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El Camino property owners irked by plans for wider sidewalks

Original post made on Mar 27, 2014

An effort by Palo Alto officials to encourage wider sidewalks and to set buildings farther back from El Camino Real is creating anxiety among property owners, some of whom characterize the reforms as an infringement by the city on private property rights.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:52 AM

Comments (57)

Posted by resident, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

Pedestrians are pests. We need more room for cars. Moving cars. Free parking for cars. Don't use precious street space for pedestrians!

Posted by Palo Altan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:22 am

Corrupt developers. They don't care if they destroy Palo Alto.

Posted by Vanessa Warheit, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

I'm delighted that the city is moving towards more livable streets, and I'm 100% confident that business owners along El Camino will benefit greatly from the increased pedestrian activity in front of their businesses that will come with more walkable sidewalks. I'd like to propose a 'car free day on El Camino' - similar to the car-free day on University Ave. - to show everyone how much better life can be when there is more space for people, and businesses, and bicycles, and less space for cars. I'm also in support of Bus Rapid Transit along El Camino, which will reduce traffic congestion and increase pedestrian activity. (Buses use up WAY less space than cars, per person riding.) Getting people out of their cars and onto people-friendly sidewalks means safer streets, cleaner air, and more foot traffic for small businesses. Want to build out? Use that parking lot in back instead! :)

Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

One has to ask the question,"What purpose does widening the sidewalks on El Camino serve?" Drive down El Camino at any given time of day or night and you will see little to no foot traffic. The "Grand Boulevard" concept is nuts. We're not Paris. People here drive and you can't change or regulate that fact.

Posted by Get real , a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

Well said, 35 year resident. This just another of palo altos pipe dreams-- very few pedestrians on el camino and nothing will change that .
Palo,altan- care to,provide proof of your claim of corruption or are you all talk
Vanessa-- yes, let's have a car free day and push all the traffic on the major thoroughfare through palo alto onto neighborhood streets. Of,course, not much will end up in college terrace, with it's endless traffic calming measures. We live in a car culture. With the poor public transportation system in place people,will not get out of their cars. The bus rid transit plan is a recipe For disaster, it will remove 1 lane from an already congested street. Notnsure how that will increase pedestrian traffic-- people will not suddenly start riding the 22 line because it has a dedicated lane and people will not suddenly be walking along el camino because of that either. This " less space for cars" mentality is ridiculous given our public transportation system. We are not Paris and el camino is not the chams d'ellysee.

Posted by Chris Logan, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

Having a sidewalk wide enough to walk beside my husband in his wheel chair rather than behind it is not an unreasonable request. For safety it seems basic to have sidewalks that are pedestrian friendly and safe for residents.

Posted by Get real, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:01 am

Chris-- a 12 foot wide sidewalk is not wide enough to,walk beside your husband.
Have you complained to the city about the situation in Barron park?

Posted by Streets are for eveyone, not just drivers., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:11 am

Wider sidewalks on El Camino, please. Create an environment that enables people to walk and they will. Add to that, El Camino is just UGLY now. Room for healthy trees with access to sunlight would be a big improvement. Protected places to sit and rest would be nice.

Americans have gotten FAT and lazy because we drive everywhere. It's time for change in this gas guzzling country. I want my kids to see that we at least tried to make the world better for them. We are leaving quite a mess for them to clean up. I feel responsibility to do what I can to minimize the damage of decades of auto-centered transportation planning.

I want streets that work for everyone, not just people with an active driver's license and the money to afford a car and gas.

Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:22 am

El Camino isn't exactly a picturesque neighborhood where people are going to stroll. The city really has delusions of grandeur with this Grand Boulevard nonsense since it's a major through road that's an alternative to all the other gridlocked roads.

Yes, the new developments like where Hyatt Rickey's used to be are ugly.

Posted by senor blogger, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

Let's just build right up to the road and eliminate sidewalks completely. that way no one will be able to get to the businesses

Posted by I-agree, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:29 am

Short comment - I support greater setbacks from all streets. I also support lower height restrictions on the street side of properties.
Whether you walk or drive, I'd like to prevent our streets from becoming steep walled canyons.
PS - no sarcasm was included in these sentences.

Posted by Eva_PA, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

Eva_PA is a registered user.

Given all of the housing behind El Camino in South Palo Alto I think making El Camino more pedestrian-friendly would be a huge benefit. I live in Ventura neighborhood and frequent the many restaurants within walking distance on El Camino. If it was more walkable I'm sure foot traffic would increase. Currently it feels pretty grungy and a little uncomfortable at night with dark areas.

But I am confused about what is being required from the article:

" it keeps in place the existing 12-foot minimum setback between the curb and the building and couples it with a new requirement for an "average setback" of 15 to 18 feet. Staff decided to allow for some flexibility based on land use, lot size and building designs, Chief Planning Official Amy French said during the March 20 meeting."

How do you have an average setback of 15-18 feet, when the minimum is only 12 feet? Will the Planning Dept get the say on which businesses get which amount (oh boy). Realizing these changes only affect redevelopment or expansion, does expansion mean remodeling? There are many restaurants that are small that could be impacted.

While I favor making El Camino more walkable and wide sidewalks would be nice, just wondering how it would actually play out.

Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

@Streets are for make some good points, especially with regard to us becoming a fat and lazy society. However, widening the sidewalks will NOT get people to abandon their cars. Making the improvements you suggest would be a plus but there are no magnets on El Camino to draw a walking crowd, especially south of Page Mill Road. Encouraging our kids to lead a healthy lifestyle can't be enforced by government, it has to start at home. And let's face it, Americans are not going to stop driving, despite the government trying to ram it down our throats.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I'm irked by the AT&T store at Oregon and El Camino - should be a right turn lane right through the front window..

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Forgetting for a moment whether people will walk or not (and they will in my opinion, if there are places to shop and eat) how about taking aesthics into account? The current developments that are built without setbacks are intimidating, over-sized, block natural light and are just plain ugly!

Posted by Carol Gilbert, a resident of University South
on Mar 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

We have the "perfect" example of how ugly it is when buildings grow right from a narrow sidewalk in AT&T and the Charleston/El Camino condos. It is up to the city to mandate this because the developers will never give up an inch of rentable/saleable space. They will destroy the look and feel of this city and move on to the next one to ruin.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

People walk a lot more in SF because it's hard to find parking and public transit is a reasonable alternative. So if the city really wants more pedestrians, they should eliminate parking and probably reduce El Camino to four lanes. The city should meter those few remaining parking spots and force drivers to walk.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

The Grand Boulevard Initiative is not Palo Alto's alone, but is shared by other cities and Caltrans. Speaking of Caltrans, here is a study just out that says that Californians are driving less:
Web Link
From 2001 to 2012 the rate of driving dropped 12%. Now 16% of trips are made by foot, and the percentage of people under 30 with no driver's license continues to grow. We should not ignore these trends, rather we should encourage them.

Posted by Professorville dad, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Property owners have rights too. Wider sidewalks are nice, but why should the city ask property owners to bear the burden ALONE? What are the gives and gets?

Posted by Elaine Uang, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

By reputation, Palo Alto is the innovation capital of the world, the global epicenter for technology and entrepreneurship. But when people visit, some are shocked that El Camino Real, one of the main thoroughfares through town, is a planning dinosaur - an ugly, 1960's relic of a vehicular speedway, dotted with strip malls and outdated structures that only encourages people to pass through as quickly as possible.

What if we aspire to make our community and our main thoroughfares beautiful and compelling places to live? What if the design of our streets and boulevards match the cutting edge, creative, innovative reputation our city has from a technology standpoint? What if we inspire people to experience our main streets, the businesses, and public spaces along it comfortably, safely, for longer periods of time?

A pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment can actually be a boon to business, not a detractor. There is increasing evidence from Portland, Seattle and San Francisco that bicycle friendly retail zones can increase visitor shopping and revenues, by virtue of the fact people want to linger, stay and explore.

Cities around the world are competing for talent, trying to create the beautiful, vital, livable spaces that attracts the best. Even LA is moving toward implementing public transit and walkable/bikable communities. Cities are never static and lofty goals like this have to start somewhere. This doesn't have to be just a pipe dream. It CAN happen and I hope my 2 year old and my 5 month old will only ever know and remember a beautiful El Camino Real.

Posted by frustrated land owner, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:03 pm

We owned the property for more than 25 years.
Every few years we try to plan for developing a nice bulding.
The rules keep on changing, and neighbors are not intrested in having commercial developments.
So we give up.

With this new rule, and without neighbor support for business,
who is walking to the commercial business on a 18 feet wide side walk?
Thr barron park residents are happy just driving their luxury car!

City doesn't attempt to understand why the buildings are not being redevelopped.
But complain about the area is falling apart.
Worst yet, we cannot even build a residential building!!!

Frustrated land owner.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Potential changes in zoning regulations are one of the risks of commercial property investment. Every developer knows that.

Of course, they don't give any money back when they successfully get those regulations changed in their favor.

Posted by bscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:36 pm

We can be more like western Europe with grand avenues, wide sidewalks and pedestrians. The car culture is terrible and will die out anyway as fuel becomes more and more expensive and less available, and air pollution too intolerable.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "frustrated land owner"
That comment contains many false statements. Based on my service on the Barron Park Association Board (1994-2013):
1. Barron Park residents *are* interested in having commercial developments that serve the neighborhood and that they can walk to. This has been demonstrated in a variety of surveys and public meetings over the years.
2. The BPA tries to support neighborhood retail businesses by running (free) articles in the hardcopy quarterly newsletter when a new retail business moves in, and providing cheap ads in the newsletter with a policy that is intended to give those local businesses visibility to the neighborhood.
3. Over the years, the BPA worked with a number of property owners regarding redevelopment.

This being said, there are some property owners who are impossible to work with. For example, in the late 1990s, the owner of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park and the adjacent retail space wanted to install a new sign. However, he wanted one that was substantially larger than the sign ordinance allowed, and took the position that he knew best. A local architect volunteered his firm's (free) time to design an effective sign that conformed to the ordinance. Rejected. It was his way or no way. Sometimes you can't stop people from cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

The Architectural Review Board should recognize UGLY before anyone else. Building out to El Camino Real's sidewalk to achieve density is just plain ugly. Don't turn Palo Alto into more ugly canyons. IF the ARB, City Staff and Council set new standards, tighten up some zoning and stick to existing densities... a new phenomena will occur.

Many of the smaller commercial parcels in the downtown cores and on El Camino Real date back 50-75+ years. They often are relatively inefficient until city planning policy creates incentives to consolidate smaller parcels into larger lot sizes accommodating more attractive, efficient spaces. ARB's is dominated by architects who could be taking a longer view of quality development opportunities..not just the craze of the current economic boom while it lasts.

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Does Elaine want el camino to look like it does in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara? Plenty of retail areas thre, but very few pedestrians. Anyway, that will never happen here because of the Palo Alto process-- residents will shoot down any attempts at serious retail and companies will not wantbto waste their time dealing with the process.

Neilson and carol-- ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous-- you should talk with California avenue merchants. They say there is not enough parking in that area. Do you think people will frequent local stores is there is no,parking. You also,ignore the fact that public transportation IS NOT a viable alternatve in Palo Alto

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Fire the current members of the ARB and replace them with Palo Alto residents with no ties to out-of-town developers. Try to include architects with experience in historical preservation. How about including some of the people involved in the SOFA project years ago? The SOFA project to redevelop the area that replaced PAMF when it moved to its current location is, IMHO, the most successful development in the last 20 years in Palo Alto. The only one I've met so far who didn't like it was the San Francisco developer working on the train corridor, who only liked 8+story buildings and parking garages. Street parking was an anathema to him.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

One correction needed. Replace ARB members with Palo Alto residents with
no ties to out-of-town developers "or local developers". The locals
are destroyimg this place.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:12 pm

"ugly is in the eye of the beholder. "

Likewise beauty. Why not have some?

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:19 pm

""ugly is in the eye of the beholder. "
Likewise beauty. Why not have some?"

We do. The new hotel that replaced case Olga is very pleasing to the eye. Most of it , however, is on the Stanford campus. They seem to be able to build functional, nice looking buildings.
How do they do it? Maybe because they do not have an ARB and P&T commission made up of self- proclaimed experts. Maybe they do not have to also listen to the endless input and complaining from local residents with agendas that involve foisting their taste in buildings on the entire city ( paging DS)

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm

> "I'm irked by the AT&T store at Oregon and El Camino - should be a right turn lane right through the front window."

There was supposed to be a right turn lane. Don't blame the AT&T store. Blame the city. 2009 email from Curtis Williams,who was planning director at the time: "Regarding the northbound right turn lane on El Camino at Page Mill, unfortunately that improvement was not effectuated when those projects were processed, as transitions in transportation staff at the time resulted in that oversight. Staff has since required an increased radius at the corner with the new AT&T project, so there will be some facilitation of right turn movements at the intersection."

I didn't notice any difference in the radius at the corner, and that intersection is a constant nightmare.

> "Ö eliminate parking and probably reduce El Camino to four lanes."

Oh sure. Great idea. One lane on El Camino handles 950 cars/hour. Guess where they would go if the lanes are reduced: through the residential neighborhoods.

When the city took lanes out of Arastradero Road, traffic on Maybell increased 24% because people cut through to avoid traffic jams.

El Camino is not Main Street USA. It's a major north-south artery. How many businesses do you think would survive on foot traffic, regardless of the width of the sidewalks?

Posted by 45 Year Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:31 pm

We don't need wider sidewalks! Just get rid of the obesity problem and people will have all the room they need.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Personally, I think it has nothing to do with the size of the sidewalks. What we have are too many buildings that are built with the back to the street and parking in the rear. This is what is making the streets feel claustrophobic. Most of these business developments would look fine if the were set back from the street with the parking in front where drivers could see it. Instead, we have lots of walls and small entrances into parking lots which are almost invisible until a driver reaches them. This means that someone looking for an address has to drive at a crawl and then make a last minute turn when they see the entrance to where they are going.

This happens at Alma Plaza, the Elks, San Antonio center and probably more.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Anybody out there like the new beige awnings on the Wells Fargo Bldg
at Bryant and University? With a brick building this is an awful color.
Another Palo Alto fiasco. Was this approved by the ARB? That corner looks
even worse now with the dark gray office building and darker gray
Restoration Hardware. Palo Alto streets and streetscapes, congestion,
sign clutter, ugliness grow worse day by day.

Posted by another resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

In the past 40 years, the residential density along El Camino Real hasn't changed much. The failing of retail business is due both to online retailing as well as lack of density.
I second Pat on that the retail business is not going to be helped by wider sidewalks. Now that San Antonio development is in place, the need for retail along the El Camino is even less.

old timer,

Posted by resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm

>@Streets are for make some good points, especially with regard to us becoming a fat and lazy society. However, widening the sidewalks will NOT get people to abandon their cars.

I want to strenuously disagree. Here's my experience in my own neighborhood.

We live about a mile from the WF in LA. We tried walking there to get groceries, backpacks in hard, but it's SUCH a gauntlet, and you basically have to walk single file almost the whole way. Even along Arastradero which was supposedly improved for pedestrians, it's essentially single file, with horrendous traffic right next to you, precarious and frequent intersections, and then all along El Camino, the same problem, only with the added obstacles everywhere. Look at the sidewalk in front of WF sometime. There's a hydrant there between WF and the vitamin shoppe, right in the middle of a really narrow sidewalk. If you were in a wheelchair, there's nowhere to go except in the landscape. Even taking the bike path part way and cutting through the neighborhood, the parts on City streets are so difficult, we finally gave up.

You get people walking when they can walk together and talk, and don't have to keep their eyes peeled like a hawk for some obstacle every few feet. There's poles and magazine racks, electrical and plumbing equipment, hydrants, sculptures, you name it, all impinging on the sidewalks. The intersections are horrible and dangerous. There isn't even a clear shot for ONE walker, much less a pair or even a family, to walk in a way that is enjoyable.

We tried to even just walk to Hobees, but again, it was such an exhausting gauntlet, we finally gave up. We drive, even though it's not that far away. Now with that gargantuan hotel they're putting right near the intersection (TERRIBLE place for such a massive thing), no way would I walk.

I think it's a GREAT idea to put some attention to wider sidewalks on El Camino. Once those sidewalks are built into, there's no opportunities to take advantage of future opportunities in disruptive technologies that assist pedestrians, bikers, or even Seguayists. There should be attention paid to the clear part of the sidewalk where people actually walk. Often, it's not even that comfortable for one person, by themselves.

Today I witnessed a friend motoring home in his wheelchair, with parent coming up behind in single file, because there is no room on the sidewalk coming from school for them to walk together. This should be the absolute minimum consideration in making a walkable city.

This is the first bit of sense from this Council -- I hope it's real and not just window dressing.

Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Why do we see little foot traffic along ElCamino? It is because the sidewalk is uneven, narrow, inconsistent in its width, many trees hang over or have grown out towards the sidewalks, there isn't much to look at as the city closed the interesting businesses along ElCamino and the new buildings have blank walls rising from the sidewalk. So fix the above problems and you will see more people walking.
B Ike's on ElCamino need a place to ride that is not in the traffic. It's very dangerous to ride a bike on ElCamino. Similarly bikers on Alma need a place to ride that is out of traffic. More people might walk on Alma as the buildings are often set farther back.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

> I live in Ventura neighborhood and frequent the many restaurants
> within walking distance on El Camino. If it was more walkable
> I'm sure foot traffic would increase.

I am baffled by the thinking of this poster. She (presumably) says she already walks to local stores and restaurants to do business. She does not say that there are large queues of people waiting along the side streets to gain access to the El Camino. In fact, most posters rightly point out that there isn't any foot traffic to be seen on El Camino, for the most part.

So—how would having 15 foot, or 20 foot, or even 25 foot sidewalks convince people who obviously can walk comfortably on 12 foot sidewalks now to walk to these El Camino businesses which they are now not frequenting, or accessing via their vehicles?

Can anyone explain to me why someone who lives more than a mile away is likely to walk that mile so that they can then walk another few hundred feet on a twenty foot sidewalk?

Sorry .. but this poster's vision just doesn't make any sense.

Posted by Not shopping in PA, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

My town does not have any business or any good connection to public transportation (not complaining and I choose to live there) so I have to drive to shop. I consider driving to Palo Alto, Los Altos, Menlo Park, and Mountain View about the same in time and distance. I used to like to shop in Palo Alto but not anymore. The place has become unfriendly in character (ugly canyons and fewer trees on streets) and for shoppers (bad/difficult parking). And the congestion has increased dramatically with offices being built instead of housing. So I spend my money elsewhere.

I wonder how much of Palo Alto's sales tax revenue comes from purchases by people who don't live in the town but go there to shop? And how do people get there to shop? It's a good thing Palo Alto has sales tax revenue coming from the Stanford Shopping Center which has lots of parking, has character, and where people don't have to deal with horrible urban blight that has become Palo Alto.

Posted by John Murphy, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Not Shopping in PA - good point. Nobody goes to shop in Palo Alto anymore, it's too crowded.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Wide sidewalks are nice but really will it help. El Camino Real is a hodge podge of parking lots, rear, front or side. Wide sidewalks sound nice but would it attract useful neighborhood serving businesses that are a short walk. Of course but would mean a redsign of sidewalks and our way of life.

Shop keeper units will help but so changing retail habits. You would need to cut back on the choice of dog food you buy in one place.

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm

All the hate for new development.

Apparently the busybodies forget that the dirty scroungy wretched looking restaurant that was in that area for years and years never got cleaned up until it was transformed into Panda Express.

Keep on fighting what makes the city look less like the worst parts of Detroit though. I'm sure it will make a few loud voices happy.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Last year I went to a Panda Express, first time to one, what I found was a long line for so so food. Service was along the lines of fast food and cheap.

Heard about Cho's closing, if I was developer which would be so cool if I was. Cho's would have space, so would any business closed by chain storesstores. Would have housing and offices above the shops, but then again would offer good terms and cheap rent for local shop keepers.

Posted by resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 28, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Yes, it will help. I believe I just described how I can't walk to the local businesses in my neighborhood because it's such an wearing, frustrating, gauntlet, and often there isn't even a decent walk for single-file, much less people walking together. I'm not talking about taking a stroll, I was talking about specifically going to nearby restaurants and grocery to shop, but don't by foot because of the lousy, unpleasant, and sometimes unsafe sidewalk situation.

Funny Sparty should bring up possibly the only new development of a decent size in years - who exactly complained about it, Sparty? And why do you feel you have to interject so vociferously from your "other community"?

>with horrible urban blight that has become Palo Alto
Thank you "not shopping", for speaking the truth so bluntly. Unfortunately, this kind of damage is really hard to undo, and we'll be dealing with the negative consequences for years to come.

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I lived on Grant for 11 years. Used to go to the Rite Aid. Thanks for playing.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I have posted an overview of the larger problem and context for this on my blog as
El Camino Sidewalk Width and the "Grand Boulevard" Delusion (Web Link)

Posted by 33 Years in Practice, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2014 at 6:51 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed due to previous deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 3:09 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Set the wayback machine.
ECR used to be 2 lanes in each direction. The they did a 'taking' and made 3 lanes, (even cut back a few store fronts in Mountain view,) and put in narrow sidewalks with street trees.
Now they want to do it to the and owners again?

Those wide European Grand Boulevards were probably created after clearing WW2 rubble. I have been there, and wandered tiny narrow (1 car wide) lanes in business districts.
ECR is not a 'Photo Op', it is one of the few remaining cross town arterials. Maybe the state should PULL the hwy 82 designation (and all the state funds). How do you think that will go over?

Posted by Change happens, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Discussions like this are cropping up all over the country as communities begin to rethink their infrastructure based on usage and shifting transportation trends. Some changes will no doubt be good, some no doubt not, but I find the societal shift fascinating. Should be an interesting 10 years or so!

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Been here since 1960. I agree that El Camino Real is in need of a face lift. However, so much of recent discussions on new Stanford housing development, pack and stack housing, loss of art, music, and a yoga store to high tech firms, and the future potential loss of Fry's Electronics to more dense multi-housing units; and now an attempt to increase pedestrian use by wider sidewalks - are all driven by one factor: over density of development.

Here's the solution: first, let's elect a slate of new city council members who will champion a new contract with Palo Altains. Specifically - a moratorium on any additional commercial developments for the next ten-years (sunshine provision). Second, a moratorium on any additional multifamily (condos and apartments) developments, period.

I embrace the Los Altos Hills and Woodside model: Palo Alto should be a place to live, not work. For those that currently like and work in Palo Alto, more power to them. We have had more than enough success beginning about 1984. Future Start-ups, Venture Capital Firms, Law Offices, and High Tech firms: time to shift them to the South (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and Monterey). Most of these cities would gladly receive more business tax dollars and pack and stack communities.

We are more than done. We are saturated. Let's hold the line on any future commercial development and housing demand that it brings. Existing housing will also only increase in value as we prevent additional housing stock built in Palo Alto. Our quality of life is more important.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I am more worried about who is approaching and walking by me on the sidewalk if I happen to be there rather than the width of the sidewalk - it's a waste of space to make sidewalks wider on El Camino where no one walks mostly.

Posted by resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:36 pm

@Palo Alto Native,
Well said! I'm voting for you!

Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 11:50 pm

I read this quote on SF Street's Blog today, which I thought was apropos. It's referring to the fight in Portland about having either fewer or more cars:

"In a large human settlement (i.e a city and its surrounding suburbs), you can have parts that are optimized for a low-car lifestyle, and you can have parts that are optimized to be convenient for automobile usage (by persons of average income). But you can't have places that are both."

I think that's the same conflict we're facing right now in Palo Alto. Some of us would prefer to make it a friendlier, low to no car place. Others want to optimize for automobile traffic, which means more speed, fewer pedestrians and large parking lots. City council, however, is being schizophrenic; on the one hand they want to increase foot traffic on El Camino and reduce traffic on California, but on the other hand they want to build new parking garages downtown.

Here's the thing though. If you optimize for cars, you make having a car a necessity. If you optimize for pedestrians, you make having a car a liability. Choose one. If you're serious about getting people out of their cars and making El Camino into a pedestrian friendly place, do that, but don't try to impose a hotel tax to build new parking garages while at the same time saying it's about a bike bridge and a pedestrian master plan.

Posted by Change now or Change No, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2014 at 6:40 am

Its not either or. You can have streets maximized for cars, then the next block or so over, some streets maximized for bikes.
as long as you understand the trends and have the data of the expected numbers of users as they increase or decrease, you can plan for both. The real problem is that when you have both, you need both groups on board.
I think since bike riders are the fastest increasing user group, it may seem like they're getting all the attention, but that's just for now as they build up the lacking bike infrastructure, which is behind the growth curve.

Posted by pa, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2014 at 7:18 am

This has to be the top priority above all the other infrastructure issues. Keep on digging, and put up more orange signs and traffic will soon be improved!

Posted by Driver Dan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2014 at 8:40 am

Is trying to maximize flow of cars even worth it? How much can be done in reality? I'm not surprised that traffic is an issue. Transit authorities and experts have been stating this for only the past 25 years that I've paid attention to it.

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