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Palo Alto takes fresh look at downtown growth

Original post made on Jan 9, 2013

With commercial developments blooming and parking spots in short supply, Palo Alto officials will start laying the groundwork tonight for a major new study that will consider how much growth, if any, downtown can accommodate.

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Comments (18)

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

> A new report from Aaron Aknin, assistant planning director

Is there a link to this document, or is it not yet released to the public?

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Posted by longtimeresident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 11:59 am

What needs to be done is fairly simple:
1. All downtown business owners(with employees who need parking) should get a discounted monthly parking pass for the main garage.
2. All residents should be given free parking stickers to be placed on their cars (a maximum of 2 per house).
3. After two(2)months, ticket those cars that do not comply on a daily basis.
4. All future buildings must include appropriate parking on site.

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Posted by KEN AGAIN
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

What the RFP does not include is a reference to existing adopted Comprehensive Plan Themes, Goals and policies that very specifically say protect neighborhoods from the impacts of adjacent commercial intrusion - specifically parking with its associated traffic and pollution. Come look at my neighborhood - does it feel like a great place to live or a Costco Parking lot?

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

longtimeresident - thanks for the common sense! Unfortunately, too many people in positions of power in Palo Alto seem to believe that if you don't provide enough parking, people will take public transportation or bikes, when what really happens is they just park in residential areas.

Ken Again - actually, Professorville looks like a cross between a construction site and a downtown commercial area, certainly NOT a residential neighborhood. In addition to parking, its dangerous to drive down many of the streets since the trucks in particular block views.

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Posted by Nick Baldo
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

One can only hope that the city council lets downtown Palo Alto become a more interesting destination and a more inclusive market for those looking to rent or buy a place to live. Larger buildings are an opportunity that comes part in parcel with a strong economy, not some unmitigated evil. If you must worry about parking then just meter it as a previous commenter has suggested. As it is tons of people who live within a mile or so drive and cruise around for parking when it would be super easy to walk or bike. Not to mention those giant free garages that already exist...

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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm

The staff report is on the city's website. Go to agendas and then to Planning Commission's agenda for Jan 9. Eventually you will find the staff report, click on it. It is a very large document and a bit confusing. The document may open in the middle, so page up to the beginning.

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

A new report from Aaron Aknin, assistant planning director:
Web Link


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Posted by Renovate
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Downtown study "financed by contributions from either the developers of Lytton Gateway or from other developers looking to build downtown."

LOL the Downtown study financed by the developers.

I would give this report zero credibility.

Developers are holding out to build parking, in exchange for increases in building height or other zoning concessions. Developers and City Council won't stop these reports or studies until they tear upwards. Residents will be left with a blanket of cars and traffic downtown, trying to get into all those new parking spaces.

Not to mention the traffic cutting through the neighborhoods.

These reports should not be funded by developers, and they should consider all the surrounding neighborhoods.

As far as I'm concerned, downtown has reached the cap for new building or any new square footage.

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Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Please, we need parking permits for Downtown North. The situation is out of control.

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Posted by MGP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm

All new buildings downtown should be required to have a basement garage with enough parking for the size of the building. This notion that people will take the train to work in PA is a joke.
Most people drive to work. Why are city officials so beholden to developers? Something smells at City Hall and especially with some City Council members.

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Posted by Visitor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm

We recently tried to visit a patient in his last days at the Palo Alto Nursing Center and were unable to find a parking place anywhere nearby. How sad - downtown employees saturating the neighborhood. Downtown businesses must be required to provide adequate parking for all employees and customers.

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Posted by Kathleen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Am I missing something? How can a Down Town study "financed by either the developers of Lytton Gateway or other developers looking to build downtown" be free of developer's bias?

Most residents of Palo Alto are not beholden to developers and neither should the members of the Palo Alto City Council or their staff's be. A STUDY OF THIS NATURE SHOULD BE FINANCED BY THE CITY AND BE ENTIRELY INDEPENDENT AND FREE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The City needs to consider all the ramifications of going beyond current building size and height limits including increased traffic and parking problems, increased air pollution, and ABOVE ALL the danger of changing the ambience of our beautiful Palo Alto in a way that would be impossible to undo.

My husband and I believe that any and all future buildings allowed to be built in Palo Alto should be made to adhere strictly to the City's 50 ft. height limit ordinance voted in place by City residents some years ago and which never needed more than now. Any change to the 50ft limit and square footage limits should definitely be put before the voters of our town before any new construction deviating from the ordinance is allowed.

Our city is small scale and charming. Let's keep it that way!

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Look, the study is being done because of several developments and it is being funded in part by those who have the $ to pay for the study. Without their money, their would be no study at all. That doesn't mean it's biased. Data is data. How would a developer skew the data being gathered by an independent consultant. Maybe I am naive, but it seems awfully paranoid to think that the study has no merit because the funding was provided as part of the condition of this project?

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Posted by Renovate
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2013 at 1:33 am


"How would a developer skew the data being gathered by an independent consultant."

The report is not going to simply present data. It will likely have an agenda. And wouldn't straightforward data be readily available anyway? In this era of the internets, you would think the City of Palo Alto would not need someone to produce data.Unless you are regulated, you can use data to say anything.

Preview: The report will give data under estimating the problems with building growth. Data not beneficial to developers will not be seen, and the data that benefit the developers will be overemphasized.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

No straightforward data is not availalble already. Traffic flow, parking vacancies, etc all have to be gathered. That data gathering is where you need unbiased individuals. If the data is gathered with bias then the conclusions will be biased as well.

You seem to be saying that you don't trust the folks at city hall to be unbiased based on who is paying for the study. If that's the case, you have several choices.

a.) Run for city council and try to change the agenda from the inside. (Although some will see you as a biased individual no matter ow much you say you are an independent thinker.)
b.) Pay for the study yourself ( or crowdfund the study ) although this will be just as biased a study

So you see, there is no easy answer. Let's do the study, analze the findings and work together with city hall to make sure the results of the study are as reliable as any independent study can be--by the way, that's one reason why consultants are hired to do these that any of the stakeholders can;t skew the results.

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Posted by Renovate
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2013 at 7:12 am


The best data is the data that should already be readily available, and actually public. Failure to gather this data would definitely mean the City and Council are not doing their job.

1. Annual permits for office buildings. Stanford, Stanford Park, and non-Stanford. What was that number last year? two years ago, ten years ago. What is the annual rate of growth? Are these numbers in a box somewhere?

2. Number of employees for the companies operating in Palo Alto, with more than 50 employees. Growth estimates. Ask them for this data, they will not charge the city for this.

3. Retail growth, the City doesn't keep track?

4. Parking permits issued by the CIty, annual growth.

5. For much less than $100,000 you can get people to study traffic patterns. Technology to do this anyone? Invest in something that will give you data on an ongoing basis.

It's actually shocking that the City needs to pay for data they should be responsible for gathering. Isn't that why we already pay dozens of people salaried well over 100,000 each every year?

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Posted by Renovate
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2013 at 7:39 am


I forgot another source of data, utilities, and check this out,

The Best Open (City) Data Releases of 2012
Web Link

"Public transit in Atlanta. Earlier this year, we wrote about the handful of large metros in the U.S. that were still not opening up their GTFS files of public transit data to anyone other than Google. Atlanta was one of the notable holdouts. In October, however, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority finally published this feed, making it possible for developers anywhere – and not just Google Maps – to produce apps, maps, trip planners or other tools with the city’s real-time transit data.


The Best Metro Data Releases of 2011

Web Link

Palo Alto is in the stone age, looking to the 3-5 local office building developers to provide data and tips on how to run the city.

Like this comment
Posted by Renovate
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2013 at 7:44 am

The Best Open (City) Data Releases of 2012

correct link

Web Link

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