http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2011/12/02/california-avenue-fountain-park-designs-unveiled


Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 2, 2011

California Avenue fountain, park designs unveiled

Three proposals seek to create community space in business district

by Sue Dremann

Three designs for revamping the California Avenue fountain plaza were unveiled by Palo Alto officials at a community meeting Tuesday evening (Nov. 29).

The fountain plaza, known as Park Boulevard Park, is located at the east end of California, adjacent to the Caltrain station. The 1/4-acre area has languished in recent years and its "bird bath" fountain, which turns 50 on Friday (Dec. 2), is damaged and not operational.

The city is undertaking a $300,000 redesign of the plaza as part of its overall California Avenue Streetscape Improvements Project, which seeks to attract more shoppers to the retail district. The plaza redesign would create a focal point and community space for shoppers and residents, with shady spaces to meet and relax, according to city officials.

Added lighting in the plaza would improve safety near the train station and pedestrian/bike tunnel. The fountain would anchor the plaza visually, but the park could include tables for games and event spaces and places for bicycles, city officials have said.

Roughly two dozen residents who attended Tuesday's meeting expressed satisfaction with the three proposals by landscape architects David and Linda Gates of Gates & Associates.

The three options labeled "organic," "the grid" and "historic" would each entail the removal of eight diagonal parking spaces currently edging the plaza. Jaime Rodriguez, Palo Alto's chief transportation official, said the spaces potentially could be added to another area near the plaza along the street but not attached to the site.

All three designs would shorten the pedestrian/bike tunnel that goes under Alma Street. The tunnel's north wall would have an open area to let in light. The opened side would have some screening with trees or other landscaping in each design.

Option 1, the organic design, would move the fountain further east into the plaza and create a larger venue for events. Granite boulders could integrate the fountain with the surrounding park space so that the fountain isn't sitting in a bowl of hardscaping, David Gates said.

The design includes low seat walls for viewing the fountain and the addition of colorful, low shrubs along the western edge of the plaza. A curvilinear wall would sweep west to east through the plaza in an arc, overlooking a tilted grass plain. Existing pistache trees would remain, with others added along seating areas for shade.

Option 2 sets the plaza in a more grid-like pattern, with two trees at the western end that would branch up high enough to preserve a view of the fountain from down California. The plaza would appear more enclosed, with a series of "garden rooms." The event space would be further east than in the first option, but the fountain would also be moved east from its original position, Gates said.

Option 3, the historic option, would keep the fountain in its current position at the plaza's western edge. A series of trees would edge the plaza to the north, south and east, with seat walls at both ends. This option offers the least amount of space for events and has the least amount of lawn. A trellis could be added above the tunnel's new north opening, he said.

Residents added suggestions for how the seating could enhance interaction between people. Bob Moss said benches in "L" or "U" configurations would enable people to talk face to face, whereas the more linear bench walls would be more isolating. Jan St. Peter wanted to retain west-facing benches with a view of the hills and businesses.

Mike Eager suggested that changes to egress from the tunnel might be needed to avoid bicyce and pedestrian collisions. The area leading from the tunnel to westbound California cuts diagonally across the plaza in the fountain's path, causing the potential for accidents.

Residents also wanted the landscape architects to explore nighttime tunnel safety in greater detail.

Doria Summa said the existing problem of bicycle and pedestrian collisions stems from the retention of seven existing pistache trees, which have inhibited the design.

"The fountain belongs further back to avoid where bikes go," she said.

Several other residents agreed. City officials said three more public workshops would be held to gather community input. The next workshop is tentatively scheduled for mid-January. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the designs in March, with hearings before the Parks and Recreation Commission in March and the Architectural Review Board in April. Final council approval is scheduled for May. Construction is scheduled for fall or winter 2012.

A 50th Anniversary Fountain Celebration is scheduled for Sunday (Dec. 4) from 10 a.m.-noon. The free event will include apple cider and memory books in which people can write their recollections of the fountain, which was dedicated on Dec. 2, 1961, event co-coordinator Jan St. Peter said. Bulletin boards with images of the proposed plaza designs will also be posted.

TALK ABOUT IT

View the three design options on Palo Alto Online, and give your opinion on Town Square, the online discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

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

Comments

Posted by Bike Commuter, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Unobstructed bike access to the tunnel is very important!

The tunnel connects 2 main bike boulevards: Park Blvd. and Bryant St. (via California Ave.) and many students use these bike lanes to school.

I suggest a bike ramp directly adjacent to the tunnel to keep cyclists away from the fountain area.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I can't see from these designs how the roundabout for buses and car dropoff pickup will work? This is a dead end street and a roundabout is very necessary.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 9:06 am

Hi Resident,

They are redesigning the plaza and fountain, but not the street. Currently, the bus stop is on the south side of the street. It goes around the plaza and is then back facing west on California Ave.

My question is more about the bike storage lockers that currently exist. Will they be moved/removed? I have never seen anyone use them; however, they seem to serve a good purpose for CalTrain commuters.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:41 am

I agree with Bike Commuter. There is heavy bike and pedestrian use of the tunnel, and providing an unimpeded (by fountain and landscaping) path to Park Blvd - both northbound toward Stanford and southbound via California Ave - would seem to be an important consideration.


Posted by Frank, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

Nayeli - Several years back I tried to get a bike storage unit there and they were all rented (that's not exactly the same as they were all used). But this was before Caltrain changed it's schedule so that no express trains stop at Cal Ave. so I'm not sure what the situation is today.

I'm glad to see some progress here; it's been neglected for too long.


Posted by concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:33 am

Gates Landscaping. Again. I think they are becoming the preferred partner for Palo Alto's projects. It might be time to consciously choose another firm -- one based in Palo Alto. A fresh look and a fresh firm.


Posted by Love Cal. Ave. Transporation is important here, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

Transportation circulation and connectivity for all modes: motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians (who include train riders) absolutely must be included (and clearly represented) in these designs before they go any further through a review process.


Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

In term of "bicycle flow",
* The "grid" design is a disaster. Hence, I'm sure the city will choose this.
* "historic" seem the best.
* "organic" has too many pinch points and swerves.


Posted by BunchA $$, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

That's a BUNCH of Money for a plaza and a fountain. Hope it's worth it.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm

My comment refers to this quote:
Doria Summa said the existing problem of bicycle and pedestrian collisions stems from the retention of seven existing pistache trees, which have inhibited the design. "The fountain belongs further back to avoid where bikes go," she said.

Response:
In over 20 years, I can't remember one bike/pedestrian collision at the fountain area. Please, *someone correct me*, if I'm wrong. If there *is* a valid danger there, it needs to be addressed. But if the information is not accurate, it would be a tragedy to remove those gorgeous Pistache trees, instead of finding creative ways to work around them.

The California Avenue Streetscape Committee's original idea back in 2005-2007 was to keep the fall colors such as now exists on Cambridge Ave, and extend it to Cal Ave. We enjoy the beauty on Cambridge Ave now, due to mature Pistache trees.

When the Palo Alto Weekly was built, the prettiest tree in the whole district was on Cambridge, at their front door. It was so full it could be seen from California Ave, from the alley between Bank of the West & Country Sun. It was a huge, healthy & mature Pistache.

I thought it was going to be protected when they put orange netting over it when the Weekly was going up. But one day, it was just chopped down. There's a puny Pistache there now, in its place.

I fear when other buildings are built on Cambridge, gorgeous Pistaches will be taken down, one by one, and no one will notice, like what happened with the Pistache tree that stood at the Weekly.

Please give GREAT thought to any removal of Pistache trees at the fountain area. California Ave needs to keep all *mature* canopy. Please contact the people from Canopy first, to get their opinion, or even get another opinion of another landscape designer, one that can work around trees.

Outside of the street-wide planting in Jan. 2010, the only tree I was able to get replaced was the one on the corner of Cal Ave at Park Blvd., by the brick wall/patio/bench area.

That was because I worked hard to get that area developed the way you see it, so people can use it, and my work and private funding for the project saved the city over $40K about 8 years ago. It took about 5 years for that tree to start growing & it's just beginning to fill out now.


Posted by bike commuter too, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I am very concerned about the bike/walker interactions imposed by these designs. All three designs push the bike traffic around the circle on a narrow walkway. My trust in the city for bike egress design is low as the new tunnel for the train off alma near the PA medical center has a crazy traffic pattern where the bike path crosses the pedestrian way twice for each trip through the tunnel. The CA ave tunnel has much, much more traffic and such designs provide the potential for serious injury. Similarly making the tunnel shorter, makes it steeper. There is a lot of baby stroller traffic in this tunnel on the weekend (there is a nice playground for small kids in the park on Alma). The tunnel is already steep enough that pushing a stroller loaded with kid, bag, and maybe purchases from the farmer's market makes for a fast descent into the tunnel and a strenuous push back up the other side.


Posted by BibycleFlow, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I bike there frequently, especially Sundays for the Farmer's Market. My concern about bicycles is where do bikes go when coming *out* of the tunnel?
The road is one-way counter clockwise around the park, so bikes entering the tunnel can/should ride along the roadway, then up some curb ramp at the entrance to the tunnel to cross under the tracks.
However, when bicycles come out of the tunnel, if they go right they are on the sidewalk/path through the park with pedestrians (probably should be avoided if possible). However, if they go left (into the street), then they are "going against traffic".
So there needs to be some basic traffic flow planning done here.


Posted by KF, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I agree with many of the comments that none of these designs seem to take into account the large volume of bike traffic that travels through that tunnel. It is the only cross town connection for bikes between Churchill (about 3/4 mile N) and East Meadow (about 1.25 mile south). It is the route I used biking my kids to preschool, and biking to my in-laws house. Kids use it to bike up to Jordan, straight up N. California. The design seems very pedestrian friendly, which is nice, but it must accommodate a functional bike transportation network.

I wish I knew what they meant by shortening the bike tunnel, I share the concern that shortening it will make it steeper, not good.


Posted by downtowner, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

In creating benches be aware that transients and homeless people use the benches as places to congregate and park their possessions. Quite often their presence keeps others from feeling comfortable. Consider benches with dividers or other characteristics that will make them uncomfortable to lie on.
The other benches in the CA Ave area are in front of businesses which tends to keep the use of the benches open to all.


Posted by Must Drive Everywhere, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

How the hell am I gonna drive my car through THAT!?!?!


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

@downtowner - you make an excellent point. I was told the benches on order for the Cal Ave project *were* the kind with dividers built inside, making it possible only to sit comfortably, not to lie down. It was my understanding that a unified look was the goal, so anything that was on Cal Ave (like the benches, trash cans, bike racks) unless it was part of an art project, would be consistent. If the benches are part of an art project, your point is well taken, in that it ought not encourage sleeping.

There are not many benches on Cal Ave now - except for those attached to the brick walls, the art projects, "Love Spoken Here", that's close to Accent Arts, and "Sun Flowers" tables/chairs in front of Country Sun, the two remaining kiosks that have benches attached. Other benches or seats are on private property.

If memory serves, there are 1500 or more bikes that go through the tunnel- I remember it was an amazingly high figure, but if you think that there is a steady stream of bikers going through from early morning to evening, it would seem accurate. And yes - lots of babies in strollers go through the tunnel too, with parents and other toddlers in tow, walking to Cal Ave. Still - I don't know of any collisions.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2011 at 7:54 am

Ronna,
You may be right that there have been no serious collisions in the area, but that is no justification for ignoring the issue and making the area worse. I am sure that the designers could make something that is functional, safe and attractive if they tried.


Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

Some day that tunnel is going to be rebuilt to be accessible for wheelchairs, like the Homer Avenue tunnel downtown. Do any of these plans take that into account?


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

Donald - Please, in an effort for me to understand your reply to my initial question, asking if there has ever been a collision between a pedestrian & a cyclist, what did I write that prompted you to use this phrase, "..that is no justification for ignoring the issue.."?

I didn't mean to imply it was okay to ignore any *existing* or even a *potential* problem. In my post, I was sincerely asking for data.

There have been three collisions between pedestrians in *crosswalks* within the past few years on California Ave that I know of (a man in a wheelchair, a property manager & a 7 year old boy walking with his mother, last summer). Those are only the ones about which I'm aware.

I've witnessed many near misses in Cal Ave *crosswalks* between cars
& cyclists with pedestrians - too many to count, & in fact, the only surprise is that not more people are hit.

Since this is a print format, I'm not replying to you with any attitude, Donald. I'm just trying to find out what I wrote that would even imply I thought it was okay to *ignore* something- even a POTENTIAL problem, that may come up sometime down the road.

I'm not just talking about a "serious" collision, as you wrote. Even a *near miss* between a pedestrian & a cyclist in the fountain area ought NOT be ignored. I just don't know of any.

No hits. No near misses. I know of nothing at the fountain area except for the fountain itself being hit by trucks that turn around, and that have caused dents and cracks to the structure. But no human/vehicle collisions that I know of.

Please, Donald or someone else, correct me if my facts are not accurate. I'd appreciate whatever data you have.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

Judith- the last word I had on the tunnel was there was to be an adjacent tunnel built NEXT to it, so there would be *two* tunnels, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists.

But it's been a long time since that was discussed and I did not attend the meeting held this week. That idea may have fallen by the wayside with staff turnover, or it may have been rejected... or it's still on the table, and not all departments are aware of it - with communication still not being ideal, within the city itself.

I recollect that I went to a city council meeting a few years ago, where that was discussed. So the two tunnel idea should be in their archives, if it wasn't addressed at the fountain meeting.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Nayeli and Frank - The former head of Economic Development, Susan Barnes, had a great idea when I asked if the bike lockers could be relocated, to open up the fountain plaza area for shoppers. She suggested the bike lockers be moved to the chain-linked fenced area behind the apartments that is on Caltrain property by the tracks.

She found out that 1/2 the lockers belong to Caltrain and 1/2 the lockers belong to Palo Alto. If memory serves, they are two different colors of locker, or two different styles, indicating who owns them. I think the lockers closest to the train tracks are owned by Caltrain and the lockers closest to the fountain are owned by Palo Alto.

Frank is correct - lockers were heavily used, and full a few years ago. But the locks are often left off, and they have been used as a makeshift shelter for a person to sleep too, although they are very small and oddly shaped, and it would not be comfortable for them.

I think the idea to move *all* or at least *Caltrain's racks* to Caltrain property is terrific!

To verify what I wrote above, I'd suggest asking Caltrain's property manager. In the past, I'd get two or three different answers to the same question from different people in the same department in PA.

I know what I wrote above is accurate re: 1/2 belonging to Caltrain & 1/2 belonging to PA & they CAN be moved, if someone was interested enough to tackle the effort.

Again, I did not attend the meeting this week, so what I've written here may be old news, to someone that was at the meeting.


Posted by JO, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I was at the meeting, and I came to realize that the City is yet again putting the cart before the horse and wasting money on a plaza design BEFORE they even know whether or not half of the bike lockers will have to remain in the Plaza. Staff says that they are "waiting to hear back from Caltrain." The only thing the City seems to know how to do well is to WASTE MONEY.

The article seems to be misquoting Doria Summa and mis-characterizing what she said. What I recall is that, after I spoke and pointed out that I thought the "historical" design was an insult to the community because it is "historical" only because of the fountain location,which is a joke and an insult because the historical fountain design was rejected by the Pubic Art Commission in favor of a more expensive Szabo design (that got fewer resident votes). I said that, if the City was going to go with the Szabo design, that I wanted them to hide the "fountain" where I couldn't see it. I don't want to be constantly reminded of the City's insult to its residents. (It's like pouring salt on an open wound, adding insult to injury, thumbing their noses in our faces -- choose your analogy). Also, it is inviting vandalism). Doria Summa spoke after that and suggested that it made more sense for the fountain to be located more centrally in the plaza, even if that meant relocating some of the pistache trees. I don't recall any mention of pedestrian and bicycle collisions.

The City is trying to live down its horrific clear-cutting of the Cal. Ave. trees, and, in doing so, it is designing the plaza around the pistache trees and not even considering better designs. I like pistache trees, but if a poor plaza design is going to result from not touching the pistache trees, then I think it is a stupid reactionary approach for the City to take.

Oh yeah, and the design consultants were talking about making this tiny plaza into a gathering place with concerts and vendors and chess tables. Come on, do you really think that people are going to gather here and play chess? And they are planning on eliminating 9 parking spaces to accommodate this expanded use of the plaza. Outrageous!


Posted by JSP, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm

The California Avenue Fountain is 50 years old! Since its dedication in December of 1961, it has been a symbol of California Avenue. To commemorate the fountain's birthday, there will be a celebration this Sunday, December 4th between 10 am and noon, at the California Avenue Fountain site. Please join the festivities, enjoy a glass of apple cider, and document your favorite memory of the fountain in a memory book.


Posted by JO, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm

JSP, thanks for the info. Can you tell me who is holding the California Ave fountain "celebration" on Sunday? (Perhaps is would be more appropriate to call it a "memorial", considering the demise of the historical fountain).


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Ronna,
I have heard of one pedestrian being knocked down by a skateboarder in the tunnel, but not of any collisions in the plaza. What I was trying to say is that bike and ped circulation should not be ignored in the design even though we have been lucky so far. A poor design may result in the end of our lucky run while a good design can make collisions even less likely.

The bike lockers should be moved closer to the train platform, not farther away, if they are to serve train riders. Moving them behind the apartments and out of sight will make it easy for crooks to take their leisure time while breaking in without fear that anyone will see them.


Posted by JSP, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Hi JO, A few of us who consider ourselves friends of the Cal Ave Fountain are putting this together as a 50th birthday celebration. The fountain has been a symbol of California Avenue since its dedication in December of 1961. A generation of Palo Altans has experienced the fountain and we'd like to get their memories, thoughts, stories and any pictures they may want to share. There will be pictures of the fountain when it was dedicated, the fountain filled suds, the fountain with green dye on St. Patrick's day, and a night view of the fountain looking all splashy and refreshing. And, there will be refreshments of sparkling cider and cupcakes!

I hope you will join us on Sunday, as you too seem to have a soft spot for this wonderful old fountain.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Thank you for the more detailed explanation, Donald. I was talking with someone today on a Cal Ave sidewalk, when a skateboarder scooted by us, lost his footing and fell off. But there was plenty of room - even though skateboards and cyclists are not to be on the sidewalk.
So sorry to hear someone was hit in the tunnel. There's not much room to manuever out of the way there.

Your points about a good design for moving vehicles (skateboarders & cyclists included) plus pedestrians & the placement of bike lockers is well taken.

It does make more sense to put lockers closer to the train platform, as you suggest. If there were issues of people sleeping in them in the past; so having lockers more visible discourages that and/or someone looking for an opportunity to steal. Thanks for responding.


Posted by andrea, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm

As a lifelong resident of Evergreen Park I have grown up with the fountain and would just like it fixed and the area around it cleaned up. Maybe some more room around it...more plants, trees and benches. WHY does it have to be this big production that is such a huge waste of money!!?? PA you have not impressed me with your projects thus far and I strongly suspect you will blow this one too!! The fountain has been off too long. Fix it and let us enjoy it again..the suds, the sound and OUR fountain!!


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

This is pretty shoddy reporting by Sue Dremann, who has been around long enough that she should know better. "Community meeting" --what does that mean? Is it a commission or board, or an ad hoc group? What is the relationship between this initiative and previously reported on -- or vetted, or subject to Brown Act covered community meetings, open to community, open to input, not just some group pushing through some agenda, like Lytton Plaza cluster-bomb. Is this the same topic as the grant to re-lane and design the street, llike the discussion of the grant money -- and its opposition by people like Mr. Shuchat and former council member Jack Morton -- or the debacle about cutting down the trees, Ms. D seems to be referencing -- or the debate about what type of fountain -- which was resolved by commission, and accepted by Council -- Is this is an upstart initiative, in opposition and defiance to what council and commissions already agreed upon? And whose money is the $300,000? Someone is donating that? Or they are offering it if, like Lytton Plaza, the tax payers match it? What?

I know a precocious kindergartner who draws fountains and buildings and bicycles and yes for $300,000 of her rich auntie's money -- she married the founder of a company that made billions on an IPO -- she will design for us heaven on earth -- but what about process and democracy?

My other pet peeve is people who try to ride their bikes through the tunnel at Cali Ave and not dismount as suggested in the signage. I tend to dismount and put my bike between me and them and brace for the collision -- I did not play for a state champion Paly team but even the Terman Tiger flag football team of 1978 taught us how to get the better of show off bikers half my size -- hasn't happened yet but someone could get hurt.

Doria Summa got two council members' support for the Planning Commission seat that was given to Mark Michaels so has something to offer to this discussion but I hope she listens to enough sides of the story before she digs into a position too far. :)


Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

They should include trees that are easy to cut down in a few years...


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2011 at 12:51 am

Answering my own questions, this is indeed the California Avenue Streetscape Project, that has been working its way through the system for at least a year and a half, and a community input meeting regarding the Caltrain - Park Boulevard plaza, which is referred to inconsistantly as Park Boulevard Park or somesuch; "plaza" is capitalized in a document the same way "Scheduled" is -- "up-style" some call that -- but not to be confused with a proper noun. There is no Park Boulevard Park in Palo Alto.

And the fact that the focus of this meeting seems to be the fountain at the plaza -- it is a little bit of tail-wagging-dog but not necessarily an example of "The Traditional Fountain Zealots" continuing to argue what already has been decided by council and commissions - although some of the same people are at these meetings. Just skimming the documents, which are considerable, it would seem that if these designs sought to overturn, for example,the contract with artist Michael Szabo that that itself is a specific category of the Negative Declaration page, something about a plan does not interview with existing cultural amenities or decisions, etc.

A link to the various documents is here:
Web Link

Sometimes the local press, less so the Weekly, omits information not so much as shoddiness but worse as a bias. And I commented earlier on these pages for example my surprise at the Weekly's Chris Kenrick discussing Borders Books demise without ever mentioned that the store was at the site of the historic Varsity Theatre; I took that as a nod to the developer who seemed to be seeking to push thru a plan and stifle discussion of the theatre's potential.

There is a lot of wackiness going on on Cali Ave. The whole place could be renamed The Nuthouse if you ask me. Oh, also the staff report misspelled the artwork "Jungle Jane" (the face thingy across from Keeble and Shuchat) as "Junlge Jane" four or five times on successive pages, as a headline. The fountain per se is not mentioned in the original documents, which is supposed to be about traffic flow mainly. And yes, John Morton et al sued to affect the proposal

My basic take -- although I've been tracking about 20 other local issues more closely -- as an applicant for the recent PTC seat opening -- is to leave well enough alone but, and not to steal from Larry Klein too obviously -- I guess its hard to wake up and smell the bacon and not stick our grubby hands out for some pork. If I read the numbers correctly this is $500,000 of our money matched by $1,200,000 of grant money --like the $1 million or so of someone else's money that "fixed" the intersection of Stanford Ave at El Camino, or like the $9 million is it of someone else's money for a bridge for bikes over 101.

And this is how I spend my Friday night? (No I saw "Double Indemnity" first...)


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2011 at 1:10 am

The meeting is referred to as Community Plaza Design Workshop in the City documents.

Also, fyi, the landscape architects David Gates and Associates are a big firm I think in San Ramon that designed the lovely but under-utilized quasi-public park on the site of the former Times Tribune on Lytton, between the real estate office and the townhomes -- I think it was the parking lot or where the press was at the PTT.

I am not sure scanning the plans here versus the official documents whether the "$300,000 plaza" Dremann is mentioning is all in for all the work -- or whether that includes the Michael Szabo designed fountain or somehow pre-empts it -- or whether that number is the design fee that the consultants are charging, $300,000 out of the $1.7 M.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2011 at 1:45 am

On the point of whether to refer to this locale as Park Boulevard Park, the 1/4 acre plaza with the beloved birdbath style "traditional" but inoperative and doomed fountain, Park Boulevard I always think of as the road leading to Peers Park, but it may also or better be a reference to Evergreen Park the overall neighborhood. The EPNA neighborhood group has a link to an old map, from 1904, which might shed light on all these issues but it is a little confusing at this late hour, labeled S>N for example rather than more typical N<S, so I am calling it a night. Or a morning. (Saturday). Or, as they might call it today at some of the sloppier local papers, the yesterday's tomorrow.

Peers Park in comparison is 4.7 acres.


Posted by JO, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

The article says:
"But the roughly two dozen residents that attended the meeting seemed pleased with the three proposals for the $300,000 plaza."

I am wondering how my statement at the meeting that the historical design is an "insult to the community" was interpreted by the writer of the article as seeming to be "pleased" with the three proposals. I elaborated on my statement to the point that Jaime Rodriguez tried to shut me up by saying that I needed to focus on the design, to which I responded that I was speaking to the historical design concept, but I thought that the design consultants needed to understand the basis for my very strong feelings, feelings that are likely shared by others in the community.


Posted by looking forward to it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I am not good at envisioning things from 2-D plans, so I would just like to say that whichever does the best job of encouraging people to sit and eat picnics/lunch/snacks with the kids/food at the farmer's market (instead of sitting on the sidewalk in front of the bank as currently), etc stands the best chance of being a community space and not falling into disuse.

It's also really important that the "traffic" lanes -- how things naturally flow throw -- be really carefully considered, maybe even mocked up, so that they don't make the sitting spaces unusable or unpleasant. And that the needs of existing foot and bike traffic are considered so that they don't just MAKE a path through in conflict with usage, but that they have a nice journey through.

Will the businesses there at the end be able to take advantage of potential dining space in the plaza?....


Posted by Robert, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 3, 2011 at 11:55 pm

This stretch of California Ave is one of the ugliest streetscape in Palo Alto.
The only way to improve it is to make it pedestrian only. From El Camino to the train station.


Posted by helene, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2011 at 12:06 am

Fix the existing fountain. Plant a few trees, don't change the lanes so that it is one lane in each direction. comparison made to how that works on Castro Street and University Ave. Don't think it works at all, only slow traffic and difficulty parking. The merchants don't want the change, but our useless City Council has to spend the million dollars to make it so. Something wrong with our priorities.


Posted by Jazzrocker#1, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

Looks like a good place for brownbag lunchtime music sessions. Is there a stage and power outlets? No one would complain since it is near the tracks and in an industrial area. Nice social getaway area...no?


Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Dec 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm

a thing to note about the Pistache is that when the clear cutting occurred on CA Ave. these trees were explicitly spared. What was not spared were two incredibly beautiful Stone Pines.

There should be two tall redwood trees planted where the Stone Pines were removed.