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JJ&F Market renovation on hold

Original post made on Mar 26, 2013

While residents are still absorbing the shock that Miki's Farm Fresh Market will close just six months after it opened at the renovated Alma Plaza, plans to revitalize another neighborhood grocery store and shopping area are also on hold, city officials and the project architect have revealed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 9:58 AM

Comments (44)

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Posted by Contract Zoning
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

Maybe it's time to enact a moratorium on adopting any more Planned Community zone districts and a moratorium on granting any more Variances and Design Enhancement Exceptions until a new Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan is adopted by the City Council that replaces the 1998-2010 plan and a new Zoning Ordinance is adopted that complies with the new Plan. During the moratoriums, developers would still be able to propose developments that conform to the development standards of the exisitng general zone districts and property owners would still be able to apply for Conditional Use Permits that are allowed by each zone district's regulations.


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Posted by joanne
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

I disagree that if Miki's goes out of business, JJ's would also. Miki's is a very attractive store, but way overpriced and the products are too ambitious for the area.


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Posted by Cal
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:21 am

Miki's, come to College Terrace. I bet this neighborhood would be a better fit for Miki's than the Alma location.


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Posted by How-Many-Grocery-Stores-Can-Palo-Alto-Support?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

> Miki's, come to College Terrace. I bet this neighborhood
> would be a better fit for Miki's than the Alma location.

Are you sure? The Daily Post article on Miki's closing pointed out that the store would have had to bring in at least $9M a year to stay open.

Do the residents of College Terrace spend that kind of money on groceries?


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

Hard-earned and well-deserved affection for JJ&F was used to gain approval of a zoning change for this development. Predictably enough, JJ&F is gone and we not only don't have a developement that includes a grocery, we've got PC zoning and a blighted corner that includes a grocery in dire need of some tenant improvements. But why would a landlord spend TI dollars on something that might get torn down? This situation is messy all the way around. I hope someone in City Hall is taking notes so that this sort of thing doesn't continue to happen.


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Posted by GrandmaKK
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:35 am

I agree with Cal. Miki's would be perfect in College Terrace!!


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Posted by GrandmaKK
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:39 am

The comment on whether College Terrace residents could support a grocery like Miki's misses the point -- it's location would bring people from all over the area, not just CT.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:41 am

Snookered again.


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Posted by How-Many-Grocery-Stores-Can-Palo-Alto-Support?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm

> The comment on whether College Terrace residents could
> support a grocery like Miki's misses the point -- it's
> location would bring people from all over the area, not just CT.

Not likely. Who would drive from Sunnyvalue to shop in College Terrace? Safeway is opening a large store in the San Antonio Shopping Center soon. With Whole Foods, and a new, enlarged, Safeway at the San Antonio/El Camino corner--why would anyone come into Palo Alto for groceries?

From reading the comments about Miki's closing--a number of people pointed out that his pricing was too high. Not everyone is a multi-millionaire in this town, so the number of people needed to sustain that sort of store is larger than College Terrace.

By the way, did you shop at Miki's on Alma while it was open?


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Posted by Out of touch
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

J.J&F is another example of the City Council doing what the residents want them to do without studying the bottom line to see if a small store like that is economically feasible.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

If Miki's went where JJ&F is or was, I wouldn't know where that was - I live in Duveneck/St. Francis and while I knew Miki's (a little), I have never been in JJ&F or seen it to my knowledge, only read about it on this forum and in local newspapers. I don't see myself driving to College Terrace to grocery shop in any case.


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Posted by Not JJF
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I went to JJ&F once. When they overcharged me for an item, and I pointed it out, the checker cheekily responded, "Have a nice day."

I never went back and am not surprised they shut down.


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Posted by Evergreen Park Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Miki's would be a fantastic grocery if it could get the economy of scale they have up in Berkeley at the Bowl. It would take a better location than mid town. If it was at Stanford Shopping Center and had similar prices as in Berkeley I bet they could make it.

To bad everything business I frequented has been driven out of Stanford by their per foot costs.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm

To "Not JJ&F" - I think most anyone in the neighborhood could tell you who your cashier was that day! I wouldn't have liked that reply either, but it was not at all typical of the Garcia family.


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Posted by not a PA resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

JJ&F under it's original owners was widely known for very high quality meat & did attract shoppers from other towns. The current owners don't provide that.

Miki's was too small, too expensive, & too poorly situated vis a vis parking to appeal to a very large customer base. Even with free rent, they went broke in 6 months.

PA needs a big, centrally located, full-service supermarket. Is there one, except in Midtown or the Piazza in So. PA?
Both Whole Food & Mollie Stone are small, niche & expensive. WF caters to the organic crowd & MS has lots of Kosher foods. TJ is certainly not a full supermarket. It's nice to graze/browse Schaub's, Sigona's, & the farmers' market but sometimes efficiency is very important.

Figure out where to put a real supermarket - Safeway, Raleys-Nob Hill, Lucky, etc. Build it. When PA residents can stop driving to MP or MV to do basic shopping, they'll save time, money, & help cut down on El Camino & Alma traffic.




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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I admire Doria Summa. She speaks her mind, and doesn't get scared off the trail. Strong woman. Wish we had many more like her.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I second Craig L's comment about Doria Summa. Thank you for your statement, Craig.


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Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Miki's was in the worst possible location for a grocery store. It has one narrow ingress/egress; difficult maneuvering in a small parking lot (some stalls taken by residents as well); no car entrance to the neighborhood; an unattractive blocky design flush with the sidewalk; limited common household items; - in general the wrong store in the wrong place.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Not a pa resident-- midtown Safeway is not a big full service store. It is small and cramped. Ever been inside at dinner time with the checkout lines making the front impassable?


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Andronico's Market failed, too.
Why doesn't an affluent town like Palo Alto have a big, clean market?
Our grocery store situation is embarassing.


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Posted by Julie B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I did not find Miki's to be overpriced. In fact, they had items that sold for twice the price at Draegers. And merchandise was comparably priced too. They had organic produce for more, but had non-organic for much cheaper.

I think the big issues were:
1: Those town homes behind them were mostly unoccupied as were the apartments next door.
2. The parking was too tight and not enough of it.
3. The location was inconvenient. It was south of Oregon Expressway, and trying to get there from Embarcadero is tricky. I had to go north on Alma and go around the block to go south. There are train tracks on one side of Alma, also making it more difficult to get to.

In my opinion, the failure of the market was NOT because it was overpriced or the type of merchandise. It was a lousy location, and the developer had no business opening the market before they sold or leased the units nearby. I will miss the market.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Chris-- because for years,jj&f needed protection from competition ( so much for the free market) . Plus given the hell luckys/ albertsons was put through trying to build a rage store at alma plaza, no major chain would want to deal with the palo alto process


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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

If you compared prices at Miki's to those at the Mountain View Sprouts, there is no contest: Sprouts offers Wholefoods quality at affordable prices. Miki's couldn't get their web presence together, posting late and out-of-date ads.
I wonder if any grocery can make it sandwiched between Safeway, Wholefoods, and Sprouts to the North, Safeway and Piazza's in Mid-Town, Trader Joe's in Town and Country, plus Wholefoods downtown.
Maybe a 7-11 with a good selection of beer and wine plus fresh produce?


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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Palo Alto limits the size of grocery stores permitted with one result being reduced product options. Our smaller stores often don't carry the range of products (low sodium, for example) available in Mountain View or Menlo Park. When I shop elsewhere, it means Palo Alto also misses out on the sales tax revenue from my taxable purchases.

I opted not to shop often at Miki's as the dark ceilings made for poor lighting and it was hard to read labels.


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Posted by Notan issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Out of touch pretty well describes the situation regarding jj&f. The demands of a certain neighborhood, who are used to getting what they want from the city, has ultimately lead us to be lacking in any large, decent shopping n palo alto.


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Posted by cheeselover
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I'd only been to Miki's once. They had an excellent cheese department. The only one around that encouraged you to taste before you buy and cut your cheese to order. Other stores will do that but it doesn't seem to be encouraged. I will miss having a real cheese supplier around. It surprises me that an area that claims to be so sophisticated can't support a real cheese store.


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Posted by Disillusioned
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Julie B. - you summarized it perfectly.


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Posted by JJ&Fs was yucky
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:44 pm

The last time I went to JJ&Fs it was disgustingly dirty, the floors were sticky. Mostly what was sold there was pre-packaged items. It just did not offer anything worth buying. It seemed more of a QUICK-STOP for Stanford students, because those were the only people in there. When it was under the original ownership, it was clean and had an excellent meat dept. People from out of the area went there for meats. Certainly can't say that now. it may as well remain closed for good, it was so useless recently.

Miki's is not a comparable story. The quality and cleanliness were there. But the developer said that the city required him to build a grocery store to serve the 37-home development behind it. They are building those homes as they sell them, and they have sold precious few. They are cheaply built, three narrow stories on less than 2000 sf parcels. living area on the bottom floor, kitchen and dining on the second floor, bedrooms on the third. Not practical, especially with extremely steep and narrow staircases. They are an arm's length apart, and all the bathroom/bedroom windows line up with those of the neighboring houses. Cabinets, flooring, and wall coverings cost extra, and yet the base prices are way too high considering what you do not get, and the rotten location of two busy streets and the RR tracks. No One in their right mind wants them. So Miki's customer base never arrived! It may not arrive for years yet!

The fact is, at least JJ&Fs was in a good location for many people. Miki's was in a good location for no one except some residents who do not exist yet. And that location has always been cursed.....no business that has been there has ever done well historically.
All the dynamics are wrong; it has already been stated that the store was too small, too dark, had too little parking, had very, very tight parking, and was overpriced. Very little about it was desirable, except the service.

RIP Miki's, and good riddance JJ&Fs.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:08 pm

@not a PA resident - The Los Altos Whole Foods is 50,000 sf, has 275 parking spots and employs 200 people. Not exactly small or niche. That's what JJ&F and Miki's are trying to compete with. PA would be better off with one big store than a bunch of small ones that are doomed.


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Posted by Where-Supermarkets-Are-Concerned--Bigger-Is-Better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

> Palo Alto limits the size of grocery stores
> permitted with one result being reduced product options.

This is not true. What is true is that on a small section of El Camino, fronting the Barron Park residention section, there was a zoning created many years ago that restricted commerical/retail stores to be no more than 20,000 sq. ft. (If memory serves, this zoning was designated CN). The ordinance, and its size restrictions,do no apply to any other areas of Palo Alto.

As it turns out, supermarkets were smaller in the past, so that their footprints tended to be around 20K sq. ft. became common place--at the choice of the retailers, not the mandate of the City.

This myth of the 20K limit has been very popular with Midtown residents.


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Posted by not a resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

@Mr Recycle - My comments were specific to Palo Alto, not Los Altos. WF in LA is big but still awkward parking ingress. Try getting into the driveway when the bus stop next to the curb cut is occupied.

I said Palo Alto needs a big, full service supermarket. We agree on that. JJ&F under the Garcia ownership never tried to compete with the big boys. The high quality meat & friendly help were the draws.

My point is that it's absurd for a town-wanting-to-be-a-city not to have a major market. The days when villagers could walk or bike from one specialty baker/greengrocer/butcher/dry goods proprietor to another are long gone. The small markets work when their patrons are in the immediate vicinity & provisioning very small households or specialty items. Familles of 4 or 5, or more, need more choices, better selections, and shouldn't have to go to another town to meet these needs.

I'll consider Palo Alto a city when it has a supermarket.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

We need Milk Pail or ethnic grocery stores. That's where many Palo Altans drive to shop.


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Posted by Yay Milk Pail
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Another Milk Pail-type store would be great, but neither the JJ&Fs or Miki's location are big enough. And the Miki's location would be a death-blow. Nothing should go in that location until all the houses in that horrid development are filled. Otherwise, there would be no clientele. Even so, the residents, after buying one of those houses, would probably be to broke to shop there. Or wish to shop at an Asian Grocery, which is probably the only thing that would succeed there.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

@not a resident - right, I think I mostly agree with you. I just think the city planners can't keep ignoring the big box competition that sits on every border. If we are going to take the traffic penalty, and lose the dollars anyway, we might as well have those stores inside the city and reap some of the benefit.


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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm

The Milk Pail is a very nice store and I shop there occasionally. However, it exists because of the retail ecosystem surrounding it. Customers like having a variety of stores offering similar products in a given area.

With the variety of food stores that San Antonio will soon have, and with Costco and Whole Foods nearby, it will be the go-to place for food shopping in the area.

It will be very difficult to impossible to attract a large store anyplace in Palo Alto. The last chance for such a store was Alma Plaza, driven out by neighbors. Now we have "Alma Village" instead.

We can hope that the neighbors shop at the new Edgewood grocery, provided the city will allow the builder to actually finish. People asked for an Eichler-style shopping center, let's see if they shop there!


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Posted by Annet
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

I agree with Julie B.:
"...the failure of the market was NOT because it was overpriced or the type of merchandise. It was a lousy location, and the developer had no business opening the market before they sold or leased the units nearby."
Here's what was special about Miki's:
Miki's had excellent produce for VERY reasonable prices, such as whole stalks of brussels sprouts for 1.99. I am not of Asian heritage, however, the market did cater to Asian dishes through its meat offerings (i.e. chicken feet) and selection of about 30 different mushrooms. I liked the incorporation of local diversity in foods. The bakery was the best in town - really. I'm surprised no one has mentioned that yet. The parking wasn't that bad - much wider passing than either Whole Foods, for example, and ample underground parking.
I will REALLy miss Miki's. For BP residents, the location was a dream. I could pop over to Miki's in half the time it takes me to go to the next nearest markets, Piazza's (super pricey) or Safeway Los Altos (limited selection of quality produce).
Miki's was a family-owned neighborhood market that served, primarily South PA. I am and very saddened at the loss of something truly special in our midst.


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Posted by Definitely Poor Location
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Five to ten percent of my weekly groceries came from Miki's. As a mother of three, the bulk of my grocery purchases (75%) come from Costco (MV) and Safeway (PA), where they carry staples all in one location. For the rest of my groceries, I buy from Piazza's (easy to get to and park, lots of organic items, great butchers), Ranch 99 (Asian items that you can't find elsewhere), and Miki's (local focus, supremely fresh and delicious produce, interesting products, and some great monthly deals).

Miki carried the freshest bok choy I had ever eaten - even better than what I can find at the farmer's market and far superior than the wilted ones you see at Ranch 99.

Miki's was also where my kids sampled sweet limes/lemons and dragonfruit for the first time. These items were added to our rotation when shopping at Miki's.

I didn't find the service particularly friendly. Sure, folks were around the answer questions and check out our purchases, but no one ever took the intiative to approach us.

As much as I will miss Miki's, I will not miss the location. The turn into Alma just terrified me. I was always afraid that I would either get rear-ended by the driver behind me or cause a chain-reaction accident when I slowed to turn into the parking lot.

Another drawback was the terrible website and lack of advertising. As one of the posters above said, having someone distribute flyers might have helped. It works for me!

Miki, if possible, please give us Palo Altans one more chance. As you can see, you have already left an emotional footprint in the community. Any other location in Palo Alto would be better than the old Alma Plaza site.

We wish you, your wife, and your staff the very best and thank you for your wonderful contributions to the city. We are sorry for what has happened.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

"Do the residents of College Terrace spend that kind of money on groceries?"

Presumably residents of other neighbors would also shop there. I know we Stanfordites spend a pretty penny at the grocery store!


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Posted by Chris, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Andronico's Market failed, too.

Why doesn't an affluent town like Palo Alto have a big, clean market?

Our grocery store situation is embarassing.
_______________
Chris,
You said it! And I can't tell you how much I dearly miss Andronico's. Such a beautiful store with everything I needed, wonderful wine selection, great location, abundant parking, lovely employees..... It's a mystery to me why more people didn't shop there.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Nora Charles-- you are so right about our grocery situation. Palo alto does not believe n the free market-- certain grocery stores need "protection" .
Anyway, the ship has sailed--- national chains do not want to deal with palo alto and it's endless process, where 3 or 4 people can derail an entire project. Safeway builds big stores on our borders and the palo alto shoppers flock there. I am surprised they haven't driven frays out of town yet.


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Posted by Employee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Thank you, Thank you , Thank you , For being so supportive of Miki's. My apologies to the lady who we didn't approach and assist you and your family. As I continue obsessively reading all the sites and blogs Re: Miki's - It has definitely come to my attention that we are loosing all our small market's that are to be used by our communities. Although Milk Pail seems to come up in many many forums, it continues to boggle me that no one realizes that Milk Pail will be demolished, Mt. View city council has agreed to the developer of the new San Antonio Center. Phase two consist of a 8 screen movie theatre, luxury hotel and New Mall that will have more useless shops. Not too mention the new 300 family housing development that you can't miss on San Antonio Road. My opinion is that most likely the city will also allow more housing on the old site of the old Safeway that will also be torn down. So how will the new Safeway, Whole foods accommodate all of the existing Mt.view shoppers and some of the palo alto shoppers and the additional 300 hundred new families. Remember no Miki's, no Milk Pail, no JJ&F. I'm just wondering, what we are going to do... I live here too and I can fore see the issue getting much much worse.


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Posted by barn
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2013 at 12:18 am

Posted by Notan issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Out of touch pretty well describes the situation regarding jj&f. The demands of a certain neighborhood, who are used to getting what they want from the city, has ultimately lead us to be lacking in any large, decent shopping n palo alto.


Dear Not an Issue,

led, not lead. Let me guess...PAUSD grad? the district where teachers do not correct this error? While we're learning to problem-solve, how about a little learning to bolster credibility?


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2013 at 6:49 am

Barn -- no such word as " grad" . Use large "T" to start new sentence.
On these forums typos does not equal lack of credibility.


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Posted by Old Teacher
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Now, class....barn and Not an issue just stop it!


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