Why does MV have a $32 M surplus and we have a $3M deficit? Palo Alto Issues, posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 10:24 am
The city of Mountain View has a $32 million dollar surplus this year (10 was from a lawsuit). Why do they have a surplus, plus a beautiful library, a performing arts center, streets which are nicely paved, more than 30 parks, 2 pools, a brand new senior center, an easy to navigate web-site and affordable shopping? What are we missing?
Posted by student, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:14 am
Large retailers are nearly nonexistent in Palo Alto because the city strives to keep mom & pop stores, small boutiques, etc. Meanwhile, Mountain View and East Palo Alto have fewer zoning restrictions that tend to allow large retailers (ie Best Buy, Target, Sears, Orchard Supply, Ikea, etc). These big box stores can pay millions in taxes to the city they are built in.
Big box stores do however tend to destroy the community feel of most cities by increasing crime, traffic, pollution. Mountain View seems to counter that by using the extra revenue generated to build parks and libraries. Even though Palo Alto downtown has a very low vacancy rate, those smaller boutiques and stores can't make up for the $1 million earned anually from Hyatt Rickey's that shut down. University Ford also supplied Palo Alto with quite a bit of tax dollars before it closed last year.
Posted by Draw the Line, a resident of Stanford, on Mar 10, 2007 at 11:36 am
Not sure when the general population will learn this, because it is counter-intuitive, but...increasing taxes = decreasing income by driving away people and their business(es). This is true nationally, at the state level, and at the city level.
Until Palo Alto learns this, we will cry about not having enough tax money, and keep increasing taxes to try to "fix" it.
In the meantime, Palo Alto will keep trying to prevent the money making stores from coming in because they don't "fit" in with the PA mentality, and continue to wonder why that silly old Mountain View is doing so much better than we are.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 12:39 pm
They have Castro Street which has errand destinations, eg. main Post Office, library, Kaiser Permanente, etc. and no homeless. Their restaruants are frequented by techie business types doing multi million deals and the Wall Street Journal who interviews them.
We have vacancies, boutiques and homeless. Need I say more.
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 2:08 pm
I could of not said it better than the first 3 comments. Granted we have a few more employees than Mt. View (we could trim alittle fat) but we don't pay anymore in wages or benifits than they do. Check it out-it is all public record. Tax base, tax base, tax base- look at Mt View, Santa Clara and all the way to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Home Depot, Lowes, OSH, Office Depot, Pet Smart, Best buy, Bed and Bath, Cost-co, Wallmart, Target, Large Supermarkets, 4 to 5 star Hotels, Auto Dealerships, I could go on.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 2:23 pm
Too bad the Hyatt site couldn't have been turned into a retail instead of more homes or the corner of Page Mill into retail instead of soccer fields, the Equinox gym site (did we really need another fitness center in PA), all along El Camino are possibilities for vibrant, practical retail. And what is going in at the old Scott's Seafood site?
PA has a reputation of being a tough place to build either a business or a home - how can we become more welcoming?
Posted by reader, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 3:42 pm
Much of the office space in that E. Meadow area is being left intentionally vacant so it can be re-zoned and re-built as housing. One of the artifacts of Prop. 13 is that long time real estate owners are paying low taxes even though the property has a very high re-sale value, and it is no problem letting it sit empty while trying to find the most profitable use.
The most profitable use to a developer is housing, especially single family homes. They have no incentive to build big box stores as long as the city continues to go along and re-zone commercial sites as residential.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 4:17 pm
Palo Alto mom: Thanks for asking this important question. Many good reasons are given here by other posters.
Tim, we have quite a few more employees than Mt. View. With our 58,000 population, we have 1072 FTEs plus 75 hourly employees. If you subtract Utilities workers, we have 859. But be aware that there are some non-utilities functions in that department.
Mountain View, with a population of 70,000 has 555 FTE, 29 part time and 30 contract employees.
Palo Alto org charts can be found by clicking on each department at:
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 5:01 pm
I added up each dept and came away with about 850 employees. Now subtract the 213 for Utilities, 75 for Water Quality Control and 10 for Open Space (Mt. View has none of these) your left with about 552.
Also, the Fire Dept contracts with Stanford to staff two stations with 30 employees and in return they paid Palo Alto about 1/3 of the Fire Dept budget. We could still trim "alittle fat" but will that ready make a "big" diffence?
We need to keep more money spent in Palo Alto. I'm to blame too- I find myself shopping more outside the city.
Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 8:45 pm
Build higher density, infill housing, especially near mass transport. Incent developers to do this.
Build multi story schools to huose additional students (look at Los Gatos High, and other multi-level high schools; they're quite striking, and functional.
Demand more effective local and regional mass transit. Monitor actions of oour City Council to make this happen (this means more than sitting on regional committees; we need enforceable new rules and regulations so that we can at once grow and mitigate impacts by BETTER than a 1/1 ration. We can grow and IMPROVE the environment.
Think multilevel everything (no more than 4 stories/levels); it's the future in urban development. Single family homes on large lots should be forbidden, or mad every expensive through the addition of opportunity cost fees )how many infill homes could be built on a large lot? - charge for the difference in a lost resident)
Expand our population, with the caveat that mass transport, aggressive green solutions, and other factors be put into place to ameliorate impact.
Insist on far deeper cooperation between our city and the school district. We pay the taxes for both functions; we can demand that both functions work better, together.
Bring in low profile big box retail; there are places that can happen, with added incentives to control traffic impact.
Work more effectively with developers *before* they get to city hall to score development plans. Stop thinking about developers as devils, and figure out ways to encounter them in non-zero-sum processes.
Demand more effective regional solutions to housing and mass transport, so that we can better coordinate these variables regionally, instead of every city creating a mess that its neighbors have to live with.
just for starters....
Finally, the last I looked, Palo Alto is by FAR a more desirable address than Mt. View. Those that somehow try to paint Mt. View as more efficient shuold consider that, as well as look at the depth of service levels we provide here, compered to Mt. View.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2007 at 10:39 pm
Tim: I don’t know how to explain the differences in our staffing numbers. I come up with 859 FTEs AFTER subtracting 213 for Utilities. Can you tell me in which org charts you find 75 for Water Quality Control and 10 for Open Space? Thanks.
It’s also worth noting the differences in each department. For example, though Mt. View has only one library, they have almost double the library staff, which I assume means they offer more services. Their administrative staff is just 36 to our 97. Community Services are about the same.
Winslow: Palo Alto is absolutely a more desirable address than Mt. View, but look at all the stuff they have that we don’t: gorgeous city hall, performing arts center, relatively new library & police & fire department buildings, an Economic Development Division with a “quick response team,” lots of sales tax revenue, tremendous redevelopment downtown, transit center, new senior center, Shoreline Park with a big lake, about 30 other parks, . . .
Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2007 at 7:09 pm
Palo Alto Mom, There you have it. And who would buy your home in Palo Alto?
Answer: someone willing to pay the price for a superb public education for their kids, and the community accoutremonts that go with it.
A community is more than how many retailers, or what kind of retailers, it has - or how large a fiscal reserve it maintains. It's senseless to compare communities in certain ways, because each one has its own charm, and resonates in different ways with different people.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2007 at 8:59 pm
I misstated the Mt. View/PA library headcount. It’s Palo Alto that has 43 FTEs and Mt. View has 23. Probably because we have branch libraries.
Winslow is right. People come to Palo Alto primarily because of the schools.
I’ve lived in Palo Alto for a long time and there are many things I love about it. If it weren’t for our great neighbors and the roots we’ve put down, I'd have no problem moving to Mountain View. But I'd prefer to see Palo Alto become a classy city again.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2007 at 9:27 pm
Like many other people, it's the schools that keep my family here. Once the kids are out of school, I'd gladly move to Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, or any other nearby community with more competent city management and hence better roads, flood control, parks, shopping, etc.
I've lived in Palo Alto since 1981. It seems to me that it's gone substantially downhill during the last 25 years.
Posted by sarlat, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 7:33 am
Palo Alto has a far superior public education system and has a unique moreEuropean look and feel, while MV looks like so many dreary American tacky towns. MV has one and very good library, but we have several branches. Palo Alto is far from perfect, but I'll take it over MV any time.
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 8:14 am
sarlat is right. Palo Alto has a good education system. And its physical assets are superb - a result of the foresight and good management of our forbearers.
But Mountain View, though it might not have the physical charms of Palo Alto (somthing that is less and less true as they add to their amenities while we neglect ours) seems better managed, and more poised to become a successful city in the 21st Century than does Palo Alto. We seem to be spending down our capital, while they seem to be enhancing theirs. (As the title to this topic suggests.)
You guys who say those of us who criticize Palo Alto should move to Mountain View are akin to the right wingers who said "America. Love it or leave it" in the Vietnam era. What's wrong with wanting the town you live in to realize its potential?
Posted by Carol, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 10:11 am
Palo Alto has a lot of loyal residents. Fewer each year, but that's the paradoxical effect of growth, with its traffic, smog, and the inevitable MacMansion on your block, up to four years in construction.
Mountain View came by some of its amenities through daring (didn't it almost go bankrupt during the construction of its new City Center?) Bill Graham (now dead) was almost singlehandedly responsible for Shoreline (which was run by Palo Alto's Danny Scher) Palo Alto has the Stanford Shopping Center. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
San Mateo got into trouble by building too many offices; so did Palo Alto. The quick money is in residential; that's going to hurt Palo Alto particularly badly because it hasn't prepared its schools, parks, transit for the influx.
(Bureacrats and media babel on about housing reducing traffic because they're economic innocents who know nothing about getting to work every day. They prefer to pontificate about people's love of the car rather than admit that our transit system doesn't work because it doesn't go very many places people need and want to go. It never was and never will be a Tube or a Metro.)
We live in a strip city. To me,it makes as much sense to buy in Menlo Park, Redwood City or Mountain View. I prefer small stores in these places, as in Palo Alto. When I go BIG BOX, I buy online. When I do, I use my second home as an address: I figure they will do better things with the income.
City councilmembers know senior staff intimately. I don't, so I have no sense of obligation to pay for their salaries by buying here. Every winter, the water backs up my driveways, and I don't live in a flood zone. Just a 25-year neglect zone. It seems to me that I should do well by the people who reciprocate. My neighbors are a plus, Benest and Baum, especially, are a minus.
Posted by Someone, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 10:36 am
You guys who say those of us who criticize Palo Alto should move to Mountain View are akin to the right wingers who said "America. Love it or leave it" in the Vietnam era. What's wrong with wanting the town you live in to realize its potential?
No one said that in this thread, as far as I know.
Posted by good times, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 1:01 pm
Someone, I've said it plenty, but we do have a small coterie of naysayers - and very vocal naysayers at that - who were listened to in better times, when the delay and obfuscation of process and progress caused by their insistence on having their way was affordaable.
Well, we can't afford to listen to them any more, and they (less than 1% of our population) sense that; thus, the continuing virulent attacks on everyone who disagrees with their penchant for firing people, especially city officials that don't give them their way.
I expect such behavior to continue right through the next three or four years, until our policy-making groups fully adapt to new times, thus making the naysayer arguments moot.
btw, I'm with you. Anyone who thinks it's so much better elsewhere has only to pick up and move.
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 2:00 pm
good times, aka Mike when he posts on other topics here, can't seem to understand irony, and doesn't seem to realize when his gaffes are being exposed.
Um, good times Mike, it's like this: When I said that people who take a "love it or leave it" attitude are like the right wingers in the Vietnam era, I was trying to cast them as the closed-minded bigots they are. Additionally, I was trying to say that people who criticize Palo Alto and compare it to Mountain View are mainly trying to make Palo Alto better by showing where it could be made better, not tear it down.
Then Someone, correctly as it turned out, pointed out that no one here had actually said anything like "if you don't like it here pick up and move."
I was about to acknowledge my error...but then you made that unnecessary that for me... and made all of my original points for me in one simple sentence.. much more effectively than I could ever do myself.
Thanks for the help. Whose side are you really on, by the way?
Posted by Geoff, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 2:11 pm
One more thing, Mike, or good times, or whoever you are.
I thought we'd ended that conspiracy theme of "less than 1%" of "naysayers" having their way with the city, controlling the election outcomes and firing all those hard-working managers down at City Hall.
I'm starting to think you must actually believe that.
Posted by good times, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 2:56 pm
Geoff, that was a good attempt at using the diversion of wit to deflect from your essential message - which is to use the disingenuous cover of "improving Palo Alto" to cynically find ways to impose a very short-sighted and retro set of ideas. It used to work, but it isn't working anymore. That's why you and a few others on these boards are so hopping angry.
It's a situation very similar to a parent finally getting a grip on a spoiled child. As soon as the child realizes that s/he is no longer the center of the universe, and will not have every cry for help listened to and acted on, the spolied behavior temporarily increases until the child finally gets the message - i.e that s/he is going to have to learn compromise, instead of just hollering for attention, and persistingi in that hollering until s/he gets it. That game is over in Palo Alto. Thanks goodness!
The proof in claims about the naysaying crowd lies in multiple past recent elections, where tiny fractions of our community have been able to obscure the truth with distortion, assumed Utopian scenarios; attacks on policy-makers and city staff, and so on - all in service to a "tyranny of the minority". That game is going to be apylu pointed out as Palo Alto continues to grow, and repair its infrastructure.
btw, very, very few Palo Altans read these forums; it's ironic that this is one of the few places that the naysaying crowd has left to gather, because City Hall has begun to turn a deaf ear after seeing the results if listenign to them - thus, the proponderance naysayers in these forums, as a kind of last gasp for a contingent of ideas that are in their final death throes.
Palo Alto does have problems, but naysaying, retro solutions are being bypassed. Witness the new, enlightened labor contract, and the forward-looking ideas for repairing infrastructure. Other good things are happening, too - look around.
I'm not worried about the teeny-tiny bit of influence that those here weigh in with - who on the one hand want to gut our city of good workers and valuable services, and then on the other try to convince themselves and others that some mythic Utopia will occur as a result.
As Mike said earlier, it's especially ironic that the naysayers who have helped slow things down here are now railing about all the problems that _their_slowing growth down has caused.
It must be a bitter pill to swallow, especially when someone points it out as cogently as
Mike and a few others have. It must be even more bitter when all the naysaying crowd has left is a desperate mocking tone directed at those who have passed them by, or toting out a poverty stricken bag of old ideas that barely flew the first time.
I continue to look forward to a repeat of all the old ideas and arguments that teh naysaying crowd has used for years - including the attempt to mask those ideas with altruistic balderdash.
I've always enjoyed poking holes in balloons; it's going to be a field day for Mike, me, and a few others, until the old ideas are gone and buried.
Posted by A resident, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2007 at 7:25 pm
One of the big reasons Mountain View has large surpluses and Palo Alto has deficits is because Mountain View has a bureaucracy that is half the size of Palo Alto. They have much lower benefit costs, much lower pension costs etc. If Palo Alto wants surpluses it must cut the size of it's City staff and discontinue paying their employees at a substantially higher rate than local business. On the other side of this is, if you want your children to get paid mucho bucks and qualify for big fat pensions after 20 years, work for the City of Palo Alto!!!
As a south Palo Altan I do all my shopping in the big box store along our border with Mountain View. The parking is easy, clean and safe, the retail choices are greater, and the prices are lower. I havn't been to downtown Palo Alto to shop in years because I get fined for parking too long, and hassled by panhandlers!!! All my retail dollars go to Mountain View, and if Palo Alto provided equally good shopping close by I'd go there.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2007 at 11:16 am
I'm curious about the censorship on Town Square. What are the criteria for offensiveness?
I posted the following yesterday, which was deleted today:
Geoff, thanks for your posts!
I was thinking of making some extra money by selling “naysayer” T-shirts, but since only 1% of the population falls into that category, I guess that would be a mistake – filling me with fear and paranoia.
I wish posters would provide data to back up their claims, rather than stressing “substance” and “studies” without proof points. We can all learn from these online discussions if only people will play it straight. We would all benefit.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2007 at 12:24 pm
I think you were censored because your comments didn't add to the discussion, and instead tended to accelerate the discussion to a place where whimsy crossed the line to direct personal attack.
Your post claimed (as does your current post) that some posters don't back up claims with proof points. That's completely unfounded, as the poster we're talking about has in fact provided many studies and statistics, which you simply deny without providing countervailing rationales.
What seems to be your debate tactic is that when someone posts substantial data that you don't agree with,, you say "prove it". fyi, that's called "proving a negative", which would cost you big points in a formal debate.
We would all like to see your substantive data to the contrary of those studies you disagree with.
Posted by Soemone, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2007 at 2:00 pm
I just want to make clear that I never advocated that people who don't like how Palo Alto is run should move to Mountain View. I agree with Geoff on this whole thing. One ought to be able to see the weaknesses in how our town in run and suggest solutions.
The "love it or live it" attitude is that of right-wingers, not only in the Vietnam era. It still is true nowadays. It applied for several years after the start of the Iraq war. And it is an attitude that I abhor.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2007 at 5:23 pm
Mike: I have never disagreed with any studies. Perhaps you should “listen” more carefully. I have asked for data, algorithms and page numbers to show how the study results were obtained. I’m still waiting.
Posted by fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 18, 2007 at 10:24 pm fred is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
I don't know if it is a tyranny of the minority or something else, but something really it eating at this town. Being only a couple years here, from a similarly situated town back east (Newton, MA), it is striking how things are bogged down, how debate becomes consistently so personal and vicious, how ineffective and almost tentative the City Council seems to be, and how bizarre some of the issues-du-jour are (Fiber Networks? Mandarin Immersion?). The schools seem fine (though not as good as hoped), but the rest of the place is pretty run-down and disappointing for what one would expect to be a world-class college town.
Posted by Forum Reader, a resident of Stanford, on Mar 19, 2007 at 12:49 am
fred, you make interesting and valid points. I have some thoughts about what you say but only want to express one here. There is no tyrannical organized minority; there are interest groups on most issues and a very articulate and aware citizenry.
You can't judge by this forum how the population feels, a great many of the excited rants are written by the same person.
As you know many of us use fictitious names. So a writer can express a view and write a post under another name agreeing with himself. Alas, it happens more than occasionally. The ranting about naysayers is reminiscent of the national leadership equating disagreement with lack of patriotism.
Posted by fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2007 at 8:20 am fred is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Forum Reader -
It is good to hear there isn't an organized minority dragging us down. But where is the organized city leadership? It's the vacuum created by lack of strong, visible leadership that seems to let so many things get off-track or bogged down in interest-group sniping. Back east, we'd had a Mayor - a real, elected-to-the-job, 4 year Mayor, as the chief executive of the city, whose job was to drive initiatives and actually get things done. If we didn't like him/her, we'd vote him/her out, but at least things got done. This City Council/City Manager form of government appears to open the door for interest-group driven gridlock without leadership responsible for getting results.
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2007 at 8:17 am
Forum Reader--I will agree with you that there is no tyrannical organized minority, however there appears to be, for each issue, a small vocal organized group that exploits the PA process to slow things down. I also agree with Fred that their is no city leadership and that is part of the problem. there comes a time, as others have stated, whne the sides have been heard and a decision needs to be made--that doe snot happen here.
BTW, forum reader, do you have any hard evidence that people express a view and write a post under another name agreeing with himself?
Posted by JFP, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2007 at 8:44 am
I agree completely with Fred. I moved from the East a couple of years ago also, and I have been struck by exactly the same things he has. The government seems ineffective, the schools OK, but not comparable to the ones in similar towns on the East coast, and the infrastructure extremely run down.