Would these be your top priorities for Palo Alto? Diana Diamond's Blog, posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Apr 6, 2007 at 3:26 pm Diana Diamond is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
The Weekly ran a story that listed Palo Alto’s capital improvement priorities planned for June 2007 to June 2008.
The following are not my priorities, nor, do I suspect, would they be the priorities of many residents. They total $5,584,000.
• Remodeling the kitchen, dayroom and training room in the fire station on the Stanford campus — $60,000
• Updating the electrical and mechanical systems at Cubberley Community Center — $1.325 million
• Improving the electrical and lighting systems at the Municipal Service Center — $1.05 million
• Design and review of the proposed police headquarters at Page Mill Road and Park Boulevard — $600,000
• Replacing fencing and fixing dugout and parking at Baylands Athletic Complex — $580,000
• Restoring roadways and parking in Foothills Park — $525,000
• Completing Greer Park by installing landscaping, pathways and furnishings — $400,000
• Renovating playground equipment and other portions of Peers Park — $444,000
• Repairing and resurfacing tennis and basketball courts throughout the city — $425,000
• Sprucing up California Avenue —A $175,000
My reaction: Some of these will better satisfy the city staff than the residents: remodeling the fire station, improving the municipal service center.
As for designing the new police station, I keep on wondering how much money the city is going to spend on a proposed station before it lets voter decide if we want to pay for this station, estimated to cost around $50 million. The council has already authorized a $1 million Environmental Impact Report for the station. Yet a survey found the proposal cannot garner necessary residential support – plus we won’t even vote on this police station proposal until November 2008.
Repairing playing fields and tennis courts is all right, except not as many people play tennis now.
I do think that sprucing up California Avenue is great.
In fact, if I were to put together a priority list for the city, mine would include:
• Repairing the roads at a more rapid rate. We are $28 million behind in road improvements. Have you seen the condition of Waverley Street in front of the Gamble Gardens? It’s a mess.
• Sprucing up the downtown: clean sidewalks, colorful banners, installing tree lights on Hamilton and Lytton Avenues, more directional signage.
• Transforming the plaza in front of City Hall into a seating area with an array of planters, tables, umbrellas and chairs, so people could sit and enjoy the downtown – and each other.
• Finding ways to trim utility department costs so we don’t see an average $360 increase in our utility bills each year, like we are probably going to get this year.
Posted by ToldUSo, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 12:10 pm
Whereas these are top priorities for spending money, I would like to see a top priority being made to raise money. I would like to see some serious thought being put into where and how to get more tax dollars into the coffers. I would like to see some overall policy of getting sales tax revenue from non top of the line stores coming into Palo Alto. I note that Discovery Store (which I believe is the last toy store at Stanford) being replaced by Burberry, which is a store that the majority of Palo Altans will not shop in.
I would also like to see no more new housing planned until new family friendly infrastructure were planned. We need more space in our parks for children's sport, we need more swimming pools, parks and indoor gyms, all for family/children use. We need more after school facilities for our teenagers and more space in the summer programs.
We need to improve Palo Alto to the levels that Mountain View and others take for granted.
If this is not the top priority then most of the other priorities listed are not valid. Yes, we do need to spend money on these listed items, but if we are not improving the income base, then we are only limiting ourselves when it comes to improvements. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to do all these and more. If we can only do what is top of the list then we will never reach the items lower on the list as there will always be something to top them. I would rather look into seeing how we can do them all.
Posted by Ralph, a resident of the Greater Miranda neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 12:14 pm
These are priorities of the staff - who really run the city - and not the citizenry, who are viewed as complaining nuisances by the bureaucratic overlords.
The firestation expenditures (which should be paid by Stanford), and the municipal services expenditures are things that will make the working conditions of the staff there more pleasant.
We are spending $600,000 on another police station, that needs to be approved by a skeptical electorate? You don't need to be a political sleuth to see what's going on there.
A year a go, the Auditor said we had $29 million in street repairs and that the streets were deteriorating at an accelerated pace because of their state of disrepair. No doubt the backlog is over $30 million, and yet with the paltry Foothills Park exception, nothing is being done about that.
I guess they figure if they just let it go a few more years, they can justifiably say it's impossible to fix out of general fund revenues - and tell us we need a Street Repair Bond so the police can get to their new Police Station on smooth roads.
Posted by Betty, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm
Many of these items have to do with our parks, which are a great Palo Alto resource, and which need constant upkeep and repair. Many others are electrical repairs or upgrades. Cubberley is old. I'm sure the electrical systems need extensive updating for safety reasons - this is just normal! Ms. Diamond has taken these things out of context so it is impossible to tell if these items are necessary for safety and to keep up city property, or if they might be unecessary. Ms. Diamond is, once again, throwing out incomplete information to get a rise out of some citizens. If you want to know all the details, find out from the city. Don't just read D. Diamond and the Weekly - you'll never get the whole story that way!
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 5:16 pm
Let's see; If Diana was our City Manager, we'd have nicely paved roads (even though our roads are no worse than anyone elses's); some "sprucing up" on California Avenue and Downtown (maybe some balloons?); planters at City Hall; firing PAU workers because the costs of fuel and power are rising; and, oh, yeah, she'd "improve" our libraries. That last item is a hoot, because we all know that Diana doesn't want the library bond to pass. So, maybe some planters and balloons at the library, too?
Mr. Beamer's suggestion is a good one, btw. The Chaucer St. bridge needs fixing _yesterday_. If we ever get a serious overflow there, we're heading for a new chapter in the Canterbury Tales.
ToldUSo's idea is a great one. How about figuring ways to increase revenue, for stuff we _need_.
Diana's philopsophy, in a nutshell: "We're short on cash, so let's eat dogfood, instead of figuring out a way to make more cash.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 5:19 pm
Let’s not blame Diana for “incomplete information.” Getting details isn’t easy. I just tried to find more info on the city’s website. No luck.
I’m wondering what items did NOT make this priority list and how these particular items were selected. Norman raises an excellent question about the Chaucer bridge and flood prevention.
It would also be interesting to know how much of the costs listed are for labor. It’s hard to imagine what kind of playground improvements cost $440,000! And why are we spending more money on a police station that hasn’t been approved yet?
I’m absolutely in favor of repairing our infrastructure, because the entire city seems to be falling apart. I’d just like to know how the priorities are set.
Posted by Dave, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 5:58 pm
I disagree with the proposition that we're short on cash in Palo Alto. Actually, Palo Alto spends far more (about twice in most instances) than other nearby cities per capita. These cities do not have an infrastructure crisis, nor do they need to pass special bonds and taxes to keep their infrastructure up to date and in good repair. What they do have, that Palo Alto does not, is leaders with the will to stand up to special interests who always want more.
While it is true that Palo Alto has traditionally had a higher level of services than other cities, that refrain rings increasingly hollow as we look at the new library and performing arts center in (for example) Mountain View. I don't think any reasonable person can claim wiht a straight face that Mountain View's "services" menu is half of Palo Alto's, but that's what the differences in budgets would ask one to infer.
As for the claim that Palo Alto's streets aren't any worse than neighboring cities, I ask anyone making that claim to have someone else drive them blindfolded down a couple of the main streets shared by Palo Alto and Mt. View (say Alma and Middlefield). The uneveness of the patched pavement in PA compated to MV is very easy to detect, even without seeing it. Of course this is exactly what the City Auditor found a year ago - and nothing has been done in the interim to correct it.
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 6:05 pm
"make more cash" Hey, what a great idea! Look at the cities around us- they think it is a great idea too. Only difference is, they are doing it!! Home depot, Best Buy, Bed and Bath, Wallmart, Target, Hotel at Sandhill Rd, New Auto dealerships, Super (food) stores, Cost-co, OSH,- I could go on but I need to go shopping in the OTHER city!!!
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 7:38 pm
People keep saying that Palo Alto has so many more services than neighboring towns - what are they? A great library? A performing art center? Smooth paved streets? A new senior center? Multiple public pools? Practical shopping?
OK - some of that was sarcastic, but except for the beauty of our town (not a service), the open land and our schools (not run but the city) and Stanford, I would love to know what these services are that we have?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 7:53 pm
To answer your question for one, the free shuttle. It is a great idea, but it really needs to be expanded. The shuttles that serve the two high schools are greatly crowded, to the extent that it is probably dangerous. The routes are good, but more areas need to be served, e.g. there is a neighborhood in the south where students attend Paly, but there is no public transport system to get them there. The shuttle should also be a means to get to the Caltrain stations from almost anywhere in the City with only a short walk. This would then enable people to get to both SF and SJ for either daytime work or more importantly evening entertainment without driving, very important when someone wants to drink e.g. baseball or ice hockey games.
The shuttle is a great service, but could be even better.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 8:37 pm
OK maybe the shuttle is a great school service and should be expanded as such and at the times when it is empty it should be cancelled, likewise when the schools are out. But, it is a great service for the high schools and for many reasons, this is one of the good services Palo Alto offers.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 9:31 pm
Why are the schools "out and empty" as much as they are? The shuttle _could_ be serving many, many off-season proframs coordinated between the city and PAUSD. There's _way_ more promise in areas like this than we have opened up.
Also, by more "cash", I mean any way that we can get it, and that our citrizens agree to. There's nothing wrong with a hotel tax; there's also nothing wrong with making sure we have a shuttle that runs almost around the clock, that's easy to access, that's cheap, and so on - so our hotel guests and residents can enjoy our city.
How about working with other cities to create a killer regional shuttle system. Diana and her crowd need to wake up and smell the opportunity, and quit with the beggarly attitudes; it's really defeatist stuff that gets people into a "loser" and poverty-striken" mentality.
Posted by Donnie, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 9, 2007 at 1:59 pm
Gore is right,
You are so correct! I don't understand why the city government is spending so much on amenities and services for us residents when we have the specter of something as urgent as Global Warming hanging over our heads.
We need to take this seriously. The city takes in about $130 million a year. We ought to spend at least $100 million combating global warming even if our infrastructure gets a little shabby around the edges, we have to cancel a few of our services, and of course, fire a large part of the employees who provide them.
Posted by rick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 9, 2007 at 4:29 pm
The Chaucer St bridge should be just removed. The land along the creek should be zoned "Creek-Side Parkway" and a trail built along the creek area from the baylands to the skyline.
Spending money for consultants on a future police station is crazy at this time. The land hasn't ever been purchased.
The city found over $5million to build a little used pedestrian/bike underpass downtown near the University underpass.
The city is planning on spending what could be $10 million to relocate the Alma St power substation near and for the benifit of the 800 High St Condos. The humming noise from the transformer bothers them.
The free shuttle bus shouldn't be free. It was or is primarily to bring shoppers to downtown business district and also to provide a way many downtown workers can park in neighborhoods and get a free ride to work and not take up parking space downtown.
The city rezoned a large, vacant of buildings, parcel near Hwy 101 to residental and would have been a almost ideal place for auto dealerships. It is in a flood zone and is over 10 acres. Many millions will be lost in sales taxes each year and millions will be needed for the new housing.
The Alma St prior Albertsons site may be zoned for housing. It should be a retail center on all of the ground floor. It would produce tax revenue
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 9, 2007 at 4:32 pm
Your late for April 1st. $100 million on global warming- you have no idea what it cost to run a city.
Hope you enjoy the dirt road in front of your home and next time you dial 911 (if you still can)- I hope the police will be able to response in a few weeks. Oh yea- kiss your fire stations, parks, community centers and libraries goodbye! $100 million- your killing me!!
Posted by Steven S, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 9, 2007 at 5:53 pm
You are right about most of what you have said. Unfortunately there is no one who listens to reasonable thought in this city. Mayor has no power. Council has weird priorities. City manager does what he likes and has the ability to convince the council with lots of process/paperwork/legalize, if not he will delay-delay delay and do study after study until council forgets and moves on to random priorities, since they have to show progress.
And oh BTW folks like you and me are called "loud citizens".
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2007 at 4:55 pm
Donnie - I thought you were kidding in your first post, guess not. Its great for us to be globally focused - she's mayor of Palo Alto and after she proves she can lead the town, then she can take on the world.
Posted by Need a new mayor, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2007 at 6:13 pm
But our mayor is not interested in leading the town--she is interested in climate change--what happens here does not bother her--she will just smile, shrug off the city's problems and claim that everything is under control (i.e. no budget or infrastructure problems, no storm drain parcel tax problems, no tax revenue issues)--so she can focus on climate change.
Posted by Donnie, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2007 at 6:34 pm
But haven't you seen all the great articles in the press featuring the mayor's battles vs global warming. This is, afterall, a topic on which Palo Alto should be the leader - showing other, less enlightened towns how to proceed in the global warming era.
Do you think the mayor would have such a felicitous effect on the fate of the world if she were focused on storm drains and streets as some of you suggest? Really, I ask you...what's more important, storm drains or the fate of the earth?
Posted by Rebecca, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2007 at 7:46 pm
Fellow Palo Altans,
One possible avenue of recourse: If you have a different list of priorities compile your own list, get as many signatures of Palo Alto residents you can, make appointments with as many council members as possible and submit your ideas with the signatures to each of them and advocate for your list/vision/priorities. The only way things will change is if each of us ACTIVELY PARTICIPATES. Here is a link to the City Council website which contains their contact info:
Posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Apr 10, 2007 at 8:19 pm Diana Diamond is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Message to Senior Blogger -
You asked if storm drains would be one of my priorities. But storm drains are already (theoretically) being worked on -- when voters approved increasing the storm drain fee two years ago from $4.25 to $10/month, the city is collecting that money and (presumably) going ahead to improve our storm drains. Granted, the city's oversight group is now saying that it can only fund 58% of the work that needs to be done -- and this is only two years after passage. But I am presuming this work, albeit 58%, is already going forward.
And as to the suggestions about the Chaucer Street Bridge, I agree that the possibility of the San Francisquito Creek overflow absolutely should be a city priority -- and not left into the hands of the Joint Powers Authority to decide over the next 30 years or so. But I digress, and that is a different issue...
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2007 at 10:49 am
Yes, we do need a new ELECTED mayor – not a mayor appointed by council members just because he or she is due for the position by virtue of seniority. And we need a new city council, with fewer members.
Steven S is right. Folks who complain are called loud citizens or disgruntled or frustrated or naysayers, which absolves the council of any sense of responsibility or accountability.
BTW, Mayor Kishimoto took the time to go to DC to visit Senator Boxer recently. Senator Boxer wrote: “I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto to my Washington, DC office. We had the chance to chat briefly about the Mayor’s federal priorities for Palo Alto and about the City’s efforts to conserve energy. I deeply appreciate that Mayor Kishimoto took time from her busy schedule to visit me. If you would like to see a photo from our visit, please click the link below to visit the photo gallery section of my Senate website.”
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2007 at 11:57 am
Steve S--the mayor may not have any power--but that is compounded by the fact that the mayor does not care about any of those issues--it is all about the environment. In all my years in Palo Alto, I have never seen a mayor involved in so many photo-ops, while pushing her pet agenda at the expense of the entire city.
Pat--you are correct, we do need an elected mayor. It is clear that our current mayor is a one-issue person (in the past it was traffic calming on Embarcadero road, now it is climate change). Nothing will get done this year given our council's reluctance to address problematic issues and the mayor's belief that there is nothing wrong in the city that needs to be attended to at the expense of her pet project.
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 11, 2007 at 7:34 pm
I am beginning to get seriously worried about the state of Palo Alto. I don't like what I see. We pay our taxes and the services we get are at the best suspect. The latest fiasco of the emergency warning last Saturday, or lack thereof, is just the latest in a long line of what is wrong with the city. I see pictures of the mayor and her entourage doing their "bit" for the environment with light bulbs, etc. in today's Weekly, but I don't see anything being done about the infrastructure as a whole.
So, I think that the top priorities for Palo Alto must be to get a City Council and a Mayor who will actually do something for the city.
I think that this forum is actually education a lot of us in what is wrong, although we all suspected it for sometime.
I have no idea who may want to sit on the Council, but as long as it is someone who will actually do the job they were elected to do rather than pat themselves on the back and tell the rest of the nation how wonderful we are, then it may not really matter. Please everyone, let us try to find a way out of the hole that is being dug for us and look forward to a future Palo Alto that we can continue to live in without all the apologies and holdups.
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 12, 2007 at 4:07 pm
It is easy to sit in your warm comfortable Palo alto home and demand this and that with the $130 million the city needs to "keep running" it's services. How about if you run for office (city council), get yourself elected, and then you can see first hand what it takes to run a city like Palo Alto. Or maybe you can do what my friend Steve did- volunteer for one year in South Africa building bridges, so food could be deliver to poor parts of the country.
It is so easy to talk the talk- it is another thing to WALK the WALK.
Posted by Rick, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2007 at 12:02 am
This may not be on the main subject, but after reading all of the above I have kind of lost track of the main issues. Anyway the elephant in the room or city is that over 60,000 cars/commuters drive to Palo Alto every week day and possibly consume 500,000 gallons of gas a day to work here. Many come from the Sacramento Valley and spend hours on the road. No one is talking about this issue or how to solve it (mandatory car pooling, large taxes on business parking places, solving the housing/work employee inbalance by getting low tax paying (to the city) to move to where their employees live, etc,,etc))
Posted by Tim, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 13, 2007 at 2:57 pm
I like your style. But lets be real- When someone like Donnie says "lets take $100 million of the city's $130 million budget and spend it on globle warming", she obviously has no idea what it cost to run a city and it's services.
Now, if she had said "lets show that Palo Alto is serious about the worlds problems" and used a more realistic number like $4 to 5 million and this is where we could cut cost/services to get it, then I think more people would support the idea.
But just throw out a crazy number and not support it with facts or research is just laughable.
I get tired of people saying do this or that without doing their own "homework". Like I said "it is very easy to talk the talk but another thing to.........
Posted by Ryan, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 16, 2007 at 6:16 pm
Wow, just wow. sprucing up california avenue? remodeling the fire station? these things are ridiculous, and why should the money be going to them? i feel like a lot of money is wasted on things that palo alto doesn't need. so there's uneven pavement on a roadway... here's an idea, DON"T TRAVEL DOWN THAT ROAD. people, be practical. palo alto is extremely nice how it already is, why not spend the money on things that actually make sense? i like the idea of fixing the chaucer bridge, it would prevent the possibility of another major flood. but don't get rid of the shuttle system, that is crucial to student transportation in palo alto. just fix the current schedule, maybe cut back on the number of vehicles. furthermore, our city should do more to help PEOPLE who need HELP. honestly, a lot of the proposed ideas help people who do not need to be helped. do we really need a new police headquarters? i feel like that would be a major waste of money, and how would that help police efficiency? it seems to me that a lot more money should be spent on helping those in need. more homeless shelters should be built, more community homes for underprivileged children should be constructed. it's time for city officials to stop thinking about the well-off residents of the community, but rather focus on those who can not support themselves.
Posted by Ryan, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 17, 2007 at 12:37 am
Andy, If a homeless shelter did open in Palo Alto I would be more than glad to volunteer and help out. Your sense of sarcasm isn't going to get you far in life. But you can be like every other rich Palo Altan and ignore other people's issues...
Posted by Loma Verde Neighbor, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2007 at 6:30 pm
So now we have the work on Loma Verde finished, (after literally weeks of inconvenience), but the result is a road I hate to drive on. The only unbumpy way to drive is in the bike lane (or what would be a bike lane I think because there are no white lines). The final result is terrible. My priority would be to finish a job and leave the place in a fit state for local residents.