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New cars may occupy old sewage-plant site

Original post made on Nov 13, 2007

Palo Alto eyeing 14-acre site at the baylands end of San Antonio Road as a possible car-dealership location, after years of stalled and sometimes bitter talks with Los Altos over buying the site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 7:28 AM

Comments (22)

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Posted by No auto dealerships
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Nov 13, 2007 at 8:35 am

No auto dealerships should be allowed in the newly purchased land. Putting auto dealerships there will put too much traffic on the already overburdened San Antonio Road. If they intend to put auto dealerships there, then there has to be some traffic mitigations, i.e. like diverting much of the San Antonio Road traffic to Embarcadero Road (or past the homes of council members who favor putting auto dealerships on San Antonio Road).
Also something needs to be done about the condition of San ANtonio Road. Tree roots growing under the street have caused major problems.
Of course nothing can be done since trees are sacred in Palo Alto and I am sure that Canopy and their inside man Docktor will fight nay tree removal on San Antonio Road.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 13, 2007 at 9:16 am

Are we starting to see some movement on a revenue strategy with some tangible benefits to Palo Alto?

There are many issues around this land area which must be addressed, but if the City paid any amount of money merely to have it sit idle, there would be serious fiduciary questions raised about the deal, among other things.

I am considering making it a personal policy to not make any comments about the traffic implications of any idea that gets teed up in this town. My not so scientific survey of postings and opinions in our local media suggests that traffic concerns are consistently raised as a reason not to do "YOUR IDEA HERE."

I applaud City Council members who have been working on this very diligently for some time, and I encourage those who will be in office in the coming years move thoughtfully but gingerly to make this a "working asset" for Palo Alto, that helps to fund the many services and infrastructure needs that Palo Altans value. Car dealerships sound like a promising possiblity.


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Posted by John
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2007 at 9:36 am

Auto storage area - yes, auto dealership - marginal. The problem with that site for an automobile dealership is how do you get to it heading south on 101. The whole interchange at 101 and San Antonio would have to be rebuilt.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2007 at 9:37 am

Paul--people realize that "traffic concerns" get attention in this city from our city council, especially when one of the long-term members has made traffic issues her reason d'etre for years.
I agree that "too much traffic" is the excuse raised by neighborhood leaders and others to oppose everything and anything.
Clearly the city of PA needs to decide whether it wants increased tax revenue, thriving businesses and visitors to the city--if so all of these bring traffic to the city.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2007 at 10:07 am

I'd suggest you ask neighborhood leaders for their views on incorporating car dealership or storage space at the Los Altos Treatment Plant site, rather than making sweeping assertions based on the single post of an unknown individual. First: auto dealerships are not considered to be traffic generators. Second: you'll find, if you ask, that many residents and neighborhood leaders as individuals -- myself among them -- wholeheartedly support this use for the LATP site. We absolutely need the revenue.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2007 at 10:24 am

Karen--when will see some movement on Edgewood Plaza?
That can be rebuilt and be a source of tax revenue.


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Posted by Just-Say-No-To-PAN
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2007 at 10:37 am

> I'd suggest you ask neighborhood leaders for their views

Why? What do "neighborhood leaders" know that the rest of us don't? By-the-way, who elects "neighborhood leaders", anyway? Most seem to be self-appointed people with out a constituency. Better to leave these people out of pressing city business.

There is no pressing need to assign the use of this land at the moment. Certainly where to place new auto dealerships should be the domain of the auto dealers--not "neighborhood leaders".

Palo Alto should also consider selling the land at market rates, investing that money in capital projects instead.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2007 at 10:54 am

Because groceries are generally non-taxable, a new grocery store anchoring Edgewood Plaza wouldn't generate anywhere near the revenue that could be realized from a car dealership.

To research this question, I just spoke informally with Susan Barnes, CPA Economic Development, who shared non-confidential aggregate sales tax information from 2007. I share this to illustrate the relative scale of grocery as compared to car dealerships simply from a public revenue perspective.

First quarter 2007 sales tax from all food markets in Palo Alto - roughly $90,000.
First quarter sales tax from all new car sales in Palo Alto - roughly $424,000. From all used car sales here - roughly $32,000. So the total first quarter sales tax from car sales - $456,000.

An improved Edgewood Plaza would represent better services for the neighborhood, rather than a substantial source of sales tax. The last reported sales tax from Albertson's at Edgewood Plaza, published as part of the Redevelopment Agency report, was something like $35,000 for the entire year. Even if we can double that with a new store at Edgewood Plaza, it wouldn't represent nearly the revenue source that a car dealership at the LATP would. So I believe we need both!


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Posted by Just-Say-No-To-PAN
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:10 am

If the property were sold at a nominal $5M an acre, and the proceeds invested at 5%, the city would see about $3.5M a year in returns. If five acres were "wetlands", then the sale would bring in about $45M. In that case, the investment would yield the city about $2.25M a year.

Selling the land and investing the money would bring in far more revenue than any Auto Row would yield.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:17 am

Good idea - so, let's build both on that site, with a little housing mixed in. Put the architects, planners and developers to work, and let's see what combinations and permutations we can come up with.

Certainly, something like this, but less blod, might be possible. Throw in a small market - Piazza or JJ&f style, and some BMR housing, and voila!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:18 am

here's the link I left out
Web Link


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:25 am

To clarify: I intended to suggest an improved grocery to anchor Edgewood Plaza, and the LATP used for car dealership space.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:31 am

Karen--won't there be other stores in Edgewood Plaza? I guess we missed the boat with a Best Buy/Bed, Bath and Beyond, REI etc, cine they just opened at the edge of PA in Mountain View

I see Edgewood becoming another Alma Plaza-being dragged through the Palo Alto process, while the city council waits for everyone to get their two cents in before they finally make a decision.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:45 am

Edgewood Plaza totals only about 4 acres, not large enough to support a big-box retail development. (I believe the Best Buy, etc., retail development in Mountain View totals something like 17 acres.) This aside, though, Palo Alto clearly needs sales tax revenue. An auto dealership sounds like a very good use for the LATP site.


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Posted by Google Watcher
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:52 am

$45 Million? I wonder if Google would be interested in buying it for that much? They now own at least 3 other adjacent parcels. They must like the bay views. They are currently developing a childcare facility next to LATP. The project is going to ARB this week: Web Link


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Posted by Need waders
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:56 am

And it will soon be 100% "wet"-lands with the climate change impact of all the car sales!


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm

This is probably a zero-sum gain for PA-- it isnt likely that they will attract new dealerships to town, but perhaps they will keep an existing one from bolting. Lots of open questions:

- How much of the site can be developed? Likely less then 10 acres from the articles description (wetlands AND 2.5 acres of fill). My understanding is that 10 acres would be adequate for 1, but not 2, dealerships, but I dont claim to be an expert.

- Who will develop the property? They will expect a profit, of course, so the city will be subsidizing the project in some way (refer to Menlo Park site at Willow & Dumbarton and the whopping tax credits granted), either by contributing/discounting the land or other method.

-Will a dealer even go to that site? New dealerships either have freeway exposue or major synergy with other dealerships (ie- 'auto mall'). This site offers neither.

-Will the MP project strip demand to the point where there is lesser interest in this site?

If this is part of a bigger picture project, moving some municipal stuff from East Bayshore to SA, maybe this is a solid deal for PA (is there enough on East Bayshore to pull that off?). If not, I think its marginal at best, frankly.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2007 at 4:55 pm

"...the former plant contains wetlands needing restoration and it has some contamination. Palo Alto has estimated clean-up work will add $4.6 million to the $6.5 million purchase price..."

I'm confused; $4.6 million is not a small amount of money; the clean-up is likely substantial in scope. Here are my initial questions:

-- What is the nature of the contamination?; in other words, what are the constituents and what are the most-recently measured levels of such chemicals?

-- Does such contamination extend to groundwater?; if so, what is the plume boundary?; does such boundary extend off-site?

-- Who is the named responsible party or parties?; in other words, who has Santa Clara County or Regional Water Quality Control Board -- the agencies generally tasked with oversight here -- named as responsible for the clean-up?

-- What clean-up work has been done to date?

-- Why not hold Los Altos financially responsible for the clean-up of such contamination?

-- Is there some risk -- perhaps significant in size -- the cost of clean-up will exceed $4.6 million?

-- If so, should not the City of Los Altos bear some -- or all -- of such risk?


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2007 at 5:31 pm

confused, unless the city has acted in a grossly irresponsible manner, they likely have thoroughly investigated the contamination issue. The sale price clearly reflects the cleanup cost and the risk.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Let's see $6.5 million to buy the land, $4.6 million to clean up, is $11.1 million; that's 20% of the public safety building right there.
If the city tallied up all these miscellaneous expenditures over the last 4 - 5 years, they could have paid for at least half the public safety building.


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Posted by back to Edgewood
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2007 at 10:36 am

Can't something ever be resolved about Edgewood? This is a missed opportunity for *something* to benefit us economically not to mention an eyesore in our neighborhood for some time.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Our Green-talking town wants to sell cars that cause global warming because it wants more money. Green cash trumps Green talk every time.


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