Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2007 at 9:58 am
Sorry Juliet, but in a democracy--you discuss the issues for a certain amount of time and then you make decisions, one way or another--some people may be upset about not getting their way,but in a democracy you cannot make everyone happy either. In Palo Alto, with the Palo Alto process, you discuss things ad infinitum--until you are certain that everyone has finished having their say (which never happens) and since you do not want to upset anyone our "city leaders" will put off making a final decision until they are certain that everyone is happy. that is called folly.
Posted by another resident/shopper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2007 at 12:24 pm
Over 10 years was spent preventing a larger, modern grocery store from being built. So what's wrong if it takes 5 years to prevent the destruction of a neighborhood shopping center that probably 1000's of near-by residents want and need.
It's only been a few months since the housing propasal has been disclosed anthough it's probably been around behind closed doors for years.
The Charleston Rd Calming project was a delay that went on for a very long time with no justification to prevent Albertsons from building a new, modern store.
I wonder how long a delay would be if a Hyett type of project waw proposed or passed to build in Crescent Park or Professorville neighborhoods. Or if University was changed into a Expressway with 45 mph speed limits.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2007 at 2:34 pm
What's new? Here we have residential activists insisting on a retail mix that _not one_ of them is going to make an investment in. It's absurd.
I've been praising this City Council for its focus in other areas - including settling certain development efforts in shorter times than has been our habit in this process bound municipality.
What's especially troubling about the most recent Alma Plaza tweak is the weakness of the arguments that support it, and the fantastic ignorance (which, as opposed to stupidity, is correctable) displayed about the realities of what it takes to run a _sustainable_ retail establishment in this city.
Beginning with LaDoris Cordell's rationale "I would like to see it embody what the community wanted", while completely disregarding the reality of a "stuck" retail scene here. Lately, Councilwoman Cordell has been backing up her decisions with a soft-sell populist blather that she must think will keep her from being controversial in her last few months of office. This is disappointing from someone who purports (and personally touts) coming from the "Bench", and looking carefully at both sides of an issue. The latter has been sadly missing in much of Councilwoman Cordell's recent grandstanding and somewhat pandering decision-making.
If Ms. Cordell was so concerned about goving community members what they want, then why hasn't she been front and center about helping to create a rational retail base here in PA - one that doesn't result in the kind of retail churn that, over time, tears the heart and soul out of retail longevity and sustainability.
It appears as if Ms. Cordell and - in this case - six other Council members believe that policy-making interference is OK at the long-drawn-out beginning of these nightmare projects (from the developer's perspective), but that rational, after-the-fact control of retail balance once something has been built, is not important. This is most unfortunate, and short-sighted.
For instance, the California Ave. community wants a better retail mix on California Ave., but do we see Ms. Cordell or others suggesting anything to re-balance retail mix there, so that merchants who put out hard cash investments have a fighting chance at longevity? Answer: "NO".
Instead, we hear hand-wringing and put up with delay after delay because a few dozen persistent residents think they know better than the people (developers) who have put up the cash, and taken the risk, and somehow convince
What I would like to see is some hard talkback to small interest groups from City Council on these development issues. Where is the leadership on 'this' issue. Maybe we're getting to close to election time for policy makers to take risks that would alienate several dozen voters, and keep their endorsed favorites from winning - who knows?
Our city and future residents are having their taxpayer and consumer/renter cash outlay revenue _wasted_ by those Council members and never-say-die neighborhood activists, who think they understand development and retail, but in reality don't have a clue.
I have been to many community development meetings, where the same old group of neighborhood, anti-development activists show up, even if the neighborhood in question is across the city from their own, respective neighborhoods. What is that, other than "people-with-too-much-time-on-their hands, or just hobby-horse politics? It's a sad legacy to leave to future Palo Altans, that our policy-makers would listen to the constant whining-about-things-they-don't-understand-and-haven't themselves-taken-a-real-risk-in groups, and then go on to include what comes from that whining in their policy-making.
Right now, McNellis is working on ways to sell whatever he does end up building at that site at the high end of the range, or just over the high end of the range.
Right now, McNellis is looking for ways to cut corners in labor and material quality to make up for the extra carrying costs brough about by unnecessary delay.
Who will benefit from that?
Who will benefit from placing retail in interior spaces?
Note to neighborhood-activists-that-don't-shop-local-anyway (I know, believe me), and our CIty Council: "RETAIL IS ABOUT LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION". If anyone doubts that, take a ride over the the corner of California and Park, where the current Jade Palace restaurant is, or over the the interior retail courtways in Carmel, and Los Altos. Do a retail churn analysis of those spaces. Any walk to neighborhood retail centers easily show the faiilures, one after another - of retail placed in these locations. Learn a few things.
I'm disappointed in Larry Klien and the six others who voted with him, asking that banking, retaurant and retail ne placed in the _interior_ spaces of the proposed development. What are these people thinking?
City Council members voting for these changes, praised by "Len Filppu, a resident of South Palo Alto and a member of the Friends of Alma Plaza...who...said the council's decision reflects his group's wishes". Will Mr. Fillipu share the risk of the small mom-and-pops that plunk their hard earned inventment cash down on retail shops that begin at a disadvantage, from day one, because they are not in a front-facing location? Of course not.
Are Mr. Fillipu, Doug Moran, and Council member Cordell going to be present to protect and advise small, hopes-full-of-dreams-first-time-retailers (even experienced retailers) from the mostly cynical property agents that represent the developer, promising "location", but delivering nothing except the monthly lessee bill?
Mr. Fillipu, like other activists such as Doug Moran want to stick their $.02 into decisions for _their_convenience, instead of thinking about the pain their misguided meddling will cause to well-meaning and hard-working retailers down the road. That's ALL they invest, a measly $.02 of ignorant-about-the-realities-of-commercial-development-and-retail opinions. A sad legacy, indeed.
Just a measly $.02, NOT the millions or hundreds of thousands that the _real_ risk takers in most developments (the developers, future housing residents, and retail/office lessees).
Will the likes of Ken Fillipu, Doug Moran, or La Doris Cordell share the pain and the loss of current revenue (not to mention increased carrying and end-product costs) that they are causing present and future members of our residential and commercial community? Of course not. They'll all be off on whtever their next self-serving personal campaigns are.
Will any of the above help future residents of the housing properties built at Alma help future residents with their housing repair bills down the road, as they occur earlier than the average household due to the use of less-than-the-best materials? Of course not; they'll be long gone.
From the Daily piece: "The council also tried to leave some measure of flexibility for further review by city commissions. The new ordinance permits the square footage of the three buildings to be reconfigured later into a smaller number of larger buildings, if so desired by the city's Planning and Transportation Commission or the Architectural Review Board."
This is absurd, and fully representative ofo why this city fails to attract REAL investment. What person in his or her right mind, wanting to enter a cooperative win-in development with our policy-makers, even think about doing so.
Municipalities area kind of political species; some thrive, others don't do so well.
Palo Alto will not go to hell in a hand basket; the nature of our incoming demographic almost guarantees that. That said, what Palo Alto will suffer from in the future are the enormous opportunity costs (that result in REAL comparative loss) that leak out little-by-little as one optimal decision after another has been delayed because policy-makers were not bold enough to say "enough, let's move on" with _courage and conviction_ in their decisions.
Again, this Council is the best we've seen in years, but it MUST get a reality check on development here, including proactive business development (missing in action in our city, due to a structural (not personnel) flaw in City Hall operational structure).
So, McNellis will wait, commissions with meander, the most radical neighborhood activists will have had their dysfunctional behavior reinforced once again (Phil Zimbardo, Palo Alto needs you), and all the while construction inflation will rise as dependably as our ever-present star, the Sun, burning away the _optimal_ conditions and dollars that would not have been lost if Palo Alto had only learned how to _adapt_.
Yes, we're a great city; what's most disturbing is that a few hundred people (at most) have been given too much power, resulting in a _cost_ to those that follow them. But why should the former worry? They'll be gone, as others bear the burden of their misguided ignorance.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2007 at 10:13 pm
When you're posting on this site - think "short attention span theater" not "Russian authors" - short (hint) and to the point. Jeremy - WAY too long too even read (I know, shallow alto) much less comment on.
Posted by another resident/shopper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 22, 2007 at 11:20 pm
Jeremy sounds like he is the "KING" of Palo Alto. Or is he a toddler who is going to scream and have a tantrum if he dosen't get his way.
The fact that housing costs the city more than is received in taxes or benifits is a reason housing has been opposed in the past, but ignored now.
The shoppers pay for the cost of investment in shopping malls/stores.
I lived across Alma when I first came to Palo Alto. I moved after a short while as the trains rumbling, shaking the earth at about 5AM drove me nuts. Most of the places along Alma are rentals as no one with any sense would buy a place there to live.
It sounds like Jeremy's 500,000 $ investment in Alma Plaza may not double in the next 10 months or triple in the next 3 years. That's why he is so upset with the thousands of people objection to housing on a retail site .
Posted by please clarify, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Jun 23, 2007 at 12:36 am
Jeremy, Iím used to your often repeated vendetta against Mr. Moran, but the vendetta against Councilwoman Cordell is new.
I take it she voted against you so you are insulting and demeaning her? In a previous thread you compared her to Al Sharpton. That rather elegant lady? Really now, what is going on with you, was it a vote?
Your arguments would be more understandable and more sympathetic if you admitted your biases. We all have them, so why not be clear about yours. Without a clarification of your motives, you sound, well, irrational.
You say you want a better retail mix on California Ave. and why doesnt she do something about it. On another thread you mentioned that you have a business on Calif. Ave. What are You doing about it. Are you trying to blame the City Council for your business problems?
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 23, 2007 at 5:32 pm
Gee, looks like I touched a nerve.
"Please clarify", what are you talking about? Better check out your facts, Bud. ;)
Looks like the dozen or so hobby horse anti-development activists were bothered by my post, including you... tsk, tsk...the truth hurts...
btw, Doug Moran has a vendetta against anyone in official power; I'm just trying to balance out his blatant biases, and projections.
Bill, I'm happy that you enjoyed my description of those who have caused a massive loss of tax dollars and much resident pain. I know it seems shocking, but there might actually be 30,000 or so residents who would use even more colorful and descriptive adjectives if they were made aware of the various fiascos and follies brought to our town by those so described. btw, the group I'm describing has its days numbered - thank goodness.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 24, 2007 at 12:21 am
"bah", yours looks like another rationalization of delay by someone who is living in a nostalgic past.
You might be surprised what I know about PA history, btw. :)
What we have now is a nostalgic anti-development core that sees its power slipping away. "Bah", your time has come, and gone. Palo Alto is dead, long live Palo Alto. Get used to it.
I must confess to laughing when I read your "vindictiveness" description (what's really funny are accusations of "whining" - pot, meet kettle, especially when one sees the core group of anti-development folks, as they come out for every zoning or code change, attacking - personally and otherwise - anyone who they perceive to be not as "pure" as themselves, in their 'perfect' good intentions for PA. Just look at the posts above to see how dead seriously these people take themselves. They need to lighten up and smell the growth; let go of Utopia; it doesn't exist. Laugh a little. It's OK to be wrong. Live, and learn. :)
Of course, there's a more "balanced" way to have these discussions, but sometimes it's fun (and necessary) to deconstruct one's determined opposition, just so that - in this case - one can see who they are (in words, anyway), and be reminded of their true colors, as they project their own single-minded obsessiveness onto others. Not that these well-meaning folks can't change; I've seen that happen.
If only more Palo Altans could be made aware of the folly that these folks and past, naive policy makers have visited on our city (including a few current ones) - we'd have a real public relations lynching, and maybe rid ourselves forever of the limpid few policy makers that are waiting in the wings for their turn at City Council.
Here's hoping we can find a few more leaders this time around; Palo Alto needs to continue the small momentum that we've recently been able to muster.
Posted by another resident/shopper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 24, 2007 at 1:55 pm
I would guess that JL dose't live or own a home in Palo Alto or he has plans to move to Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley or Atherton or Woodside soon as many of the "leaders/developers" have done in the past. Making Palo Alto a desirable place to live has no place in his agenda.
The real goal is probably to take over whole neighborhoods in South Palo Alto as it becomes more unlivable. The single story overlays may be a tactic to prevent people from making their houses more valuable. Then the city can use the eminant domain law to take them away and give ?them to high density developers such as the "Greenbelt Alliance" group of developers/attorneys.
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jun 24, 2007 at 4:34 pm
There is another aspect to this discussion that gets mentioned one in a while but mostly gets lost. Palo Alto was able to afford and build a wonderful city in part becasue we have a large set of commercial and industrial activities that generate jobs and tax revenue.
In the past we talked about jobs housing balance but never focused on the fact that we get a lot of revenue from this "imbalance".
I don't think of housing as a negative factor but I gather that many who write on the Forum feel that way. So let's for a moment assume that housing is a big drag, either from traffic or school costs or whatever. And that having denser housing next to your neighborhood is a terrible pain, kind of like having a police station across the street.
So, in fact, the people who, as in the case of Alma Plaza, argue that there should be retail for their convenience instead of housing are engaging in two age-old debates: 1)about whether having gotten the goodies from having all these tax generating activities in PA that we should avoid our regional share of housing and 2) how does a community locate activities that are needed or desired by the community but whose location poses a challenge.
Does anyone anymore say "I don't like this but it does seem fair from the community point of view".
The regional policy is in fact supposed to reflect at least a recognition of a fair share obligation about housing. And the fact is that even though PA will always have an above average share of jobs, that every time we get a chance to build housing, WE COULD BE MOVING CLOSER TO OUR REGIONAL FAIR SHARE OF HOUSING.
I read a lot about greedy developers in these blogs but very little about greedy neighbors. My own view is that the greedy talk is not helpful but if it goes on the shoe fits on both sets of feet.
Now I don't think about housing as a negative. But for those of you who do and have come up with all sorts of reasons why you are owed a shopping area at Alma Plaza (whether it is feasible or what the landowner wants), how about considering whether we in Palo Alto have any community or regional obligation to do our part re housing since we have benefited so much fiscally by being a job center.
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jun 24, 2007 at 8:11 pm
But in this case the market is telling the developers to do exactly what the regional policy is--1) build more housing and 2) build housing in more urbanized areas.
The market can take good care of overall commerical space needs as is happening at Town and Country.
I stand by my earlier comment that it is easier to make the claim that the Alma Plaza neighbors are acting against regional policy than to make any negative comment about developers. I lived for 20 years in a neighborhood near Edgewood Plaza where we did not have a great neighborhood shopping center. I always favored housing for that site after it became clear that retail was not happening in the market.
But it never occured to me that I was "entitled" to force Edgewood Plaza to wait for a retail development becasue it was convenient for me. It is the sense of entitlement in a community that has benfited so much from an excess of jobs over housing that does not sit well with me.
Posted by Watching AlmaPlaza, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 24, 2007 at 10:32 pm
I get the strong impression that Stephen Levy hasn't checked the numbers of housing that is being built. He talks as though there aren't thousands and thousands being built all over town, much of it in the Alma Plaza neighborhood.
I didn't see a sense of "entitlement" demonstrated by the neighbors, they were testifying to what they need, what they want, and what the zoning says. Stephen makes ABAG sound like noble self sacrificing leaders and the local community is selfish and self serving.
I should think a professional economist would have a more sophisticated view of what is going on, of the forces at work. This is just a local manifestation of a much larger picture, these battles are going on all around us and around the country. This is so naive it is embarrassing.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 25, 2007 at 1:18 pm
Bill, most Palo Altans are too busy with their lives to follow the details and fantastic wastefulness visited on them (as taxpayers), and future residents. If there was an efficient means of cataloguing these costs, and letting our citizens know - in real time - what it means to their pocketbook, there would be outrage, with1000's of citizens (my guess is more than 30,000) showing their ire, one way or another.
I think the anti-development folks have talked themselves into believing that they somehow represent a majority; nothing could be further from the truth.
The scenario that I developed, above, will largely play out over the next several years - count on it.
IN any case, the more determined wing of the anti-development movement (those that come out against everything) are losing power. That's encouraging.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 25, 2007 at 1:57 pm
I have never witnessed a discussion where the word "greedy" bought any light to the debate. I suggest we put the G word with the N word and the F word and bring the discussion back to the exchange of ideas and opinions.
Posted by Jeremy Loski, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jun 25, 2007 at 5:48 pm
Watching Alma Plaza said "I didn't see a sense of "entitlement" demonstrated by the neighbors, they were testifying to what they need, what they want, and what the zoning says"
Development is a two way street. Neither developers nor residents are perfectly correct in their desires. There have been developers here who took advantage, but residents have also engaged bad judgment, and more-than-occasionally delayed projects for unreasonable amounts of time. Alma Plaza has been one of the most egregious examples of the latter.
"Watching", I wonder how many of the most determined "watchers" will frequent the inside retail plaza stores that were just required by Council. Will you or others who helped force that rediculous requirement help pay the lost investment of one retailer after another who fails in those interior spaces? I doubt it.
Running for Council? Why would I do that? Should I? What do you think?
Posted by another resident/shopper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 25, 2007 at 6:28 pm
About Steven L's comments; I don't know if he lives in the SOFA area?, but there they got a $10 to $20 million ,cost to the taxpayers, for a park in that area and not a development on that property for a Alma Like housing project.
I wonder if he would like a conversion of Whole Foods and other stores in that area to housing.
Palo alto has many hundreds of acres of vacant land for housing but it was downzoned to specifically prevent housing from being built. Between Foothill Expressway and 280 there are large parcels that could house people working in the industrial park and they could walk or bike to work.
Retail provides taxes. I doubt that since prop 13 the industrial/office buildings produce much tax income for the city. The state collects about 90% of property taxes. Workers who commute to the city contribute almost 0 to the city yet fire,police,roads ,power ,water is needed to support these business and the people.
The point about Alma Plaza is that it has been a shopping center for a large region around it since South Palo Alto was developed.
Those people who objected to a larger store were most likly sturred up by the new developers and their friends. Planning to get rid of the shopping center had to be in the works for a long time. The Charleston Rd study was just a ploy to delay a new store there . The issue about whether people will come to shop at the proposed new retail is if the rent is so high they can't afford to. The goal could be to have high rents then say "see no one wants to open stores here".
The ground floor could have been for retail and the second or even third story used for housing.
Who really caused the delay in remodeling of the stores? Probably the developers/investors waiting in the wings to buy it and change the zoning.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 25, 2007 at 6:31 pm
HL, we give words power because that is our mode of information exchange. Lenny contributed little to enlightenment. Lenny today wouldn't even get sent to the principal. The G, F and N words convey only the hatred of the user or their contempt for decent values, and this does little to advance the cause. Be nice.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jun 26, 2007 at 5:40 pm
Plans aren't promises. They can't be becasue land use priorities change for owners and for the public. All over the Valley landowners are building housing now on land that was planned for R& D but there was more land "planned" than could ever be filled and then the market went south in addition.
I think retail got a fair chance at Edgewood and Alma and didn't make it.
All of the arguments about schools and taxes make the point I was trying for. We in Palo Alto have been the beneficiary of lots of jobs and related taxes to pay for our schools and public facilities. There is a regional shortage of housing (far greater than the ABAG numbers show) and we owe it to do our part.
If every city said "gotta have taxes, let housing go elsewhere" it doesn't work. So when I hear that in Palo Alto, I think "sense of entitlement".
I work almost exclusively for public jurisdictions but I think landowners have rights subject to acting in accord with public policy. It is fair to bargain with landowners, especially when there are great private benefits. But in the end they (like we want as homeowners or renters) to have our rights respected as well.
So I live in a city that took forever to allow housing at 800 High with none of the reasons being argued about re Alma Plaxa. It sure feels like housing is treated as an undesirable use to me and feels (sometimes) like we want all of the benefits of a large job base with none of the fair share or community values that are part of being in a large region.
What if everyone else acted like this?
Re the whimsical question about Whole Foods, if the owners wanted to build housing and it were an approved use, so be it. It is my favorite store but that doesn't give me special rights over the property.
Posted by Local Alma Plaza Resident, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Jun 29, 2007 at 12:23 am
As someone living for years next to Alma Plaza, I'm incredibly tired of dealing with several crimes a week, largely because the current (and previous) owners seem care nothing for maintaining the property. Break-ins, loud parties in the parking lot at 4 a.m., drug deals, property destruction, defacing property. We had a SWAT team here a few weeks ago, with drawn weapons!!
Many school children pass through that property every day, subjected to danger, because of these endless development arguments.
I talked to one police officer, perhaps he wasn't speaking officially for the Palo Alto police department, but he said the police are tired of the burden Alma Plaza places on their resources.
Before I moved here, I would have said that property owners have a right to do more or less what they want with their property. Now, I think the opposite. Property owners have not got a right to create a dangerous slum in the middle of an otherwise safe quiet residential area. It's ridiculous that this development argument has gone on so long.