Editorial: A grandiose proposal needing careful study | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 9, 2012

Editorial: A grandiose proposal needing careful study

Arrillaga project will raise important questions over how to trade-off the negative impacts of a large development with the community benefits it provides

The makings for an unusual public-private-nonprofit development that would transform the city's western gateway at El Camino and University Ave. into a vibrant office and performing arts complex was unveiled with much excitement at Monday night's City Council meeting.

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Posted by varsity, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm

If the goal of this project really is to create a new theater in Palo Alto, why not just refurbish the existing Varsity Theater. The Varsity ideally located for Palo Alto residents; close to homes and restaurants and the "bicycle boulevard".

Sounds to me like the theater is really just a facade on a much larger development project including housing and office buildings that will pour more traffic onto an already overloaded section of El Camino Real.

Posted by George, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2012 at 6:49 am

Traffic creation and parking are always major considerations for Palo Alto development proposals.

Theater traffic will largely occur well after commute hours, but it is centered at a critical interchange -- the Caltrain Station, El Camino Real, Alma, and University Avenue where a rework has long been envisioned.

A high rise office building will be the challenge. Until specific uses are known, it must be assumed this building is likely to attract the most traffic during commute hours.

What about a high rise hotel? A 120-room hotel was eliminated from Stanford Shopping Center plans a few years ago. At the time, it was said hotels generate relatively little traffic and hotel-related traffic generally occurs at other than commute hours.

The El Camino Real Master Planning Study, published March 12, 2003 and updated March 16, 2007, on Page 30 mentions the Palo Alto Intermodal Transit Center (PAITC).
Web Link

The Palo Alto Intermodal Transit Center (PAITC) redesign study addresses the highest-use Caltrain station other than downtown San Francisco. The station serves almost 3000 Caltrain passengers a day and is also an active bus transfer terminal, accommodating almost 700 buses a day, from four different transit operators. It occupies an extremely confined site, bounded by downtown Palo Alto, a major arterial State Highway (El Camino Real), and the railroad tracks themselves, as well as sensitive neighboring land uses.

The PAITC conceptual plan consists of both transportation elements and community amenities. Transportation elements include expanded rail and bus passenger service capacity, an at-grade intersection of Alma Street and University Avenue, the re-design of University Avenue between Alma Street and Palm Drive, and provision of a bicycle and pedestrian undercrossing of Caltrain near Alma and Everett. Community amenities include an urban park and civic space, public art, and urban design features.

A process for project implementation and a financing strategy have been developed to identify potential sources of funding for needed infrastructure and other capital improvements, and the uses of those funds. Project costs are expected to range from $196 million to $247 million. The key steps for implementation are identified with an estimate of 10 to 15 years for planning, design, funding and construction.

Today we are in the middle of that 10 to 15 year period.

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

What about the proposal to shut down University Avenue and turn it into a pedestrian Mall/Destination? How does that square with all of the building that is going on in downtown, plus this new project?

Where will all of this new traffic go if University is closed down?

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I only wish the plan were to improve Lucie Stern and build a new performing arts center on the SOUTH side of town where we really need it so much more! The north has Stanford, Lucie Stern, Paly (which is building a new auditorium), and we have...NOT EVEN the new community center. Cubberley and the JCC are actually pretty small.

Posted by McArthur Park , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Folks, Arrillaga only gives to Stanford; the Varsity and Lucie Stern are in Palo Alto. This new theater and development will be built on Stanford land, that's very important to those who donate so generously to Stanford.

However, if Palo Alto residents want to improve the Varsity Theater or Lucy Stern perhaps they should think about donating to their favorite cause.

So sorry to see McArthur Park restaurant go; so aptly named after the '60s Beatles song about Liverpool. Sadly, another Beatles song hits the dust, The hippie era of my magical youth is fading fast!!!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm

@ neighbor:

Don't forget that Gunn/"south side" has Spangenberg Theater - which will be receiving a makeover as part of the school bond projects.