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Original post made
by shopper, South of Midtown,
on May 18, 2010
...and we take more of Palo Alto's tax money again. Does anyone shop in Palo Alto any more? I mean really shop...Costco, Home depot, Best Buy, REI, Sears, Walmart, a real Safeway, OSH, Bed Bath, Target, Bevmo, Borders, Sports Authority. We even have a nicer downtown with new city buildings (City hall, Fire stations). What happen to Palo Alto??
Jim Keene looks at figures and explains the reason why Palo Alto's sales tax is because of the recession and people not buying $50 bottles of olive oil (Jim, there is no sales tax on olive oil). He sees revenues from property taxes bringing in more revenue than sales tax is due to the fact that we (the residents) are not buying stuff because of the recession.
What he is not admitting is that we (the residents) are not shopping in Palo Alto because we (the residents) want stuff and buying online or outside Palo Alto. We shop at Amazon, Costco, Target, WalMart, for our regular needs and big box stores for our big ticket items as well as auto malls for our cars.
Palo Alto's sales tax revenue could be much, much higher if we spent our money in Palo Alto. We seem to buy enough designer coffee but that doesn't bring in the big tax $$.
Jim, don't blame loss of sales tax revenue on us, we are still spending. Instead blame loss of sales tax revenue on the calibre of the stores in Palo Alto.
Is the problem that developers don't want to build bigger stores or that NIMBYs won't let them build bigger stores?
"Is the problem that developers don't want to build bigger stores or that NIMBYs won't let them build bigger stores?"
It is a combination of both--there are no large grocery stores in town because JJ&F must be "protected" from fair market competition--it is a "beloved" city institution (just like PACT is a "beloved" city institution so it gets $1 million a year while other youth activities get zip).
Also developers do not want to go through the hassle of trying to build in PA. They know the PA process and how things take years to get decided. Why waste their time--just build in Mountain View and Menlo Park and the residents of Palo alto will go there to shop. I do. I avoid shopping in Palo Alto if I can help it--if Palo Alto wants to have an anti-business stance, then my tax dollars will go to other cities.
Oh, more name calling NIMBY nonsense. Molly Stone's is right down California Avenue from JJ&F, there's the Midtown Safeway and Whole Foods downtown. Trader Joe's just opened at Town & Country. And, there are smaller markets along El Camino, at least in our neighborhood.
Because of the way sales taxes get allocated, the optimal location for any big box retail is always the edge of a city. The traffic and security issues get shared by the neighboring city, the big box stores get to draw from multiple cities, but only the host city gets the taxes. There was a nice article about this a few years ago in the SJ Mercury.
Joe, all of those supermarkets that you listed are under-sized. The proposed new Mountain View supermarket is 65,000 square feet, while most (or maybe all) Palo Alto supermarkets are under 20,000 square feet. A larger store can sell a much wider variety of products.
During the 1990s, Albertson's tried to build a normal sized supermarket in the Alma Plaza, but that was killed by NIMBYs. That was long before JJ&F was an issue.
Palo Alto residents are forced to spend their money out-of-town because NIMBYs won't let local stores sell people what they want to buy.
Some of us even prefer plastic bags. Some of us prefer the selection at Mountain View Safeway. Some of us resent the cavalier attitude of the Council toward customer convenience.
...but let's hope the jinx on that center stays away.
I just hope they will bring back the Menu Tree ;)
What's wrong with saying NIMBY? Do you really want them building some Santana Row monstrosity in the middle of Palo Alto and attracting hordes of shoppers from all over the Bay Area? Having all the huge stores just beyond the border in Mountain View is perfect: right next door to us but doesn't turn our town into some mass market retail parking lot.
If you're talking economic self-interest, sales tax revenue isn't everything. It's also important to preserve the pleasant, relatively quiet environment in our town that makes it such an attractive place to live. That's one of the big reasons your house is worth so much money.
Remember how we almost ran Frys out of town? Who needs them, huh?
I don't think anyone wants a Santana Row slapped right in the middle of town - after all we already have Stanford Shopping Centre and duplicating that anywhere doesn't make sense.
What would make sense is putting decent sized, useful type, stores in both Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza. Edgewood in particular is a good site for attracting out of town shoppers because of its proximity to the highway and Alma is already on a through town route.
The Bed, Bath and Beyond/REI stores were built in an area of Mountain View which was dormant and there is part of Palo Alto right beside it which could also be used for PA to get sales tax $$ from.
Planning doesn't have to turn our town into a monstrosity. It can still keep its character and improve facilities. Keeping its character doesn't mean no change, it means keeping neighborhoods vibrant and removing things that no longer work, replacing them with modern, useful retail in the places that make sense.
Those that live next door to shopping plazas knew that when they moved there and should expect change there. Keeping these areas vibrant can be done tastefully, extending our amenities for Palo Altans to use. We don't need to compete with Menlo Park or Mountain View - their residents have ample facilities in their own towns. We do however have to provide comparable amenities to prevent all our traffic going out of town which is what is presently happening.
The traffic is already happening as our residents leave town to buy their needs. Keeping them in town will reduce the traffic flow as we won't have so far to drive (or walk).
The NIMBYs aren't just killing the destination shopping centers that attract out-of-towners. The NIMBYs are killing the local supermarkets that the local people would be using. The forces your neighbors to drive out of town to do their grocery shopping, causing more traffic and more pollution.
ToldUSo, get out your checkbook and build the facilities you believe we need. Lots have tried it, to their sorrow. Palo Alto gets Trader Joe choices and boutique prices.
OK, ToldUSo, that sounds a lot more reasonable.
Am I the only one who likes the Midtown Safeway? Yes, it's much smaller than the Mountain View one, but the location is great, and it has a nice, friendly vibe. It's fine for staples and even has a lot of stuff you wouldn't expect in a smaller store.
Part of me would love University to look like Santana Row, lovely buildings, clean streets, beautiful flowers, great mix of stores, no homeless people or alleys that smell like bathrooms, a variety of restaurants, hotels, a movie theater, parking, office space and housing. We could work towards being walkable and our ABAG requirements if all the buildings on University were taller and had housing at the top. Newbury Street in Boston is similar.
It would also be great if there were more practical shopping in Palo Alto, think of Nob Hill in Mountain View, the things you buy at Target, etc. The Safeway in Midtown is fine for its size, but for a real grocery trip I need to go to Menlo Park or Mountain View. Same with toiletries, plants, etc.
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