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Council to debate future of Palo Alto Bowl

Original post made on Dec 14, 2009

Palo Alto Bowl would make way for a new Hilton-operated hotel if the City Council votes to approve the project tonight.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 14, 2009, 9:25 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 10:37 am

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

If the council votes to move forward, why did these people ever run for office? Do they forget why? Is this why the majority of people view Palo Alto City Hall with such disdain? Just because we're a bit late in arguing against some man-made law, does that automatically invalidate the core issue here? Supporters of the hotel and condos development will reiterate over and over again that council should proceed solely because the developer followed rules; rules in a broken status quo that favors the rich, mind you. I mean, if something like this were ever to happen with, say, the Juana Briones OH Center, would the council be alright with approving the demolition of that building? What is the extent here? Has society become so vulnerable and, as a result, so low?

Institutionalized racism and discrimination has led us into a status quo which favors the rich. As a government supposedly by, of and for the people, cities can choose to stand up; this administration still has a chance to leave a lasting legacy; but, only if they choose to.

If not, are their ways of running things the kind of world they would wish for your children and grandchildren?


Posted by K-Mart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:04 am

WE are still waiting for Mr Mart to provide us with the financial details of how he plans to keep the bowl open. Mr Mart has been agitating for a long time over the bowl, but he seems to be oblivious of the rights of the owner to sell to the developer (which he already has) and the developer to build on the site. Or does Mr Mart favor requiring the developer to keep the bowl open in order to satisfy Mr Mart's desires?
We have never seen anything that comes close to a plan for how Mr Mart will raise the money to buy the site and how he will maintain it.
It seems that Mr Mart has found an issue that he can agitate on--although it is clear that he has come to the table too late and only seems interested in berating his neighbors, while he has failed to act in a timely manner to save the bowl.
I look forward to seeing Mr Mart's plans (if they even exist)


Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:28 am

"""I think that there are certainly people in the community who feel that we are losing a number of amenities of the community such as the Palo Alto Bowl and other things that we have lost in the past," Commissioner Arthur Keller said. "We have to be sensitive to the legal property rights of the owners of the property and their rights to develop this.""

WHY - OH - WHY ???

Why don't we have a honest City Council that will honestly say "Developer (Contractors) Lobbyists , Developer (Contractors), donate to us and we will approve!!!!"

It would be great if the City Council and all the other "Councils" and "Work Shops" learned a new word – NO or new phase – DISAPPROVED….

There is no sane reason for this except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY…..

Sound to me like DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT, DEVELOPMENT !!!! Gee, the CITY has messed up "University Avenue.", West Charleston Road @ El Camino Real, butchered San Antonio Road, butchered California Street and let's not forget San Antonio and East Charleston Road.

Like I said ABOVE - There is no sane reason for this PROBLEMS except MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and not caring about the people of Palo Alto or ANY of the other communities …..

Where is the Palo Alto ELKS LODGE, # 1171 ?????

WHERE is RICKIE ?????????



Posted by commonsense, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:38 am

The only way the bowling alley survives is if a Packark-type buyer comes along and has passion for bowling as he did historic movies (i.e. Stanford Theater on University.) The economics of the bowling alley over the hotel is laughable. Similar economic reasoning to leaving the bowling alley is used to balance the Palo Alto and California budgets... Get over it bowlers, you need to find or buy or build another bowling alley. Please do!


Posted by John, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:42 am

Let's think about our deeply flawed tax system for a moment. It clearly needs reform that shifts taxes from labor and capital goods to land. The very last thing Palo Alto needs is to host more establishments like condos and hotels which aggressively lobby AGAINST higher land taxes for their own personal gain. It's very, very simple economics; land taxes have no deadweight loss, and are the most efficient type of tax. The only reason we don't have higher land taxes is because politicians gain so much support from organizations exactly like these hotels and condos. We all remember the disastrous passing of prop 13, so why is Palo Alto even thinking about building more establishments that want the WRONG type of tax? At the same time, these undesirable establishments are threatening the existence of an irreplaceable and beloved old business, PA bowl. If the city council were truly educated on the economic front of this proposal they would realize the mistake they'd make by taking PA bowl away.


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I don't bowl and I haven't followed this saga, but it seems a shame to me to deprive teenagers and senior citizens and every other bowler of a safe place for recreation near home!!


Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:22 pm

If this place does go away that means there is officially nothing in Palo Alto for teenagers anymore. I think people need to realize what happens when you mix boredom with teenagers and provide them multimillion dollar homes that parents won't be home to for hours after kids get out of school. There isn't a mall, there isn't a movie theatre (for recent movies, I used to work at Palo Alto Square movie theatre), there isn't any place for teenagers to be able to hang out.


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Thank you, Brian, VERY WELL PUT!


Posted by Angelo J Rossi, a resident of Woodside
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I was born at Palo Alto hospital. It's gone now. I grew up in South Palo Alto. I for one, think it's a shame to see this type of progress and commercialism destroying the last vestiges of what once was a gracefully suburban college town. In reading K Mart and Daniel Mart's posts, I want to go on record in support of saving the Palo Alto Bowl. Not because I bowl. Not because I play pool. But, because I am a native Palo Altan. That's the way we are built. I for one, feel that there are way too many dense housing projects being built in South Palo Alto. Add in the new Jewish Community Center and the Four Seasons at Whiskey Gulch, these development projects seem to be taking over the landscape at a vicious pace. However, I understand why. That's easy given that the laws of capitalism are in full force. But, that dos not mean that it's right, does it? I say the following with as much sensitivity as possible. My condolences in advance if anyone is offended. However, I feel that this must be discussed. Is it any wonder why we are seeing so many kids throw their live away in our community? What values are we communicating to our children? Where is the moral judgment in validating this relentless, unyielding and overwhelming pressure to succeed, to compete for money and success over artistic endeavor, community activism and fun? Perhaps Palo Alto's soul, it's respite and recluse are quickly being replaced by, hotels, motels, condo's, shopping developments and over-sized homes built on tiny lots by the ridiculously, "successful" few. Perhaps. So, when does a community stand up and say, "enough"? Barring a new boom in the area, which I think may be wishful thinking, I have to ask myself why is it that the City Council and Palo Altan's are not fighting harder to save the bowling alley? We, as an educated and diverse community can not continue to give in to the pressures of greed and excess in lieu of losing our souls, destroying our kids future while embracing the sway of predatory land barons like the Hilton's, can we? At least, not without a fight. We must be honest and careful with these decisions, right? Palo Alto has always been an activist community. It has long been a center of gravity for questioning and fighting the establishment, has it not? It's healthy, it's vibrant and it's good. So, therefore I embrace the fight to SAVE THE BOWLING ALLEY! Go get 'em Daniel Mart and keep fighting the good fight. You can not win, but at the least your personal embrace of the core heritage of our once, "enlightened" community is impressive and courageous. I applaud your bravado in the face of overwhelming moral, monetary and legal odds. It's so, Palo Alto!


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

Her are some comments from the petition which was sent in:

"As a former member of the Palo Alto Bowl's junior bowling league and as a City Planning major at Cornell University, I feel like I understand the needs of both the Bowl and the Palo Alto City Planning Department. I understand that the financial benefits may be tempting for Palo Alto City Planners to resist, but I URGE the department to return back to the roots of the planning profession - to prioritize the social needs of the community.

The amount of available land resources to develop in Palo Alto may be becoming scarce, but this should NOT equate to the necessity of demolishing the ENTIRE facility for a hotel/housing. Hotel rates are skyrocketing in the city and I see no need to expand on an amenity that does not seem to be pressing during a nationwide housing slump and necessary to promote the city's cash revenue. Something needs to be done about the excess land that is currently underutilized in the land property of the Palo Alto Bowl, but this should not mean that a facility that has served the community for decades should be eliminated from the urban fabric. I have gained many experiences as a junior bowling league member of the Palo Alto Bowl's Saturday All-Stars. Our team went to compete in the state tournament, representing Palo Alto to the entire state of California. The bowling team was a great way to experience a part of small-town America that is slowly becoming obsolete - simple and plain fun without breaking the bank. Even today on my resume I put my awards from the Palo Alto Bowl as a proud achievement of my childhood. Without the Palo Alto Bowl, I would not have stepped into the real world in the same way. The Palo Alto Bowl keeps the youth from enjoying other activities that the City of Palo Alto would deem "inappropriate." If Palo Alto is truly a place where minds can grow in a safe, protecting environment, then the Palo Alto City Planning Department should stick to its goals. It should save the Palo Alto Bowl for yet another piece of development that is questionable to succeed in such dire economic times"

-- Kevin Chung, petition signer from New York

"In tearing down this bowling alley, the city is encouraging the cities youth to engage in other activities that are less wholesome and traditionally safe. The palo alto bowling alley has always been a safe place for the community youth. In tearing down the bowling alley, the city of Palo Alto is showing the younger members of our community that money means more. If this is the case, tear it down... but just realize in doing so, you are taking away a safe refuge for some young member of your community who has found friendship and kinship through the services and existance of the Palo Alto Bowling alley. On a personal note... I've grown up going to the Palo Alto Bowling alley, and because of it's awesome location, it made participating fun. There is no way I would ever travel to Cupertino from Palo Alto to go bowling at a younger age before I got my license. I think the city of Palo Alto seriously needs to reconsider their plans to demolish this historical site (been around my entire life) and to REALLY think about the impact this will have on the younger members of the community who currently utilize this facility as a sanctuary from drug use and other crimial activities.

Change is great, but to take away a facility that has been loyal to it's customers in reassuring good times and positive experiences for over 50 years, is just plain out wrong. The message being sent is thoughtless to the community members who have loyally supported the bowling alley, who have earned trophies, trained young people to engage in a sport that is becoming more and more unpopular due to the simple fact that bowling alleys are far and few these days. Keep our historical landmark! We want to bowl in our community, not stay in big fancy hotels"

-- Mahria D'Elia, petition signer from California

"PA bowl needs to be saved. First of all, we definitely don't need another hotel in town, or anymore housing for that matter. Second, kids and teens need safe, affordable places to play and hang out, other than to party at those hotels being built or hang out on the streets. Many great family memories are made doing family things, like bowling. Palo Alto has not kept it's citizens in mind when rezoning and tearing down buildings. All they seem to think about are $$$ to be made in the sale of the land, and like I said, not about it's citizens. I believe Palo Alto doesn't want revenue or sales tax these days either... Get rid of car dealers, get rid of grocery stores - take 20 years to replace those torn down. I'm surprised there are 2 gas stations on El Camino - and VERY few anywhere else in town. PALO ALTO AS A DESTINATION LOCATION - HA!!!"

-- Petition signer from California

"Palo Alto Bowl is an important and necessary facility for our community. It is used and enjoyed by all ages but it is especially crucial we have several places for our teens to go to "hang out" in a safe and fun environment. I grew up in Palo Alto and it saddens me to say that the Palo Alto my children are growing up in is definitely not the same Palo Alto I grew up in. It is a shame and was completely avoidable. We, as a community, need to put a stop to the over developing that continues to destroy what used to make Palo Alto a city with a small town feeling. We need to start taking back our "town" and making it a safe, enriching place to raise a family. Losing PA Bowl would be a huge mistake on so many levels. I think going forward, the City Council should take into consideration the long-term affect all this condo-stacking, hotel building, dense development has on our community. We need buildings and facilities that will benefit our COMMUNITY, not the city's pocketbook"

-- Petition signer from California

I mean, if this is approved, why would the council even bother to have a hearing? In a naïve attempt to convince the public that this is a real government (and not just nine people who do whatever they want)?


Posted by Ken Powell, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Well, this strikes a chord, we see. I don't bowl but I do feel like Palo Alto is loosing something of value - and a nice Thai restaurant, too. The restaurant is likely to find another suitable location but the bowl will likely be gone for good.

To those of you who feel that city government should intervene by making some socially-driven decision on this, though, I say watch out for what you ask! If the government were to step in to force the "will of the people" onto landowners who are revitalizing a section of shabby El Camino and doing it within existing zoning, you are asking to replace something that's merely unfortunate with something that would be a true disaster. A democracy is not mob rule and the majority is not always right. We set up the laws and regulations and then we live by them whether we like the outcome or not.

People who want to save the bowling ally have at least two choices: Change the zoning so not much other than a bowling ally could go there or raise some money then buy and run the place. Organizations that preserve land like the Peninsula Open Space Trust and the Committee for Green Foothills operate these ways. This is not China where the party can steamroller landowners. Landowners have rights and I'm glad they do or it would not be worthwhile to own land.

As a matter of practicality, the Palo Alto Bowl is probably beyond the reach of saving. Bowl advocates could buy a different property or entice a developer to add a bowling ally to a PC (Planned Community) or any project requiring a variance. The bowling ally would be a community asset to offset the advantages or variances required for the rest of it. This is doable.

/Ken


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

I also just recieved a reply for John Barton, and did some research on his emails website, and apparently he is head of an architectual firm ... seems very unsettling.


Posted by K-Mart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Very nice, Mr Mart, posting quotations from the petition. But since you are the leader of this group, what is your plan for keeping the bowl open or are you expecting the city to trample on the rights of the owner and developer in order to satisfy your desires?
Read Mr Powell's post above. Provide us with a financial plan.


Posted by K-Mart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

"I also just recieved a reply for John Barton, and did some research on his emails website, and apparently he is head of an architectual firm ... seems very unsettling."
What is unsettling? What are you suggesting? Please provide proof for your allegations. Stop casting aspersions on our council and give us your detailed plan for purchasing the bowl site


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm

It seems really strange to me that the City is suddenly concerned about raising some tax dollars from a proposed hotel, when they don't seem keen to raise tax dollars from their residents' shopping habits.

Regardless of how many hotel rooms there are in Palo Alto, I can't see more people coming to stay here. It will only mean that the same number of hotel rooms are being utilized, just that they are spread around more hotels.

If the City keeps on the way it is, we will be a dormitory town of people who move here for the schools and do all their shopping and recreation outside Palo Alto.

I wonder if a hotel can be required to put a bowling alley in its ground floor and perhaps move a restaurant to the 1st floor.


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

A few supporters early on did suggest the possibility of building hotel rooms above the alley, and I've always been in support of that idea.

And Angelo ... thanks :)


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by K-Mart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Mr. Mart - You are resident of Mountain View not Palo Alto, correct? Certainly you have a plan to build your own viable and profitable bowling alley in your own town of Mountain View? Because you haven't presented anything for the PA Bowl except some sort of government intrusion upon private property rights.


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

Although it might seem naive to some people, I will not ever break down and give into a broken status quo.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Any denial of this application would be ruled as an illegal taking of private property by the City. The City would then be liable for compensating the current owners. This happened recently to Halfmoon Bay and Palo Alto in the 1970's (Foothills zoning change after plans were submitted).

Who is going to pay the claim against the City, Mr. Mart?


Posted by Daniel Mart, a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

That'd be giving in to a status quo which favors rich people ... when you have a bunch of filfthy rich developers who come in and say to the public "we want to develop this and screw you" because there is so much special interest money involved, somethings wrong.

This is not a government the people voted for.

Councils can choose to stand up and make a difference, to play their part in a chain of much larger positive trickle effects in the future of society, or continue to give in and act as huge burdens on this and surrounding cities.

As for who would pay, well, every challenge to the status quo has hurdles; we'd just cross them when they come.


Posted by K-Mart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Mr Golobic chose to sell the site to developers back in May of 2007. Perhaps Mr Mart should have approached Mr Golobic then with an offer for the site. Mr Golobic's sale was legal and now the developers plans are legal. Had Mr Mart been serious about saving the bowl, he would have come up with a plan--he knew that Mr Golobic had a lease for 2+ years from the developer. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm

The people who've been sneering at Daniel Mart's viewpoint and the lack of funds to save the bowling alley are simply proving his point--that money rules in today's Palo Alto.

Coffee-places close at 8 or 9 in the evening, films popular with teens are not close by, so what's safe and sociable that teens can do in Palo Alto?? Eat fancy dinners at Zibbibo's??!! Sit in "Parisian" Lytton Plaza and watch the gangs of "adult" bar-hoppers from out of town??!!

A great place for a bowling alley would be the former Arco gas-station site next to the Winter Lodge on Middlefield Road. But guess what? It's slated to be developed into offices (primarily) and a teeny little retail space below. Don't we all just need more offices in this fair town . . .

So, hotels and offices and big bucks win. The fact that the City is driving all this development in order to fund its further arrant--and arrogant--mis-spending seems to go unnoticed. Connect the dots, folks!!


Posted by Save the Bowl 2, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Before we raze the Bowl, shouldn't we examine the occupancy rate of other PA high-cost hotels. And, if we needed more hotel space, why was Ricky's torn down. Is this fiasco going to join the California Avenue trees, the budget mess, etc?


Posted by Juana Briones parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 1:35 am

At the city council meeting tonight, the developer arrogantly claimed that they had "community input" in developing their plan. LOL...You mean Monroe Park... I think everyone's definition of "community" is broader than that one neighborhood.

The occupancy for hotels in that area is 20%. Look it up.

You get who you deserve, people, and we apparently deserve this city council. If no one cares about issues in Palo Alto, then we will get people like Klein determining the fate of our city's remaining community centers.

If Keene hadn't mishandled our budget and -- oops -- lost 4.8 million last month then perhaps, PERHAPS, we wouldn't have such a real and pressing need to sell out to the hotel developer. Yes, we know, money rocks, we need the property taxes (and the room taxes -- oops hotels are only booked at 20% -- oh well, no one was watching anyway).

Mayor Drekmeier thanked Keene profusely and had the nerve to proclaim that "hiring [him] was the best decision" they had made. For real? Oh, yeah, that's right... no one cares...



Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2009 at 2:01 am

A lot of amenities have bitten the dust during the over two decades that our family has lived in Palo Alto. Neighborhood stores and restaurants have been replaced with chains, boutiques, and expensive fine-dining establishments. The bookstore count on University Avenue is down to one — and it's a chain. Little houses are razed and replaced with mansions (not much of a loss as most of the small homes were ticky-tacky tract homes to start with), or with multiple homes on ever-smaller lots (which is a loss). Giant fields of condos with narrow streets and insufficient parking built on busy streets are cramming new residents into our town cheek-by-jowl, crowding our schools with students and our streets with extra traffic.

Why? Because Palo Alto is still a more desirable place to live than most of the surrounding communities, at least for those people crowding into the condos. And why is that? It used to be at least partly for the ambience, but now that that's mostly gone, it's all about the schools, which as a parent, I understand. Palo Alto's parents are a very determined bunch, and have been hanging onto the quality of the schools with their fingernails (and their financial support), while most other school districts around the state have been sinking under the burdens placed on them by Prop. 13, where they are continually being asked to serve more students with fewer resources.

I think that the reason people are reacting more viscerally to the loss of the Palo Alto Bowl is that it's not one of many restaurants, small shops, or bookstores — it's the only one of its kind for miles around, and it's not likely to be replaced because it requires a lot of land, which is increasingly unaffordable for a business whose model cannot be changed to turn over more and more customers in less and less time, or extract ever-increasing amounts of money from those customers it does serve. A bowling alley is what it is, and it's not going to find a way to increase its income commensurate with the increase in the value of the land it sits on. (I remember similar angst as drive-in movie theaters went out of business one by one as land costs priced them out of existence.)

Although we have not been regular users of the bowling alley, our kids did have birthday parties there. As teenagers, they took advantage of cheap late-night bowling sessions for group fun (and/or as a place to cool off on hot summer nights, though they said the air-conditioning never was great). One of them even took the bowling P.E. class at Foothill, which I'm sure will also be eliminated. It is all so normal, so middle-class, so suburban, and probably reminds us baby-boomer parents of our own childhoods. (Where are all the roller rinks we used to skate in? All gone now as far as I can tell.)

I think the bowling alley's a goner — the economics of land values in this town just work too much against it. What's going to happen to Palo Alto is that as it loses such amenities, as the streets choke with traffic and the schools burst with kids, as "normal" shopping is replaced with chi-chi stores none of us need and few of us can afford, we're going to start comparing Palo Alto to other communities (even outside the Bay Area, maybe) and notice that our quality of life is no longer so superior to other towns. We'll see larger houses on larger lots for the same price there, the nice big grocery stores, the movie theaters, the midprice department stores, and yes, even the bowling alleys, and we'll say, hey, I think I'd rather live in that place now, and we'll start migrating out of Palo Alto and into those towns, even if we have to send the kids to private schools. And although Palo Alto's people may still be richer, the town will be poorer. But it will all just be a natural progression, a movement through the life cycle, and a small sadness rather than a great tragedy. But a sadness nonetheless.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2009 at 8:21 am

Palo Alto Mom, you said it!


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