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Controversial sign installed

Original post made on Mar 8, 2014

A 26-foot-tall sign for the new Grocery Outlet in south Palo Alto's Alma Village was erected this week, but one of its most controversial features -- illumination -- is yet to be seen.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, March 8, 2014, 3:37 PM

Comments (90)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I know from experience that bigger is better.


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Posted by Nancy Rocks
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:10 pm

^ Above comment made my day


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Looks great in my opinion. Gives Alma Street a bit of a bright spot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I just drove down Alma by the new sign. Anyone who would consider it "controversial" should probably find a hobby or put their energy to some productive use.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Unless you know that there are a few parking spots behind the store, not visible from Alma, there appears to be no parking what so ever, and potential shoppers pass on by. Brilliant permitting by the city council. Yup, those Planned Communities work for developers, and that's about it.


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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm

What were the developers thinking? Every morning at 6AM, with a out of business market, over half the street level parking spots are filled already . . . overflow parking from the "planned community" perhaps?


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 8, 2014 at 9:00 pm

I love that the developer, etc. gets a free pass to attempt to 'fix' the horrible building plan.

What wonderful incentives to get it right.
This is ill-conceived.
There should be a real consequence for getting the planning so wrong (paid for by the builder/owner of the site).

Tom DuBois is right that this puts things on a slipper slope.


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Posted by really
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Doesn't look any bigger or more obnoxious than the Starbucks sign next door.


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Posted by RedBanana
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

What an ugly sign! Did they think Miki's failed because no one knew it was there? Miki's was expensive and too gourmet. No need to overcompensate with this giant red banana.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:19 pm

No problem with the sign. But people. In PA have to complain about some thing. [Portion removed.]
Anyway, this is another self inflicted wound-- if the people that held up the construction of the planned larger store at alma plaza and the " friends" of alma plaza hadn't played their little games, we would have had a nice dedicated shopping center instead of what everyone is complaining about.


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Mar 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Meanwhile, Fresh Market is closing its 3 stores in the Sacramento area, leaving the Palo Alto store on Embarcadero as the only one in Northern California.

How long will the Palo Alto store last? We were in there today and it was very quiet.

Fresh Market announced that it had revised its demographic tools and decided that its best opportunities are east of the Mississippi.

Maybe Grocery Outlet should have waited until Fresh Market failed.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:06 am

Looks illegal to me . . .


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Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2014 at 7:59 am

The sign is no big deal. It gets lost in all the other visual clutter from power lines, power pole, street lights, street signs, etc. Can't wait for the store to open even though the whole development was ill designed.


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Posted by An obvious sign
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:34 am

The little strip of sidewalk there was a pretense anyway. Another sign, literally that our Council thinks walkability is a joke and will sell out to any developer over anything.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

@ Concerned:

1. The new store (and the city staff who approved it) is responsible for the sign, not the developer.
2. The local residents are the primary (road blocking) reason why the place is a mess. They blocked every attempt to just allow the original grocery store to expand. Store closes and sells the property.
3. The ARB and the Planning Commission then forced the parameters of the property build out.
4. The developer took advantage of the very lame parameters and created an ugly mess that fit the requirements set by the city.

Bottom line, many hands in making this an ugly mess. But only the store and the city are responsible for the new sign.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:18 am

Alma is an ugly freeway -- the store needs a large red sign to show its location to drivers.


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Posted by Own up
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:07 am

Instead of owning up to a botched approval process that ended up with a big blank box right on the sidewalk the council approved a giant tube of lipstick on the pig that is that building.
Why is there no accountability in our city government. JCC, Mikis/DentedCanStore, Prison Housing on Alma downtown, all towering over the sidewalk in an attempt to bring Urban to Palo Alto. Guess what, WE DON'T WANT IT!! Some hipster lost in the burbs must be on the planning team. We live live in the burbs for a reason!!!


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Posted by Red lipstick on this pig
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

There is no mystery about who created and who approved this unfortunate development.
"The developer is John McNellis, partner and co-founder of McNellis Partners with Mike Powers, is the developer who has been with the project since the beginning,"
and
Steve Emslie said: "This will provide much-needed retail services to people who now are closer to supermarkets in Mountain View than Palo Alto," Emslie said.
Web Link


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Posted by barron park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:51 am

Sign really is fine. I was initially worried about the sign, but its fits very well with the large cement facade

Think its time for PAZ( palo alto zoning group) to give this fight up. PAZ will loose credibilty if they argue against every item possible, especially items that seem better than expected


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

The sign isn't going to make or break this grocery store. The only way it survives is by dramatically increasing the amount of traffic to the store. It's a high volume, low margin business. Expect Alma to come to a crawl if this store succeeds.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:07 pm

@ Lipstick: I don't disagree that the developer created the physical result of Alma. However you cannot ignore the fact that none of this mess would have happened if the immediate neighbors had not been obstructionists to allowing the original grocery store to expand.

The center would have never closed, some of the local shops would have stayed and you wouldn't have the zero clearance / prison wall store "back" on Alma.


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Posted by Josh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 2:58 pm

The sign is fine. More lighted signs!


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Not so bad, but I don't think it is going to make any difference in the amount of business they get ... so why'd they ask for it and why did the city give it to them?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm

> Meanwhile, Fresh Market is closing its 3 stores in the Sacramento area, leaving the Palo Alto store on Embarcadero as the only one in Northern California.

I have noticed that the Fresh Market was really great when it opened. I complained that they did not have a lot of things that many people would want, that whole huge section in the middle, but I got used to it and even liked them.

AND, then the quality and selection went down. Tomatoes that were fresh and wonderful when it started, I began to have to search though every package for bad ones. Prices went up, in many cases the same things cost more than Whole Foods. I still go to Fresh Market, but the shine has worn off a bit, and I am not sure I expect it will be there for long. It's too bad, because it is a nice place.

Every time I go there, it seems there are plenty of shoppers, although I've never seem more than 3 of the registers open at one time.

Things I like they are often out of. I hope they stay in business, but now they are going to have to compete with the near monopoly of Safeway and Albertson's merged.


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Posted by Red lipstick on this pig
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm

@Dad said:you cannot ignore the fact that none of this mess would have happened if the immediate neighbors had not been obstructionists to allowing the original grocery store to expand.
Flawed logic. What McNellis proposed had nothing to do with the objections to the previous design. If he had a decent architect and less greed, he could have designed an attractive project with a decent parking lot.
You are parroting the anti-residents who want to punish people stand up for their neighborhood. Shame on you.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

@CrescentParkAnon - I don't think the Fresh Market gets enough customers to turn over the produce, so it ends up sitting out too long. Maybe if the rest of the center finally opens and brings in more people it could turn around, but it looks more like another grocery store closure is coming in Palo Alto.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 7:35 pm

What used to keep the old Lucky/Albertson going was the large number of people who could come over from EPA to the location of today's Fresh Market. I don't see many there today. Fresh market has a kind of quirky selection of goods if you ask me.

Finally I did find the sandwich counter, but there is no sign or the sandwiches they offer, and the prepares sandwiches are not that good. I have got a few, and there is a small selection, mostly turkey and ham, and turkey with cranberry sauce ... long past Thanksgiving season.

I have gotten attached to Fresh Market so I hope they stay open, but they are showing not much flexibility to adapt to local tastes and expectations, and prices are very high.


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Posted by @resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Coming back from Yosemite today, I saw many ugly signs in the small towns on the way. The sign for the grocery outlet is not totally out of character from California towns with ad-hoc street architectures. In this specific case, I wonder why they did not follow the nearby Starbucks model and put up a sign with large characters on the vast front elevation wall of the building. If you look at the picture, the Starbucks sign is quite visible from the street. They could have added a level of homogeneity to the facade of the business by following similar signage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm

@ Red: Puhleeze. Shame on me? Really?

I acknowledge that the developer made the physical mess. But apparently you cannot accept the fact that the immediate neighbors, along with the JJ&F protectionists blocked Albertson's very reasonable request to expand. It would have been no different than the current size of the expanded Piazza's on Middlefield.

The developer didn't close the grocery store...it closed due to lack of business and small demand for its limited selection due to a small footprint.

Chicken or egg? The egg came first and the neighbors screwed themselves out of having a normal grocery store and environment.


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Posted by Last of the baby boom
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm

The meat counter at Fresh Market has nice quality meat. I hope they stay in business.

Regarding Alma... if the market charges reasonable prices I will shop there on my way back to PA on Alma. Miki's was nice but way too expensive...

Having seen the signage it fits with the structure. Hopefully the prices will be low enough to have locals bicycle or walk over to make purchases.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Passer By
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The sign might help alert people as to what's there now but the poor design and lack of parking is hurting business. I drive by there every day on my way to work and assumed those stores were for the locals within in walking distance. If I need to pick up anything on my way to work I stop at the Safeway in Menlo Park where I can see there is plenty of parking.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:25 pm

The Grocery Outlet sign while important is really minor in comparison to
everything else going on. Palo Alto is the poster child of failed land use planning, design review and aesthetic input. It is the nexus of a strong market and weak control playing out. The Council and staff need to recognize their failures and completely change direction and focus, now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I feel like Miki's failed due to an unmanageably small parking lot during afternoon commute hours. I went there mid day several times no problem, quality great, staff great, but three strikes and they were out at 5:30 pm. Grocery Outlet cannot overcome this problem for drivers, unless perhaps your principal ride is a shopping cart.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bellesdottir
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:38 am

Visited Palo Alto recently and was shocked at the redesign of Alma Plaza. The planners need a heavy dose of fresh air to clear their heads. Building right up to the sidewalk? Few parking spaces in back? Homes too big for space. Yes,I moved away never to return, but I'm still sad about the unholy mess that only a bulldozer can clean up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:51 am

Where's the public benefit we were promised?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:52 am

I don't think it is fair to judge the sign until we see it lit up.

I am not overly excited about this store as I have heard lots of people say that it is not a full service market, you can't actually go with a shopping list and expect to fill it, almost expired dates, etc. Unlike Miki's I doubt very much if I will go unless somebody I trust tells me that it is worth the effort.

However, we are increasing the number of residences and have lost the number of supermarkets (3 in Midtown at one stage) and only time will tell as to whether there is a market for this niche supermarket. I just hope that they give it more than 6 months before calling it quits.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Signage did not get me into Miki's. I KNEW it was there.

I used to be a regular at the Alma Lucky/Albertsons.
Reasons:
I could see the Store entrance.
The chains image was for regular shoppers, not Luxury, Palo Alto, shoppers.

Contrary to popular belief, not all residents make 100K+ a year. We have learned to live within a budget.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:24 am

The traffic light in front of this place makes driving south on Alma just awful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by West Meadow Dr resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:35 am

I'm just thankful that there's finally a grocery store in walking distance.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

Is it legal to get there by bicycle? Can you ride the wrong direction on the sidewalk? Is there a back entrance from Ramona like the old Lucky days? I expect the only walkers will be from Alma Village or the apartment complex.


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Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:45 am

I'm sorry, but this is just "adding more ugly" to Palo Alto's questionable design allowances for locations such as Alma Plaza and other built-right-up-to-the-street edifices. As proven in other cities, local government can dictate good taste to otherwise unchecked businesses.


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Posted by Martha
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

I like the idea of using the sign to draw attention to the new grocery store. I will shop there. But there is the problem of parking....


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Posted by Tish
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

Nothing wrong with the sign, not controversial at all, but still no one will go there, worst location of all time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by revisionist
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:54 am

Planning department is hostile to all residents of Palo Alto!
and don't care what kind of tasteless useless development is approved.
They are the taxpayer funded paid consorts of the developers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

@Crescent Park Dad - your comment about "JJ&F protectionists" deserves some comment. I am among those who would have loved to see JJ&F stay and flourish at 2180. Indeed, when the developer first presented the project, the plan was to phase the work so that that could happen. THere was wide neighborhood support for that, but - surprise - that promise evaporated in a jiffy. The developer instead used community affection for a family and its business to achieve a zone change that arguably would not have been approved otherwise. Predictably, the Garcia family was forced out of business. Now we have a still unbuilt planned community predicated on having a regular grocery store where JJ&F was. Given what's happening with smaller groceries, this should be interesting. At some point the developer, Smailey, will probably throw up his hands, claim to Council that he just can't make that happen, and ask to be released from that requirement. I will not be in the least surprised to see more shenanigans.


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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

As a neighbor, I was relieved to see how inoffensive the sign is (currently without the lighting). I was concerned when I heard of its passing, but it's okay as is with me.

Who knows what it will be like when it's lit.

If you folks think this is poor planning (and there is parking below ground level (like Whole Foods on El Camino), you'd better get active because this same developer is the one who is involved in the tearing down of the building on University Avenue that has housed Shady Lane for about 38 years and the way the city council views the plan (using a very narrow alleyway that is constantly blocked by service vehicles as the entrance to underground parking) is a nightmare that needs lots of loud voices.

Attorneys can get disbarred for unethical practices. I'm wondering about developers. This guy is only capable of creating blight on the land.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JoAnna
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

That sign is the most tacky, hideous sign. Palo Alto ia going downhill rapidly.


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Posted by moo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

Ugly sign. Tacky font on Nancy Reagan Red.
Looks as though it's beckoning you down an alley toward "live nude women."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:22 am

It's too bad that Miki's, a fabulous store, was saddled with the disastrous Alma location. I wish Grocery Outlet luck, but I doubt it'll fare any better.

And here's hoping it's better than the cruddy Sprouts at El Camino & San Antonio or the tired Molly Stone's on California Ave. At least we have Piazza and Whole Foods.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:47 am

Grow up people. The sign is fine. Do you think it ruins the elegance of the old apartments next door? or the blaring of CalTrain horns? I can hear the freight trains from a mile away at night. And people are worried about some sign you can't see until you're nearly right on top of it


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:51 am

People are never going to be satisfied. We've got Statler and Waldorf here whining about everything. If anything was a detriment to neighborhoods it was losing the Rite Aid on California...which was replaced by some art store that has their junk all over the sidewalk and looks like it the shelves and aisles inside are maintained with an industrial leaf blower


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

Does the miracle sign create new parking spaces??

It was never a problem knowing Miki's Market was there. The problem was getting to it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:56 am

Neal- you don't get to decide what benefits are best for everyone. I stop at Grocery Outlet in San Jose whenever I'm down there. I'm sure that's anathema to you, but people have different opinions--sadly for you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm

You're arguing about preference for markets? About a sign that is 2 ft. larger than code (via a granted exemption)?
Get over it.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm

@neighbor, you know darn well that sign is 30 times larger than code.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marty
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Gee, you'd think someone had drawn a mustache on the Mona Lisa!! It's just a sign. On an dull building...on a busy street... across from railroad tracks! Get over it. It's not like they painted graffiti the Washington Cathedral.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Sorry, I grew up hearing about the domino theory. Now I see it playing out here.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

"Musical"
Do you not understand the difference between "30% larger" and "30 TIMES larger" ???


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Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I think @resident got it right. If Grocery Outlet had followed the Starbucks example the sign would be at least as visible and would make the buildings look more inviting.

The shape of the Grocery Outlet sign mimics the shape of the power poles drawing attention away from the building and to the clutter. I think the Grocery Outlet shot themselves in the foot. Your opinion may vary...


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Posted by phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I live close by, and I'm fine with the sign. Of more importance to me is the store,-- I look forward to its opening and to shopping there. I hope it works out. If it does I'll be able to walk to the store for my shopping, which would be nice.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

@neighbor, what Code are you referencing when you say 2 feet larger?

My reference is Palo Alto Municipal Code 16.20.140 Projecting signs. (1) Area. No such sign shall exceed three square feet in area.

What part of "Projecting sign" or "three square feet" have I misunderstood?

Are people recommending we scrap the sign ordinance?


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Posted by Meh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:24 pm

The sign really isn't half as bad as I expected, but it would look better if it did not extend above the roof line so far.

The fact remains that it violates an extant law regarding the size of signs, and no exceptions should have been granted. The City Council and Grocery Outlet should not consider themselves above the law.

[Portion removed.] But the new sign is at least eye-catching.


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Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

I am fine with this new sign. It actually improves an ugly building and an ugly street.


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Posted by Head to Head
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm

The appearance of Grocery Outlet[GO] on the scene is going to force the local markets to reduce their mark-ups on many overpriced items like salad oil, breakfast cereals etc. I believe that even those people who do not want to be seen shopping at an "outlet" market will appreciate a reduction in their food costs as the nearby markets feel the competition. Wine merchants also take notice that when GO opens the competition will be high.
GO may have to up the quality of many of its products. Can it do that, give the customer a pleasant shopping experience and still keep prices down is the $64 question.
Stay tuned . This should be very interesting.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Musical:
A vote on the size of the sign was held at a public Council meeting. The majority of the Council voted to allow the Grocery Outlet to exceed the sign size regs and the decision was reported in detail on these pages and in all of the local newspapers.

There were people who objected to the larger sign at the meeting, but they were voted down when the market said it would pull out of Palo Alto altogether if the larger sign wasn't allowed.

So the sign was ok'd.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Agreed then, on a 6-3 council vote, after threats that Grocery Outlet would pick up their marbles and go home, a 30 times oversized sign was approved, not just 30%. Also variance on the 12-foot height limit. I was there.


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Posted by DGN
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Maybe you can put red lipstick on a pig!
It's not worth getting upset about the new, ugly sign. The dented can, tacky, Grocery Outlet grocery store will be out of business within a year.


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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:06 pm

John McNellis and Mike Powers laughed all the way to the bank. The 'Friends' group killed the Albertsons remodel, city council facilitated, and the neighbors were left holding the bag. The 'community benefit' is the long forgotten and probably locked and unused public room above the market.

A brilliant example of city council far more concerned with developers pocketbooks than anything else.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:49 pm

The Grocery Outlet sign can be seen as a creative response adding color and artistic interest to the ugly, bland facade and power lines along the Alma corridor with the RR tracks.The vertical blade sign actually mimicks the power poles, giving it a "pop art" look. It makes you want to see the store. Almost everything else in Palo Alto in recent years under the cover of "planning" and "design review" is a train wreck.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:11 pm

What is the big deal? I drove past it and it's fine.

Chris, thanks for the info about Fresh Market closing stores (but not in Palo Alto). I sure hope they don't close. We love the store for basic dinner items such as meat, bread, pasta, and produce. Their house-made salads are good too.


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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad writes:
" the immediate neighbors, along with the JJ&F protectionists blocked Albertson's very reasonable request to expand."

Albertson's sold to John McNellis in early 2005, before any plans were known regarding the JJ&F site and 3 years before the JJ&F PC came to its first public hearing. There are parallels between the Alma Plaza process under John McNellis and the later JJ&F Affair under developer Patrick Smailey, but not before.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:51 pm

The point is not the sign. I saw the picture, and saw the real thing ... it's not terrible.

The problem is we have an ordinance, and that should not have been waived for what is basically no reason? I don't know what be a reason for having to make a sign bigger, but why have an ordinance for signs if they are just going to waive it to the point that the people who actually are forced to follow it will have legal recourse to charge discrimination.

I guess our city managers don't really understand the idea of the rule of law, or much about business. The idea that a bigger sign in a place where no one can really even see it will cause more business is nonsense.

No, the only reason I can see that our city keeps smacking the residents with these kinds of arbitrary and anti-community actions is that they feel a need to keep showing examples of how powerful they are and how useless and weak the people are so they can take over the entire city and do whatever they want.

Admittedly some of the complainer are just complainers. The sign is not horrible and even the building is not horrible, though there are valid criticisms about it and anyone trying to do business is that tight awkward space. The Palo Alto Planning Commission must really just not think much or know much about doing their jobs.

Every year I see Palo Alto drivers are getting more aggressive, rude and just plain bad, and the fact there are people running into the building - twice now - shows that we better start designing our city like a bumper car arcade if we expect people to be able to get around.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 8:24 am

I think someone needs to do some detailed analysis of the real demographics of Palo Alto. It's pretty well known that higher priced goods generate more profit but this only works if people buy the stuff.

I sincerely believe that there is a huge disconnect between reality and perception about Palo Altans' spending power. I think if you break it down, there's a much larger percentage of us who cannot buy premium brands than people think. Money is tight for most of us. We pay big bucks to live here, pay a premium for services, are asked to donate a lot, constantly and pay and pay and pay for child related programming. (That's specific to my demographic, but still).

Both Fresh Market and Mikis mis-read the market. We are saturated in high end spending opportunities and need more for the typical resident. Many customers if traditional high end retail here (university ave and Stanford shopping center) are NOT Palo Alto residents. This is fine, but us locals want retail, too.

With less disposable income after housing expenses than residents of surrounding communities, I'm (normal and) super excited to have Grocery Outlet coming to town! I also think the sign is nicely designed and cute.


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Posted by Live a few blocks away
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

Wow, THIS is what people want to complain about. A sign? If this sign attracts people to shop at the grocery store, and thus keeps it in business for longer than 6 months, it is a good thing. It's a sign, people. It is not offensive to or offending anyone. Find something really important to complain about.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Anon 'hit it on the head'. There is a total misconception about local Palo Alto 'buying power'.There is a LARGE senior population - and Seniors who bought their homes years ago, yes, are sitting on a lot of cash. Their heirs are ecstatic - but the seniors can't 'eat the house'. If the roof needs repairing, the $$ come out of loans or savings. If the furnace gets old and dies, that too comes out of current income or savings. The list is long, and the older the house-the more expense. And the older the owner, the more medical expenses. They may now need household help that they didn't need before- ditto gardeners. Now there is a large Asian and Indian population who follow the trail to markets which cater to their tastes. Fresh Market totally misread the buying needs of Palo Alto. "Visions of sugarplums danced in their eyes". Fresh Market is a nice store and nice staff, but pricing is unrealistic. What else is going into that shopping center site?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Anon, the point is that rents and costs are so high in Palo Alto that the difference in the actual "out the door" prices of things would be negligible, so that's why everything costs so much here. No one could open a business to sell cheap good here because they will not make enough profit to survive.

The process is a slow squeezing out of regular middle class people who used to make up the town to the type of people we now see front and center in public and private life ... for the most part. If you have lived here for a long time you can see the changes for yourself. I'm amazed at how many really obnoxious people there are out in public, be it driving through stop signs, or walking around oblivious to everyone else.

Every day I see some weird thing I would not have seen in the past. Yesterday the big one was at Whole Foods, where some guy was filling up a self-serve orange juice from the juice machine .. which is kind of cool to watch. He fills it is ... then raises the bottle to his lips and in broad sight of everyone else, drinks about a quarter of it, and then puts the opening of the bottle he just drank from up against the spigot dispensing juice for everyone - touching it, and proceeds to fill up the bottle again.

20 years ago even the most rude clueless people I knew would never have done that ... I just had to laugh. What a bunch of jerks. This town is going down hill fast, and there is just nothing to really be done about it, because they people who live here now think its cool to be rude and self-centered.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I thought Whole Foods was expensive, but there is a certain brand of premium yogurt that I sometimes buy which at Whole Foods is $2.00 ... which I think is a lot, at Fresh Market it is $2.50.

Like I said earlier, it is bad enough to have to pay these inflated ridiculous prices ... but then when you check the produce is bad, the stuff in the salad bar is often bad ... at least we should get excellence in products and service if we are going to be paying such high prices ... but we get a lot of people who obviously do not live in the area, and many who do not even speak English.


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Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Just to be very clear about my position, the objection was to the sign exceeding Palo Alto's sign ordinance. Sure, other CA towns allow much larger signs, and it may look pretty to some but that's all besides the point. This is a blade sign that far exceeds the law of 3 sq ft in area and 12 feet high. That was the objection. I personally disagree that this use met the requirements to get an exception.

Grocery Outlet was given an exception by city council, which I do feel is slippery slope. Signs are meant to help you locate a business to which you are going. They are not a substitute for marketing. I personally do not want to see a bunch of signs this size popping up all over town.

Once it's lit up, I urge all the people who drove by, to drive down Park Boulevard, the residential community one block away and ask yourself if you'd like to see THAT illuminated sign in YOUR backyard.

It appears the sign has been mounted even higher that what was proposed - it looks to be 38 - 40 feet high (26 feet long, mounted 12 feet off the ground).

If you agree with me that are ordinances should be followed, remember that this sign was approved by Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Larry Klein, Liz Kniss, Greg Schart and Nancy Shephard when it comes to the fall elections.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm

"but we get a lot of people who obviously do not live in the area, and many who do not even speak English."

Having people come here to spend their money is a good thing. How many merchants refuse the money of English nonspeakers? None I've heard of.


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Posted by outside observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 5:06 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by CrecentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 5:33 pm

> ... but we get a lot of people who obviously do not live in the area, and many who do not even speak English.

Sorry, that was unclear ... I meant the people who are hired to work in these places. If Palo Alto businesses were providing the quality that their prices imply, we would have competent employees who knew their jobs, did not consider it some kind of dishonor to do their jobs, did not hate the people they serve and the people they work for and could communicate articulately.

There is a big different in the people hired, and probably the price they are hired for. Take fast food places, where this is more pronounced and public. I don't eat fast food anymore, but what I saw were places where clearly the criteria was the lowest wage possible, crowding out the children of Palo Altans, many whom used to work these jobs.

So the customer pays just as much, and the excess profit instead of going for someone who is going to be an asset and contribute to the community is just barely scraping by temporarily before they get out of the area, and lives and does not spend much money sending their money out of the state or country.

Maybe the new raised minimum wage might help with this, or checking people's right to work in California?

My point is that in our economy supposedly based on merit, the money is just sucked up to the business and residential rental market because of a lack of local supply. This is actually not one of the things that drives a vibrant economy and makes it grow.


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Posted by Blanche
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2014 at 9:44 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by John
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

Tom Dubois claims are groundless and not factual ( park blvd is not one block away). His math for sign size does not add up either. More attempted obstruction by people who have caused the center to be what it is today.


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Posted by underground?
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm

No problem with the sign.
It's the third world power etc. lines that bug me. Now those are ugly.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2014 at 6:21 pm

@John, Tom's numbers look accurate to me. If Park Blvd is not one block away, which block is between Park and Alma? If not 38 - 40 feet high, how high do you say is the top of the sign? Whose claims are groundless and not factual?


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Posted by Father of 3
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2014 at 11:07 pm

OK - how about this: Anyone who objects to the sign being too big, or too red, or too bright or too whatever - if you agree not to shop in any stores that have big, bright signs that can be seen from residences in any neighborhood, then I will help you get it taken down. Having a Grocery Outlet here nearby is an awesome thing. It's a good store and now we don't have to drive up to Redwood City to shop there. Someone said that a sign is just to identify the store and not to market it to folks who don't know it's there. That's so bogus. Everyone's got a GPS in their pocket these days, so following that logic, all store signs should be removed because they are superfluous. Let's try to help the market succeed because it brings value to the neighborhood. There's a lot of folks that live along Alma that will be saving a lot of money by shopping there. If neighbors there in single family homes are worried about their property values and quality of life due to a big red sign, I suggest they turn their attention to the high speed rail which will be ripping up a street near your house before you know it.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2014 at 6:58 am

Musical-- it is misleading to claim that alma and park are one block away from each other-- you do have the train tracks and two sets of trees along the tracks. Not the same distance as alma and the street on the other side of the plaza which are next to each other.
Also maybe someone can explain the 3 square foot thing . How can a sign be limited to 3 square feet? If a sign is 3 feet wide, it could only be 1 foot high.
[Portion removed.]


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Posted by math
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Rupert, three square feet is three feet by three feet, for a total of nine feet, which could be distributed in any number of ways.


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Posted by math teacher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2014 at 9:19 pm

@math: No, what you are referring to is a 3-foot square. 3 square feet is the same area as 3 1x1 foot squares, each of which is 1 square foot. So a 3 foot by 1 foot rectangle is 3 square feet in area. This is basic middle school math: Area = length x width.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Alma to Park is 300 feet. Alma to Ramona is 600 feet. Alma to Emerson is 300 feet.

Yes, if you are hanging a sign over the sidewalk, 3 feet wide by 1 foot high is plenty. Bring a yardstick next time you walk down California or University, and imagine what it could look like unregulated.


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