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Derelict Gas Station

Original post made by Midtown Resident on Aug 15, 2007

It has been mentioned here before, but the derelict gas station on Middlefield is an eyesore, a reminder of what we had that was very useful, a possible hangout for illegal activity and probably an environmental hazard. I know the politics of getting it back as a gas station is particularly Palo Alto. But, in the days of election campaigning, I would dearly like to know what can be done and what the alternatives are. Do the different candidates for city council have any views? Are there any plans in the pipeline? Am I the only resident who would like to see something, anything happen?

Comments (30)

Posted by Dauntel, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Aug 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm

A good guess is that the gas station, like Alma Plaza, and so many other locations in town is a victim of the Palo Alto process. I haven't heard, and don't know, anything specific about the boarded up gas station. But if I were the owner of that parcel, I'd probably dread trying to do anything with it in this city.

And I doubt if any council candidate will do much either. First, people like Myrtels probably want to turn it into a park or open space or somethign silly. And if you were a candidate with somethign reasonable in mind for the piece of land, you'd probably keep your mouth shut for fear of inciting the local NIMBY's.

Palo Alto is a very wierd place.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2007 at 4:43 pm

I miss the mechanic who used to be there. I would like some enquiring reporter to answer the question why no open.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2007 at 8:31 pm

It is true. We have Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza, both with a plan of action and a group of interested residents. As far as I am aware there is neither for this site and it is about time that action was implemented.

Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 15, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Since the city and the owner evidently won't do it, would someone energetic, kind hearted and much younger than I am, please cut the weeds? At least it won't look so bad. Thank you.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 16, 2007 at 7:11 am

When I wear my Parks and Recreation Commissioner hat, I would like to see it become a gymansium, providing more capacity for indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball, among others, which are growing in popularity as much as outdoor field sports are, and for which available capacity in our community is in short supply.

It adjoins tennis courts and the skating rink, so parking and traffic issues already are largely understood. As a commercial or residential parcel, it does not appear to have much utility, and I suspect the reason it no longer operates as a gas station is that is didn't succeed financially.

I almost hesitate to bring this idea up in a public forum like this, as it is just my idea, not anything that I have pursued in depth with my colleagues on the Commission or with City staff. If this idea has some merit, it likely would require some sort of public/private investment approach, given some of the other capital requirements Palo Alto faces.

But, I would be interested in what people think of the idea. Playing areas is a priority issue for our Commission, and we are carefully evaluating projected demand and supply that the community will face so we can recommend how to plan for land and building utilization going forward. Personally, I think the gym shortage is a no brainer, finding land and building opportunities around town to address it smartly is going to be the challenge.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 7:26 am

While I would prefer the site reopen as a service station, Paul's suggestion would be an acceptable alternative as long as it did not take the usual Palo Alto decade to decide.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2007 at 9:27 am

I really miss this service station and guarantee I will patronize it if someone reopens it as a service station.

Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2007 at 9:42 am

Who owns the site and what are their plans? (Or what would be their plans if they were not harassed by the City?)

Posted by GBD, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 11:18 am

I have no idea why the site is sitting unused. Here are two articles from the PA Weekly archive.

Dec 2004 article about ARCO deciding to close the station and the operator trying to buy it back. The site is zoned as a gas station.
Web Link

Dec 2005 about the gas tanks being removed.
Web Link

Posted by Grumpy, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Let us take this lemon and make some lemonade. We can redefine this eyesore as a piece of environmetal art: "Derilict, decaying gas station." Then we can over the next forty years watch it decay and turn to dust. Maybe someone can drop by and take a picture every ten years or so to document the decay. By 2050 the Palo Alto Process will have finally made a decision about what to do with the property.

We can also apply the environmental art tag to our decaying strip malls as well...Alma Plaza and Embarcadero. Better yet, maybe we can get the artist known as Christo to wrap them. It worked with the Reichstag. We could turn them into tourist attractions.

Just trying to be helpful.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 12:49 pm


I like your idea and reasoning. I do have a question relating to this. Would a better site for a gym be near the Bayshore Athletic Center where Babe Ruth Baseball is played. It seems to me that this site is very under-utilised and there could be space to build more facilities. I think a gym in this area would be great, much better than Middlefield Road. I believe I heard somewhere that there was money set aside and plans for improving the parking and facilities there. Making this place a true athletic center would really help Palo Alto's sports players.

Posted by Gary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2007 at 1:06 pm


I like your idea, although I would prefer a re-opened gas station (I used to use that station quite a bit). A gym at that spot makes a lot of sense. It is near a preexisting sports complex. It might generate a little business nearby. I fills a real need. However, I would caution that the environmental cleanup could be a real nightmare. The former gas station site across from Stanford, next to the old European Health Spa, has been undergoing expensive cleanup for many years. This is lagely self-imposed by the environmental lobby, but it is what it is. You (we) could be waiting for MANY years, Paul. Something to consider.

I presume that this is private property. If the owner is not interested in selling, probably nothing will happen. Yes, the owner can be charged to keep the weeds down, but not much else.

Posted by John, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 1:40 pm

The former gas station belongs to the oil company who ran it, I think it was Chevron. I don't think they can be bothered with the site but they probably want a lot of money for it. Any takers?

Posted by Anamika, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Any idea why it was closed down? It was the only gas station serving the mid-town area .. I used it quite often.

Posted by PA_reader, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Is this the gas station near Winter Lodge? I always thought that the Starbucks up the road should move to that location. There would be better parking and all of the skaters could stop by for hot cocoa too.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2007 at 5:52 pm

why does everything in this city have to be about sports? This is a gas station, for Heaven's sake...

Posted by EPA, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2007 at 7:26 pm

With gas stations anyone buying the site becomes responsible for ground contamination, which can be quite an expense.

Posted by EPA, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2007 at 7:27 pm

I meant gound contamination cleanup in the above post.

Posted by Eyesore, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2007 at 6:05 am

Anamika, the gas station closed down because it couldn't make a profit - daaaa!!!
Seriously, soil contamination is a big issue. The cost of cleanup could be huge, so it will probably stay like it is for a long, long, time. Any developer would have to weight the cost of soil contamination cleanup against any future profits he may make on the land.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2007 at 8:25 am

Another case where silly overreaction hurts everyone.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2007 at 10:29 am

I remember a BP gas station on the site of the Mayfield soccer fields. I do remember talk about cleaning up the site, don't remember the outcome, but we do have children playing soccer on the site now.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Unless there is evidence of harm, monitor and reopen.

Posted by bruce, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2007 at 6:17 pm

GBD posted two web links that gave the background on the ARCO station. Please read them before making any more statements or suggestions that can't be effected.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2007 at 6:38 pm

I see nothing uusual in the cites given. Everything needs a permit, and fire department permits are given or withheld for technical reasons, not silly esthetic stuff.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2007 at 3:07 pm

I would really be interested in hearing what the city council candidates have to say on this particular Midtown issue.

Posted by joe, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2007 at 2:48 am

When people try to protect a historic home from demolition, lots of commenters say stuff like you want it saved, you buy it.

Okay, you don't like the abandoned gas station sitting there? You buy the property and fix it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 8:55 am

Nice try, Joe, but many of us don't like the abandoned gas station, but this is a different scenario. Running a gas station as a going concern is a full time operation. Fixing up a so called historic house is a part time, hobby for someone with either too much time or too much money to know what to do with.

Posted by joe, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2007 at 1:44 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hard Copy Reader, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2007 at 6:43 pm


I read in the hard copy Weekly yesterday that this gas station is now set to become two storey retail. Do we have any more details on this one please?

Posted by Vivian, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 1, 2007 at 1:51 pm

We should come out against this--it will create too much traffic

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