Judge dismisses challenge to California Ave lane reduction Issues Beyond Palo Alto, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:27 am
Palo Alto can proceed with its ambitious plan to reduce lanes on California Avenue and add a host of streetscape improvements to the commercial stretch despite opposition from several area merchants, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 7, 2012, 9:47 AM
Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:00 am
If "no one goes there" it's because of the blight they created by mowing down all the trees!
I still go to my favorite stores there, but it jars my senses every time I turn onto California Ave., and if it becomes the logistical nightmare that I think it will become (and as East Charleston has become) with the reduction of lanes, I doubt very seriously that my loyalty will survive.
I personally wonder about the sanity of Palo Alto's planning people.
Not surprised that the judge supports them. It's them (politicians) against the people and you know judges are as political as any.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:29 am
It's sad to watch the merchants get screwed by the city. About a year ago, this plan was in deep trouble. Public opinion was strongly against it. But I have the feeling that the city's transportation planner put out a plea to the bike community to rally to this plan's support. In return, bikers would get a well marked bike lane and a political victory to crow about. In the past six months or so, an unusual number of bikers have turned out for every hearing on this. And they seem to dominate the "comments" sections of news sites, posting their comments almost as if on cue. My guess is that they're being called to meetings and to post comments by some sort of listserve. I mean they've never really cared about Cal Ave before. Of course they have every right to influence the city's political process, but they'd have more credibility if they were honest about their participation in this process. Some of us are able to remember who was there a year or two ago.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:50 am Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Congratulations to Molly Stump, to City Council, especially former Mayor Sid Espinoza who spoke out in support of this design in 2011, and to everyone in the City that has been involved with this Phase of the Streetscape since 2004.
The judge's decision is excellent. This design will result in pedestrian safety in crosswalks, and in sharing-of-the-road for drivers and for bicylists too. It makes sense.
The design was well vetted & studied. Before I voted for this change while on the CAADA Board, I made sure the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Commission was on board, and the issue of delivery trucks was addressed satisfactorily. No stone was left unturned.
The design itself was presented TO THE CITY from the CAADA Board, in a unanimous decision, in 2007, the Concept Plan having been designed by the "CAADA Streetscape Committee".
Had the Streetscape not been stopped in Sept. 2009, it all would have been completed by that Thanksgiving. So now, in 2012, there have been even more years of studying it, and vetting it.
Two lanes makes sense. Usage of the district is not the same as it was in the 1940's and 1950's. This is a 3-block long, 2-block wide business district, with plenty of sidestreets and alleys from which drivers can turn off.
Other business districts in *all* nearby communities have two lanes and it works, even though these districts are twice or even three times the size as Cal Ave, with less sidestreets (and no alleyways) from which to turn off.
I'd not describe this as an ambitious plan, as indicated in the first sentence of this article. It's just a common sense plan, and done in every other business district, satisfactorily.
When I hear "no one" goes to Mountain View's Castro Street anymore, since they reconfigured their district to two lanes, I laugh. Whenever I'm there, it's literally crawling with people, walking, eating, shopping, and that's from morning to even after 10PM at night - every night. So someone's going there! Let's see that happen for Cal Ave too!
Lastly, as shoppers, please let's all put any hard feelings aside, and SHOP CALIFORNIA AVENUE.
Most businesses are just mom and pop places, trying to keep their heads above water. Many are fearful of any closure of the street. Construction work *will* be a nuisance for a while, but that would happen no matter what the lane size was, whether 4 lanes or 2, and when it's finished, it will be great.
The street itself is in such bad condition now that its potholes make it look like a 3rd World Country. That is worse for business.
So it's wonderful that the Streetscape work may soon re-commence. This is terrific news.
Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View, on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:56 am the_punnisher is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Something to consider:
Denver created the 16th Street Mall ( kill off cars & make it bike and people friendly )....
It is now a tourist attraction complete with free shuttle service to both ends...
HOWEVER, ALL THIS STOPS AT NIGHT. It is actually dangerous to be on the Mall at night! Roving gangs and groups of agressive homeless take over the Mall after the police presence and possible witnesses disappear.
With the reputation of being in " Santa Claus " county and the " don't ask, don't tell " attitude of Mountain View when it comes to being in the country illegally, that may very well be the future of the " Mall of California Street ".
The bicyclist comments are why California still has the reputation of " The Land of Fruits, Nuts and Flakes.
For the merchants : maybe it is time to vote with your feet.
Doing rehab at the REACH program was interesting. Even with special handicapped parking spaces, the yuppie crowd were always " It's just for a minute while I pick up my kid from ____ class " AND people getting run over by cyclists speeding by in the hallways.
I speak for many who do not have a voice...Maybe SUNNYVALE will do a better job treating the handicapped....
Posted by sally, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Stop the madness. Castro street is terrible... stop and go traffic? not actually, it's Stop and Stop traffic. One lane is crazy in a busy commercial area.. lots of stores, people in and out... we need two lanes.. one lane will be stopped all the time, while folks park... I avoid Castro and use the back streets.. I avoid University... do you also want us to avoid California... please NO NO NO>
Posted by karin m, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm
I vote in Palo Alto elections and I will not vote for any council member who has supported this lane reduction on Cal Avenue! I'd like to see some candidates enter the race who will promise to stop this plan. It's also time for merchants to begin circulating petitions to get this on the November ballot!
Posted by Cassas, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm
If Ronna's selling it, I'm not buying it. Her push to remove the trees did more to hurt California Avenue than anything I can remember. She should return to her exile & if she is promoting this lane reduction, then I know it's a bad idea.
Vote out the council members who want to destroy Cal Ave!
Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community, on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm
"The design itself was presented TO THE CITY from the CAADA Board, in a unanimous decision, in 2007, the Concept Plan having been designed by the "CAADA Streetscape Committee"."
Was Terry Shuchat a member of the CAADA Streetscape Committee that designed the Concept Plan? Did he support the Concept Plan? Was he a member of the CAADA Board that vote unanimously to support the plan in 2007? Did he vote as a board member to support the plan?
Posted by Concerned Citizen, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm
I think this lane reduction is a bad idea. There will be lots of traffic problems because of it. The sidewalks are large enough for pedestrians to pass by and there is plenty of room for bicycles as it exists now. The City should get rid of the planting section that obscures the crosswalk in front of Starbucks. At night you can't see it. I think the money is wasted on this project and will cost the merchants money. Better they spend it on PA infrastructure.
Posted by Yes for a New California Avenue, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm
The decision to dismiss the frivolous case is a good move by the judge and will help put an end to the ongoing vexatious litigation regarding this project.
Here are a few points and counter points to consider.
The dismissal of the case is a cogent argument that the opposition hasn’t made a real case against the project. It seems that the opponents simply don’t want changes for emotional reasons. Thankfully the opponents are extremely small in number and limited to a few business owners who have otherwise not made any changes to their own business in a very long time.
JT incorrectly states that public opinion has been against this project for some time. That’s patently false. The council, neighborhood leads, many businesses, the bicycle community and others have come out in force in support of this project.
The_punisher makes a rather strange and unrelated argument about something in another city which didn’t make complete sense.
Ronna Divencizi makes quite clear arguments in favor of the project. CAADA’s overall decisions in the past don’t necessarily reflect her well written argument in favor of a project which will be great for all stakeholders in the community.
Sally comments about bad traffic. I believe other “Sally” comments have been posted the same way without any clear logic. I can just as easily say that I drive on Castro and University and don’t find any issue with the traffic flow, which I don’t. However, that’s subjective and not enough of an argument which will bring a nearly $2m investment to a neighborhood with badly needs it. Most importantly, the unbiased, engineering based traffic study clearly show incontrovertible evidence that California Avenue has a fraction of the cars that Castro, University and Santa Cruz Avenues have.
Karin makes a great point about voting. It turns out that the entire council supports this project. Meanwhile, I’m able to conversely say that I’ll not vote for council people that oppose the project. Either way, California Avenue still needs a significant renovation.
There was a comment about Ronna and the trees. I don’t think we exactly know the reason which ALL trees were taken. Their removal was heart breaking. We can’t exclusively blame Ronna for that. CAADA may have requested some trees to be taken, but even in light of their profound and arbitrary opposition to this project I can’t imagine she or they would have recommended the removal of 63 healthy, mature trees. Again, this argument isn’t strong enough to leave California Avenue in its current state of disrepair.
Zelda asks of the promoters of the project will ever use the street. Apparently Zelda isn’t aware that multiple council members have offices in the neighborhood and use the street daily now and will continue to do so in the future.
The last comment about CAADA and Terry Schuchat asks an interesting question and begs another – why did Terry file a lawsuit which will prevent the only public infrastructure investment grant to come to this neighborhood in many years? Who’s idea was the lawsuit, his or Bill Ross’? Why would either oppose improvements to the neighborhood that are so badly needed?
Posted by Kim S., a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm
To Yes for a New California Avenue:
I don't believe anyone is arguing that California Ave. doesn't need improvement. There is much that can be done without losing two vital traffic lanes. We can still repave, widen sidewalk areas by switching to parallel parking, add planters etc. Why does the solution have to be so radical?
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm
California Ave has always been an unattractive shopping district.
Of course the City of PA has made it worse with the unimaginable decision to chop down all the trees. Even with the much needed new hardscape, the area will still be ugly. Look at all the hideous buildings lining the street. Cheap, boxy, stucco structures. Zero character. Maybe the city should start planting ivy up the sides of the buildings to mask their facades.
Posted by NoIdea, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm
Why the city put up our own tax money to spend on "Improvement project" that works against the local business? What they see that the business owner couldn't? Is closing down traffic work better for these shops?
Posted by xSIpar, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm
If the new California Ave. is going to look like Univ. Ave. or Castro St., the "bike-friendly" argument just does not make sense. Anyone that tries to commute down those streets will only do so once. I guess the city expects all bicycle traffic going in and out of the Calif. Ave. tunnel goes onto Park.
The pedestrian-friendly argument doesn't make sense either, unless they are planning to put lights at Ash, Birch, and Park. Not a bad idea, but definitely would impact traffic flow. The street vegetation right alongside Castro is hazardous to pedestrians. I've seen too many close calls.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Deep Throat, you are a breath of fresh air! Thank you for taking the time to ask questions and collect the facts.
The CAADA Streetscape Committee was under the direction of Chairperson, CAADA Board Member Terry Shuchat. CAADA Board Member Elizabeth Bishop "Feeta" was also on that committee, and for a while Feeta worked with Susan Rosenberg (from Canopy) on trees. That was all prior to 2007. If memory serves, the Streetscape Committee formed in early 2005. I started The Project in the Fall of 2004, getting CAADA directors, The City and stakeholders (a few residents and Canopy) at a joint meeting. But my plans to hold a follow-up Charette for the public were canceled, when The Streetscape Committee formed.
I was never on the CAADA Streetscape Committee. But the full CAADA Board would get regular updates from that committee. When Terry & Feeta brought their completed Concept Plan to the full CAADA Board, I supported what they suggested, and I added to it: one new crosswalk at Cal Ave & Park Blvd; and further, I was responsible for the work involving Newsracks, and I made suggestions where the new benches are best located.
While I’d like to take credit for this wonderful plan, I merely voted for it, after most of it was completed by the other CAADA directors. Then the CAADA Board, under my leadership, unanimously brought our Concept Plan TO THE CITY, who had already been apprised of every step, from the beginning. The Concept Plan always included a 2 lane configuration.
Public Works came to almost every CAADA meeting during the time the Plan was being formed, and Economic Development was at every meeting, for years. It was rare to not have the city rep in Economic Development at a CAADA meeting. This was a true collaboration.
The Streetscape Committee did due diligence by going to neighboring communities, with Public Works, seeing first-hand how the traffic flow was, and that was *before* they suggested their Plan to the remaining CAADA Board members, like me.
Before I voted for it, I attended a seminar in Redwood City, went to the neighboring districts and did my own research, and even spoke with experts in street design: experts whose work is specific to retail areas. Outside of that, I relied on the City that the decision was a good one, which, as a volunteer, is all I could have done.
The CAADA Streetscape Concept Plan is an ideal example of what council's priority was during that time: Civic Engagement. Public Works & the CAADA Streetscape Committee worked together, prior to 2007 (under Terry Shuchat's leadership), then Public Works worked with the Full CAADA Board from 2007-2009, until the Project commenced. Everyone was apprised.
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FACT that should be mentioned, because there is still confusion:
The METHOD for tree replacement had NOT yet been decided by 2007. Only known was that most, if not all, of the Holly Oaks would be removed. And right up until May 2009, it COULD have been a phased cutting, instead of a clear cut.
At the May meeting, I personally spoke for a *phased cut*, bucking the opinion of not only the City, that recommended a clear-cut to the CAADA Board, but I bucked every other CAADA Board member at that time too, who all wanted a clear-cut. So that decision was made by the full CAADA Board, and all its sitting members, in May 2009.
I bucked The Board’s opinion (that prevailed) in spite of the fact that Utility work on sidewalks, done when the street was torn up in 2009, had damaged some tree roots, and the health of some trees had changed from the last time trees were discussed in 2007. I still spoke for a measured and phased replacement, *OVERALL*. So regarding trees, I was just outvoted.
But regarding the lane configuration, I’m as surprised as anyone to see a former Board member resist it. The only *potential* new feature, as I see it, are the “pocket-parks” talked about. And I think they too, are terrific. As long as council does what should have happened years ago (most recently, when the Whole Foods Market area was included in the sit/lie ban downtown), and considers including the Cal Ave corridor in the sit/lie ban: its sidewalks, and any pocket-parks. With that said, potential pocket parks have nothing to do with the 2 lane configuration.
In the position of CAADA President, I was responsible for speaking on behalf of The Board, providing facts & giving rationale for The Board's decision whenever it was necessary. So the comment about my being "happy" after the clear cut is amusing. I often did not have my own opinion prevail while on the CAADA Board. The trees are one of 4 big things about which I was outvoted. And I'm consistent, because I'm STILL bucking what I've heard coming from former Board members, none of whom shared history of how the Streetscape Concept Plan came to be.
I don't know if there even IS a "merchant association" anymore. The last official CAADA meeting I know about, with all directors present, and with notifications that went out to the *entire membership*, was the day I resigned, in Jan. 2010, two years ago.
Adding to fact collections: the week before work began on the Streetscape, Sept. 2009, at a CAADA meeting, I was asked by Public Works to “notify everyone”; since I was accustomed to doing that already (the public, press releases, etc., as well as 80+ CAADA merchants) I did it.
It’s unfortunate that the only notification of this project came from me. The City admitted that communication was handled badly. But from what I have witnessed so far, the City has done an excellent job of handling Phase Two, the street work.
As for the CAADA Board, and its decision to clear-cut, I saw no use in harboring grudges, just because I didn't get my way, or in coming across with a sour-grape attitude after the decision was made. As President, volunteer or otherwise, the role of spokesperson was mine, and no other director wanted to face the public, as did I, both at the first council meeting, and at the Farmer’s Market gathering the following Sunday, feeling an obligation to remain on the same page with the city, as this had been a collaborative effort from 2004: a whopping 5 years!
It's my personal opinion that we need more team players in life, and less Prima Donna’s! After The CAADA Board made its decision to clear-cut, I spoke in support of the decision, as the sitting CAADA President & its official spokesperson. I was neither happy nor sad about it. I just gave the facts, in public, as I’d done for 20 years prior.
I think the public’s choice of trees varieties is terrific and they seem to be growing nicely, after having had two full years in the ground. My most favorite are the Silver Linden, the leaves are gorgeous! Dave Muffly (Canopy) did a super job of hand-choosing every single tree, so each would grow well, and not have the same problems as did the Holly Oaks.
So the tree planting is yet another successful example of Civic Engagement on Cal Ave: with the public, the city and Canopy in collaboration, even during such a crisis, all working well together.
For that, and for this decision by the judge, inching in favor of work finally re-commencing, and in a manner that will provide crosswalk safety for pedestrians, as a driver and a pedestrian on Cal Ave, I can say -- I’m very happy!
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm
> “I drive on Castro and University and don’t find any issue with the traffic flow, …”
Can’t help wondering what time you’re on University Ave. I’ve never been there when it wasn’t badly congested.
> “… the unbiased, engineering based traffic study clearly show incontrovertible evidence that California Avenue has a fraction of the cars that Castro, University and Santa Cruz Avenues have.”
No one would argue that CA Ave. has as many cars as those other main streets. But the traffic study was based on current conditions. The city plans to build more and denser housing along the CA Ave. corridor, which makes the study irrelevant.
I’m always skeptical of “incontrovertible” evidence. Why are we so ready to believe “unbiased” studies that prove whatever it is the government wants to do? Consider:
(1) HSR hype about ridership and revenue in multiple plans.
(2) VTA planning manager Kevin Connolly claimed driving time from Santa Clara to Mountain View would be reduced by only one minute if one car lane was removed in each direction. When pressed, he admitted the one minute claim assumes many drivers would divert to other roads like Foothill or Central Expressway to avoid congestion on El Camino. In fact, losing one lane on El Camino would reduce auto capacity by 950 cars.
Time to bring back those old bumper stickers: Question Authority.
As for voting, wait until you see the ballot for a bond measure to raise money for a new public safety building. Then you can ask yourself if you’d rather have the city spend $550,000 on a narrowing a street, cutting parking spaces and putting in a “parklet” – OR put that money toward the current infrastructure backlog.
Posted by Misha, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm
This is so typical that the views of those who own businesses and work everyday in the area and pay taxes are ignored. And the interests of bicyclists who will supposedly flock to Cal Avenue are favored. I say listen to those who have invested in the storefronts and are trying to stay in business! The Transportation Dept has wasted enough money and caused too much aggravation with their "improvement" to Arastradero. Time to clean house over there and get some non-biased experts in place.
Posted by Ken, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:51 pm
Thank God. Get on with it. I've never understood the objections to this. Who needs 4 lanes on a dead end street? How about a nicer street and amenities? Both University Ave. and Castro Ave. got *much* more popular and used more after their gentrification. California Ave. certainly needs the same TLC.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 2:31 am
Are Deep Throat and Ronna the same person (with different IP addresses)? A disgusting thought, I know. But there are writing similarities. She was so happy when the trees came down and now is distancing herself. When Molly Stone's closes due to the "road diet" I wonder if she'll throw off responsibility for that too?
Posted by margie, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:59 am
same people, same comments.......reducing lanes on california ave is a bad IDEA for the community. great for the bicyclists and few that "walk" everyone. city has only its interest for their staff and council members not the people of palo alto, oh yeah, except for bicyclists who use california ave and other main streets as a thoroughfare. ronna is responsible for cutting the trees down and ultimately for this problem. she will forever be remembered as the one who destroyed california ave.
Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:57 am
JT -- I am not the same person as Ronna.
Last question from "Yes for a New California Avenue": The last comment about CAADA and Terry Schuchat asks an interesting question and begs another – why did Terry file a lawsuit which will prevent the only public infrastructure investment grant to come to this neighborhood in many years? Who’s idea was the lawsuit, his or Bill Ross’? Why would either oppose improvements to the neighborhood that are so badly needed?
Ronna's most recent post does not directly answer my questions about Terry Shuschat, but to answer "Yes for a New California Avenue", if as Ronna implies Shuchat proposed and supported the lane changes to California Avenue, then the only logical reason for Shuchat's lawsuit was to lose the lawsuit before an opponent filed a lawsuit that had a chance for success. I too question the role of attorney William Ross. Joy Ogawa is listed as the other plaintiff, because she was probably convinced to add her name to the lawsuit as a token resident, rather than because she hired the attorney.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 11:44 am Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Deep Throat, you asked:
"Was Terry Shuchat a member of the CAADA Streetscape Committee that designed the Concept Plan?" - Answer: YES. He was the Chairman of that Committee, that included himself, Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop, and both were CAADA directors. Two other people did not remain active in CAADA after 2007, so I did not name them. One was a CAADA director that left long before the Concept Plan was completed; the other was never on the CAADA Board.
You asked: "Did he support the Concept Plan?" Answer: Well, as chairman of the Streetscape Committee that developed the Concept Plan and proudly brought it to the full CAADA Board asking for us to support it, one would think so. He came to every CAADA meeting. It was Terry that presented the updates, when his committee met with the city (Feeta Bishop presented her portion on trees, when that research was done.) When the CAADA Board voted to bring it to council, it was a UNANIMOUS vote. If Terry & Feeta didn't support the Concept Plan, they get Academy Awards for best actors.
You asked, "Was he a member of the CAADA Board that vote unanimously to support the plan in 2007?" - Answer is YES.
You asked, "Did he vote as a board member to support the plan?" Answer is YES. I hope I was clear, and answered your questions, Deep Throat.
Now maybe you could answer a question for me? Why would anyone write under their own name as a registered user, then write again as an Anonymous person, in the SAME post? It's both deceptive and for lack of better words, silly. The 'writing styles' are similar? Are those people serious?
Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm
Pat makes an important point that leads to the following question for clarification: Did the Concept Plan proposed by the CAADA Streetscape Committee and approved by the CAADA Board include the narrowing of California Avenue to two lanes?
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Deep Throat- YES. The CAADA Concept Plan brought to the city in 2007 included narrowing the existing 4 lane street to 2 lanes.
I've said that numerous times, having attended City Council meetings (where I spoke) and I wrote a Letter to the Editor for the Weekly, spelling all of this out.
I've left a paper trail, a mile wide, and in PUBLIC, for anyone sincerely interested in knowing what happened. I've said a number of times: had the project not been stopped in 2009, the street would have been resurfaced, and the lanes reduced from 4 to 2, by Thanksgiving of that year.
There are only about 10 people reading this, likely just skimming through anyway & not sincerely looking for FACTS, but having fun speculating (or being downright nasty)- so it's discouraging. I worked very hard as a volunteer for CAADA, and for all those years.
Who in their right mind would oppose improvements. Are the old trash cans & the potholes to be considered historical & preserved? This new grant was the FOURTH time the city applied for it for Cal Ave.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm
Ronna, your details are appreciated and you seem to be the only one who knows the history. But don’t confuse improvements with narrowing the street. As I previously stated, I don’t know of anyone opposed to improvements and fixing potholes.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm
RE: LOS (Level of Service)
From Jaime Rodriguez: “Palo Alto does not monitor all intersections on a consistent basis. At a minimum, we monitor eight intersections, every other year, which is required by the local Congestion Management Agency (Santa Clara County VTA). This was the case for the most recent monitoring during the Fall of 2010 when we only analyzed the minimum eight.”
Posted by Richard, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:03 pm
The grant money for this project has a strict timetable associated with it. If the next lawsuit is not thrown out by Feb 16 Palo Alto will be unable to meet the schedule and VTA will take the money away and use it elsewhere or VTA will lose it (the original source is federal funds). If the money is taken away from Palo Alto on Feb 16 and the lawsuit is settled in favor of the City at a later date, VTA cannot guarantee that they will have funds for the project at that time. That means that even if the Davidson case loses at a later date the project may have been stopped just by virtue of the delays.
Posted by Many opponents are wildly confused, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Those opposing arguments posted here don't make one single, substantial point. Further, they're completely unwilling to review or state the facts.
Pat states that the opposition is only opposing the lane change. However, Pat fails to realize that the project requires the lane change. Read the grant proposal which the city successfully received from the VTA. The lawsuit opposes the lane change by employing a rather deceitful CEQA delay tactic. As such the lawsuit opposes the entire project. So Pat, if your fellow opponents successfully win your case, are you willing to cough up $1,500,000 to cover the difference?
It seems as though the attorney in question has a personal issue with lanes. Perhaps he's never a pedestrian. Sadly, he might be single handedly preventing California Avenue from badly needed improvements. Perhaps he could find a way to embrace the extra 3 seconds it "might" take to traverse the street so the rest of us cyclists, pedestrians, business owners and others can enjoy the renovations and the many benefits they'll bring.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2012 at 9:26 am
> “Pat fails to realize that the project requires the lane change.”
READ MY POSTS, “Many opponents.”! I am not confused, wildly or otherwise. I have repeatedly pointed out that the VTA grant requires the lane change. That’s the only reason the city is pursuing the reduction this plan.
You don’t see “one single, substantial point” against the proposal? You don’t see how the lane changes and reduction in parking spaces will hurt businesses in the long term and how the construction will hurt them in the short term?
In addition to the VTA grant of $1.2M, the city will be “coughing up” over $550K – and that’s just an estimate. We all know how estimates rapidly expand. Has anyone asked for the cost of the project if the lanes are not reduced? If the sidewalks are not widened? If there are no parklets?
And yes, I’m sure you’re right that the attorney has a “personal issue with lanes” and is “never a pedestrian.”
You might want to check your own “wildly confused” meter.
Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View, on Feb 9, 2012 at 11:21 am the_punnisher is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Yes for a New California Avenue: hello, are you a victim of SMUG?
I pointed out the FACTS that have been seen as a result of making it difficult to use CARS to patronize businesses.
I like California Ave. the way it WAS before all the " progressives " started meddling with it. I just gave a real life example of the unintended consequences of your " change for the better " and the tactics of " use the money or lose it ".
Or is this a " since we already cut down the trees, let's finish the job " mentality at work?
Downtown & Castro Street have become so bad, traffic wise, that I have seldom frequented businesses there. That was NOT the case before the " improvements " were added.
My comment also begs the question " are you ready to spend more on police when the people I talked about make their move to this new " turf "?
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2012 at 11:57 am Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Three pedestrians in crosswalks have been hit by cars within the past few years:
1- A wheelchair-bound, long-time customer to California Ave.
2- A senior citizen, Cal Ave/Cambridge property manager.
3- A 7 year-old child, crossing the street with his mother. All were hospitalized, and suffered from the consequences of being hit by a car.
The reason two lanes were considered from the get-go was due to numerous near-misses merchants witnessed in Cal Ave. crosswalks. The only surprise is that there are not more actual collisions.
Any business person NEWLY opposing the 2 lane configuration (i.e. Davidson) should have taken the time to attend the CAADA meetings when the Streetscape was being discussed.
I begged the owners of California Paint and Wallpaper & ALL other ground floor retail businesses and restaurants for which I had email addresses, to attend CAADA meetings, asking them IN PERSON and via email to get involved from 2005, onwards.
Only the former manager of the Christian Science Reading Room took time to regularly attend meetings during that time. Everyone else, to a person, was too busy.
When some merchants told me they could come on a Thursday, but not on a Wednesday, I arranged for the day CAADA met to change, from Wednesday to Thursday, in order to accommodate them.
NOT ONE MORE PERSON ATTENDED MEETINGS + WE LOST THE REPRESENTATION OF THE CITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DEPT, who could come Wednesdays, but not Thursdays.
I held a SPECIAL one-time informational meeting early on in 2005, WITH REFRESHMENTS for 30 people, to entice merchants to take notice and to get involved. All 80 ground floor area merchants for whom I had email were invited. I personally went door-to-door, & invited 20+. 5 people came to that one-time meeting; none came after that.
Jack Morton, a sitting council-member during 2004-2009, when the Streetscape was being formed, who has an office in the Cal Ave district, never attended one CAADA meeting in 20 years, or even called me to ask what was happening, showing no interest at all in anything that happened in the district. Ever.
In fact, the whole time I was on the CAADA Board, the first & only time Jack spoke with me about CAADA was in the City Hall parking garage in 2008 @1AM, as he was driving away in his car after the council nixed the Art Commission's Bruce Beasley fountain. Jack said, "Everything will be just fine!" The fountain hasn't had a drop of water in it in over 3 years.
1) Pedestrians deserve to be protected in Cal Ave crosswalks, and there IS a known problem now, with at least 3 injuries to customers.
2) NEW merchants (including former council members) now protesting the two- lane configuration should examine their own consciences, as each were snoozing when The Streetscape Committee and CAADA Board members were hard at work, putting The Concept Plan together. They had plenty of notice that this was happening, from 2004 onwards.
They had plenty of opportunities to speak up, be heard, and to have their ideas implemented in the design, PRIOR to it having gone to the City for approval, and *prior* to Grant Application Number One. This grant is the FOURTH time for The Project, it's the largest amount, and the request was finally successful.
The sitting City Council and the Staff at City Hall are on the right track. Palo Alto residents are in good hands with their leadership, and under the guidance of Molly Stump for this project.
Posted by Please bring some truth, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm
This is a great project with overwhelming support and I’m glad it’s happening.
Pat, Punisher and Jo Ann, please state any facts that you have which support any of your arguments.
Pat states that the only reason the city is pursuing the plan is due to the VTA grant. That’s not true. Lane reductions in neighborhoods like California Avenue bring a number of positive outcomes. Pat seems to imply that the only concern for Pat is cars. Pat fails to realize that most of the lunch time crowd comes from commuters via CalTrain. They walk or bike on the street. The new plan makes the street better for everyone, not just the car driving litigious few.
Pat states that lane changes and parking reductions will hurt businesses. Pat, please for the love of the truth, point to one piece of factual information that a streetscape beautification project, or even simply a lane reduction project in a similar neighborhood, has hurt a community in the long term. We know you personally hold this belief very tightly and constantly post about it. However, please, show us one case where businesses were hurt. Also, show us where the city has removed a dramatic amount of parking. The various proposals, with one exception, have been parking space neutral.
Pat mentions that construction might have an impact, which is correct. However, if Pat and others were in meetings and read the proposals they’d realize that the city and all proponents want businesses to thrive and have discussed various forms of mitigation. If you ask most businesses on the street, they’ll say that they’re concerned but want a better street with a lane reduction.
Jo Ann, comparing the micro economy of University Avenue and California Avenue leads to incorrect assertions. University Avenue has outrageously high rents which is likely the cause for empty storefronts. The rents are due largely to the vibrancy and success of the neighborhood, not the number of lanes.
Jo Ann’s comments are foolish. They’re unsubstantiated and melodramatic. The parking issue for the few months of construction is a small price for a significantly better and more business friendly neighborhood.
The Punisher’s comments are simply hard to follow. It seems that the Punisher simply doesn’t want change. Well Punisher, most everyone else does. Sorry. Stating that traffic has become bad without explaining what “bad” means doesn’t result in a good reason to oppose the project.
To all the posters who constantly complain about traffic on University, Castro and Santa Cruz: ask the business owners if they hate the amount of people that visit their businesses.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Pat, I read your questions about pedestrian/car collisions in Cal Ave crosswalks:
Two hits were within the past 3 years. The little boy was hit just last summer (2011), right in front of Keeble and Shuchat Camera store.
I can't remember when the first hit happened. But how traumatic for someone in a wheelchair, & defenseless. It wasn't even an electric wheelchair. If memory serves, it was manual chair. The man was yelling for the car to stop, right up until it hit him.
This problem has been well-known to merchants for as long as I can remember. It has become increasingly worse, over the past 15 years, which is why The Streetscape Committee addressed it first. It was very *old* news to the CAADA board & many merchants, by the year 2004.
As for your other questions, I will allow "Please bring some truth" to have the last word (and no, I am not him/her either), but I agree with what that person wrote. It seems rather callous to nit-pick the extent of these injuries, so I'll not comment on it.
In my opinion, one person even mildly hit, this while the City, CAADA merchants, and the Community of Palo Alto have been put on notice that there have been existing problems with pedestrian safety in Cal Ave. crosswalks is, to me, one too many.
It's a no-brainer that the less time pedestrians are physically within
a crosswalk, the less chance they'll be hit. It's a matter of simple statistics. Perhaps parents wanting the high school system to have more rigid Math requirements can figure this logistically for you.
I come from a standpoint of this being one of common sense, and of seeing how other communities handled the same issue, and successfully.
In every other business district surrounding Cal Ave, even Castro Street in Mtn. View, that has an extremely wide street with 2 lanes, it results in safer pedestrian crosswalks, and that effect is what the Streetscape Committee proposed in their Concept Plan to address this known problem.
While nothing will *eliminate* the possibility of someone being hit, it surely makes crossing safer, and that was the goal of the Streetscape Committee and of the sitting members of the CAADA Board that together brought the Streetscape Concept Plan to the City.
Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2012 at 9:47 am
Ronna needs to go away. Full of verbage and no heart for the beautiful trees that were lost. The tree cutting took place over three days
why was it not stopped after day one.
Four lanes or two lanes makes no difference to me. The street looks like a war zone with the trees gone. Who wants to shop there now.
BTW Ronna - i do appreciate the art on Ca Ave. Too bad CAADA had to become misguided in needing the trees to go.
The city is filled with fake arborists and Canopy that loudly proclaim "trees are the lungs of the city" yet turn around and think it is cool to clear cut one street after another.
The whole urban forest management function in this city is broken and we have a city manager who still hasn't issued a final report on CA tree ave. fiasco and we have a bunch of parttime spineless city council members who are allowing every inch of Palo Alto to be overbuilt sacraficing trees everywhere no their march towards "progress".
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm
Ronna says, “It seems rather callous to nit-pick the extent of these injuries, so I'll not comment on it.”
It’s neither nit-picking nor callous to ask for details, since you are using these accidents to prove a point.
> “It's a no-brainer that the less time pedestrians are physically within a crosswalk, the less chance they'll be hit.”
A woman was struck and killed by a bus on University Ave (2 lanes) in December 2010. An 80-year-old man died in July 2010, after being struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident on California Street (2 lanes with center islands) in Mt. View. In December 2008 a woman in a wheelchair was killed crossing Cowper (2 lanes).
> “The only concern for Pat is cars.”
Not at all. I want everyone—pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers—to have safe passage. My concern is that drivers are left out of the equation:
- In 2010 Jaime Rodriguz was quoted in the Daily Post ”The city’s goal has been improved pedestrian and bicycle safety, not improved traffic flow.”
- In November 2010, Rodriquez said, "We're looking at ways to convert El Camino Real from an expressway to a more pedestrian-oriented and business-friendly corridor."
- The VTA wants to convert one lane in each direction from cars to buses, which it admits would divert traffic to through residential neighborhoods to other already overcrowded streets like Foothill and Central Expressway. Removing one lane would reduce capacity by 950 cars.
- On June 3, 2011 Doug Moran (a resident of Barron Park) reported that when he presented a slide, “Impressions: Disregarding Needs of Drivers, outlining three _unnecessary_ impediments to smoother, more predictable traffic flow, [Planning & Transportation] Commissioner Dan Garber rejected those aspects saying that drivers had to realize that the community values had shifted against them.” Web Link
> “… most of the lunch time crowd comes from commuters via CalTrain.”
For the love of truth, please provide supporting facts.
> “Lane reductions in neighborhoods like California Avenue bring a number of positive outcomes.”
In Fall, 2003, the Midtown Residents Association did a survey showing that 74% of respondents were against reducing Middlefield to two lanes between Moreno and Colorado, and 68% were against the narrowing between Moreno and Loma Verde.
Nonetheless, Council directed then-Transportation Manager Joe Kott to study narrowing Middlefield from 4 to 3 lanes. To his credit, he and his team did a one-day test in November 2004. They set up traffic cones from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to channel traffic into two lanes “to observe how well (or not) existing traffic could be accommodated on Middlefield with a lane removed.”
Kott reported in an email, “We completed the test and the results showed some operational problems with the three-lane cross-section design in front of Midtown…” In fact, traffic was jammed and drivers frustrated. The idea was not pursued.
> “… construction might have an impact. … the city and all proponents want businesses to thrive and have discussed various forms of mitigation.”
Ask Los Altos merchants how much business they lost during construction of improved streetscapes. There is no requirement under CEQA to consider economic impacts.
> “Pat states that lane changes and parking reductions will hurt businesses… If you ask most businesses on the street, they’ll say that they’re concerned but want a better street with a lane reduction.”
The merchants I’ve talked to have been adamant that lane changes and parking reductions WILL hurt business. If anyone has a survey that shows “most” of them want lane reduction, I would like to see it.
In fact, why are the majority of merchants silent on this issue? Why haven’t they conducted a survey? We have a few involved in lawsuits and a few who show up at city meetings. But, apart from Ronna’s CAADA of the past, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of CA Ave. business organization. Seems strange that the majority have nothing to say on an issue that will profoundly impact on them, for better or worse.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm
Apart from the impact on businesses—and residents—the costs of this project are a big concern, especially with an unfunded infrastructure backlog of about $500M.
Did the city ever provide a cost estimate to just resurface the street and provide upgrades (benches, bike racks, whatever) without cutting two lanes? Or was that option not considered because that would mean there would be no VTA grant?
There’s been a definite feature creep since the “final” plan was presented to Council. After months of press saying the plan did NOT include bike lanes or wider sidewalks (the $1.7M plan Web Link ), the council THEN told staff to figure out how to widen the sidewalks.
Then in February 2011, the Daily Post reported that Mayor Espinosa "wanted to know if some type of bike lane could actually be folded into the design plan."
In October 2011, Council wanted to explore a central plaza. Web Link The latest designs add a “parklet.”
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm Ronna Devincenzi is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Just an FYI-
All the art on California Ave. is due to the efforts of the Art Commission, and not me. But I'm glad you enjoy the art. It took a lot of time & planning to get that collection.
Many are public/private collaborations, re: funding. A couple are 100% privately funded. So other people deserve the recognition for having done that work on art. Art Commissioners sometimes take flak.
But it was my work that the corner of Cal Ave at Park Blvd. was redeveloped, with a brick wall and patio, so people can sit outside. I was able to get that privately funded, and the city helped guide me through the process, so it would be done to code. Had the city done it, about 8 years ago, it would have been about $40K.
Also, I supervised the 12 window box planters installations, over a period of 3 years, and the planters with roses, etc. Lastly, I designed the plaque in honor of CAADA's Founding Fathers in front of Accent Arts, a place where people can sit, and it replaces an old dry-rotted planter box that just grew weeds every year, & was an eyesore.
Other than those things you see on Cal Ave, I'm not responsible for bringing anything else concrete there, to the best of my recollection.
For the record, I do understand how folks can feel about trees. There is one tree I really, *really* miss. It was a glorious & huge Pistache tree on Cambridge that could be seen from Cal Ave, if you stood by the alley-way between Country Sun and Bank of the West. The fall colors were spectacular.
It was amazing, and unlike the Holly Oaks, it was in perfect health, and it did not cause any damage to buildings or surroundings. When it was cut down, only a couple people noticed, & no one said a word.
But I still miss that tree. When I walk by that alley, I always look up, remembering how pretty the tree was. It's sad to see the puny replacement. It's my hope that more trees on Cambridge won't be sacrificed, every time a new building goes up.
Posted by Great project -- please move forward ASAP, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:07 am
Ronna makes good points. So does the person mentioning that we need to move past the trees which we do. However, one great point about this project is that it includes the planting of a few mature trees. I'd support the project for that reason alone.
"Pat's" (hereinafter referred to as Pat, no quotes) arguments are again not effective.
Pat states that drivers are left out of the equation. This is hyperbole. If cars were left out of the planning then the street would include no lanes for cars. Instead, it has 2 significantly wider lanes which make use of the street by cars far easier than the extremely narrow lanes that exist now. Further, the streets are barely used in comparison to other streets as repeatedly indicated by the traffic study that Pat refuses to read.
Regarding the positive outcomes, here are a few that have been posted repeatedly in these forums and are readily available from a number of easily useful sources.
This link is titled "The Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities"
"Four and a half years after the bike lanes were built, the vast majority of the interviewees expressed support for the bike lanes. Sixty-six percent of the merchants believe that the bike lanes have had a generally positive impact on their business and/or sales, and the same percentage would support more traffic calming on Valencia Street."
Pat compares work on Middlefiled to California Avenue. It's a completely different and not comparable scenario. Middlefield has significantly higher traffic than the tiny daily about of traffic on California Avenue.
Pat later attempts to generate more fear about the project without being fair to the facts. Council members have inquired about further spend on the street for a few extremely valid reasons. First, there's been ZERO spend in a very long time, perhaps 50 years or more. Inciting fear based upon more spend for an area that's been untouched is essentially vote to oppress the businesses there as well as those who live in the neighborhood.
Pat, some of the businesses oppose the plan. However, most do not oppose it. Oddly enough the proponents are also the same businesses that have made capital improvements recently. Walk to a new salon or restaurant and present them with the facts of the project, not a singularly opposing view and they'll nearly all support the project AND the lane change.
Posted by Re-tool, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm
The City hired Jaime Rodriguez away from San Jose. Now they've hired this high priced transportation/bicycle lane Guru, they've got to give him worthwhile projects to create; hence Arastradero and California Avenue!!! They are make work projects for Jaime - watch out Middlefield Road your next!!!
Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm Fred Balin is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Yes for a New California Avenue writes:
"I don't think we exactly know the reason which ALL trees were taken. Their removal was heart breaking. We can't exclusively blame Ronna for that. CAADA may have requested some trees to be taken, but É I can't imagine she or they would have recommended the removal of 63 healthy, mature trees."
In a December article posted on Palo Alto Online, I chronicled the road to the tree removals. You are correct that the former CAADA president cannot be exclusively blamed. But what you could not imagine, in fact, did occur. Beginning in 2005, CAADA insiders began their campaign to convince the city to remove all the trees on California Avenue, and in January, 2009, a group, which included both Ronna Devincenzi and Terry Shuchat, succeeded.
"I've said a number of times: had the project not been stopped in 2009, the street would have been resurfaced, and the lanes reduced from 4 to 2, by Thanksgiving of that year."
Orwell would be smiling.
Or, in other words:
- if only the objection to the wholesale massacre of the trees along California Avenue within a community caught by surprise had not been so unreasonably harsh and widespread,
- if only more people had taken to heart our cautions of the dangers of tripping over acorns; slipping on leaves; trees that lean, drop residue, block signage, and are mismatched,
- if only more people accepted our unsubstantiated claims of a California Avenue urban forest rife with disease,
- if only people had relied less on what their eyes, experience, and common sense guided them to be true,
- if only people appreciated that our unannounced desire for a uniform canopy of deciduous red maples to develop at a uniform growth rate required us to remove every tree no matter what its condition, and that the replanting process then needed to start directly after lest there be great distress to the business district, and
- if only more people had accepted the premise that a project formed in private collaboration between a few folks at CAADA and the Department of Public Works, and that had just destroyed nearly every tree on the streetscape, should then be allowed to continue to proceed on through all its subsequent and previously-unknown phases and, once again, without public input,
- then all would be well.
But somehow, despite this logic, the streetscape project was stopped.
"Can we please move beyond the tree issue and all the grudges held over that? The trees are gone and this new project has nothing to do with them."
The dialog, discussion, debate, litigation, and city process related to the post-tree-removal streetscape planning in general, and the lane diet in particular, has been clouded by the involvement of two long-time members of the CAADA board, both key players in the organization's successful efforts to remove the trees from California Avenue.
That is because over the 23 months since the trees fell, neither has offered a single public word of remorse, responsibility, or apology for their individual actions or for that of their association, purported to represent the interests of the business district.
One remains completely silent on the matter.
The other continues to distort the record, while filling her posts with self-serving and extraneous material. On this thread alone, her 7 posts cover over 3,000 words. While the initial one supported a rational discussion on one side of the lane-reduction controversy, subsequent ones soon veered off into familiar, extended justifications of her role concerning the fate of trees, discussions of her various other involvements on behalf of CAADA, usual complaints about businesses that did not attend CAADA board meetings, and diversions into completely unrelated topics.
In her last post, she curiously closes with this incongruous juxtaposition: "I do understand how folks can feel about trees. There is one tree I really, *really* miss. It was a glorious & huge Pistache tree on Cambridge that could be seen from Cal Ave ..."
The defining event in the long history of CAADA is its role in the September 2009 mass tree removals on California Avenue. The stain is so ingrained, that the association's name can no longer be used in discourse before the city. Rather, some of its main players have shifted to a newly formed group, the Business Association of California Avenue (i.e., BACA).
For CAAADA's former president to state she understands how people feel about trees and then reminisce about a tree on Cambridge -- no matter lovely it once was -- supports the impression that she remains completely out of touch with the pain and damage she helped foment.
Richard, if either of these players or any other CAADA board member involved in the tree removals of 2009, wishes to truly begin to move the community past this event in the context of his or her public participation related to the future of California Avenue, all it takes is the capacity for true empathy, introspection, sincerity, and a public statement.