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California Avenue redesign evolves; opposition remains

Original post made on Jul 12, 2012

Wider sidewalks, new plazas and a scattering of benches, trees and other streetscape amenities are the latest components in Palo Alto's ambitious and controversial proposal to transform California Avenue into a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare. ==B Related story:==
• [Web Link City hopes to break ground on California Avenue in fall 2013]
• [Web Link California Avenue redesign stalled by lawsuits]
• [Web Link VIDEO: Changes coming to California Avenue]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 10:09 PM

Comments (41)

Posted by Jean, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 7:42 am

The plan, including the lane reductions, sounds lovely and is much needed. Hoping this moves forward swiftly and smoothly!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

It's about time. I hope opponents consider just how much more successful Castro became when it improved, including reducing traffic lanes to improve pedestrian experience. You want customers to stroll and stay, not drive by. If anything, Castro is more of a through street yet it didnt suffer from lane reduction, because the improvements made it a desirable place to be. There are two side streets on either side of CA Ave where most of the parking s anyway, and many nice lanes leading onto CA Ave.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

I wish people would stop comparing Cal Ave to Castro. They are so very different.

Cal Ave is a street to nowhere other than a train station. I don't drive it because I want to park in the side lots and that's where I drive.

Castro is not only a through street, but it crosses the Caltrain tracks which makes it an important through street. I used it yesterday because it was the best option to get me across the tracks onto ECR - but it was a terrible choice. I spend half my concentration on looking at the arrows to find out which lane I need to be in and the other half looking for pedestrians, jay walkers, kerb crawlers looking for parking spaces (meaning they wait to allow someone to get out so that they can get in) and I always wish there was a better route.

I have no opinion on whether Cal Ave would be better or not with the new lane design because I know I will never drive it. I walk it a lot and I have never been hit or almost hit by a car because I keep my eyes open when I cross the streetand only cross when it is safe - always!


Posted by Evergreen Park Neighbor, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

The fact that Castro is a through street and California, and the fact that a narrower Castro is SO MUCH NICER AND MORE VIBRANT than the old four lane Castro makes the case for narrowing California avenue so much more compelling.

I, for one, love going to Castro. It's a little hectic to drive than it used to in but having driven in NYC, Toronto, and SF a lot, it's a piece of cake. On the other hand, traffic is slower and feels alot safer.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

I'm greatly encouraged the city has found the will to move ahead on this long overdue set of improvements. Maintaining status quo of the outmoded, uninviting current Cal Ave is a recipe for an inevitable death of that area.

Cal Ave can be a centrally located resource for the entire city, and city leaders should invest aggressively in making it the same kind of vibrant commercial center that Mountain View enjoys on Castro Street.

Who knows? If Cal Ave becomes an exciting magnet for shopping, dining and services, the competition might stimulate the downtown to make better choices about its own future.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

At some point it would be nice if the merchants would just fess up and say that they don't want to risk any loss of business during construction...that is their highest concern. And, put in a nice non-confrontational manner, if the city or county could provide some sort of "construction revenue remedy" --- I would bet most of the disputes from people like Shuchat and Cal Paints would drop off the radar.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Great -- about time!!

Merchants: put a sock in it. You'll more than make up for the lost business with increased traffic (read: $$) afterwards.

Now is a good time to do this with construction prices still reasonable and interest rates low.

Very positive news.


Posted by Frustrated Cal Ave Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

Why do Weekly reporters keep saying this lane reduction from 4 to 2 lanes is a NEW change to the proposal? It is not new. 2 lanes has been on the table for seven years.

Lane reduction came about when the City and California Ave. board of directors, brought it as a "concept" to council. It was approved by all stakeholders back in 2006, when the first grant was sought by the city. There were no objections to it then at all.

That is a matter of record. I looked it up. But the Weekly has not reported this. Why? The Weekly is on Cambridge. Do they really not know the two lanes are not a new development? Do they not read their own blogs? Fred Balin brought this to our attention, several months ago. He provided a useful link that I was able to view.

In 2009, there was a stakeholders meeting attended by everyone in the district (business and residents)as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Again, the city was told by everyone at that meeting that lanes should be reduced from 4 to 2.

This is a matter of record too. I saw the finalized notes for that online, but I forgot where I first learned of it. Maybe Fred has that link too?

Why is this not in the Weekly reports? The Concept Plan and the Comprehensive Plan were both consistent, from 2006-2009, when work was to begin. Lane reductions are not new.


Posted by Frustrated Cal Ave Neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

The following also came from blogs, but it sounds accurate:

Terry Shucat was Chairman of the California Ave. Streetscape group, working with another merchant, and the city. Those two merchants first brought their 2-lane idea to the other merchant board members, where it was unanimously accepted, and then brought to council.

So I don't know why Terry now says it sounds good on paper, but not in real life. He has never explained why his opinion went 180 degrees, from what he suggested to everyone else in 2006.

I live by California Avenue. I am not looking forward to a "trial".
It will look like there is road construction going on. People will get confused. It will look like when all that Utility work was done to the street a few years ago, between the orange cones and the potholes.

Although I mostly drive on streets other than California Avenue, the back up on El Camino Real (during the trial) will not be pretty. I fear I will be caught in traffic, just from confusion of other drivers.

From what I understand, most merchants also do not drive California Ave. to get to work either, they take the side streets too. So how will they know if the trial is a success or not? They'll be caught in traffic they created, and then they'll yell that the 2 lanes won't work.

Why is it that city paid experts are being ignored? ALL OF THEM. Ignored. I do not understand how merchants can say they have not been heard, when this has been in the news for seven years. Granted, the Weekly has called the 2-lane design "a new development" for the past two years. Is it because the businesses advertise?

City workers should whine and gripe. They give their lives learning what works and what won't work in Urban Design, then people that haven't given a rats ass about this project are heeded. Do residents pay taxes to take the advice of a merchant group?

Council: you're supposed to represent ALL of Palo Alto, doing what's best for the majority.

Good thing the judge saw through it, so the project can go forward, eventually. VTA grant or no VTA grant, California Ave. was to be 2 lanes, one in each direction. Even I know this. A trial will be a mess. The city is correct.


Posted by m2, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I'm glad the planning commission favors trial of the two-lane configuration and I hope council goes along with it. The fact that the trial got the commission's support should have been the headline on this story. (Then again, the Weekly has always been against the merchants on Cal Avenue, calling them a "handful" and other terms to diminish their signficance, so I guess I can see why you're downplaying the trial.)


Posted by AR, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Franklin was wrong. He should have said, Death, Taxes, and the Palo Alto process. Am also amused to read these words: "absolutely lovely compared to what is there now." No kidding - most anything would be. The tree removal left Cal Ave looking barren and woeful. Fleeting thought: could that have been deliberate?


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

It appears that the merchants - those who testified last night and show up at the meetings, have dug in their heals and oppose the city's plans - suing the city, and using every opportunity to fight the proposal.

It's very disappointing - because the changes will enliven the district. Isn't that what the merchants 'should' want?


Posted by YIMBY, a resident of University South
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

SORRY 'bout that - they dug in their heels!


Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

m2 is right about the bias of the weekly vs The Merc which just yesterday reported that this project is ALREADY $200,000 over budget.

Yea, yea bad bad merchants for trying to survive in this tough economy. Can't wait to see all the little old ladies riding their weekly grocery bags home on their bikes.

I have an errand to run on Cal Ave. but I have to PLAN a 3-mile trip to Country Sun to avoid the lunch hour traffic. Too bad the place is so dead.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

From my perspective, the biggest part of this story can be seen in Commission Vice Chair Susan Fineberg's quote: "We're not revisiting that decision tonight but I think we're still left with the impact of the public that doesn't believe what we're saying," Fineberg said, referring to the decision to shift the street to two lanes. "That's not a good position for the city to be in and I think we have to work to resolve that."

I don't think the City even faintly understands how things went so very wrong, and because Staff is too invested in the issue, it would be very difficult for them produce an analysis representing the many perspectives involved.

Because what happened with CalAve is hardly unique, but simply one example (the Arastradero Restriping trial is another current one), understanding the history could be a valuable "lessons-learned" for the City and the community.

These were the types of investigations that were traditionally an important part of what newspapers did (hint, hint, hint).


Posted by Just finish the street., a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

@M2 - Easy for you to approve of a trial. You don't have to drive there every day, living in Barron Park.

We go to California Ave. only about three times a week. Even then, I'm not looking forward to obstruction in traffic flow. It will be like drivers stopping for nothing, traffic builds and then disperses, out of the blue, all caused just by rubber neckers, and over nothing.

I pity people living there. It will be like a manufactured traffic jam, so some merchants can feel good about being heard. How many businesses are there in that district anyway? Even if 55 signed a petition, is that out of what, 600? That's nothing.

I'm surprised not more residents are voicing their support for the design as presented. Lots of residents there support the plan, including the two lanes. Improvements will add to home values. Maybe most have emailed council.

Having a trial followed by real construction will be like the street being off limits to flowing traffic for twice as long as needed. Merchants asking for a trial are shooting themselves in the foot. Council may see that when they vote. Staff clearly understands.


Posted by anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I'm going to refresh you all by making a different sort of complaint: What is it that every time the City does a new project, they put in a water feature? Why do we continue to pour/spray/whatever our precious water into the desert air? Think of the evaporation rate. Even if the water is pumped around and re/sprayed, we will still lose a lot of water. Why not just put in nice trees and shrubs? They would offer some welcome shade, which would take some water, but not as much as throwing it around from a water feature.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm

"A trial, however, could be problematic, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez said." He claimed that it wouldn't show the aesthetic results of the remodeling plan.

So what? Those results could be imagined. What a trial would show is how much safer it would or would not be with Cal Ave. reduced to a total of 2 lanes. The trial would focus on traffic flow, on vehicles leaving parking spots with cyclists in the one traffic lane each direction, and on pedestrian safety--increased, or worsened?

We need a trial for a few days. Several years ago Jaime Rodriguez's predecessor had a plan to reduce Middlefield Road to one lane each direction, from Oregon Expressway through Midtown Palo Alto. When a trial was done, it was very informative, and it saved a lot of unnecessary taxpayer expense--it showed that the idea was disastrous for traffic flow.

I think that Mr. Rodriguez is putting aesthetics before any demonstrated need for change. There are other more important ways for Palo Alto to spend the $500,000 of local money that it's assigning to the Cal. Ave. remodeling project. We shouldn't forget that the street is already bustling, and it achieved this without the interference of City Hall. The new trees are growing, the property owners could repaint their buildings, and the fountain near the train station could be renovated, not replaced with "world-class" art that the public in fact turned down as an option, but were ignored about (remember that ballot?).

Cal. Ave ain't broke, and it doesn't need any fixing beyond a new layer of asphalt.


Posted by pbisis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I wish I knew who was pushing this plan through and what they have to gain. To me it's madness to say that a reduction in lanes to 2 instead of four is going to make the area more attractive to shoppers. I already avoid going there because of traffic problems. I agree more large trees and shrubbery would nice at the existing plaza. But forget the rest of it, it's a big waste of our resources.

And I agree with the last poster that a "water feature" is environmentally unsound. The fact that the water is reused doesn't effect the enormous amount loss to evaporation.


Posted by Water feature, a resident of Southgate
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

"Water feature" is a recent mantra of developers. Not a calming fountain, but a water feature. See the awful example at Lytton Plaza. Noisy, aggressive "water feature." People have to shout above it to be heard.


Posted by resident, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The Planning and Transportation Commission should stop ruining Palo Alto by removing lanes and concentrate on repairing existing the roads!

Calif Ave is great the way it is! It is easy to get in and out due to two lanes on both directions, plus parking on both sides! People no longer want to go to University Ave due to the single, congested lane!

Calif Ave businesses: please help your patrons oppose this idiotic plan to reduce lanes on California Ave - how can we get the city to stop this plan and use the Planning and Transportation Commission funds for something that is not detrimental to the city (like repaving neighborhood streets)?


Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm

@jardins
Cal Ave is a damp & needs to be dealt with


Posted by Enjoying the comments, a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Have some of you people that think California Avenue is fine, been there in the last 10 years? My husband works there. It needs help.

About the noise fountains make, there was an outcry a few years ago, where some residents living across town wanted big splashy water for a new fountain, one with loud sounds, where kids can put soap (ruining the pump). A relaxing and classy water feature sounds ideal.
Putting water back into the atmosphere is a good thing.


Posted by What-Is-The-Rain-Cycle-Anyway?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm

> Putting water back into the atmosphere is a good thing.

That's what happens when water from the Water Quality plant is dumped into the bay. That's what happens when you water your lawn. That's what happens with it rains.

The atmosphere does not need high-priced Hetch Hetchy Water when it can use all of these other sources, which it has access to without help from a California Ave. fountain.


Posted by Tb, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

The poster named "residents" comment on University Ave. reminds me of Yogi Berra's: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded"


Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm

while you are at it
please rename the street back to its original name:
Lincoln Ave.


Posted by inquiring mind, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm

@ MadamPresident
Calif Ave is not damp. The only time I've seen it wet is when it's raining.

@ paloaltotreewatch
When was it called Lincoln Ave? And then what was Lincoln Ave called when Calif Ave was called Lincoln Ave?


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I'm in favor of it. What's all the whining about traffic? There's plenty of off-street parking.


Posted by PA Driver, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2012 at 12:47 am

Wait a minute. Do I understand correctly from this article that Cal. Ave. is being reduced to one lane in each direction AND cars will have to share that one lane with bikes? They're getting rid of two entire lanes and they couldn't include a bike lane in the plan?? Traffic is going to slow to an absolute crawl at commute times, with bikers and cars both going to or from Caltrain. And the traffic through nearby neighborhoods will probably take a big jump.

In spite of how much the powers-that-be want to pry those of us still driving out of our cars, some of us are just never going to get to Cal. Ave. by biking or walking. Maybe we're coming from too far away (or does the city only want "neighborhood" shoppers?). Maybe we're doing business on Cal. Ave. as part of an errand run to a number of places. Maybe we have physical, or logistical, or time limitations. Maybe all of the above.

I wonder how many people will be attracted by the "improvements" to the Cal. Ave. area in this plan, versus how many will be discouraged from going there as often.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2012 at 8:17 am

The one remaining lane will be quite wide and should be safe for bikes and cars to share, either side-by-side or one after the other. Putting a bike lane next to diagonal parking would be very irresponsible. Bicyclists need to stay well clear of parked cars in that case. This was discussed extensively as the plan developed.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2012 at 10:58 am

One lane? And the cars pulling out of parking spaces of course won't cause any traffic delay. People trying to parallel park won't cause any delay either.

Well, look on the bright side: at least they got rid of BACK-IN parking.

Want to start a betting pool on A) Cost over-runs for this boondoggle, B) how many more empty storefronts we'll see, and C) how much our utility rates will rise to cover this nonsense.

Re empty stores, Bistro Elan closed moved out because rents were too high. Their site and the empty storefront next to it sure are ugly. What's the city doing about the high rents?


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

"What's the city doing about the high rents?"

Hopefully nothing. It's not the city's business to dictate rents.


Posted by Please report FACTS, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Two lanes are not new. This Streetscape (including the two lanes) has been the only plan since 2006.

Two lanes were in the original district Concept Plan and documented in the City Comprehensive Plan too. Informed citizens know this.

Palo Alto Weekly: put on your reporter's hat, please. You look ill-informed. For a newspaper, that is not good.


Posted by Safer streets are people streets, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Yay!!! Two lanes, here we come!


Posted by C. M. Long, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I am a new resident just South of California Avenue. I enjoy the Farmer's Market on Sundays. The booths are in the street and the sidewalks still passable for those not going to the market. Will we have to dodge around booths when they must use the sidewalk? The 4 lane street is usually quite full of people at the market. Or will we lose the Farmer's Market--a great asset to the neighborhood and to Palo Alto.
I walk in the neighborhood as well as sometimes driving down California Avenue and see no merit in reducing it to two lanes. I feel quite safe in crossing the street now and would not look forward to more traffic congestion caused by having only two lanes.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

To C. M. Long - I'm glad you are enjoying the Farmer's Market. It was a big hit, from Day One. The Streetscape was designed to *incorporate* the market, not to reduce or eliminate it. The idea of the Streetscape was to address pedestrian safety making the street more walker-friendly, 24/7, including at the market.

Two lanes was the plan since 2006, when the design "in concept", was finished. I'll include details for you below – since you're new, and you do not know the story. The Weekly knows what I'm sharing, but they're not reporting it. I agree w/ Doug Moran's comment where he suggested they research and wrote, "Hint, hint, hint…"
I think when someone asks a question as you did, it should be answered, so this post is just to you, and anyone else that's interested. It's OLD news to many.

BTW, the Market was brought to the community by two citizen volunteers:
Sanford Forte, who lived in Evergreen & was a CAADA director then (California Avenue Area Development Association, an organization that represented district businesses from 1957-2010) found the producer and got the ball rolling with the city and CAADA, seeing that the market was held on Sunday, an otherwise sleepy time for California Ave, as most businesses were closed. There was always strong objection by a few merchants about closing the street at any day or time of the year. Sunday was a good fit for most.

The other volunteer responsible for the market is me, another CAADA director then. When Sanford and the market producer hit roadblocks threatening the market from being held (bureaucracy, red tape & high city fees), I stepped in & ironed it out, negotiating with the city and the producer.

While that was long ago, the public has no idea the market almost did not take place. It was NOT like the city-funded City Hall market. We had to jump through hoops. Thankfully, everything was negotiated successfully, after much work. Everyone loves the market, and I'm glad you do too.

Details on "The Streetscape":
The Project was first discussed in the fall of 2004, and from 2005-2009, in earnest. The street was always to be repaved, and other STANDARD work done, planned for years, such as utility work & tree replacement. The Streetscape was an enhancement of what would have been standard maintenance to a street that had gone years without attention.

The city was *always* aware of the weekly activities happening on the street, as well as seasonal activities, like the annual Children's Trick or Treat event on Halloween, and the Jewish To Life! Street Festival (held for 10 years, from 2001-2010).

The City was *always* intending to work around everything, preserving the activities that were there. So the market should be *enhanced* by the 2-lane configuration, as it was designed with that in mind.

For some reason, Weekly reporters overlook HOW the Streetscape came about, reporting the city came up with this idea just two years ago, and the city is not keeping merchants in the loop, trying to push 2 lanes on everyone. That is NOT true.

The 2-lane design was brought to the whole CAADA board as the recommended plan from a self-appointed, 2-person "CAADA Streetscape Committee" (Terry Shuchat, chairman/Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop, member, both CAADA Board members) that WANTED to design the street, by themselves. Early on, another Board member worked with them, but he left prior to the "Concept Plan" being brought to the CAADA Board and to council in 2006.

Before the "Streetscape Committee" took over, I planned a charette for everyone to attend (merchants, residents, city, and anyone interested) to weigh in their opinions.
It was to be led by Architects Judith Wasserman and Tony Carasco. But I cancelled it, when Terry and Feeta (multi-property owners) *insisted* on designing the Concept Plan themselves, in collaboration with the City.

Terry, Feeta and the City visited other business communities. They did a great deal of work, thinking about how to create a safer and prettier street for everyone.
They worked hard in 2005 creating a "Concept Plan" with the city (a public/private collaboration) reporting back to the CAADA Board (and the City Manager's office, Frank Benest, then) regularly. What they created was unanimously accepted by the whole CAADA Board. TERRY AND FEETA DID AN EXCELLENT JOB.

After it was finalized, including the lane reduction, the design just sat there from 2006-2009, until the last of the utility work was done. Work was to begin Sept. 2009, starting with the tree replacement. The ONLY thing *not* ironed out until July 2009 was HOW the trees were to be replaced: a clear-cut, or a phased approach.

Terry, Feeta, another director, Margot, all voted to clear-cut, and that was the city's recommendation. Only I objected to a clear-cut, for two reasons:
1) I had vague memories of a clear-cut disaster of 30 years ago, and was reminded of it by a CAADA Businessman that remembered it vividly (but he never came to CAADA meetings). At meetings, other directors told me I was wrong. When I asked them to speak with the member that voiced concerns to me, they chose not to.
2) Sanford Forte, who was no longer on the CAADA Board at the time, had been *passionate* about phasing. I felt a need to respect his 'voice', as he often spoke for the opinion of many people. But I was out-voted. The vote to clear-cut prevailed, and trees were cut on Sept. 14th 2009 (if memory serves).

Days before the trees were cut down (Sept. 9th, 2009) Public Works asked me to "notify everyone" about the commencement of the Streetcape. Up until that time, I had only kept 80+ ground floor retail merchants in the loop. (Many disregarded emails. What they do with information after I send it is out of my hands. There were complaints that I was "too detailed" – like now! - they chose not to read it.)

On Sept. 10th, I notified the whole city: press releases, residents… What I did not know then, was that 6 weeks before, on July 31, 2009, when I was told by PW that everyone within 500 feet was to be notified properly, by the city, it never happened.

Some merchants got a hand-delivered city post card, just before work began, and "everyone" got an email, from me. Since commencement of work came as a surprise to most residents and to those CAADA businesses that had not been getting updates, (mostly offices) the "The Project" was halted. Everything was second-guessed, including the street work (the second half of Phase One.)

The Weekly reports that the Streetscape has only been discussed for "two years". But this project, *including the 2-lane configuration*, has been waiting to be *implemented*, since Thanksgiving 2009. Prior to that, there was THREE years of discussion going back to the 2006 "Concept Plan" (also see City of Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan, California Avenue Stakeholder's finalized meeting in 2009 - residents as far as Barron Park were there, as well as anyone else interested. Doug Moran attended, per the finalized meeting notes. Terry Shuchat represented CAADA. You can see the 2 lane configuration was discussed repeatedly.)

Two lanes was NEVER the result of grant money, although, in order to get the grant money, two lanes are, from what I was told, required. The successful grant is the FOURTH try for outside money. Three earlier grants were not approved – 2 large, 1 small.

In mid 2009, Public Works brought the "Concept Plan" (part of the "Comprehensive Plan") to Council. But when trees were cut, council was "surprised" about the trees.

Yet the San Jose Mercury reporter in Palo Alto asked a good question then, writing: "How can there be tree replacement if the old trees are not removed?" Pointing out that council WAS aware of "tree replacement". Her question was never answered.

It WAS Public Work's recommendation at the July CAADA meeting to clear cut, and staff describes the scope of jobs to council. All of that is documented in city records. (But it is NOT in "The Executive Summary" of the Project, if I remember correctly.)

One important factor that would have eliminated the issue of the tree clear cut surprise to (almost) everyone, and the halting of the project is that city council assigns representatives to attend meetings, like the ones CAADA held from 1957-2010. These people are "liaisons" that are to report back to other council members.

In the twenty years I served as President, a liaison was in attendance at most, if not all, CAADA meetings, beginning with Councilwoman Ellen Fletcher, 20+ years ago. Other council liaisons to CAADA were Vic Ojakian, Jim Burch, among others; all came to every CAADA meeting, right up to Yoriko Kishimoto.

But during the time the CAADA Streetscape was being designed, neither of the two council liasions to CAADA attended meetings. So they were not able to report back to council. Those four years were of critical importance, 2006-2007 & 2008-2009. Designated council reps have to *request* the assignment. The fountain was an issue in 2008; the Streetscape in 2009.

It's a matter of city record, if you want to know who they are. It's not my intention to cast stones. But their absence was discussed by directors at CAADA meetings (before and after the tree clear-cut), and the Economic Development official at that time came to almost all our meetings – she was in Planning, could do nothing about it. Public Works attended most CAADA meetings in the latter half of 2008 & through 2009, so one would think the council and other departments WERE being informed.

We should learn from our mistakes, and the public has a right to know – having answers to questions, such as the one you asked about what impact, if any, two lanes would have on the Farmer's Market.

Had the process been handled correctly, the Streetscape (including the two lanes) would have been completed, by Thanksgiving 2009, and the benches, bike racks, etc. finished in early 2010. Instead, for three years, everything has been on hold. It's sad for Market-goers, such as you, C. M., to have to walk on streets that are cracked and filled with potholes, and bad for merchants, for whom this process seems endless. Many merchants do want 2 lanes, by the way. They just want the work to be done with as little impact to them as possible. While it was mentioned that 55 businesses oppose the lane configuration, I had over 250 businesses recorded in the business directory that I produced in 1994, and there must be over 500 businesses, if all the office buildings are included. Further, the residents would benefit, by having the street completed.

On this Phase of the Project, and since 2009, the City has done an excellent job of being collaborative and transparent, and getting the grant is amazing! The street will look terrific!


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2012 at 3:14 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Ronna Devincenzi on "tree replacement"

In the (public) meetings I attended, the City Staff talked about the number of trees that had _already_ died and not been replaced, as well as a few trees whose poor health made them candidates for replacement. While a few may have been aware of the City's switch from this sort of limited "replacement" to whole scale cutting of the trees, most of those involved -- and the general public -- were not.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2012 at 3:35 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Ronna Devincenzi

The failed grant proposals were significant events because each of those proposals changed the original concept to conform to the anti-auto ideology of the targeted grant-making agency -- MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission). Elements beneficial to merchants and their customers were eliminated because MTC wouldn't fund such.

During this interval, then City Manager Frank Benest, without the approval of Council much less public notice or debate, designated to ABAG/MTC/... that the CalAve area would be a Priority Development Area for high-density, both housing and offices. The City decided that since CalAve had all the retail and services anyone could need (suppress snort) and public transit -- ignoring how limited it was/is -- that all these new residents and workers would not add traffic to the area streets and thus the estimates of traffic need not be re-examined.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Re: Doug Moran's comment tree replacement - yes, I agree with you, Doug. I don't know why the information about the condition of the trees was not made known. After the gas work was done by June '09, photos of each tree were taken, in case there were any questions.

As I wrote earlier, six weeks before work was to start, everyone within 500 feet was to get an official city notice about the work. But it did not happen. When PW asked me to notify everyone, I thought my information was just a helpful reminder as a heads up regarding street work. I didn't know people heard only from me.
The first half of Phase One was not handled well.

But since Sept. '09, the city changed its ways. I give it glowing marks, and give kudos to them, for engagement, enthusiasm & creativity. Property owners will benefit, when the work is done. And for the record, I love the Silver Linden trees best. My most favorite- a good pick, by residents/Canopy planted Jan. 2010.


Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Regarding Doug Moran's comment: "The failed grant proposals were significant events because each of those proposals changed the original concept to conform to the anti-auto ideology of the targeted grant-making agency -- MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission). Elements beneficial to merchants and their customers were eliminated because MTC wouldn't fund such."
************************************************************

Doug, please will you share specifics? I don't have knowledge of the above. The Streetscape Concept Plan (that became part of the Comprehensive Plan) remained consistent since the day the CAADA Board unanimously approved it. I knew that Plan well. I know of no changes at all, before or after the grant applications.

Public Works kept me apprised of everything & I shared the information w/ the board and 80+ merchants. What you wrote above makes it sound as if there *were* changes, in order to get *money*.

Have you seen copies of proposals for MTC or VTA that wasn't made known to the CAADA Board? If so, that's huge! Please share your information! You'd be a better reporter than the Weekly, if you have facts to back up that statement.

What I know for a fact is that The Project would been completed Thanksgiving 2009, at a cost of $355K (figure from memory), and it still would have been the two lane configuration. It was *never* four lanes, before or after any of the 3 grant applications.

PW and Economic Development had been to all CAADA meetings, for almost two years, and they did a great job of keeping us posted. They actually got their physical design from CAADA. The city didn't even do the design itself. A local architect pro-bono, worked with the two CAADA Directors (Shuchat/Bishop) & the city, putting ideas to paper.

At one point, the first project manager in PW was going to an Urban Design conference, and he asked me for renderings of the proposed new fountain, which I supplied to him, via the art commission, so he could do a presentation on the Project, and fitting the plaza area into the equasion. That was in about 2007.

So the city worked off an official design supplied to them by CAADA. I can't imagine there are extra designs out there floating around. I only saw one. Doug, do you have copies of other designs?

Clarification: while the Project was formed under Frank Benest (with Yoriko Kishimoto as CAADA council liaison, 2004-2005), by Sept. '09, when work commenced, Jim Keene had been City Manager, for many months.

Is two lanes what you mean by "anti-auto ideology"? I ask because the Streetscape the CAADA Board approved never had 4 lanes.

What the Cal Ave district DID lose by not getting additional money from grants was only new lighting. Lighting was costly.

But new trees, two lanes, resurfaced street & other amenities- benches, trash cans, bike racks and newsracks (sans widened sidewalks) was to happen, grant or not.

Doug, please if you have private information of which I haven't been made aware, I'd love to hear it! I thought I had my finger on the pulse of "The Project" from Day One to Sept. '09. But so much happens in City meetings (much of it never shared) I may have missed something. I'd love to have facts and details, if you can prove what you wrote above.

All I know, as fact, is the design of the Concept Plan in 2006 has always remained the same one the Streetscape Commmittee brought to the CAADA Board, for our approval, and the same one numerous stakeholders approved, in concept, in order to get the grants. Thanks so much, for your posts, Doug! I always appreciate your insight.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

The plan sounds like a strong, well-considered, and much-needed redevelopment of the California Avenue area. As-is Cal Ave is a very unpleasant place to walk and certainly not an area I regularly think of visiting for a meal, shopping and walk-about.

I'm genuinely perplexed as to why there is such merchant opposition. Don't they see that this will revitalize the area, which at present is feeling increasingly like any one of a number of generic, unremarkable and uninviting strips around El Camino? Wide pedestrian walks, plazas, community event areas, and lots of plants and shade will make it a unique and enjoyable shopping destination with real personality.

With respect to the current set-up, I never drive in the lanes closest to the sidewalks anyway, since they are often impeded by long parked cars, and I am constantly worrying about hitting a car backing out of its space or a pedestrian appearing from between cars. The wider single lane with the "3 foot street band" between lanes and parking would reduce these concerns considerably.

Perhaps businesses most fear the construction period, during which they fear they may lose business. This is understandable, but I do believe the long-term payoff is greater. As one of those potential Cal Ave customers, I know that with a more welcoming pedestrian layout I would visit more often, especially with good parking options nearby.

Good for the city!

PS: A couple commenters were wondering about the origins of Cal Ave's former name, Lincoln Avenue. That was the name given to the street when it was part of the town of Mayfield, a well-known bay area settlement in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century the town of Mayfield was absorbed by Palo Alto. Mayfield's main business streets were named after famous Americans: from the north-south-oriented Mayfield streets were (starting to the west and moving east) named Lincoln (now Cal Ave), Sherman (which remains), Grant (which remains), Sheridan (which remains), and Washington (now Oregon Expressway).



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