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Survey shows opinion gaps between north and south Palo Alto

Original post made on Mar 17, 2014

Palo Altans overwhelmingly feel like their city is a splendid place to live, a great place to raise children and a decent place to retire, but when asked about a "sense of community," bus routes and the quality of services for seniors and youth, residents in the north tend to be far cheerier than their counterparts in the south, a recent survey indicates.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 17, 2014, 9:52 PM

Comments (76)

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Posted by obvious
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:57 pm

The reason for the differing opinions between north and south are really obvious if you live in southern Palo Alto. The city is investing heavily in both the University Ave and California Ave business districts, which are both north of the expressway dividing line. All of southern Palo Alto's businesses are along the raging speedways of Middlefield, Alma, and El Camino which are not safe for families with children.

The main city libraries and museums are also all north of the expressway. All southern Palo Alto has is the decrepit Cubberly Community Center.

Want to go see a movie? There are no movie theaters south of the expressway, except for Palo Alto Square, but that is split off from southern Palo Alto by that other dividing line (El Camino Real).

Has anyone done the math on how much money does the city spend on northern Palo Alto vs southern Palo Alto? I have to bet that the hard math matches the perception of residents.


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Posted by southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Well of course people in the north feel cheerier about city services, because they have a lot more of them over there, and we in the south have to travel our overcrowded streets to most of them.

North has: Lucie Stern Community Center and Theater, Children's Theater, Children's Library Rinconcada Park, Rinconada Pool, Tennis Courts, Main Library, Art Center, Downtown Library, Bowling Green, Gamble Gardens (though not technically a city property), the golf course, the baylands, the airport, City Hall, Police station, Children's Museum and Zoo, Stanford Mall, etc.

South has: Mitchell Park & Community Center (well, someday), Cubberly (falling apart, oh, and they chased Foothill away), Bol Park (residents bought it or it would have been built over), and Juana Briones Park. We kind of have the El Camino soccer fields, though they're kind of in the middle. Oh, and I almost forgot, the newest community space, the room above the ugly box grocery store and stack-and-pack development at Alma Plaza (that was sarcasm, in case Larry Klein is reading this, he probably thinks we don't notice the difference since we go speeding by there so fast, according to what he imagines).

I can't believe the City Council would play all innocent in regards to the bomb they set off in the community over here when they tried to ram that Maybell overdevelopment down our throats and used the NIMBY card to try to do it. Few people in the north realize the Maybell orchard has around 100 established trees that survive without watering, they have roots that deep. If it were in the north, the Council would have already turned it into heritage orchard parkland. As it is, they can't wait to try to stab us in the back and twist the knife with as much as they can pack there.

We are treated like a dumping ground for density, without any regard to proper analysis of safety and infrastructure, but not deserving of the kind of City services available in the north, nor deserving of maintaining our open space, sunlight, or sense of calm in our neighborhoods. The traffic and noise have gotten exponentially worse as giant ugly developments have sprung up around us and they aren't finished.

People in the north have bigger houses and lots - thus less impacted where they live by these massive changes --but our per square foot costs over here are stratospheric, too, but we have more density and the lower cost houses tend to turn over more, i.e., we're paying for the services like everyone else but not getting them on our side of town where we can access them near where we live.

Not that I am saying people in the north aren't impacted by the mess this City Council is making of our town. Nor am I trying to open a divide, because I'm incredibly grateful for the way they supported us over here when we needed it.

To our northern neighbors: We'd love if y'all would help us save the main diversity on this side of town by helping us save the trailer park, and saving that orchard. Which sits across the street from a school for the most disabled students in Palo Alto, the OH, a program that has declined as Palo Alto has become increasingly more unattainable and inaccessible to the disabled. At least on this side of town as the stack-and-pack developments spring up around us like trees, and the trees come down with the bulldozers like they're nothing.


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Posted by I support advisory at Gunn
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 17, 2014 at 11:36 pm

"For youth services, the city split 84 percent and 68 percent, respectively."

This reflects the same trend in survey after survey that shows that Paly students and parents are far more satisfied with counseling services than are Gunn students and parents. The available services for youth at Paly are far better. There is no surprise in this new survey -- it just builds on years of what we already know. Dana Tom and the school board (4/5 of whom are north side Paly parents) decided to maintain that service gap. When they did that it put an end to three years of effort by Gunn parents to obtain equal services for their students. Dana Tom voted that Gunn did not have to ever implement reforms, saying Paly is not "Shangri-La" although judging from the 84% satisfaction rate on the north side of town, perhaps he was also wrong about that.


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Posted by southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:03 am

@I support,
And Paly is getting that beautiful new gym, whereas Gunn's new gym is cheaper, utilitarian and b-ugly. The floor planks are already potato chipping. What is it about additions to Gunn that require an ugliness competition before consideration???


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

Did I miss the part about Palo Alto's ABAG quota being met expediently in the new Comprehensive Plan through Sobrato's RM-30 development of the entire Frys property? -- Web Link -- but it's just a "plan".


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:00 am

South Palo Alto would be much better served if the city council and school board were elected with district representatives. If not that, then as a separate city.


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Posted by KB
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:34 am

I agree pretty much with everything @southern neighbor said. The north has all the amenities and services, and the business districts, while the south gets more and more ugly, over-dense housing projects and worse traffic. Where exactly is the mystery? I'm guessing the council members are posturing, because no one could be that clueless.

And I totally agree with @Anonymous -- council members should be elected to districts. That would help with a lot of issues.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:45 am

Not sure if it counts, but restaurants are all on the northside and areas like Midtown and Charleston center although vibrant, get very little city attention. Trying to park in Midtown at lunch time is getting as bad as Cal Ave. There are still the same high rents too.


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Posted by No problem
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:11 am

Resident-- the vast majority of the restaurants in midtown are in small shopping centers, which provide parking for shoppers. It is totally different from California avenue restaurants. Midtown does not,have a parking problem at lunchtime.
Charleston center also has a private parking area for shoppers, no,problems thee either.


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Posted by truth will out
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:17 am

@ISAaG, Well the survey certainly indicates why there is a discrepancy between Gunn & Paly but puts the bulls-eye on lack of community south of the border than on services at each school.


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Posted by obvious
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:44 am

Anyone know how many city council members live south of the expressway vs north? That could be a good reason why the north gets all the attention.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:47 am

No Problem?

I beg to differ. Midtown is getting very popular at lunchtime and although most of the places that serve food (a restaurant to me is not the same as a sandwich or burrito place) it is getting harder to park. I recently tried late lunchtime and there were trucks blocking some of the parking spots in the parking lot which made it very difficult to drive around to find an elusive spot and the exit was almost blocked by a fire truck, paramedics ambulance and an illegally parked vehicle. I hasten to add that the fd and paramedics were buying lunch/coffee - not at an emergency. The Charleston lot is in poor shape. When it rains, there is pooling and parking in a flooded parking lot to go grocery shopping is not an attractive option.

The article is about amenities in south Palo Alto, I am not saying we need what University and Cal Ave has to offer in choice, but it would be nice to see what is there is properly looked after. I say that Midtown and Charleston need to have more thought into their services, not just North Palo Alto.

Maybe early morning before coffee has kicked in means I haven't explained myself well. But these two areas of town are definitely not being looked after by CC.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

Interesting reading all of the above comments. Here are some random thoughts:

The difference on counseling services...I took the survey and my impression was that it was about city services to youth. The survey was not about PAUSD, Gunn or Paly.

Some of the facilities listed in the NoPA/SoPA divide certainly pre-date the existence of the OR Expressway. And many of those same buildings/facilities pre-date any of the homes (Eichlers come to mind) that were built in in SoPA. My Dad would go swimming at Rinconada in the 1930s. Back then SoPA was nothing but apricot orchards. Blaming the current city CC or staff for that seems to be a bit much.

I also don't see how the city is to blame for how there are not enough nice restaurants in SoPA. At some point market forces/demand have to be acknowledged.

The movie theaters in NoPA are Aquarius and Stanford. Just like everyone else, NoPA residents head to Shoreline or RWC to see first run films.

The city is not responsible for parking lot repair at privately owned shopping centers.

I don't think the golf course, airport, baylands gym and the baylands park is a NoPA asset. It's on the other side of the freeway! Not easy to get to from any origin point in PA. And if you draw a straight line along OR Expwy out to the bay, all of that stuff ends up on the south side of the line.

I think the folks who live in College Terrace, Professorville and Downtown North would dispute the notion that they live in bigger houses and on bigger lots.


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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

I'm not surprised that the council is surprised!

Their eyes are always on the biggest wallets and their ears are deaf to the concerns of the residents impacted by their short-sighted decisions.

It's all been said before and expressed quite effectively by others above, but it won't get better while they continue to permit construction of ugly buildings in the "south" region and do little to enhance the region.

I don't like name calling, but my brain keeps screaming: "Morons! Morons!"


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Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:42 am

Southern Neighbor ~ well stated, thank you.


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Posted by Concerned Neighbors in LAH
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:52 am

Many residents in Los Altos Hills that depend on Page Mill Road and it's intersections at 280, Foothill and El Camino are duly concerned about the over-development going on in South Palo Alto. This massive development will impact traffic, fresh water and electrical supply, and sewer and treatment capacity not to mention safety resources. The agenda to create the next San Jose at the price of the residents is a sad one. We do not want arteries turned into superhighways, commercial properties renovated into high-density space, and high-density planned developments to accommodate that high-density commercial space. It's time for the residents and neighboring communities to speak up. City Councils make the residents the lowest priority shareholder. This is just so wrong. It's all about revenues. Good Luck.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:54 am

This survey was not about Gunn vs. Paly. There are certainly more "youth services" in North PA, but they are aimed at younger kids (Junior Museum, Riconada Pool, Children's Library, Children's Theater). Some of that will change when Mitchell Park and The Magical Bridge Playground are open. The playground at Mitchell Park is already nicer than anything Park in north Palo Alto.


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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:58 am

We learned about the north/south divide when we had to move "north" so that our kids could attend PA schools.


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Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

And then we could talk about streets -- the crazy lane striping on Charleston between San Antonio and Louis to begin with. No one from the City Council drives that regularly, I'm sure. "Old" Palo Alto has all the big houses on large lots, so they won't be torn down for the multi-family housing that ABAG is forcing. Pretty soon we'll have too many houses, too many children in the schools, and nowhere to work in South PA.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

@Mutti - the ABAG only requires the City to plan for potential housing, it doesn't actually have to be built.


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Posted by Hal
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

I hope everyone knows that the city council is looking at cutting out 2 council from 9 to 7 seats and changing our voter imposed term limits from 2 to 3 terms (8 to 12 years). So even less chance for representation of south Palo Alto viewpoints for a longer term.


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Posted by Floyd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Who on the council or candidates for council lives in the south end of town?
That's the answer for most of the 55 years that I lived in Greenacres 1.


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Posted by New in Town
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Why did they even bother with the expense and time for a survey when Pat Burt apparently knows all is perfectly fine and we merely have a "perception issue?" Can't wait for the PR campaign to gloss over Cubberley, MP Library, crowded schools, etc. Others blame timing of the survey with the Measure D vote.

This exercise looks like an excuse to pat themselves on the back and dismiss any real learning.

Re: parking. Are there any CPA public parking lots in SoPA? All I see are those owned privately serving strip mall businesses.


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Posted by Nbr
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Our southern neighbors forgot JCC,the indoor pool and other facilities of ymca. And the upcoming nice library. The northern parks and tennis courts are pretty much shared with epa residents. And isn't the new gym of paly donated from private funding? The parking is just as bad if not worse than south. And the $3000-$10000 annual flood insurance in north.
Now if you still think that bad for south, please do move up to north but don't be surprised with the million dollar fixer uppers or the more costly big lots.


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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Greg Schmid and Gail Price live south of Oregon Expressway.


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

@Nbr,
Why s it people feel like they have to express strong opinions when they knw so little?

I led with the mention of Mitchell Park and Community Center (which includes the library). I didn't spell it out because Community Center is a bigger concept. I also didnt spell out the ballroom and community rooms and kitchen at Lucie Stern, for example. I spelled out the theatre because we only have 2 400-500 person theaters in town (not too big, not too small) that the community can use, both in the north.

I ddnt spell out JCC and YMCA because they are both private and cost a great deal more to use the facilities. Plus, JCC is no closer to a lot of us in the south than it is to northerners. So, the examples you have used are one that I already mentioned and is under a cloud of construction problems (and when it does open, the community center part won't have a permanent performance space like on the north side of own), and two private facilities not supported by our taxpayer ollar s like all the places in the north I mentioned. I mentioned Gamble because it's open to the public and free. You have only made my point that the City pays for services in the north and not the south.

Look at the Maybell situation. The City has the right to be first buyer on that property, it's across the street from a school and existing park, and the City wouldn't even heed our requests to just buy it temporarily to give the neighbors the chance and time to save the orchard and pay them back. Because just like you, Council seems to feel it's okay to create those community resources in the north with taxpayer money but here in the south we need to do it and pay for it ourselves.

I'm happy for the new gym at Paly, my point is that it's plan is quite beautiful, whereas the Gunn new gym is uglier than sin, a real eyesore, not even kind of eclectic ugly like 801 Alma. The gym at Gunn was part of the nearly half billion dollar bond we gave the district, so to you, that somehow equates to must be ugly? That new classroom building they put up at Gunn cost just as much as the donation for the Paly gym, but - while it's hard to criticize because it's so much better to have a new building than portables - it's ugly, soulless, and reminds me for all the world of this sunless precivilwar barracks at Golden Gate park. It's like someone was designing a prison at the same time, not a nice environment for students. The concrete was already stress cracking in unsightly ways in the walkways upstairs before it was even in use.

I frankly moved from north to south because people are friendlier here. And you can stop looking down your nose, our per square foot cost of real estate is pretty comparable over here. We, too, have the $2 million fixers on small lots, but we also pay taxes for everyone else's amenities but somehow don't ever get them over here. (to the above poster bringing up the ''30s... How exactly is that relevant?)

The real issue isn't north south divide, it's that this City Council has a destructive development agenda and is trying to turn Palo Alto into mini San Jose. And we feel it acutely here in the south as we don't have the same community spaces and amenities but are taking the brunt of densification. That's even a goal n the general plan, densify pur side of town.


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Posted by Southerner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm

South Palo Alto has absolutely NO representation in the. Its council nd probably never has had it.

South Palo Alto gets all the unfinished projects, most of the ugly construction, and with one exception (801 Alma) , all of the high density projects.

Certainly this is related to the lack of representation south of Oregon Expwy.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

@southerner - to repeat Ms. Markevitch's comment - Greg Schmid and Gail Price live south of Oregon Expressway


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

@Southern neighbor - the reason the Paly gym is pretty is because the donor had the designs done, not the City, the ARB or PAUSD. That is also the reason it will get built quickly and with high quality work. No public involvement...


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Posted by truth will out
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm

"The gym at Gunn was part of the nearly half billion dollar bond we gave the district"
...paid for by residents across the whole district.

Whereas the gym at Paly was the result of a $20M dollar donation.

Sort of reflects PiE's redistribution of funds from North to South. And where are all the complaints coming from?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Crescent Park Dad - the baylands and "all that stuff" is a straight shot down Embarcadero. Also the San Franscisquito creek outlet - which is the border between Santa Clara and San Mateo. That is specifically North PA.
I think you have talked about the duck pond when you were a child - or someone did. That is all North PA.

One major problem on flood control is that people - including Stanford, do not see the creek from end to end as one flood control entity and has to be managed as such. You all keep breaking it up into little pieces so you are only managing the piece that is in your neighborhood.
I think there is a chance of El Nino returning - then everyone will get to see the creek from end to end.


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

@will out,
What is your point? You are making the opposite point by using the example of a donation that stayed in the north.

PiE funds are a small fraction of the total cost of our school district, which mostly comes from taxes, not donations, though PiE is certainly needed and welcome .

You seem again to try to divert from the main points:
-In South Palo Alto, we have far fewer public assets, and where we have them, we have sometimes paid for them ourselves.
-Our City Council has codified the densification of our side of town, and we are being seriously impacted by that densification without any commensurate attention to community assets, infrastructure, and open space (recall the promised "park" and community space at Alma Plaza).

The last annual PiE donation was $5M. If the north even accounted disproportionately for that amount (though for that amount, certainly not disproportionately to means), what's your point? That's a difference less than the mortgage on my house in a PUBLIC SCHOOL system (where the south side of town is having to take the new density, i.e., all the people who won't pay for their services but add to the densification, traffic, schools, etc) makes all other inequity okay? It makes it okay for our City Council to systematically neglect our infrastructure, transportation systems, traffic problems (on both sides of town), circulation and parking problems (on both sides of town), safety, and other essential civic duties?


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

@palo alto resident
>@Southern neighbor - the reason the Paly gym is pretty is because the donor had the designs done, not the City, the ARB or PAUSD. That is also the reason it will get built quickly and with high quality work. No public involvement...

The City, the ARB had no say in the ugly gym at Gunn, either, because the City and school district are separate governmental bodies. (government 101)

By no public involvement at Paly, do you mean the $5.5 million the district will be chipping in to help pay for it, or the school board discussions or votes such as on March 19 (where, guess what? there was opportunity for public comment just as with all public projects for our schools).

But you never miss a chance to twist something around to try to slam the parents in this district and residents of our town. Why is that?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I am trying to figure out why this article was issued by the Weekly. All kinds of sentiments are being raised from every direction. This defines how
the chips are going to fall in the future for planning purposes.
I never considered many of the topics being raised here but can see now there is a great deal of emotion over many issues here.
The law of unintended consequences is in play.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm

The bigger divide isn't NoPA vs SoPA.

It's "NoPA/SoPA vs council/staff/developers"


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

@southern neighbor - by "no public involvement" I meant the actual design and construction process was and will be done primarily by the donor, not a public entity such as the City or PAUSD. That is why the design is traditional architecture (which many would refer to as "prettier") that reflects Paly's tower building instead of the more typical angular designs of many of our new school buildings. That is also why it was designed more quickly and will be built more quickly than government funded/run projects. Another example would be the time it took to build the Stanford Stadium vs. Cal's.

I don't understand how my comments "slam the parents in this district and residents of our town".


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Posted by Another Southie
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Really.....surprised? Don't want to complain, but North Palo Alto wins! And it will continue that way until they have to put a Senior Center at Gamble. Fat chance.


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 3:22 pm

>The bigger divide isn't NoPA vs SoPA.

It's "NoPA/SoPA vs council/staff/developers"


Weekly, can we have a system of STARS so that when someone says something so pithy, relevant, and spot on, we can get it repeated in a little box at the start of the threads?

Thank you, resident, right on!


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

@palo alto resident,

Having witnessed how the development of the buildings at Gunn effectively shut out substantive public input, I can only comment on how ideological and misplaced your point is.

It wouldn't have cost a lot of money to make the new buildings at Gunn attractive, it could have even saved money.


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Posted by Franz Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

You really cannot get around the fact that South Palo Alto is under-represented in the City Council: only two representatives.


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Gail Price doesn't count, she represents the developers.


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Posted by RichieRich
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I hate driving in north Palo Alto. I always have to drive extra careful. follow all the rules of the road at all times.
On the south side I get more freedom hardly any cops on that side. Especially Alma with the 50+mph


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Posted by what?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I don't get it. Isn't that Mountain View south of Oregon expressway?


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Posted by Franz Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Unfortunately, the fact that some council members/mayors have been in bed with the enemy ( developers) does not help South Palo Alto, either, as developers see it as THE place with THE space!


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Posted by RichieRich
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Every major city has to have a east side or south side East LA south, Bronx. We have a south side. The haves and the have nots.
There will always be some neighbor looking over your fence, and wanting what you have.


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Posted by Don't get it
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand all the sour grapes here. We all benefit from a great town with lots of amenities for everyone's use. The layout of the city, with North PA/University Avenue as the city center, predates the residential build up of South PA and the creation of the Oregon Expressway/Page Mill "divide." I've never seen an address keeping a Palo Alto resident out of a park, library, or community center regardless of where it was located in town. North PA may have its upscale neighborhoods, but South PA has lovely parks, friendly retail areas, safe neighborhoods in which to bike and walk, good schools, a well-used little league field, and enviable full-service markets. I guess my point is, let's stop the petty zip-code jealousies. We all have it a lot better than most other communities in the bay area. We need to appreciate and value our town enough to work together to deal with the unchecked growth that the CC has unleashed on us. If individual neighborhoods need protection and improvement, let's approach that together as a community. We may need a new, more responsive city council to do that, so let's speak to that and stop bashing each other based on our address.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2014 at 6:48 pm

@southern neighbor - Not having been involved in any of the Gunn buildings, I can't comment, but I was involved in the process for another school. That was done by a committee of parents and teachers that gave input to the architects, they did the design work based on criteria given by the District. Input from outside that group was taken into consideration, but more along the lines of landscaping, size, placement and impact on the community than actual "design" details.

In contrast, the Paly gym is being paid for, in the most part, by the donor. Therefore, the substantial "design" decisions fall on the donor (think decorative such as the style of the building vs. functional, that part gets community input). If you put it in the context of a residential building, neighbors can comment on where windows will go, building heights, etc. if it impact them, but they have no say over whether a person builds a contemporary, mission style or craftsman style house, that is up to the owner. In the case of the gym, the donor sort-of "owns" the buildings until they are done.

And I totally agree, good attractive design does not cost more and often costs less.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of University South
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:22 pm

How can anyone wonder why there's a difference?
South Palo Alto has had lots of new construction, newcomers, further away from the offerings and involvement of downtown.
No Palo Alto has many oldtimers, who can walk or easily get to many things which provide an identity with "Palo Alto."


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2014 at 8:52 pm

@Dont get it,
I like your focus on working together, but you are still missing the key point that most of our civic assets and free taxpayer funded amenities are in the north. In my area, of the two main parks, one was bought by the neighbors so it wouldn't become a big development (Bol Park). The other, the city wanted to put an electrical substation on, but neighbrs fought it off to get the substation closer to El Camino (Juana Briones) The middle school would also have been turned into a giant development except ... Drumroll please... The neighbors fought that, too. Are you sensing a pattern here?

All we asked for is the chance to save the Maybell orchard ourselves, since the City seems to think we don't deserve amenities over here. Nope. Would you like to help us speak to that? If people in the north understood that their children, too, would benefit from Palo Alto having a community heritage orchard, or just didnt begrudge us over here for once having a city amenity we didnt have to fight for and pay for ourselves, it would help a lot. We'll even find a way to pay for the building.

You do realize that our city code provides for open space to compensate or development? Except our Council seems to think it means putting the development in the south and the open space in the north.

Someone made the great suggestion that we move council chambers and planning to the Miki's site. Just even not having to schlepp down to City Hall downtown at nights sometimes would be nice.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I have lived near Downtown and now I live in Midtown. I personally think Midtown is WAY WAY better. Much more neighborhood-like and quiet! I love driving through Old Palo Alto but its one big grid full of constant car traffic. I also think Midtown (or South Palo) is more convenient to shops and restaurants; in between Northern Palo Alto and Mountain View and very close to the Midtown Shops and California Ave. I feel like I am in the "middle" of it all....Midtown! People in Northern Palo Alto frown upon living in South PA, and I did too at one time. Now I realize that was foolish. Northern Palo Alto is too congested. You can keep all the "amenities", North Palo Alto, I don't mind driving to them if the trade off is your are not driving by my house every two seconds.

And don't forget the best amenity of all (Winter Lodge) is in Midtown!


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Posted by Jaya
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 18, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Here's a personal example of the problem.....When an ugly, rowdy bar (Dan Brown's) across the street, and only 70 feet away, from our bedroom windows closed down a few years ago, we pleaded with the city not to renew the liquor license at that address. In the seventies, when it was issued, it stood across the street from a lumber yard. Now there are condos with bedroom windows that face it as well as a tutoring center right next door. The city basically acted like we were NIMBYs who were being unreasonable. They refused to help and said that the license was "grandfathered in". Please!! You can't override a piece of paper that is no longer appropriate a few decades later? There is no way a bar should stand there now - but it does again. Now, we have people who have been drinking hanging out in the street under our bedroom windows every night. We have to go to work and our kids have to go to school in the morning! There is NO way the city would expect a condo complex in the north to put up with such a situation.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

That bar was The Island before Jaya was born. Problem with newcomers and their condos, no sense of history. Move in and want to change the place.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm

I hear you on the Dan Brown comment Jaya. That place was a disgusting dump.
"Friends" dragged me into that place for a beer a couple times and all I saw were
clueless morons sitting alone in a bar drinking because the music was so loud
there was no possible way to have a conversation ... and this was true even on
the outside ... their back patio.

I am so glad that place is gone. I have a hard time thinking anyone else is going
to be so stupid as to waste the money, time and capital to open a bar to cater for
loser lowlives that get in fights and then get scooped up by the police as they
get in their cars to drive off .... drunk.

Another example of the city falling down on the job - that was a really wretched
place. I have a hard time believing that you could not call the police and have the
bar turn down its music. Most of the nights I ever noticed while driving by police
were always there watching over the place.

But ... that particular area used to be an adult theater or bookstore or something
back in the 70's or 80's, so count your blessings.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2014 at 11:36 pm

All I remember is the A&W and Tony's bike shop. More peaceful then. Alot less traffic.


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Posted by Grew Up Here
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:44 am

There has always been North PA and South PA contention. I think it has to do mostly with the North PA snubbing South PA's lack of care for landscaping! Perhaps nice landscaping is why it's $100,000 more to live north of Oregon. "Seriously? Over a million for that house with poor landscaping?"


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Posted by Needed Fix
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2014 at 1:48 am

The fix is simple: if you live south of Oregon, vote for candidates who do as well, but I stress that exceptions should always be made. A good barometer is if the Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning endorse a slate, it would clearly be better than blind voting for a devloper/union stooge like Gail Price just because she lives in Barron Park.

For example Eric Filseth, Nielson Buchannon and some of the most logical, reasonable voices that emerged from the Measure D and recent zoning debacles hail from the North, and would be far superior to any sitting member of the council, and I hope they run.

Also, can someone please beg Bob Moss to run this year. We need to get five candidates elected so they can break "tradition" and refuse to elect our retread union-stooge Liz Kniss to the mayor's chair.


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Posted by sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 6:59 am

I have long considered California Ave shopping area part of the southern end of Palo Alto because it is within walking distance from my home. That is part of the problem with sharp dividing lines. However, the quality and diversity of shops on CA Ave has declined: we lost a variety store and a book store. The first new high density developments in PA were attractive--homes and condos related to the former Medical Center property that surround a park. Where is our park for any of the recently built (Arbor), in progress, or proposed mixed use complexes? There is even no green or even open space around them as the sheer walls come right to the edge of the sidewalk.
Every time someone in the north end of PA complains about people (Yes I am one as when I shop I do not like to be constrained by time before a ticket.) parking in front of their home, they get a special parking zone or blocked streets. We get nothing--just another ugly high rise.
I guess there is bus service in the southern end, but it only runs up and down El Camino or along Page Mill/Oregon. In order to take a bus from the Mayfield station to Barron Park, you must change at El Camino, and then the bus only runs along the El Camino edge of Barron Park. Many of us are seniors and our bike riding, especially with a load of groceries are long behind us. The PA shuttle provides a grand tour of PA, but is of little use for us.
We complain about traffic. The City traffic engineers do an expensive study, then make it worse. The traffic on Arastradero would be greatly improved by eliminating the exit from Gunn High on to Arastradero. Especially during commute hours (7-10am and 3-7pm weekdays) exiting traffic should be routed along Miranda past the VA hospital.
This is a start. Listen to us when we say "No". Don't insist that and already extremely wealthy developer has to make even more money by building more eyesores. Where is our library? How many years over due is it?
I have never seen one of these surveys. Do you send them only to a few select cronies? I suggest that the next survey be sent to all adults in Palo Alto.


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Posted by bellesdottir
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2014 at 8:03 am

Two comments about South Palo Alto, where I lived for 42 years. (1) Spraying for the Medfly in 1979 stopped at Oregon Expressway--didn't go north in spite of the fact that a ripe grapefruit tree remained at Ramona and Cowper. (2) A friend who grew up in Old Palo Alto said that when South Palo Alto was developed, the new citizens had something the old ones didn't: Mortgages! Maybe now that the trees south of Oregon are getting taller and some of the smaller homes are being demolished for expensive McMansions, the cultural divide will lessen, but I doubt it.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

Ramona and Cowper?


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Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of University South
on Mar 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

This article and survey are ridiculous and there are more important things to focus on concerning this city than trying to figure out why North residents differ from South residents in their views regarding the city. I never received a notice to participate in this survey. I'm sure many others did not receive it as well. Who is the city surveying? Simply ridiculous!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sideshow
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 9:47 am

Fanning flames of the North/South rivalry takes our attention away from the developers and the city council they bought.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:22 am

Living in North Palo Alto I find many good local amenities which have already been listed. There is a difference between N and S PA and also Midtown. But it's not unsurmountable, it's just a bit different in vibe.
When it comes to city services and amenities it is better to have more for all.
You can't change where downtown PA is located (someone complained that the North "has" this), or Main Library, but the city could stand to make a major push to 1)complete the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and get it operational! and 2)get a high quality plan and go ahead to redevelop Cubberley Community Center. These things would benefit more people to the middle/south AND benefit the entire city. Quit wasting time taking away lanes on Charleston/Arastradero (how much costly city staff time was devoted to that nonsense?!) and get going on a revamp of Cubberley, which is in a fantastic central location. I would like to see a 3rd high school there, which could share one side of the property with appropriate city amenities.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:53 am

Personally, I like the exterior of the new Gunn gym. It melds nicely with the relatively new aquatics center.

I dispute any notion that there was no opportunity for public input on the design of any of the PAUSD projects. Focusing on the high schools, there were so many planning meetings, presentations, PowerPoints, PDFs, etc. Go to the PAUSD website and you can view the complete history of planning/design, meeting minutes, etc.

The design for the new Paly media and theater buildings complement the original architecture very nicely. I would agree that the new Gunn buildings do not reflect the original architecture. (When I was growing up, I always thought Gunn looked like Foothill College). But to say that there was no chance to get involved and voice an opinion on the Gunn designs is patently false.

Theaters...don't forget that Gunn has a decent sized theater...it is going to get a facelift via the bond funds BTW. Cubberly has a nice and cozy auditorium as well.

I agree that the long-term issue is all residents (NoPA and SoPA) vs. the CC/ABAG/Developers. I voted to defeat Measure D and will do the same again and again. Be prepared for a huge evolution to Cal Ave.


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Posted by BP Res
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 11:56 am

The thing that really stands out for me is the paving on the streets. One of Barron Park's main thoroughfares, La Donna, is one step above a dirt road. A few years ago Matadero and some other streets were repaved - why not do all of them. You don't see the picking and choosing in other neighborhoods. Even then, only some chosen street got gutters. Why not all?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm

There is a history in BP, including pre-annexation, where many of the long-term residents wanted to keep BP as "rural" as possible. Thus no sidewalks, etc.

The city does have a comprehensive street paving schedule that goes out several years. You might want to check that. Plus they do try to coordinate with other "dig" projects such as storm drainage, sewers, etc.


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Posted by Grew Up Here
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Agree, Barron Park wanted to stay rural, thus no sidewalks. There is a hierarchy in Palo Alto:
1) North
2) South
3) Barron Park

Re Barron Park from PaloAltoHistory.com:

"As the City of Palo Alto grew during the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, it began to annex the land to its south. The hotel area along old Highway 101 (now El Camino Real) and the neighborhoods south of Oregon Avenue became new Palo Alto acquisitions. But countrified Barron Park continued to hold out, voting down annexation a half dozen times during these years. Eventually Palo Alto took so much land nearby that it produced the cartographic oddity of Barron Park as a literal island of resistance to Palo Alto City Hall. Why was Barron Park so set against becoming a Palo Alto neighborhood? Much of the animosity dated back to 1936 when an enormous fire burned down the largest house in Barron Park and the Palo Alto Fire Department refused to help.

Such resentment had a big effect on Barron Park's future. When the annexation debate was raised in 1947, there was still a great deal of resentment from Barron Park residents toward Palo Alto. Despite support for annexation from the School Board and City Staff, Barron Parkers voted 338 to 261 to remain separate from Palo Alto. By 1949, Barron Park had formed their own volunteer fire department and did not become a part of Palo Alto until newer, younger residents approved in 1975."

Complete article: Web Link


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Posted by Eastie
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Yes - I agree, more services should be placed in Southern Palo Alto. And I would also favor special no interests loans so residents could afford to tear down those awful Eklers for some beautiful homes. However, I acknowledge - they served a wonderful purpose for the WW2 veterans and baby boom generation of the 1950-60s. Of course, if you like your Ekler - that's cool, too.

I also agree that the larger challenge is preserving the quality of life in Palo Alto - for all Palo Altains. I have been here since 1960. All was good until about 1984. Then, a rapid development and change began.

I recommend electing a slate of new council members who would place a moratorium on all future commercial building developments and multi-family additions. We have enough success. I want people to primarily live here - not work here. I embrace the Los Altos Hills, Woodside, and Atherton model. And for those that already work and live here, good for them. We have reached a saturation point. No more.


Time to spread the Silicon Valley development to communities to the South. Or, let the East Bay have more law firms, start-ups, venture capitalists, and technology firms. Lord knows those areas could use an influx of professionals and upgraded neighborhoods.


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Posted by Southern neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

I would note that the amenities in Barron Park, Greenacres, and nearby neighborhoods are separated from all the major south Palo Alto amenities by El Camino and/or Alma. It's really no easier to get there than northern amenities. That's why the City's seeing the last orchard in town as some kind of blank slate requiring overdevelopment got people here so riled up. We have taken so much densification, and the traffic and noise in the last few years have completely changed the quality of life.

The same conditions that led to the developer wanting to overdevelop that parcel (on the for profit side) make it a relatively nexpensive place to turn it into parkland. It's across the street from a school for the disabled and an existing park for heavens sake. We desparately need a meeting place on this side of town that would help the sense of community a lot! And the City has the right to buy the orchard, but won't because this Council hopes to punish those uppity neighbors for thwarting their development plans. That's not conjecture, either.

Of our only two public amenities, Bol park was saved from development by residents buying it over here, and Briones Park would be an electric substation, and Terman Middle School a high density apartmentville if the City had had its way.

Save the orchard! I keeping with our exploited stepchild status, we will find a way to put n the building and even find a way o pay for it.


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Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

Why is it the North has crappy roads and the South has such smooth and well maintained roads?


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Posted by Love it
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

I don't know about the rest of you, but every day I look around my neighborhood an think of how thankful that I am able to raise my family in such an incredible place. We have an educated, affluent, yet down-to-earth community of people who love their families and get involved in their community. We have beautiful tree-lined streets, many spacious public parks within walking distance, great weather. Whether it's north or south Palo Alto, I, for one, think that we're all living the dream.


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Posted by Deprived south
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2014 at 6:26 pm

> Why is it the North has crappy roads and the South has such smooth and well maintained roads?
I too wonder about that every day. It's pretty obvious roads in the South are newer, smoother, better maintained.
Unfortunately the poor deprived south is pushing to change the name of the Main library. No real reason to go to all the trouble and expense, they are just trying to overcome the sense of inferiority that the big Mitchell Park complex can't soothe.
Sad. They have to take away what someone else has in order to feel ok.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by southern neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:45 pm

@ deprived,

That is a very strange post. We have our share of poorly maintained crappy roads over here, too. They aren't better maintained, if you see a smooth road, it was just on the schedule more recently. Or perhaps it was paved as part of some massive development or other, as we have been getting many here lately.

No one is asking to take anything away from you. You are trying to stir up discontent between north and south for no end, which makes me wonder if you are really a resident.

I would hope our northern neighbors would realize that some parts of south Palo Alto have very few assets, yet we pay taxes to pay for them like everyone else. One asset that would really benefit our part of town would be saving the orchard, which could be a great community asset for everyone, especially since we have so many schools nearby.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pa
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm

The crappy roads are due to all the traffic.... Almost every week the crews are busy in blocking the road and putting a makeup on these beautiful trees. Digging up the road is also a very common practice herein the North. When you have money, you need to spend! Alright.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Why and how this thread got started is questionable. It has brought out the best and worst comments. I am embarrassed by what is being said and read by people in other surrounding cities. Ritchie Rich was a cartoon character way back when.

What ever the intention the next election coming up is going to get a big change up - the people running for office will need to be vetted as to where they live and business background.

The assumption that work on a school board makes a person qualified to make good and ethical decisions regarding he running of a city have shown to be in error. We need to view candidates with a different set of requirements.
We need to ask better questions and get better commitments on performance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm

At first I did not like this thread - now it is perfect. Some lady wrote an opinion piece about Palo Alto that appeared in the SJM opinion section - she is from Sunnyvale. People out there think we are living the dream. Note that Sunnyvale has a great, modern community center with great programs, as well as a large commercial, industrial base, and GOLF COURSE that no one is fooling around with.
Palo Alto is 25 Square miles, built border to border, no - we do not have any say over the Stanford Property, and we are now working to re-structure the Baylands for flood control.
Complaint about Foothill Park - note that it is city owned while surrounding preserves are funded through different sources.
They just do not understand. I think our selling job is creating expectations that do not match reality.


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