Town Square

Post a New Topic

Editorial: The push for 27 University

Original post made on Nov 30, 2012

If you're confused by the process by which the City Council is considering a massive commercial office project put forth by developer John Arrillaga dubbed "27 University" you aren't alone or crazy.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 30, 2012, 8:48 AM

Comments (50)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

It's become clear that the City Staff no longer works for the residents and property owners of Palo Alto. This project, arguably the largest in downtown Palo Alto, has been conducted in abject secrecy--clearly setting the stage for all future projects that are to be built in Palo Alto.

This project is so objectionable that the City Manager should be replaced for allowing it. That is not likely--since Palo Alto voted to keep the same faces on its City Council, a Council that cheered on HSR, as well as every project that ultimately will bring more traffic to town. (Council Member Greg Scharff's "The Building is the Benefit" comment about the large behemoth at Lytton/Alma will be the rallying cry for developers for years to come.

The City claims that this is going to be a "Arts and Theater District". Why? Because there is going to be a theater there. Well--if it's going to be a "district"--doesn't it stand to reason that there will be other "arts and theaters" looking for quarters/operating space in this district? Or will the rent to so high that only the group getting the "free" theater be the only occupant of the district that will otherwise look like a small/urban business park?

How many of the people running for City Council talked about how they would vote for this project when it came before the Council in 2013? Bet there wasn't much talk about this project on the ole 2012 campaign stump.

It's pretty clear that money talks--and the law/procedure is there to help the friends of City Staff, while frustrating everyone else. Got to wonder just how much of the management energies of the "reformed" Planning Center will be dedicated to the Arrillaga project, while every other project in town can "wait its place in line"?

Maybe there's some way to stop this project--but it seems unlikely, at this point.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lincoln
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2012 at 10:33 am

I'm reserving judgment on the project until I learn more, but I am wondering if we can dispense with the hooey of calling it an "arts and innovation" district...One theater, as far as I know--so "arts"? And is there something special about these buildings so that those inside will be specially innovative?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rachel
a resident of University South
on Nov 30, 2012 at 10:34 am

Very nice editorial, asking very good questions. Who wrote it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2012 at 11:20 am

Well written editorial.
This is the website for City of Palo Alto City Council:
Web Link
Can you say the word "Bamboozled"?
Please contact each of them to inform them that we will not quietly tolerate this. If they think we will accept this unconscionable
monstrosity just so they can "benfit" they are mistaken. Lawsuits will be filed. Wake up citizens of Palo Alto!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2012 at 11:28 am

Letters to the City Council go to: city.council@cityofpaloalto.org

And yes, there needs to be a 'housecleaning" at City Hall. NOW!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Clay
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

Agreed. Terrific editorial. Thanks for laying it out there in an understandable way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

Add my vote to great editorial. I understand this project has been under consideration for almost a year by staff, and yet no word given to the community til very recently. Why not?

Where was our vaunted City Council during the ongoing review of this "ego building" Arillaga project? Ugh. It smells.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by homeless
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

apparently not a PA property owner here, yet I do care so here is my opinion: how about providing info like comparative monthly cost of operating the buildings to residents who do own properties? Would there be long term effects to cost of energy- water, electric, garbage etc. within the city? Landscaping.. hmmm.. could use a lot of water if shrubs and flowers are incorrectly chosen, yet more important would be to know if these buildings and construction : would they follow 'green buildings' guidelines, such as using solar energy? Would the buildings be environmentally safe 50-100 yrs from now? Windows, roofing, plumbing.. list is endless when it comes to energy conservation. New construction should definetly reduce long term energy cost- not to increase it.
electric, water, heat--- scarce resources. Pretty sure there are some guidelines builders have to comply to such as the International Energy Conservation Code. Knocking of few stories from the building plans won't solve long term cost of energy issues.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On the traffic assessment: The usual practice is to estimate impacts based upon _recent_ conditions -- within the past few years. Although I could find no explicit statement of this, the phrasing in several places in the report indicated that this done here.

Thus, the traffic assessment fails to include already approved projects such as the Hospital Expansion, 101 Lytton, Research Park expansion, Stanford Campus Expansion. Expect to have lots of failing intersections (grade F) in northern Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for this editorial. This project is a lot to digest, and busy Palo Altans need to be alerted to give due consideration.I certainly hope the City Council and staff examine every angle thoughtfully. I am supportive of the arts district concept, wondering which group(s) will have use and/or priority; traffic IS a big issue; height limits should not be cavalierly waived as they have been at times and this proposal is a biggie in that regard; in sum,a solid understanding of this proposal is needed by us all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Wonderful editorial; pretty much says it all. The only thing needed is to get John Arrillaga to stop calling himself a philanthropist. It degrades the word.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrew Boone
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

It's clear that city staff tend to "work for developers", and not only in Palo Alto.

During the Menlo Park Facebook Campus project, it was obvious that Menlo Park staff were really working for Facebook and not for the public - they had secret meetings with Facebook staff even before Facebook purchased the former Sun Microsystems campus to which they relocated. Menlo Park staff made every possible accommodation for Facebook, including staff time (staff often travelled to Facebook headquarters to discuss the project), they created and defended the most rapid project schedule possible because Facebook requested it (so there would be less time for any possible opposition to organize), and they incorrectly informed the city's various commissions (Bicycle, Transportation, Housing) that were not allowed to make formal written comments on the Facebook Campus EIR. Menlo Park staff represented Facebook's interests at every possible opportunity.

Palo Alto staff is providing exactly the same type of services now for Stanford and Arrillaga. This isn't illegal (to my knowledge) - it's just business as usual. Staff will continue working the way that they are unless City Manager James Keene is told to do otherwise by City Council.

So if we want city staff to approach the 27 University Avenue project differently, we need to provide the city council members with specific and realistic recommendations on how, then lobby for our case in the media and at city council meetings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jm
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

As soon as I learned of this huge development (on Stanford land, property taxes to county, millions and millions for Stanford over the years), my first reaction was:

This project was kept quiet until after hospital expansion improved.

Then presented as if there is an urgency or this incredible benefit to Palo Alto will be lost.

Aha, not so quick. Good try. Get this approved BEFORE everyone realizes how horrific the traffic situation on El Camino is once the hospital expansion is completed.

If this is development is going to be such a benefit to the city, then shouldn't the public have been informed right from the start? What were they afraid of?

Because when the glitz and glamor is removed, it is not.

We learn, at this late stage, there were years of manipulation behind closed doors involving Mr. Keene, planning staff, and council members who colluded behind the public's backs Carefully orchestrated so as not to actually violating the Brown Act law.

127 University is a done deal, not a proposal. With a few negotiating crumbs being played out in the open to confuse the public.

Even the quick capitulation of the 165' shows this was just a ploy to look accommodating and divert public attention from just how massive the towers will still be.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I am aghast by this project: the lack of hearings, the closed door sessions, the intention to try to bribe the electorate with a theater and some 501c3 spaces, the lack of transparency and the hugeness of the project in terms of environmental impact, the Los Anglesization of Palo Alto and the traffic. The jobs are not the highest priority.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm

"So if we want city staff to approach the 27 University Avenue project differently, we need to provide the city council members with specific and realistic recommendations on how, then lobby for our case in the media and at city council meetings."

Too late. The election's over. Anybody wanting to influence city council members needed to get their campaign contributions in the mail at least a month ago.

"127 University is a done deal, not a proposal"

It certainly is. It's on Stanford's land and it's for Stanford's benefit. What Stanford wants, Stanford gets.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you for a Great editorial
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Editorial,

"But even more important is determining the economic value of the proposed development to Stanford University. Since current zoning doesn't entitle Stanford to build anything on the property, the enormous ongoing value of lease income to the university over the life of the development should be the basis for determining what public benefits need to be provided. This should have been the starting point for discussions with Arrillaga and public debate."

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! This was supposed to be the starting point brought to the community.

City staff (innocently or not) managed to get us arguing about the height of what cannot even be built there. In case there is a doubt, there is NO way to be half-pregant.

My suspicion is that the "letter of intent" with Theaterworks, is among the various ways to get around a host of things.

The CIty should not sign anything with anyone, regarding this project.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Nov 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Quoting "the Editor": why we aren't seeking a better solution for the needed bus connections. Instead of trying to accommodate parking for 32 buses at a time and the traffic they generate within the project, why not explore creating a new bus staging area on Stanford land west of El Camino, or by using turnouts on El Camino.

May I remind you that this area is needed for the transportation hub? That's the main purpose of this plot of land. People go from bus to train and train to bus, and you would have them CROSS EL CAMINO and get a bus on the WEST SIDE?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by carol
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Excellent editorial and comments!
This project is a loser for the residents and the City of Palo Alto. Every comment above has outlined those facts. I encourage you all please come to the City Council meeting next Monday, Dec.3, 7pm at City Hall. The City Council must hear our voices loud and clear!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

"the city is footing the bill for the costs, which are quickly approaching half a million dollars"

I see. Our fair city cannot afford to fix the rapidly deteriorating pavement on Everett Ave because it is spending its (our) money servicing a billionaire developer instead.

Time for revolution, folks. Things are way out of balance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by honesty needed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 5:10 pm

This is a project primarily to build offices that would be several times larger than Palo Alto zoning rules allow. A theater and roadway changes are included. It would be on land zoned for parks, of which we have too few.
Staff has been working, a lot, without direction from the council to do so.
Start conversations there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim Orenberg
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Perhaps the most poignant statement in this article, which by the way is well written and exemplary investigative reporting, is the statement "Under these circumstances, the role of city staff becomes confused and extremely difficult. Is the staff developing a vision for the area based on community needs, values and traffic considerations or is it responding to what John Arrillaga wants? " When are Palo Altans going to be seriously consulted to see what their vision of the downtown business area is. Perhaps the project could eliminate another 3 stories of the Arillaga-Stanford high rises to bring them more in line with existing new building height limits. I fear that approval of this project with a 7 story building will be the precedent needed for other tall structures in the downtown area bounded by Alma, Lytton, Middlefield, and Hamilton.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Now we know who the staff and City Council members are representing. I for one would not have voted for any of the incumbent council members if the editorial had been published before the election. I am amazed that staff and council members have been so easily taken in by Mr. Arrillaga. He is really, really good at getting what he wants. I hope he doesn't get approval for this project for Stanford's benefit and little benefit for Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by syco-fancy
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Palo Alto is, in its local political structure, a small town in which the elected officials are just an incredibly unimpressive bunch in general. This is particularly visible in comparison to the international leaders who make up the electorate and the business community. The mismatch between the elected leaders (City Council and School Board) and the Stanford faculty, as well as the Google/Facebook/Sun/Apple etc executives and engineers is startling. This is more true of the School Board than the Council but the problem is more one of degree than kind. Elected officials (who like to think of themselves as a special "group of 400") want to be thought of as the leaders of their obvious intellectual and social and economic betters, which has led to all manner of sycophancy, pathetic desire to be thought of as in the elite of a town whose real elite are among the world's elite. It has led to the school board being owned by the Mungers and now by the Council selling itself cheaply to the Arriillagas. Now they can think of themselves as being "in the billionaire club" or at least allowed to sit at the billionaire big kid table. It's just sad. And even more sad that apparently Karen Holman was the only member of the council to even get the flash of an idea that there might be some issue that should be publicly discussed. No one else was discomfited with the private, closed-door fawning. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Seabolt
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

It would seem that city council has given more thought, and certainly more scrutiny to home owners who petitioned the city to remodel their homes. Some of these excessive home remodel exercises took years to resolve, and endless debate in city council chambers. Most likely that none of the home remodel projects had any impact on traffic, changed the city skyline, or impacted the city in any way, save for the neighbors immediately surrounding the home in question.

But, throw in millions of dollars, and a project so out of proportion to anything else in the city that will fundamentally change the character of the city, undoubtedly negatively impact traffic, require changes to other city services (police and fire), and it seems to sail through city hall like a greased pig. Keeping the public uninformed and largely out of the debate is a nice touch.

City council: you are supposed to be working for, and looking after the interest of, all citizens. The apparent urgency with which this project is moving through the Palo Alto process is alarming at best.

If this project got the scrutiny that a significant home remodel got, I'm not sure anyone would be complaining about the process, and any merits the project might have, would be clearer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I'm slightly unclear on the process: is there a step in the process where the project (or the "plan") is teed up for voters to approve before it progresses? If so, it might be interesting to mount a city council recall drive in parallel...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by homeless
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

this is interesting to read and follow so so far the editorial question was about long term economical impact. At this point is it Stanford vs. City of Palo Alto? Is land in question incorporated? Unincorporated ? How about forming 2 cities. City of Palo Alto and City of Stanford Township with their own city council . Very complicated. I wonder if vehicle dwellers could park in the underground parking , so far city council has been very up to date with laws not criminalizing economically disadvantaged. The long term economic impact should benefit everyone, not only the ones who will get future unforeseen income from the office buildings and art center in question. None of these plans make sense except for private investors, whoever they are. If the land is unincorporated would there be property tax contributions to the City of Palo Alto to enhance public schools and education? Maybe it's best to put all plans on hold until all facts and long term economic impacts are carefully analyzed and agreed to. What's the hurry here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Veritas
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2012 at 9:40 am

A corrupt process.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2012 at 11:07 am

Does Stanford own the land or the city. Was the land in question intended for a park when the train station was built. Nice to see drawings of buildings but if the land is not zoned for this type of use. Should we be talking about zoning and use changes. Just some really basic points.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

Garrett,

Stanford owns many parcels of land between El Camino Real and the railroad tracks. But the city/Stanford boundary is down El Camino although Caltrans has jurisdiction over El Camino because it is a state highway. I presume the boundary is the middle of the street. Maybe not.

Yes, Stanford does own the land on which MacArthur Park sits. Palo Alto paid $1.00 for MacArthur Park years ago. Also the University also owns the land UNDER PALY and the Sheraton, the Hyatt, the Red Cross Bldg., and El Camino Park. Not sure about the train station.I think Southern Pacific owns the tracks. By the way Stanford also owns the land under Gunn HS. But even though Stanford owns the land in question, the parcel is within the city limits of Palo Alto- like the shopping center and the hospital and the new one going up. At that point, Palo Alto's rules and oversight kick in. Stanford does not own the land under the PA Clinic and Town and Country. Get a AAA map of Palo Alto which should show the boundaries.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

> "Staff has been working, a lot, without direction from the council to do so."

None of the council members applied any direction or oversight during the process, but just followed Emslie et al like lemmings, going to meetings with Arrillaga and approving $286,000 of city funds to be spent on studies.

It's long been obvious that staff really runs the city.

> Elected officials (who like to think of themselves as a special "group of 400") want to be thought of as the leaders of their obvious intellectual and social and economic betters, which has led to all manner of sycophancy, pathetic desire to be thought of as in the elite of a town whose real elite are among the world's elite.

Too true! From a speech Gary gave to the Palo Alto Historical Association in May: "I can't think of another city, except of medieval Florence, that is as remarkable as this community," Fazzino said, citing Michelangelo, the Medicis and the Borgias as some of Florence's claims to fame. Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Asking who owns this property or has control of it's present day use. Did it become open space for some other reason, or some agreement that was made so long ago that it is now forgotten.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you for a Great editorial
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm


Garrett,

You need to distinguish land ownership from zoning. Irrespective of who owns the land, zoning is a City of Palo Alto issue. If you buy a home, you own the land, but are subject to zoning restrictions from the city. Sometimes you can't even cut down a tree on your own property due to certain tree rules, not sure they are called tree rules, but there are guidelines for everything.

The City can relax, bend, twist, and trade away the codes, for anyone it chooses, from what we are learning. In this case, the City has chosen to sponsor this project as it's own. It has a dedicated place on the city website. The owner is hardly mentioned- I think WE own this project!

Pat,

Now that we've gotten it off our chests that this is what it is, personal attacks on generally well meaning elected officials won't help anything. The easy playing of Palo Alto governance is what's scary. Developers are in assault mode, and what is to prevent his from happening again. Russian roulette with elected officials can't be the only option, and who has the time to babysit or vote on every project?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm

You can buy land with the idea to build, lease it out so one can build, or just sit on your land. The idea of zoning is to keep industry, and other non residential used away from living spaces. Then keep in mind density and height limits all of which can be changed either citywide, or spot zoning. Stanford is not entitled to build here. I agree personal attacks do not accomplish anything. Great Editoral.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm

> personal attacks on generally well meaning
> elected officials won't help anything.

Question: What makes all public officials "well meaning"? Certainly when one looks at the number of politicians (all elected) that are convicted of various crimes—it's difficult to make that claim.

And what happens when elected officials openly lie, or are so devious in their dealings with the public that it's hard not to accuse them of lying—how is that the behavior of a "well meaning" person?

Let's take this 27 University case. Would a "well meaning" elected official actually talk to the developer before the project has been officially presented as a project—based on the direction of the City Manager?

And what happens when a "well meaning" elected official turns out to be not very competent at his/her job? What happens when a "well meaning" public official manages to help bankrupt a City –like Vallejo, or Stockton, or San Bernardino?

What is a "long suffering" electorate supposed to do?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you for a Great editorial
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm



Wondering,


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 38 minutes ago

> personal attacks on generally well meaning

> elected officials won't help anything.

Question: What makes all public officials "well meaning"? Certainly when one looks at the number of politicians (all elected) that are convicted of various crimes—it's difficult to make that claim.

And what happens when elected officials openly lie, or are so devious in their dealings with the public that it's hard not to accuse them of lying—how is that the behavior of a "well meaning" person?

Let's take this 27 University case. Would a "well meaning" elected official actually talk to the developer before the project has been officially presented as a project—based on the direction of the City Manager?

And what happens when a "well meaning" elected official turns out to be not very competent at his/her job? What happens when a "well meaning" public official manages to help bankrupt a City –like Vallejo, or Stockton, or San Bernardino?

What is a "long suffering" electorate supposed to do?


Depends - I think our school board is well meaning. And I think there may be others out there. But my question was precisely that - is the Russian roulette with elected officials the only option?

For example - objectively - this whole thing should be grounds for firing every single person that was involved with this. Either for ineptitude or for loss of trust. There are apparently no safeguards in the current system, and we have to stay wondering what else these same people are up to 9-5.That's a lot of time, every day, year after year.

What are the specific rules for fast-tracking developers?

What are the rules about staff messing with zoning, what is off limits for them?

What line do they have to cross before one can say this is grounds for termination of your employment? There are no lines?

When a new president takes office, plenty of staff lose jobs. It's should not be heartbreaking to lose a public job - it should be required - to clean up from time to time. Are City jobs union? No matter what anyone does, city of palo alto staff has lifetime jobs?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Vallejo and Stockton which are closer to Palo Alto but offer some dark side of running a city. Both cities suffered badly in the housing market down, Stockton got the worst end. Much more foreclosures, then make matters worse their RDA went on a building spree. They paid public benefits, pensions like the money was endless. Vallejo suffered with housing melt down also they got hit when the Navy left, Wal Mart moved out and a shrinking tax base. Don't forget the rising costs of pensions and benefits. As I know people in both cities, was told at one time they looked like pretty well run places. That's what I was told.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

> No matter what anyone does, city of palo alto
> staff has lifetime jobs?

Yes and no. The City tends not to hire people on fixed-term contracts, so people can stay at their jobs for life. Turn-over tends to mitigate the effect of this "jobs-for-life" situation, however. Unfortunately, the City doesn't do a very good job of documenting the nitty-gritty of their employment data. So, unless someone is interested, and asks (formally, or informally), the data is generally not published, making comparisons with other Cities, and local private industry difficult to make.

City Managers seem to have about a six-seven-year tenure (of late). Given that there are so many various special interests trying to snuggle up to the public trough for funding, a City Manager is not going to be able to please everyone forever. Sooner-or-later, he/she will misstep, and some small incident will get blown out of proportion sufficiently to result in the City Manager's departure being the consequence of his/her failure to recognize where the deck chairs were arranged on the Titanic this week.

Director-level positions are where the real problem lies. These people sometimes get entrenched, and sooner-or-later, come to believe that they are the real government. Getting their people rotated more frequently would be in everyone's best interests.

People do get fired (disappeared) every once in a while, but the reasons for these dismissals are not generally known. Example—the Assistant City Manager who moved on to a County-level job after a number of problems saw her put on two-week suspension. In this case, the person in question moved on without actually receiving a "pink slip"—but it was clear she was not doing herself, or the City, any good by staying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sonny
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm

@Wondering:
Do you remember the utility scandal? The Utility Director and his Assistant Director along with several managers and Supervisors were allowed to head off into the sunset with their pensions and health insurance intact. That's how the disappearing act is done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Wondering,

You describe a very disjointed process of accountability, clearly ripe for the taking by anyone. The Director-level positions may be a place to start fixing the problem, but there are probably countless levels, where the CIty is at risk, like the appointment of commissioners and other people who are supposed to serve the interests of the City, but serve other interests first.

For example, I understand that a member of Palo Alto's architectural board is an employee of the applicant for 27 University, and is the same person who led a discussion in favor of breaking the 50 foot height. A non-resident of Palo Alto. Then, there is the council member appointing a Parks & Rec commissioner who is the person in charge of his re-election party.

These things are not public, you just catch them in one thread or another. How can anything be changed, when it's so difficult to even know how things work?!





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm

> The Utility Director and his Assistant Director along with several
> managers and Supervisors were allowed to head off into the sunset
> with their pensions and health insurance intact

Yes, long-time residents likely remember. After the City finished its "probe" of the situation, the Utility Director was "sort of" moved to a "staff" consultant position, because he wanted to stay long enough to accrue some additional months so that his pension benefit would be larger. The City Manager agreed to this. It took months before this guy was off the pay role. (He has since moved to another City's Utility, by the way). A couple of managers were allegedly fired, but they may have "lawyered up" and gotten their jobs back.

It would be very hard to find anything about this scandal on the City's web-site. If memory serves, our "well meaning" elected officials never once brought up this topic during City Council meetings. It's hard to find one word that can be attributed to any public official about these sorts of scandals here in Palo Alto.

(Note—they did managed to flay Lynn Johnson [former Police Chief] because of a casual comment she made that was sensationalized by a few non-residents--at the time that there were a number of street crimes that the Palo Alto Police were expected to investigate/stop.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

> I understand that a member of Palo Alto's architectural board
> is an employee of the applicant for 27 University

There was an short article published by the Weekly back in March stating that two B/C members resigned in order to work on 27 University. If there were to be any others, that would be a clear conflict-of-interest—except that these Boards/Commissions are not elected, so unless the City's individual Conflict-of-Interest statements include Board/Commission members—this may not be an "actionable" situation. One can only wonder how long the B/C members took to get around to resign? (According to the link below, one was contacted by the City Attorney that there was a conflict with her continued membership of this Board. Not clear if she would have recognized this conflict on her own.)

News - Friday, March 30, 2012
Around Town
Web Link

B/C Members Dan Garber and Heather Young stepped down, according to this article. Of course, why these two were appointed in the first place might make an interesting background article for this debacle.

> How can anything be changed, when it's so
> difficult to even know how things work?!

You're right. The first step is to find/elect good people to the Council. But anyone who watches Council races sees the same faces popping up year-after-year, and the same deep-pockets funding these business-as-usual types. Is there any surprise that Liz Kniss was re-elected to the Council? Is there any reason to believe that anything will change as long as she keeps getting elected by the various special interests that seem to have captured California—and are now bleeding it to death?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Wondering,

I don't know enough about Kniss, but I also hesitate to get into California and national politics on this issue. People are so divided politically, that it eventually gets into personal attacks. I maintain that is not helpful. Enough hothead stuff.

You go back to elected officials. That can't possibly be the only way to change governance. I don't think things will ever change with just the "right" politicians.

I'd rather see how can one change the job descriptions at City Hall? Are these published anywhere? Narrow the descriptions, fix them, tie accountability to them. It's obvious too many people have gone above and beyond their job description in this 27 university mess. Move the people out of their jobs if they are doing stuff they are not in charge of.

If the job descriptions show that everyone was doing something that is part of their job (i.e. to secretly meet with developers for one year to advance a project and make it the city's own, and promote it on the city website) - it's time to change the descriptions asap.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm



the ARB person I was referring to, I think her name is CLaire Pritchard. Also works for the applicant for 27 University?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm

> to secretly meet with developers for one year to advance a project

These sorts of goings-on are not unheard of here in Palo Alto. Back during the Charleston/Arastradero period—the so-called "Transportation Official" met with a group that was openly opposed to Rickey's Hyatt rebuilding their Hotel at the Intersection of Charlston/Arastradero/El Camino. And then there was a secret meeting some years back (documented by the Weekly, by the way) of the whole Planning&Transportation Commission and a Developer that came to the attention of the City Attorney—who stepped in and informed this little group that this sort of meeting was a "no-no" (seems it didn't occur to them on their own).

There are no doubt many other cases of secret meetings—but we only know about the ones that we find out about, one way or another.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you.....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Wondering,

from the link you had

"His architecture firm, Fergus Garber Young architects, is also working with the city on analyzing the new development's impacts. He isn't the only city official who is stepping down because of the project. Heather Young, a member of the Architectural Review Board, was also advised by the city attorney's office to step down, Planning Director Curtis Williams told the Weekly. Young, who chaired the board last year, is a partner in Garber's firm.


another link Web Link

"Board member Clare Malone Prichard was particularly enthusiastic about changing the height regulations. "I'm of a mind to not have a height limit anymore," she said, noting that the city's density regulations already limit building sizes. But she acknowledged that making the change would be a tall task. "There's a big fear in this town of tall buildings so that's not going to fly," she said

as per her LinkedIn

Clare Malone Prichard
Senior Project Architect/Project Manager at Fergus Garber Young Architects

the same firm, though there seems to be a a lot of Youngs and Farbers

No word that she has resigned


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

Here's a link to the Fergus Garber Young web-site:
Web Link

There is no mention of Clare Malone Prichard on the site.

There is a mention of a Clare Malone Prichard on the web-site of: STOECKER & NORTHWAY ARCHITECTS INC.

It's a shame that the City has not include the employers of the Boards/Commission members where conflicts-of-interest are likely, such as the Architectural Review Board, and the Planning & Transportation Commission.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm

You can have as many people working on 27 University that are related or not related to the planned project. City planners and their staff can study, advise, write reports, or whatever they do. The final word on the project will come from the city council, not from city staffers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm

The final word usually comes from the city staffers, with the council rubber stamping their recommendations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:32 pm

From Linkedin Web Link
Clare Malone Pritchard
CURRENT
Fergus Garber Young Architects, Acterra Business Environmental Awards, Palo Alto Architectural Review Board

Possibly her Linkedin page is not current or possibly the Fergus Garber Young site is not current.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Web Link
ARB Chair: Clare Malone Prichard


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 2,360 views

One night only: ‘Occupy the Farm’ screening in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,211 views

First Interview
By Sally Torbey | 10 comments | 1,427 views

Death with Dignity
By Chandrama Anderson | 3 comments | 1,404 views

Guest Post #2 from HSSV: Labradoodle Back on His Feet
By Cathy Kirkman | 3 comments | 477 views