City looks to downsize massive Page Mill Road proposal Around Town, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Sep 11, 2012 at 7:18 am
An expansive plan to build two office buildings, an apartment complex and a highly coveted public-safety building near California Avenue earned a mixed reception from Palo Alto officials Monday night, with several members of the City Council arguing that the proposed buildings are too tall and too massive even for this rapidly changing neighborhood.
[Web Link Palo Alto's police quandary may hinge on massive development]
[Web Link Page Mill Road could see commercial influx]
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 10, 2012, 11:41 PM
Posted by commonsense, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 8:20 am
I'm for this type of development. However, the Post says the city is valuing this acre of land at $4.36M. Market value is probably more than double that. Paul should pay a market price for this parcel irrespective of his other offers to the city.
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 9:04 am
Where does Mr. Paul live? Is this 'his town'?? Or is it a waystation on the way to the bank?
Does he care about the look and feel of this town? Do people in the Planning Department? Do they live here? It's all about money, and the people of Palo Alto have little to say about the money-grabbing destruction of their city. From ABAG to HSR to people like Paul, it's all about money. That area is a bad place for a police station. Would HSR wipe that out?
In case of an earthquake destroying overpasses, it would it be isolated from the rest of the city.There's something WRONG here.
Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 11, 2012 at 10:40 am
Perhaps the City Council will want to approve another Berlin Wall like it did for the Alma Plaza development. Has anyone driven past that site? It is extremely ugly and, more to the point, there is almost no set back. The front wall is cheek by jowl to Alma Street, giving a massive Berlin Wall look to the site. Disgusting. Whoever approved that development with that design should be forced to live right across from it. If they were threatened to have to do so, they'd either have disapproved it or forced a major redesign. It's developments like that that are RUINING Palo Alto!
Posted by midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 11:11 am
Agree 100% with Robert, Kate, KP and Resident. Palo Alto's charm and neighborhoods are being ruined by these developers - who, I am quite certain, do not live here - or certainly not anywhere near the proposed sites. And Alma Plaza is a monstrosity which is hard to even glance at as one drives or walks by. Not a single acquaintance in Midtown or the Alma Plaza area thinks this development is anything but ugly. Why is the City Council so easily duped/or persuaded to agree to these awful buildings?
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 11:44 am
(Posted this earlier on a related thread)
A few thoughts:
1) The Police DO need a new building
2) The proposed Cal-Ave area is a perfect location for a police headquarters, for the operational synergy with the courthouse nearby
3) The proposed development is way too massive -- completely out of the ballpark and must be down-sized. But other than having a developer include a structure for police as part of a package, I'm not sure how we'll pay for a new facility. No way a bond measure for this would pass.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm
It's been years that Jay Paul has wanted to develop that location, and their reps came to CAADA meetings a number of times, to discuss it. A new PAPD/Fire building was a proposal also entertained for the Cal Ave district, each 7-10 years ago.
My recollection is the CAADA Board would welcome the police building only IF it were located along Park Blvd., and NOT within the Cal Ave corridor itself**
**The CAADA Board had to fight to stop the building itself from being built on the parking lot behind Kinko's - the city's reasoning was that because they owned that lot, they could do what they wanted there, even put up a new police/fire building. But history is important, and how the city came to own the lot was not being considered, at that time. CAADA directors united in stopping the project from being considered on that lot.
While a new parking garage on an existing surface lot *may* be good, if the number of spaces greatly increases, studies show most drivers prefer to park in surface lots (such as the ones in the district now). So taking two lots, one for a condo and one for a park, seems troublesome to me.
I have reservations about the condo, from the get-go. And the park seems like a poor use of that space, because there already IS a tiny park, little used, and closeby, and there is Peer's Park, a huge space, right around the corner, with everything: tennis courts, children's area, picnic tables.
When I go to Cal Ave, I drive and I'd want to be able to park easily.
Of course, the details have yet to come out, and the people living around the proposed Jay Paul building yet to be polled.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm
Rem - Your post made me laugh. Does anyone else remember when downtown Mountain View, after decades of not allowing *anything* to be built, or even remodeled greatly in downtown, allowed the 11 story (yes, that's ELEVEN story) building to be built on Castro Street?
The monstrosity sat vacant, sticking in the middle of the street like a giant sore thumb, for what had to be 15 years (yes, that's FIFTEEN years). It was amazing.
It's only occupants were two German Shepherd guard dogs, that would sometimes whisk by the front door. I'd like to think they were playing, to pass the time. But as it was before PETA and the dogs were in that building 24/7, it may have been they were stir crazy. No kid wanted to mess with that building. I always remembered that it too, was said to be built for a tax write-off.
Today, that building houses Bank of America. To my knowledge, all 11 stories are being used as office space. Buildings surrounding it, including the "new" City Hall/Library/Performing Arts Center have filled in the gaps, so the 11 story building, in my opinion, works well. I know a lot of people say they don't go to downtown Mountain View anymore, because it's too crowded. But people that go there, love it. Everything blends in well, and it is 100% "walkable" & pedestrian friendly.
I can picture the Jay Paul building with a new pedestrian/bike bridge taking people safely over Oregon Expressway from there to Cal Ave. Increasing shuttles from there (and from Stanford Research Park too) was also discussed, years ago.
There is an inventor in Palo Alto that had a terrific display he wanted to set up (at Palo Alto Central) that showed a sort of pod car he designed. He thought that would work for the Cal Ave area.
Does anyone remember who he was? Perhaps he's the same person that got Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasparek's attention, with his proposal to have pod cars for Google? But think about this: a Palo Alto designer of Pod Cars would be a crowning glory for the "Shop Palo Alto" effort (becoming Destination Palo Alto, in later years).
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on Sep 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm
$4.36 M for a acre of ground, wow what would you expect to build to get your ROI. You would can build a 2 story building but from what I have seen not much market in a 2 story build let alone a 1 story building. Homes, really you would have to build some high density or some really nice single family homes, but would you pay big buck to live in this area. Big Box store or worse yet more fast food chained places to eat.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm
I agree 100% with Ronna that the police building should not be on CalAve or in any way supplanting needed retail space, but should be along Park on the far side of the courthouse so it doesn't interfere with commerce on California Avenue.
The pod car guy was Steve Raney. He wanted to build overhead tracks to take pod cars to Stanford Research Park and points beyond. Unfortunately, not only would the tracks be unsightly - running overhead between on tall towers -- the cost of the infrastructure would be astronomical.
Posted by jm, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm
Did the Planning Department have no notice that Jay Paul was working on a proposal? And if they did, how long did Planning know this was in the works?
And more to the point, with the Hohbach development and now Jay Paul, will our far-sighted Planning Department commission a new study to project how all the increased traffic will impact California Avenue? Shouldn't this be done before permanently reducing the lanes?
Are there any other available areas near California zoned for increased density that developers will be taking advantage of? No doubt some of the older one and two story buildings along California will also be replaced with taller buildings before too long as well.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm
Some of the council members are salivating over the “free” police building and Jay Paul knows he has them by the shorts. He is quoted in today's Daily Post: “If we reduced the square footage we’re developing we would have to pull back on the contributions,” Paul said.
Posted by George, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm
Council holds the cards because we the voters have given away the city to a City Council that represents the best interest of the developers and big money. Nothing will change when we elect the likes of Liz Kniss and Pat Burt.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 1:33 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
For myself, I was struck by the cost of structured parking, which (according to the PA Post) would cost $13M for 529 spaces. That comes out to about $25,000 per parking spot. With the proposed conversion of several parking lots to buildings, it only nets an increase of 129 spots.
I agree we need a new police building: for one, our current emergency response center is in the basement of a seismically unsound building, seriously undermining our ability to effectively respond should we have a major earthquake. I have some concern about having the police and fire HQ building on Park Blvd which is a major bike route, so I hope it would be designed with care to ensure the safety of cyclists when police come racing out responding to an emergency. On the other hand, the interface of the existing police HQ and the Bryant Bike Blvd seems to be OK.
I also agree that the buildings should be designed to look nice, fit their surroundings, and not loom over houses if any are very close. Studies have shown that from a pedestrian's perspective, 4 stories (~48') is a comfortable height. But design is more important than height, where a poorly designed single story building can feel more dense than a beautifully designed four story.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 3:24 am
My studies have shown that from a pedestrian's perspective on the sidewalk in front of Alma Plaza, the Rickey's condos, or the JCC, the amount of blue sky visible is the same whether the zero-setback buildings are 4 stories or 400 stories. Urban canyons are the future coming at us.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 6:48 am
Pat Burt has a voting record of approving zoning changes that allow higher density: Lytton Gateway and the College Terrace/El Camino building are two examples.
His statements on this proposed development are pre-election; you can predict Burt's vote based on hs past history on these matters.
By the way, the parking garage additions means they predict more cars. More cars means more traffic, which will spill over onto California Ave. If I remember correctly, Burt is a big supporter of the California Lane reduction, and was very critical of the opponents themselves. Part of the rational of the California lane reduction was that the staff & council did not "envision" any major developments in the area, which would generate more traffic.
The developer has been working on this proposal for quite a while. They spent quite a bit of money to come up with the drawings, preliminary layouts, etc. So I wish there was more transparency with our city staff & city council, because the development must have been sounding them out on this while the debate was going on with the California Ave lane reduction.
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 9:57 am Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
@"common sense", who wrote "Part of the rational of the California lane reduction was that the staff & council did not "envision" any major developments in the area, which would generate more traffic."
I need to correct that misstatement, as I attended both the Planning and Transportation Commission and the Council meeting where the Cal Ave streetscape improvements were discussed. Both the Commissioners and the Council members asked if the road with reduced lanes could accommodate projected future growth, in light of the Cal Ave Area Plan and focusing development near transit and the shopping district. They were assured that the roadway could accommodate conceivable expansion in the area.
The traffic counts indicated that the busiest Cal Ave gets is weekday lunch hour closest to El Camino, with somewhere around 250 cars per direction. That's an average car volume of 4 cars per minute. Fears of traffic snarls from the changes are not supported by the evidence.
Note that the Cal Ave streetscape plan includes increased parking, which we've just seen is valued at $10K - $25K per spot, and that the only way to add street parking there is to reduce the lanes.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm
Cedric, you are avoiding the main issue, which was the lack of transparency in the process used to approve the California Ave lane reduction.
The Jay Paul proposal adds 311,000 square feet of office space, 116 housing units and a police building. This can amount to 1500+ people making trips to/from the area using legacy estimates (and as many as 2400 if the office space is used the way current startups use office space.
The California Ave lane reduction will cut the capacity of that street by half, while the Jay Paul development proposal could end up adding 2400 more people making trips to the area.
The city staff & council members in their rush to grab onto some funding grant never exposed this in their discussions - again it's the lack of transparency, since it appears that Jay Paul must have been sounding out city staff & council on their proposal well before their most recent presentation
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm
Cedric, the wording in the California Avenue traffic study, www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=25743 says:
“According to the City of Palo Alto, there are no pending projects or planned projects in the foreseeable future. … Therefore, traffic volumes on California Avenue between El Camino Real and Park Boulevard will remain unchanged with the current land uses.”
The commissioners are concurrently reviewing the broader California Avenue Area Plan, and they wanted to know if the traffic study included any impacts of those eventual developments, which could include high-density housing.
Julie Caporgno, chief planning and transportation official, said staff doesn't anticipate that any future development would have a significant impact on traffic. Any residences that go in there would be transit-oriented," she said.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm
I was on California Ave. yesterday, and asked four merchants why there were signs on Cal Ave, indicating work was to be done to the street next week. These were owners & managers of stores, and not just employees. Here are their answers:
1) "Oh, something is going to be done to the street."
2) "I think they are going to repair sidewalks."
3) "I think they're checking the gas lines."
4) "They said work was to be done between the hours of 10PM and 7AM, and it's before we open, so I didn't pay attention to what work was going to be done."
When I asked person Number 4 if she got an email notice or a letter, to determine who "they" were, she said, "Someone came here from the City and told me what was going to happen." Presumably, a staffer went to ALL the businesses, to notify merchants.
The above scenario has *not changed* from the days when I would email or stop by to personally speak with merchants, delivering information about the street. Nothing has changed at all.
These are ALL excellent and nice people. BUT they are BUSY.
In 75% of the instances, in those days, I'd get a glazed over look after about 60 seconds, and would be asked, "Can you come back later? I'm so busy now."
Or about an email they'd say, "I remember getting something from you, but didn't have time to read it. Can you resend it to me?"
Only about 25% of merchants were really interested in what was happening, enough to remember, and not one new person ever came to a meeting, district meeting or council meeting. So, please do NOT blame the City for a lack of transparency or outreach.
Pat Burt has had his finger on the pulse of what's been going on regarding California Ave, calling a spade a spade, the night the two lanes was voted on by council. Pat Burt and Greg Scarff have been *excellent* representatives for Cal Ave, during 2010-2012, the period of time the Streetscape was discussed. Both have offices in that district, and they use the street daily. The Year 2009 is NOT the Year 2012. Now, things are great.
I read a letter to the editor in the Daily Post, lamenting that "council doesn't read blogs to find out what the public wants". But if council DID begin to read blogs, they'd be confused, because Curtis Williams name was changed by one blogger to "Fred Williams".
Bloggers often get information *wrong*, including about how long Cal Ave has been discussed, in relation to the Citywide Comprehensive Plan.
Bloggers furthermore, do not normally use their names, expect to be called on to VERIFY their information, or show enough interest to show up to council meetings, and speak their peace about an issue.
They just shoot off some comments, based on nothing. If council put any weight on what most say, it would be the blind leading the blind.
Palo Alto residents need to be thankful there is a remarkable improvement at City Hall, first for paying attention to the Cal Ave district; secondly, for transparency and for its engaging the public.
If a city staffer goes TO shops, and personally speaks with shop owners and managers, it's *not* the city's fault that owners don't know what's happening.
So bloggers: do any of you know what work is going to be done on Cal Ave next week, that 2 signs at each end of the street announce? Provable FACTS only, please. Thank you.
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:34 am
Thank you for the information, Pat. Since the planned street resurfacing will not be done until NEXT fall, they probably want to seal cracks because they're a hazard. Street cracks have been a hazard since 2008, when street resurfacing was first scheduled, then put off to 2009, the year it was re-scheduled but, halted.
In 2009, people were falling over the cracks in the street during the Farmer's Market because the cracks were so bad. I know of two cases where people hit the ground, having stumbled over the large cracks. One woman drew blood from her injury. But she did not require hospitalization, only on the spot medical attention to stop bleeding.
When you speak with owners you know on Cal Ave, you might suggest to them that the City Manager's Office is not the best place for them to call for information as minor as street crack repairs. But PW should know what was on schedule, if a shop owner called them. The sign does suggest calling PW. But from what I understood, PW went around, in person, and told everyone what was to happen.
It's funny that YOU were able to get the information you wanted, lickety split, and from Public Works, and with no hassles. I'm glad you took the time to call, and thank you for letting me know what the scheduled work will be.
It's reasonable for them to address the cracks, and now, before the rainy season sets in.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm
1. The two people I spoke to DID call PW.
2. I did not get the information “lickety split.” The person who answered the phone knew nothing about it. She directed me to another person, who was clearly someone who went out and did work on city streets, and he didn’t know what I was talking about. He had to ask his manager.
3. The work is not shown on the map of current/upcoming projects on the PW website.
4. Obviously PW did not go around to everyone or everyone would know.
Posted by Louis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm
Alma Plaza is ugly? Well, you can thank the likes of all the "anti-development" Council watchdogs for that! Where are they now? Of course, they are criticizing the design of the plaza!! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] They will argue against the police station. They will attend City Council meetings putting their two cents in about alternate sites, size, how many bathrooms, etc. etc. They will present as experts; they will insist; they will sue; they will threaten. In the end, the police station will be built, but will cost more from delays. Thanks to all the feckless anti-development extremists. There is no gray area for this crowd, only "win at all costs" while the rest of our city loses. Listen to them at your peril.
Posted by Louis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2012 at 12:02 am
Pat, I have been watching you castigate City staffers for years, claiming that they don't don't do their jobs. You have complained, non-stop, about developments like the police station, schools, the library, housing developments, ad nauseum. You claim expertise in areas that you only know surface details about, and have little professional experience in. You pretend to have special knowledge about the way that municipal bureaucracy should work, but you've never worked in a senior position in a city bureaucracy. You expect a complex city bureaucracy to jump to attention when you call, having every little fact at their fingertips. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Mom by Gunn, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Sep 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm
Short of taking a sledge hammer to the building fronts on Alma Plaza, some do gooders should plant some climbing roses, Ivy or other natural and pleasing looking plants to cover up the monstrosity that is now there......IF there is enough space and dirt left.....
WHY does the proposed police building need to be so large? Are they thinking of sheltering prisoners in there? (Now when an arrest is made, the patrol car has to use it's gas to travel down to San Jose to start and finish booking procedures....)
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm
This forum removed my comment because I assume I wrote "Louis sounds like Pat Burt." However, Palo Alto Online staff refuses to delete names of people that others use to call them names on this forum. If you delete my comment, please delete those comments where names are used in the same manner. I do not think what I wrote was bad, it is my opinion. This is one sided forum controlled by the City. Talk about Democracy!
Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2012 at 9:35 am Fred Balin is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
My comments about the nasty and personal remarks within the dual Louis rants of Saturday night were also expunged; could have been a mistake.
Your comparison, however, is well off the mark, because Louis -- his or her Town Square nom du jour for this past Saturday -- is well beyond the pale of any civil, intelligent, or coherent engagement.
From the first posting, editors deleted the names of the targets and from the second, the calls to get out of town, although one person he has been "watching" remains named and pilloried.
Neither of the Louis posts -- original or edited -- adds a spec of reasoning or relevant information, just pure vitriol.
Without revealing identities, let me say that many residents who have followed land-use and other city matters closely over the past few years are familiar with him/her through personal experience and more recently through this forum under many names. S/he is part of a disturbing underside to land-use matters.
Outside of this forum, it is important for citizens to report any threatening private communications to the authorities and for elected and appointment officials to turn such communications over to the city attorney.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm
Fred, I did read your comment. Nothing short of anything negative, if I remember correctly you pointed out something about late Saturday night bloggers..? I didn't realize until now that yours have been removed!