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Alma Plaza--will we see it redeveoped in our lifetime?

Original post made by Not so fast, Duveneck/St. Francis, on Feb 22, 2008

The Alma Plaza saga continues:

Web Link

Another one of our city's boards/commissions/committees/blue(green)ribbon panels continues to play its games with the Alma Plaza redevelopement. Will anything ever satisfy a boards/commissions/committees/blue(green) ribbon panels in Palo Alto?

What we have is a pattern of nitpicking and/or micromanagement from these assorted groups (another example being the Google daycare near the Baylands--there are many others).

This is all part of the notorious Palo Alto Process which seems to feed the egos of members of these assorted entities as they feel the "process" gives them license to prolong decisions forever.

BTW, Alma Plaza is a good indication of what will happen with Edgewood Plaza

Comments (20)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by localneighbor
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:34 pm

We wouldn't be in this mess if it were not for those people complaining about too much traffic. It sits right off of Alma, how much more traffic are they going to worry about. We need to move forward and those citizens that complain about traffic are creating unnecessary burdens on others.

Just like why do we have two drugstores in Midtown because someone complained that Trader Joe would bring too much traffic.

Sorry went off target here but this is one of my biggest peeves are these residents who are being too shrilly about something that is really needed.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:43 pm

From what I remember, Trader Joe's turned down the Midtown site because it had two stores - one in Menlo Park and one in Mt. View near Sears. But it was the Architectural Review Board which OK'd the atrociously ugly housing development at the old Rickey's Hyatt site.
I don't trust this bunch. It also OK'd 800 High. Palo Alto could have been the "Santa Barbara of the North". Instead we go Disneyland.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:28 pm

We wish it was Disneyland. It's more like Bubbaville, a Wal-Mart short.

The architectural review board never saw an abomination it didn't like. Also these guys have a permanent conflict of interest, passing judgement on the projects of the developers who pay them their professional commissions. If they don't play ball now they don't get work later.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Mike: "If they don't play ball now they don't get work later"

That's ridiculous, and pretty insulting. Frankly, I think there *sometimes* is too much nitpicking from the AC, but they are good people, and honest.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

People who cannot govern in real time should seek employment outside government. Government should restrict regulations to public health and safety considerations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:08 pm

"Government should restrict regulations to public health and safety considerations"

How is the aesthetic realm anathema to public health?


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Posted by Former Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2008 at 3:27 pm

With the ever increasing threat of consuming our natural petrol resources, maybe citizens of PA could come with some ideals to bring back the stores!
Whoa! What a concept!
Walking to the store for once!
Of course the city gov will never get it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2008 at 5:35 am

"How is the aesthetic realm anathema to public health?"
People are crazy when they interpose their esthetic tastes on others by force and violence. it is far better that those who find the structues of others offensive be required to wear blinders that prevent their viewing those structures.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2008 at 8:34 am

The developer(s) interested in Alma Plaza pointed out that no grocery store chain or individual owner could make a living with a mandated maximum store size of 15,000 sq. ft. It will be interesting to see how long any retail grocery store lasts. I'm betting on less than two years.




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Posted by Live too far away
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:03 pm

All the complainers who have criticized every development proposal for Alma Plaza have got what they wanted; a decaying rundown area which will eventually hurt their property values,


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Critical of the ARB
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 23, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Our ARB criticize for the sake of criticizing, they want to be seen as needed and relevant. They did this with the GOOGLE kinderplex and the Elk's Club site. They should stand back and listen to themselves sometimes.




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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Didn;t they also play the same game with the conversion of Kiki's on Bayshore road to a gymnasium??? That is still pending while the developers try to satisfy the never satisfied commission in this city.
I also agree with "Live too far away", the neighbors played a nice role in the Alma Plaza fiasco by playing the "grocery store is too big, the grocery store is too small" game. Not to mention the Charleston Meadow gang that got Alma Plaza included in the Charleston Corridor building moratorium.
But clearly the main blame goes to the CIty Council for not taking a stand, drawing a line in the sand and saying we need a final decision.
Too busy with climate change, Homer Avenue tunnels and bike races.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I haven't seen visuals of the plans, only read the link above so it's hard to judge how Disneylandish it might look but...many of us in PA drive by Alma Plaza and we all must surely agree this is a highly visible run down area. It's time for compromise and to get something viable in there. We see successful small developments in Mountain View, Sunnyvale etc without much hassle and everyone is happy.


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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2008 at 6:45 pm

My feelings on this is that the property was not owned by a local "IN" developer/property owner. It took years to run Albertsons out of town so it could be taken over by a local developer. This housing can or could produce 10's of millions in profits for this developer.
It's run down because the city wouldn't let Albertsons or Lucky rebuild the store(s).
The local and other people who objected were probably encouraged by the new 0wner/developer.
Since when does the city listen to about 30 people object to a local project that would be wanted by thousands of people who would shop there. Eliminating a viable shopping center,grocery store in South Palo Alto by people who mostly live in North Palo Alto to benifit a North Palo Alto developer is what happened.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 23, 2008 at 11:46 pm

I listened to the discussions that went on about Alma Plaza - both at Council meetings as well as meetings in the neighborhood. It began when the local neighbors did not want Albertson to build a store greater than 20,000 sq. ft., the maximum permitted by code.

After a couple of years of trying to build a larger store so they could become profitable, Albertson decided to give up. Then many of the neighbors wanted them to stay and some pushed for a 30,000 sq. ft. store. By then too much time had passed - too much intransigence by council and neighbors - too much delay - too much acrimony. Local developers did not start the difficulties. Talk to Chop Keenan or Jim Baer before you blame them.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 24, 2008 at 1:49 am

W Wallis: "People are crazy when they interpose their esthetic tastes on others by force and violence."

Who's using force and violence?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 6:28 am

Marie, all governments ultimately rely on force and violence. Do not rationalize interfering with another person just because your own connection is abstract.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2008 at 9:40 am

Long Time Resident says: "Eliminating a viable shopping center, grocery store in South Palo Alto by people who mostly live in North Palo Alto to benifit a North Palo Alto developer is what happened".

Sorry, but that's not what happened. After Lucky's sold the under 20,000 sq. ft. grocery store to Albertsons, the latter tried to get it enlarged to 36,000 sq. ft. The neighbors complained it was too big. So, to oblige the neighbors, Albertsons reduced the size of the store to 29,000 sq. ft. At that point local residents got Alma Plaza included in the one year Charleston Corridor building moratorium. Albertsons gave up, and sold the site to John McNellis.

McNellis started to prepare his plans for a housing development plus some small retail. It was then revealed that he had signed an agreement with Albertsons with a clause in it which prevented him from building a store larger than 18,000 sq. ft.

The neighbors then insisted that a grocery store be included anyway. So, McNellis included a 12,000 sq. ft. store. Then the neighbors complained it was too small, so the size was increased to 15,000 sq. ft!! McNellis also pointed out that it will be difficult to find a tenant for a grocery outlet that small. Council, led by Mayor Klein, still insisted that a 15,000 sq. ft. store be built, and told McNellis to find a tenant.

All these delays have taken many years. Now the ARB are nitpicking at the housing element and so the delays go on and on, and the old boarded up shopping center continues to deteriorate.




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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Jenny and others: BS,BS,BS. McNellis was supposto be working for Albertson, but in reality was looking to buy the site, MY Theory. Why would the city council keep delaying a new grocery store if they cared a bit about the people in S.Palo Alto who wanted a new, bigger store. Thousands of people wanted a new, competative, place to shop for basic groceries. The propety was zoned PC and the 20,000 sq.ft.size limit did not apply. The city council simply delayed things until Luckys and Albertsons gave up. Then with little or no delay McNellis gets permission to build housing on the site. How convenient. To heck with the neighborhood (the big neighborhood).

How convenient for McNellis that he couldn't build a large store there.
How convenient for Piazzs, Molly Stones and Whole Foods and maybe Safeway.
Does the current 15,000 sq ft include a large basement space. Go to the basement to buy your groceries. How convenient!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

Here is the latest volley in the attempts by "neighbors" to stop the Alma Plaza development:

Web Link

I guess the group can no longer play the "grocery store is too large, the grocery store is too small game" (for those of you who have followed this, the complaints about the grocery store being too big were led by Jay Hammer and neighbors. When the site was sold to mcNellis, the group felt that it wouldn;t look right for the same people to complain that the grocery store was too small, so they set up a new group called "Friends of Alma Plaza" led by Len Fillpu to obstruct development of the plaza) so they have started a new campaign.

Shouldn;t Sheri Furman be more concerned about where the 2000 new Stanford employees will be living?


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