just corrupt, trying to drive out business so developers can remake the world and kick back money everywhere.

So many conspiracies, so little time. Let's spread some more, quick! Before the aliens get us!

Posted by Tyler Hanley, digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jul 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by myhometoo, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, 9 hours ago

Glad to hear the good news. California Avenue needs sprucing up, its abysmal as of right now. A note to all store and business owners, if you don't like it move out, but I guarantee you will regret it.

Business will flourish.

Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:49 am

Thank you, Deep Throat. My guess about your query is "no". I think you are reading too much into this. But, it's only my educated guess.

I really think for some reason, Terry truly opposes the two lanes, after he and Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop, both multi-property owners on the avenue, created the design in 2006, bringing it to the others on the CAADA Board, after working alongside the city, and after much research looking at other business communities & their traffic flows.

Ms. Bishop has not said a word for almost two years, not since she was identified as the new President of the CAADA Board when the topic of the Streetscape was being discussed, and after the trees were planted.

I don't know who is the new board of the new organization - when I resigned, I told the board and the membership to hold an election of new officers. To my knowledge, it was never done.

I've heard two names for a group of people that speak at city meetings: BACA and CABA (Business Association of California Ave. or California Ave. Business Association) Jack Morton once identified himself as their "Vice President", but at the meeting on Monday, he called himself a "member".

From what I hear, there has never been an official meeting - or an official election. But when I resigned from CAADA, there was close to $17K in two CAADA accounts, and that would belong to EVERY CAADA business member, even though a hand-ful of people dissolved that official organization that had been active from 1957- Jan. 2010.

There was one other former, long-time CAADA director that is a resident that supported the two lanes, when it was being discussed from 2004-2009, who also did a 180 over the past two years, speaking against it along with Terry. She would have nothing to gain or lose, except that she lives in the district. At one point, she worked at a CAADA business.

Only I have remained consistent, in supporting the two lanes, and because of safety for pedestrians. It just makes sense. I'm glad you listened to what I've been saying about this project since 2010, and I'm glad council saw the 'big picture' and decided wisely.

By the way, Terry Shuchat opposed the residents selection of tree species - he went on record at a council meeting in (I think) Nov. or Dec. 2009, expressing concern that the residents choice of trees may grow too tall. He wanted PW to continue to search for more species. Council opted to go with the residents (and Canopy/PW approved) selections, and the trees were planted in January, 2010.

Speaking for myself -- I love the Silver Linden trees best!

I think the residents/Canopy/PW choice of species is wonderful! Only individual merchants that took time to attend city meetings about the tree replanting got a "voice" in that project.

I just wanted trees planted, and didn't care what species they were. The way they are now growing is a lovely surprise, and Dave Muffly from Canopy deserves HUGE KUDOS for having spent 3 full days going to several nurseries, to hand-select the very best trees with the very best roots. He did a super job, and it's a benefit to the whole community.

Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Norm is a registered user.

Soooo, some Cal Ave merchants want a trial – how about testing enforcement of:

“Palo Alto Municipal Code, Section 12.12.020: Commercial sidewalk encroachment permit – criteria and review procedures.

Subject also to the general regulations contained in Section 12.12.010, permits may be granted for commercial sidewalk encroachments in accordance with the following criteria and procedures:
(a) Use. Commercial sidewalk encroachments shall be restricted to:
(1) Outdoor sales and display areas of flower and plant shops; and
(2) Outdoor eating areas of eating and drinking establishments.
(b) Location and Clearance.
(2) No commercial sidewalk encroachment shall be located in a manner that:
(A) Impedes access to any city inspection, maintenance and operation devices or controls;
(B) Blocks curbside access to a loading zone, as defined in Section 10.40.010; or
(C) Impedes pedestrian access from curbside vehicles to the adjacent sidewalk.
(3) No commercial sidewalk encroachment shall be permitted:
(A) Within a minimum sidewalk clearance width of eight feet, measured between fixed objects (such as building walls and utility poles), planter wells and/or curbs....”

There was talk of increasing enforcement on University 2½ years ago during the Sit-Lie court debacle:

Daily Post – Publication: September 1, 2009: “Frost has City Hall scrambling”
Palo Alto Daily News - Posted: September 11, 2009; Updated: September 11, 2009: “Palo Alto restaurants slow to follow outdoor seating rule”
Palo Alto Weekly – Online News: Uploaded: September 16, 2009, 12:15 PM: “Palo Alto sit-lie law 'could be discriminatory'”

And there was some enforcement/monitoring for a time, but when Code Enforcement has gone home for the day/weekend, and then the staff/overtime cuts.... If a complaint were to be called in to Palo Alto PD, they – and rightly so – would likely consider it a low priority. That is unless one were to really howled about possible ADA violations.

The encroachment ordinance does not mention any specific streets, which the Sit-lie does, so ‘should’ apply city wide. If I remember correctly, it was used in the arguments favoring consolidating of newspaper racks.

Through all the encroachment rehash, there was never a mention regarding Cal Ave – was this due to looong on-going discussions about improvements and/or widening of sidewalks?

BTW – Encroachment violations are a misdemeanor! (See PAMC Section 12.12.020 (g) Penalty and Citation.) I believe that would probably include lack of the necessary permit AND insurance. (See PAMC Section 12.12.020 (c) (3) Permit Application.)

Or perhaps the sidewalk widening, which the enforcement test would certainly indicate a need for, could be facilitated by limiting/ removing outdoor seating in some places. Or eliminating all on-street parking along Cal Ave.

I’m gonna guess the restauranteurs wouldn’t want to pull all their tables and chairs inside and try a test of the effect on business if their PRIVILEGE of having outdoor seating were revoked.

I, as a regular pedestrian on Cal Ave, say let’s go with trying encroachment enforcement.

Posted by andrea , a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2012 at 10:41 am

After living in PA for over 40 years I have seen CA Ave change a lot and not for the better. When we once had a mom & pop hardware store, deli, pet store, and everything you could need within walking distance..we now have a whole lot of nothing really and a lot of traffic and parking issues. Its not safe to cross the street anymore whether its someone blowing throw the stop signs or going across the double yellow to grab a parking space and then parking all crooked. Its not safe for kids, seniors or those on bikes. I see it all day every day. I've called the PAPD countless times but they dont have the manpower. I think going to two lanes will be a welcome change and help the issue. Downtown Los Gatos, Mt View, Menlo Park...all have it and have done well. Mollie Stones and that end of the street have business issues not because of the road but because of whats down there which is nothing . No reason for people to go down to that end really and that should change. Too many offices, etc. The fountain is an eyesore left empty..just fix it and turn it on already! Why spend all the money on building something else the statues arent bad enough. Model it after downtown Los Altos which is wonderful. Lots of seating, plants, benches. Or downtown Los Gatos which is always busy but clean and well run. PA is so disorganized and I hope they dont screw this up or have it take years. Its not that hard guys! In the end I hope its beautiful with outdoor seating for restaurants, better parking and so on.

Posted by CC, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Obviously, the city does not plan to have Apple store open there any time soon!

Posted by Gail, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

Andrea, downtown Los Gatos, Mtn.View and Meno Park IS NOT a dead end street!, Please those who compare streets, use similar data! Change is always good but not when group of people who spend most of their time on California Ave oppose it. At least, think about a trial. People in Downtown Menlo Park are involved and their opinions actually matter. Menlo Park is doing a block by block trial and letting the merchants and offices give the City feedback. City of Palo Alto has no more authority on what's best for those affected. The staff and bicyclists run the City. Council Members are their puppets. Council members Holman and Schmid were the only ones who had guts to challenge the majority. We need more people like them on the Council, they are willing to disagree, right or wrong, it's refreshing.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

@Gail How about Burlingame Ave? Two lanes, diagonal parking, Cal Train station blocking one end, the commercial area on the other side is bordered by El Camino, and it is a wonderful spot.

Posted by Gail, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2012 at 11:56 am

@mr. recycle, burlingame is NOT a short 3 block street. if you think it's so pleasant, live there. the businesses and residents may not share your views. are you there at least once a week supporting a business rain or shine? do not mean coffee and a pastry. how will you travel to support businesses there and on california ave - car?btw, downtown burlingame a MESS!

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I actually use a number of the businesses on Cal Ave from Mollie Stones to the Counter to Fed Ex. I NEVER drive down Cal ave anyway, there is limited parking. I park in the lots behind FedEx or off of Cambridge.

My prediction is that business will improve on Cal Ave as it become more pedestrian and outdoor dining friendly!

Posted by mike, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Maybe I haven't heard it yet but are merchants complaining that business is down and needs revitalization? This is new to me.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 31, 2012 at 10:02 pm

@gail - you are incorrect, take a look at google maps. Burlingame and California are almost exactly the same length (El Camino to Caltrain Station). There are both .3 miles long, and California is actually a bit longer.

Posted by Gail, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Okay, recycle....Burlingame has two main outlets 101 and El Camino! Look, if you want to talk to me about this why don't you give your number, this is ridiculous!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Sorry Gail, Burlingame dead ends at the cal train station, then starts up again on the other side of the track, just like California. The 101 is almost a mile away, and the onramps are even further away. Take a look at google maps, or take a visit. I just think this is all symptomatic of an overly emotional response. California doesn't have any unique circumstances that demand 4 traffic lanes. The only burden on businesses will be the disruption during construction, so hopefully it will go quickly.

Posted by I Like to Watch, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Game, Set, Match for MrRecycle. He's spot on about Blgm Ave.
Don't keep resetting the bar Gail. It looks desperate.

I also like the plan. Less lanes is best lanes.

Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

@Mom, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood

you drive to CA Ave? why? isn't it close enought to walk?

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Terry Shuchat wrote a letter to the City Council on April 17, 2012, following the Council's action the previous evening to approve the two-lane California Avenue project. The letter was included in the Council agenda packet for the Council's April 23, 2012, meeting. At the end of the letter, the last two paragraphs comment on the proposed test of the two-lane configuration:

"As a business owner and property owner I would be delighted if the test worked. City Council has told us in other cities that converted to two lanes business increased and rents increased. I would be in favor of both the increased business and increased rental income from the office space I lease on California Avenue.

"Please give merchants and property owners on California Avenue the opportunity to live the temporary two lane configuration of the street for one year. If proven successful we will give our total support to the project."

The quoted paragraphs were written by the person who is suing the City of Palo Alto for approving the two-lane California Avenue project.

It seems odd to me that a major property owner in the Calfornia Avenue business area has decided to first appoint himself as the representative of the merchants who rent space from the property owners, and then sues the City and now says he will switch sides if a trial proves that his rental income will go up if the trial is successful. Who do the merchants think will be receiving the increased rent, and how will they be able to afford to pay that increased rent? And how badly will the existing merchants be harmed financially by a year-long "test"?

Shuchat says the increased rent will come from office uses, not from merchants. I believe that is the future of the California Avenue project that cut down all the trees and is reducing the number of lanes: More offices, more rental income to property owners from office development similar to the University Avenue commercial area, and a change in retail from serving local neighborhoods to serving commuters in office buildings. The next time there is a lawsuit by merchants, those who would be adversely affected by the City Council's decision should think twice about having one of their landlords represent them.

Posted by Will, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm

this redevelopment project is good for the community and will unleash the untapped potential of California ave to be just like university ave, or burlingame ave, or santa cruz ave in downtown los gatos, or downtown los altos, or castro st in mtn view. Two lanes should be a nonissue, dont understand why anyone thinks california ave needs as many lanes as alma. The project will help beautify california ave and ultimately increase the value of the properties and businesses, it will also make it much more appealing and attractive for retailers like apple. It's no coincidence that burlingame ave,university ave, and santa cuz ave all have apple stores. the existing streetscape is shit, let's move forward with the project and give California ave the makeover it desperately needs!

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