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Contract for California Avenue revamp set for approval

Original post made on Feb 24, 2014

When Palo Alto officials unanimously approved in 2011 a proposal to reduce lanes and add an assortment of street improvements to California Avenue, the project came with a $1.7-million price tag, much of which would be funded by transportation grants. Since then, its scope has expanded considerably, as evidenced by the $7.1-million contract the council is set to approve tonight.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 24, 2014, 9:57 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

There must be some typos in this article. If not, it appears that CC approved a $1.7 million project in 2011 and then someohow the pre-bid cost estimate grew to $4.9 million and now it is expected to cost $7.1 million. If these numbers are correct, how can CC still consider this an approved project?

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

How much money could we save by removing the public art?

Posted by Rose, a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

Not just the merchants were against reducing the lanes from 4 to 2. Most residents at the various Cal Ave informational meetings were also against changing the lanes. The Weekly has never included this information. All we needed was to resurface our streets but instead we have a ridiculous project rammed down our throats. After this project is completed traffic will be choked up on Cal Ave just as it is now on University Ave and Castro. And two new spaces for events?? Why not at our parks? We don't need events on Cal Ave; we already have sufficient venues for outdoor events in Palo Alto.

Posted by Here We Go Again, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

Another outrageous example of the city council,,elected by the residents, not listening to or serving the interests of the residents who they were elected to serve.

What a bunch of self- interested dorks. They should all be audited.

Posted by another nightmare project, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm

CC is allowing a greater than 400% increase? How is that possible? How do we stop this?

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Gee, what a shock that the gridlock will cost us even more than expected.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO tired of the city's inept planning and refusal to listen to the residents.

Safer? How many people have had been injured by CA traffic?

Posted by Casa de Cerveza, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I feel as though the City Council has listened to me...I am so looking forward to the renovated California Avenue. I live on California Avenue and can tell you it is way out-of-date and in need of a facelift. The street itself is in terrible shape and a safety hazard to those walking through the Sunday Farmer's Market. And, since neighborhood restaurants started serving meals on the sidewalk, the sidewalk is much too narrow for pedestrians. For those who don't agree with the City's direction on this project: you win some and you lose some. There is no need to suggest malicious motives on the part of city officials. Once the renovation is complete, public opinion will be wildly supportive of this improvement in our civic infrastructure.

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm

"Construction is set to begin next month and stretch until the end of the year, the report states."

The end of WHAT year??? Anyone want to bet? Will it take as long the the Mitchell Park Library? Will it take 8 years like the traffic light "redesign" near Town & Country?

And they're STILL capping aid to merchants at $30,000??? How much is that per merchant? How pathetic and insensitive our Planning and Transportation bureaucrats are!

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Hmm .. cost of this project has jumped to over $7M. That ole camel has managed to sneak into the tent one more time. Once his nose is inside, it doesn't take long for him to make his way all the way in.

Got to wonder how long it will be before the total cost of this project tops the $10M mark?

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Actually, I would be in favor of eliminating all vehicular traffic from that section of California Ave., as well as short portions of the intersecting streets. Make it pedestrian and bicycle only. With lots of parking just a short distance away on either side of California, it would be easy to get where you want. It is already a good idea to avoid driving on California due to the proliferation of bicycles and pedestrians. California Ave would make a nice outdoor mall, and the summer concerts would no longer disrupt traffic. It could become a very pleasant place to go and shop and eat and whatever.

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

JustMe, so you're in favor of putting small businesses like the Cobbler and the Paint Store and other useful businesses out of business??? People already attend the concerts there WITHOUT putting the businesses OUT of business.

The ridiculously long construction in Los Altos has already destroyed European Cobbler's store there. Why not put the Cal Ave one out of business, too?? And hey, who needs Keeble & Shugat or Mollie Stone either?

Let's destroy the businesses so there's NO sales tax revenues so the Utilities Dept. can push our rates even higher to subsidize the tax losses. Smart Planning R Us. FEH.

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Can't wait for them to finish this project. The current crosswalks across 4 lane streets with very random car traffic is like a killing zone for pedestrians. Don't know why red lights at every intersection (like University Ave has) wasn't considered as a fix, but wider sidewalks and narrower car lanes is fine with us.

Posted by Jens P, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

@casa and @justme
refreshing to hear there are people who want to see Cal Ave change it's look from car friendly to more pedestrian friendly. The local businesses will get a kick out of it and will thrive.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

@JustMe - I like your idea. I am in favor of improving California Avenue, though not in favor of the lane reduction. At the very least I'd like to see the City delay that aspect of the beautification until after all the approved projects are done so that we can assess their real impact. But if the lane reduction must happen, why not go all the way and make the street car-free?

Posted by anon, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

1.7 - 7.1, wow thats an unbelievable increase. Consider that this project started with the removal of all the healthy trees on Cal ave as the wish of a minority of businesses and mushroomed with staffs desire to grab the brass ring; "grant money" and now has avalanched into project whose budget is over 7 million!!!!!

why is this a priority over other unfinished projects in PA, such as the promised, but not delivered , landscaped traffic circles in College Terrace.

Has there been any real evaluation of the impacts of the "lane diet" in conjunction with the planned increased density for the Cal ave concept plan area?????

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Dear Silly, please don't be silly. (just kidding)

I do not see stores being the current shops being put out of business at all. What I see is a small area that is safe for people to walk from store to store without having to hike down the street to a crosswalk and back, dodging cars on the way. just walk across the street anywhere, perfectly safe. I see vendors able to set up portable booths in the middle of what is currently traffic, more space for outdoor seating at restaurants and cafes, and if you blanket the area with free wifi it could be a great place to come, grab a bite, pick up a few things, relax a bit while e-reading the news, and so on. People could actually speak to each other, rather than being reduced to gesturing rudely from inside their cars.

If you want to visit the paint store and buy lots of stuff, just park on the side street near the store. With all the walking you get to do, perhaps you will need the cobbler to fix your shoes, which costs less than getting new tires or straightening a dent. It could become an attractive place to come for people who like that sort of environment and can't get it anywhere else. If you REALLY want to stay in your car, there are other places to go, but I encourage you to join us out in the open on a warm and sunny day, there are lots of those in this part of the world.

Posted by Alex, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

@ Silly -it's Keeble & Shuchat, not Shugat. Are you even a customer there?

The work needs to be done ASAP, before the price tops $10 million. Enough talking, bickering and whining. Let's just do it, and as designed.

Customers will enjoy the transformation, and we will all deal with minor inconvenience, till it is done, like everyone else does in cities around the world when they upgrade infrastructure.

Posted by Casa de Cerveza, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I lived in Germany for four years and walked through many downtown districts with car-free shopping zones. It was quite pleasurable and conducive to many micro-businesses set up on the actual street. It is quite possible that a car-free shopping zone would become a destination for even more consumers searching for a unique shopping experience. It works very well in Europe; who is to say it would not work well here?

Posted by Exasperated, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I think he idea of making California a car-free zone is short-sighted and selfish. What about elderly, or handicapped people who can't walk very far at one time - or those who have problems with their knees? They are grateful to find empty spaces to park close to the stores or restaurants they enjoy patronizing. I know many such people. Car-free or bicycle-only is ONLY a preference for those happy, able-bodied persons who can walk long distances or sit on a bicycle comfortably. It's pretty rotten for those who can't.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Let's take bets on which gets done first, the three $20M soccer fields at the golf course or the $10M sidewalk project.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm


What about those folks who due to age and impairment aren't able to drive? Or do you think that the only people who don't drive are the yuppie bicycle types?

Posted by Relax, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Take it easy people.

There have been several known increases in the SCOPE of the project and there appears to about a 20% increase in costs since it was first priced out - which reflects the difference between the prices during the downturn and now. If the random businesses had not sued, this could have been done 2 years ago and we wouldn't have to deal with price increases.

Wider sidewalks - which are a good idea -- got added as did new lighting for the street, which should do a lot to turn it from suburban strip mall standard to quaint shopping street standard.

there is a big dollar item which is an upgrade of water mains. These are REALLY old, have been breaking lately and it makes a lot of sense to combine this project (funded by utilities) and the streetscape one. If we don't upgrade them now, we will be back doing it in a couple of years, tearing up perfectly good street and causing disruption to merchants.

Yes - this is not a small number but we can afford it and this area deserves the upgrades.

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm

There's a lot to be said for making California Ave car-free, at least during the busy afternoon and evening hours. Deliveries can come in the mornings or use the back allies. Disabled drivers can use the parking lots that line the streets behind all the businesses. If there are not enough disabled parking spaces adjacent to each business, that is easy to fix with signs and paint.

California Ave is not a through street connecting Stanford University to Hwy 101, which is the main reason the city never made University Ave a pedestrian mall. People trying to drive to the Caltrain station can easily access it via Oregon Expressway to Park Blvd.

Palo Alto needs a Vision Zero plan to completely eliminate car vs pedestrian carnage, especially in shopping districts and school districts. I just realized that "carnage" starts with "car", no pun intended.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Making Cal Ave car-free is hard to reconcile with its status as a transit hub. The train station needs to be accessible to shuttle buses connecting to employers, etc. While they could all come in via Park, the increase in traffic on Park might ruin it as a desirable bike boulevard. The current plan seems to make it safer for bikes and peds while keeping access to the train station open.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 8:01 pm

@Relax - thank you.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2014 at 8:17 pm

In my opinion the costs of this facelift for California Ave is out of control. The $7 million would amount to 12% of the cost of the new public safety building that the city council has contended is of utmost importance.

Yet the council is unwilling to allocate spending to make the public safety building a priority. And I don't see any of the Infrastructure Commission members raising their voice to the city council to get them to focus.

It seems the city council & infrastructure commission only speak out when it comes to raising taxes to pay for this project.

Posted by PaloAltan, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Folks, 1.7, 7.1, ? . Sorry the final # is 12.5m when it's all over. Traffic and parking issues will then follow.. Just like downtown

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2014 at 10:27 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

OMG. All it needs is trees.

Posted by david, a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2014 at 12:10 am

(1) I don't understand the people who are worried about traffic. Cal Ave gets 1/3 the traffic of Castro St., University Ave., Santa Cruz Ave. etc. because it is not a through arterial. It ends at the railroad. There is never anything is vaguely resembling a backup on Cal Ave and the lane reduction will not cause one. The current 4-lane roadway is basically a ghost road even during peak traffic times on El Camino and Oregon Expressway.

(2) The plan results in a net increase in parking on the street (mostly due to more sharply angled diagonal parking, which can fit more vehicles)

I work nearby and will be pleased to continue to patronize area businesses as a pedestrian during lunchtime in a more attractive and safer street environment.

Posted by Dunfermline, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Obviously, the city council members were deaf to all of the input they received from the Cal Ave merchants and customers.

Unfortunately, Cal Ave may very well become a place to be avoided.

Posted by Ethan , a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 11:06 am

I Hate this Idea. If they take out the parking spots the ups might as well take out all the road and turn it into a shopping mall!

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