Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 4, 2013

Quality of life tops neighborhood goals for 2013

Watchdogs plan to keep an eye on flooding, traffic and development in the coming year

by Sue Dremann

New Year's resolutions are as varied as Palo Alto's residents, but for leaders of the city's neighborhood associations, addressing three issues — creek flooding, new development and traffic — top the shortlist of goals for 2013.

These issues could have the most immediate impact on quality of life, some leaders noted, and in 2013, they plan to ask city leaders to make the concerns a priority.

In addition, the ongoing challenges of crime, disappearing mom-and-pop retailers, the potential impact of increased train service and the downsides of proposed dense development continue to need attention, the neighborhood heads told the Weekly.

On Dec. 23, San Francisquito Creek came close to overflowing in north Palo Alto after a series of holiday-weekend storms. The near disaster reignited demands to quickly rebuild or demolish the narrow Chaucer Street and Newell Road bridges. That debate will continue in early 2013, as plans to expand the bridge at Newell move forward.

"The recent rains have reminded everyone in the Crescent Park neighborhood that the flooding problem of the Chaucer Bridge is something that the city should take a more proactive role in addressing," said Norman Beamer, president of the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association, in an email. "The Joint Powers Authority is doing some useful things, but the city should make the Chaucer Bridge a top priority."

A subset of the neighborhood is opposed to expanding the Newell Bridge, Beamer said. City officials will discuss the latest proposal at a community meeting on Jan. 8.

"On the one hand, the bridge needs to be fixed to no longer present a flooding problem; on the other hand, there is concern about increased traffic as a result of adding another lane to the bridge," Beamer said.

Further south, the Adobe Meadow neighborhood is also concerned with flood-control issues along the Adobe Creek corridor, according to Ken Allen, president of the Adobe Meadows Neighborhood Association.

When it comes to housing, Barron Park neighborhood residents will be monitoring two proposed residential developments this year, Barron Park Association President Lynnie Melena told the Weekly in an email.

The possible razing of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on El Camino Real to make way for 180 high-end apartments is expected to receive close scrutiny. Advocates for Buena Vista have vowed to try to retain the 127-unit, low-income park or make sure its residents have other comparable accommodations in Palo Alto.

A senior-housing project, proposed by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation for the intersection of Maybell and Clemo avenues, will also be watched this year to determine how it might impact the neighborhood, Melena said.

College Terrace neighborhood residents, meanwhile, are concerned about the planned Mayfield housing project along California Avenue in the Stanford Research Park. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 and expected to last four years, according to Brent Barker, College Terrace Residents Association president.

The neighborhood continues to lobby Stanford University for a "spine" road through the center of the nearby section of Research Park, which would relieve traffic along California Avenue, he said in an email.

Developments are the singular issue for south Palo Alto's Greendell neighborhood, said Srini Sankaran, president of the Greendell Neighborhood Association.

Three major projects are of most concern: the future use of 525 San Antonio Ave., a former preschool that was purchased by Palo Alto Unified School District last year; the future use of Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield Road; and the impacts of residential and commercial development abutting San Antonio Road, including the re-leasing of the old Hewlett-Packard Mayfield complex.

"Interestingly, most of the ongoing or proposed development is technically in Mountain View, but it is right on and off San Antonio, so it affects Palo Alto residents rather heavily," Sankaran said via email.

Allen said Adobe Meadow residents are wary of the impact that the new Mitchell Park library and community center will have on the area, given the new traffic it could generate.

Traffic and parking continue to be prime worries for the north Palo Alto neighborhoods of Professorville, Downtown North and University South. Residents there will keep pushing for parking and traffic reforms in the downtown area in 2013, according to Elaine Meyer of University South and Ken Alsman of Professorville.

The city has implemented a residential permit-parking program and traffic-calming devices in College Terrace, but residents are hoping to see relief this year from people who store cars on their streets for days and weeks on end. City staff announced on Nov. 20 plans to prohibit overnight parking in the neighborhood's commercial zone between 1 and 4 a.m.

"We hope the parking restriction in the commercial zone near El Camino will discourage the guy with 12 to 15 vehicles parked in the vicinity," Barker said.

On Arastradero Road, the main issue for Green Acres I neighborhood residents will be the traffic along the corridor, particularly during school hours, Alice Sklar wrote in an email.

"We are sometimes unable to get in and/or out of the two streets, Pomona and Los Palos, that service our neighborhood," she said.

In Midtown, the issue is always traffic, according to Annette Glanckopf, vice chair of the Midtown Residents Association.

But the problem isn't always cars.

"The biggest issue for us will be the pedestrian/bike path along Matadero," association president Sheri Furman said. The planned Palo Alto Matadero Creek Trail will go through the center of Midtown and closely pass by some homes, she said.

Neilson Buchanan of Downtown North took a broad view of neighborhood issues, saying that the city needs to conduct comprehensive studies on quality of life that are not piecemeal.

"Define what makes neighborhoods safe, vibrant and liveable. Start with criteria for traffic, safety and parking metrics," he said.

TALK ABOUT IT

What concerns should the city address this year to improve Palo Alto residents' quality of life? Share your opinion on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

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