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Hope dims for Palo Alto's proposed police building

Original post made on Apr 16, 2013

Palo Alto's long and tortuous path toward a new police headquarters took another frustrating twist Tuesday afternoon when city officials learned that the latest proposal for a new facility is unlikely to meet the needs of the police department.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 11:21 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:31 pm

The article says "And Councilman Marc Berman offered an assurance that even though the city is "getting creative with the process" it's not losing any quality.

"We're still taking the same steps we'd normally do, we're just doing them on an accelerated time frame," Berman said,

Please don't take the same steps that has given us the JCC, 801 Alma, the Lytton Gateway, Alma Village/Plaza, Arbor Real. Every project that has been granted a "PC" zoning variance has been terrible. Do extra steps, NOT the normal steps. Show the residents you can get one project right.


Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2013 at 6:52 am

Hey, How about the corner of El Camino and Page Mill road??
You know, the site with two plastic soccer fields? That would be a perfect spot for the station, right on the corner, easy access, and the city pays Stanford a couple dollars a year for it..


Posted by J.S., a resident of Ventura
on Apr 17, 2013 at 8:28 am

The City already spent hundreds of thousand of dollars evaluating a police station on the other Park Boulevard site owned by J. Paul including a complete environmental impact report. It is a larger site and has already been proven to be a good location for the police project.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

> "We're still taking the same steps we'd normally do, we're just
> doing them on an accelerated time frame," Berman said,

Mr. Berman is relatively new to the process at City Hall. How would he know anything about past practices?

Seems that Mr. Berman is good at making claims that he can't possibly prove--like most politicians.


Posted by Bob , a resident of Community Center
on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:18 am

Almsot ALL of Palo Alto is on the EAST side of the railroad tracks. In case of an earthquake or other incident and the Page Mill overpass is damaged, the PAPD is stranded on the 'wrong side of the tracks'. East of 101 is another example. These previously proposed sites are not good for the community. Yes, I know there will be strong contrary opinions to this post, but just think about it. Also emergency communications centers might be better served in a 'mobile unit'. The city will be hard pressed to get a bond issue passed because of its profligate spending ways.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

> In case of an earthquake or other incident and the Page Mill
> overpass is damaged, the PAPD is stranded on the
> 'wrong side of the tracks'.

This is not a realistic concern. The probability of such a collapse is almost zero. But even if the Oregon underpass were to collapse, the at-grade crossings at Churchill, East/West Meadow and East/West Charleston would still be open. There would be no "stranding" of those folks living on the east side of the tracks.

Moreover, it would not be that hard to create any number of temporary crossings over the tracks in order to facilitate east/west traffic.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

"Councilman Marc Berman offered an assurance that even though the city is "getting creative with the process "it's not losing any quality."

1) Chief of Police says "proposed site may not be operationally feasible".

2) Berman says we are "not losing any quality."

3) Council Infrastructure Committee is evaluating what is feasible.

How can Berman say the proposed sire is "not losing quality"?

Someone isn't considering the facts!

Why do the voters in Palo Alto elect Council Members that are attractive, articulate and inexperienced that represent real estate interests rather than those of the citizens?


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

Why aren't we building on land that the City already owns? The gardens behind the Main Library/Art Center (or perhaps we shouldn't have renovated the Art Center and put a safety building there instead. What about the Baylands, using the Downtown Library Site, the Main Library site instead of renovating that?


Posted by Stagnant Town, a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:44 am

Palo Alto...gettin' things done ;)


Posted by An idea., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

Has anyone considered TWO sites for Police and Emergency Operations? Does everything have to be in one building? Why? Is there a way to accomodate PAPD and emergency services between two sites--some at the new site and some at a renovated and seismically upgraded City Hall site?

Perhaps this has been considered and eliminated as an option, but it seems like it might work. Seems to me that completely physically separating PAPD from City Hall might not be entirely a good thing. "Out of sight, out of mind."


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:49 am

This is taking too long.
Public Safety and the building and emergency plans -- all this stuff should be top priority. Seems to me there are endless commissions and studies.
The City Council should resolve to accelerate the efforts to get this done. Otherwise, I am concerned what will happen if there is a public emergency or major earthquake. What have other cities done in terms of suitable facilities?! Yes, I know land is scarce here and it makes a difference where the police are located in terms of overpasses pancaking and whatnot. But, it is time to get this done. EVerything takes too long with the "Palo Alto process."
The City Council is too often distracted with utter nonsense like rainbow flags and hiring costly, unnecessary "communication officers."
I am increasingly sympathetic to the public safety officers and staff in this city nd the conditions they have to operate in(the longer I live here) and also getting concerned about their effectiveness should the big 'quake hit us...


Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 17, 2013 at 11:02 am

Bill thinks the underpass is no problem. Try driving under it in a heavy rain without an amphibious vehicle. Temporary crossings? Maybe we can get our savvy Council members out there with wire cutters and picks and shovels?

As for the grade crossings, doG forbid an emergency happens during crosstown commute hours on the single-laned Charleston Road.

Palo Alto--all fluff, out of touch with reality.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

> Try driving under it in a heavy rain without
> an amphibious vehicle.

Heavy rains occur during December, January and February--only. The time that traffic through this underpass is impaired can be counted in minutes. It is a shame, however, that the City/County can not come up with a working pumping system for this structure--and keep this structure passible all the year round.

As to the construction of temporary crossings--this is so simple that even our P/W people could do the work.

What is missing from this scenario is a meaningful emergency plan for the City. The City Manager hired an Emergency Services Manager a year, or two, ago. So far, what has he produced in terms of anything concrete? It would be very interesting to see how many City Officials (including Council Members) have read, and understand, any emergency plan that might currently exist.

But hey! Our City Council seems to have time to promote Gay Marriage--one of the most pressing issues of our time!!!


Posted by Cal Ave resident, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

All these proposed buildings at Park and Page Mill will create a traffic nightmare for the area. Ingress and egress are already a mess and very dangerous for bicyclists. Park Blvd and Cal Ave are major north/south and east/west corridors for bicyclists going to and from downtown and Stanford campus. This is a residential area -- both north and south of the proposed new buildings -- and the increased traffic any new buildings will bring will make life more miserable for us. We already have dangerous cut-through traffic that zips through our neighborhoods, trying to avoid the back up and long waits to turn onto El Camino from Oregon Expy. We are real people -- grad students and young professionals who have children, working adults and retirees. These are our neighborhoods that border Oregon Expy. Yet the City seems unconcerned with our safety and quality of life as they consider and promote zoning changes that will allow large projects that will inevitably bring even heavier traffic to our residential neighborhoods.


Posted by Josh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I agree with using land the city already owns. Maybe the main library area? Good size and it once was city hall before it was turn into a art center. The city needs to build a new fire station across the street too. Maybe they could use both sites for a new fire station and safety building?


Posted by Long-Timer-Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

> I agree with using land the city already owns.
> Maybe the main library area?

A long time ago, if memory serves, there as a law passed that restricts the use of City parks for police department use. If the land is part of the park system, this might not be possible.

This law was passed back in the 1970s, so maybe it could be rescinded, or put to a vote, if necessary.


Posted by Tim, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Close fire station two (Page Mill and Hanover) and build the safety building there. Great location, middle of the city. El Camino Real and Page Mill/Oregon Expressway right there for quick access to other parts of the city.


Posted by middle of the city, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm

The Geographical center of the city is Park Blvd and Oregon/Page Mill where it meet the Train Tracks. The actual place is the Best. the Problem is that maybe the Chief of Police wants to Stay downtown until retirement? Don't worry it will take another 3 to 4 years until the PA process and construction is completed. I guess we are going to wait for the next Police Chief and finally he will agree to have an earthquake proof building for the PAPD and the Fire Officers as well.


Posted by Elaine, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

To echo Cal Ave. resident, I completely agree that the idea of trying to locate this building at 395 Page Mill is crazy. There is already a traffic back-up twice daily at this site as cars, bikes, and pedestrians jockey to get onto or past the Oregon Expressway on- and off-ramps. Bikes and peds have already been hit at this area. Imagine the scene with the additional traffic coming out of a 71-foot building. Not only would it be dangerous and a nightmare for those of us who live in the neighborhood, I don't believe that police vehicles could move through the mess quickly in case of emergency. If the building has to be in this area, the site further along Page Mill, near El Camino, would be better. At least there isn't a bike boulevard there.


Posted by Bill G , a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm

More uninformed comments by people who have not read the IBRC analysis, nor know of efforts by police dept. personnel and architects who investigated more than 20 alternative sites in the past 6 or 7 years. Rebuilding portions of the present City Hall were also considered.

None were perfect, but the nearby 2700 Park Blvd. site previously considered is the best when all factors are weighed.

Fire, police, the City's emergency offices and dispatch center should be located in one seismically safe building. Planning and coordination prior to and after a disaster will far better serve our community.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm

This project would really benefit greatly with the added help of the Cities new "Chief Communications Officer".
If they keep reducing the number of police officers as they have been they won't need a new building! or when it is built it can be used to house the City Managers ever expanding number of fabricated positions and managers he's added to the payroll!
Even reduced lung function does not reduce amount of hot air and self promotion in this area.


Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:32 am

I live on the wrong side of the tracks??????????????


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2013 at 8:53 am

> Fire, police, the City's emergency offices and
> dispatch center should be located in one seismically
> safe building.

This is one approach, It has been popular with the tax-and-spend crowd. There has never been any meaningful thought given to a decentralized approach—which utilizes smaller, less expensive, buildings to provide the same functions, however. The current model seems to be to build a big fort/palace for the public safety people—even though this facility will do nothing to increase public safety, in the long run.

> Planning and coordination prior to and
> after a disaster will far better serve our community.

This sentiment is often tossed out for public consumption, but there is very little evidence that anyone in Palo Alto can predict all of the possible catastrophes that might befall the city, and plan for their avoidance in a public safety building that seems more like a fort than a service center.

Other than the occasional earthquake that is of magnitude larger than 7.0, there are not many catastrophes that Palo Alto is likely to encounter. If the US were to be the target of a nuclear attack, with the Silicon Valley perhaps being the target of ICBM-delivered bombs, will this new police station be impervious, and continue to operate amidst the devastation that will no doubt be across the face of the land?

All of this sensationalistic hype about "catastrophes" needs to be taken with a grain of salt—and ignored.

Other solutions than a fort/palace for Palo Alto public safety services needs to be considered.


Posted by cmr, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 18, 2013 at 10:50 am

Amazingly, no mention is made of the superfund site UNDER the proposed location. How do you protect the workers, neighbors, and eventually building occupants from the VOCs during and after construction?


Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:49 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

The Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission (IBRC) webpage is Web Link and includes a link to their final report. A video of their presentation to the city council is the last segment at Web Link

People who are concerned with the state of our city's infrastructure may be reassured to know that Council Member Marc Berman served on the IBRC so he is better versed than most in the city in regards to these needs and challenges.


Posted by John, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Regular amount of backed up traffic this morning on the Oregon and El Camino Page Mill intersection, the new communications office and the staff of 2 should get on it and tell us how it isn't so.

Plenty of room for more offices and crammed up houses in the area.
Maybe even a hotel or a grocery store as a public benefit!


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