Town Square

Post a New Topic

Bold downtown plan spurs debate over Palo Alto's growth

Original post made on Oct 25, 2012

A colossal proposal by billionaire developer John Arrillaga to build a theater and four office towers in downtown Palo Alto as part of a new "arts and innovation" district is still miles away from official approval, but it is already sparking sharp disagreements about the city's future growth.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 24, 2012, 11:36 PM

Comments (150)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

I think most people overstate the traffic problems in PA, but this development would have serious negative impacts on University and El Camino. I can imagine the backlog at El Camino & Sand Hill, which is already a pain.

Go ahead and develop the area, but respect the height limit, and don't delude yourself that more than 5-10% of the people will be arriving via caltrain.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:18 am

I like to live in Palo Alto and don't want to live in Manhattan, but I also don't want to live in Sunnyvale or any other sleepy suburb. Just because a city's downtown areas and business districts have tall buildings and large companies does not mean we are "Manhattanized." We still in leafy, shaded neighborhoods. We will keep our wonderful parks. We keep our bike friendly neighborhood roads. We know that won't change. Palo Altaans wouldn't allow it.

This development is extremely exciting. Parking and traffic concerns aside, the Arrillaga project will be a great boon to locals. (Interestingly, though, I've been driving for years in Palo Alto and have never had issues with traffic or parking; there's always plenty of parking in downtown in one of the structures.) I just hope that this new development includes exciting retail and food additions. Cafes on the ground floors would be wonderful. I'd love to see restaurants at the top of one of the "high"-rises with a view of the city/bay/mountains. Free underground parking would also be excellent. Hopefully, these buildings can also bring in more tech companies. It's a shame that Facebook had to leave.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2012 at 7:29 am

Please sign my petition to maintain the 50 food height limit: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 7:34 am

With or without this particular development, Palo Alto has to realise that traffic is a big problem due to a couple of basic ideals being ignored.

Traffic management needs to be completely overhauled throughout town. Traffic calming as a concept it causing so many of the problems. We have to wake up to the fact that moving traffic efficiently and safely around town has to be the main focus of all road management. At present we have too many situations where backups are occurring and nothing is being done about it.

Traffic ligts have to be better coordinated and "super intersections" rather than individual lights eg Alma/Meadow>Alma Plaza, Alma/Page Mill nonsense, more dedicated right turn, left turn light sequences, etc. are the efficient way to move traffic. Not letting traffic get efficiently where it needs to go is part of the problem, then not being able to find parking at a reasonable charge in downtown is the next part.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 7:54 am

The city council selecte Commissioner Alchek over incumbent Fineberg; now we see why - Alchek has a pro developer, no limits view. Who vote for Alchek to serve as commissioner? Pat Burt, Klein, Price, Shepard & Espinosa.

So now you know Pat Burt, despite what he says in his ads for re-election, is not for the community, he's pro-developer. I can't name a single zoning change to PC (which gives developers the rights to much higher density) that he vote against.

And ABAG has been telling Palo Alto for the last several decades that it's office worker to housing ratio is way out of line. Yet council members like Burt keep approving zoning changes which allow new office developments to greating exceed existing zoning limits.

At lastly, don't buy into the spin of an "Arts district". There are no deed restrictions that the tenants of the office space need to be artists, film makers, etc. A theater is a poor trade for 260,000 square feet of office space, with about 4000 car trips per day added to one of most congested intersections in the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 8:33 am

I, too, once thought PaloAltans would not stand for certain changes to our city, but I have been proven wrong many times. It is often out of our control.

The City Council is the body that approves these projects, and they seem to have their own agenda, not our agenda. It does not seem to matter who we vote in...once they are in office, they change! Apparently it is true that power corrupts.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 9:42 am

"Alcheck worried that Palo Alto would not be able to compete with neighboring communities when it comes to attracting companies because of the city's limited commercial space."

Alchek, needs a wake up call - People come to Palo Alto precisely because of the "city's limited commercial space". But even if we wanted to have some offices here and there, Alchek is dead wrong about worrying about attracting offices, or anything to Palo Alto.

1. A Palo Alto address is priceless for any company, and there is no competition, nearby or around the world. What hole has Alchek been in?

2. Does Palo Alto want to become an office development magnet? Offices make NO money for Palo Alto (prop 13), compared to residential or retail (especially luxury retail). And retail does not need to be tall or destructive to the city. Unlike office workers, shoppers come at non-rush hour times, leave their money in our shops & restaurants, and then go home after shopping.

Somebody do the math!

3. Office park development destroys the residential value of Palo Alto. Who needs the hastle of living in traffic gridlock with offices everywhere looking like any other concrete eyesore off of 101?

4. The project 27 Unversity is especially not going to make money for the City, compared to the COSTS to residents, and especially to the SCHOOL communities nearby.

There is no case for attracting offices to Palo Alto prime aereas, in the first place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Traffic Watch
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

Arriaga is also developing the land just North along the tracks in Menlo Park (where all the car dealerships are).

These are going to be medical offices - which will be a traffic magnet in a place where El Camino is already narrow and slow.


Web Link

The Arriaga plans for Menlo Park are still not available. This all needs to be looked at together!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sue Kemp
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

I'm with previous writer Common Sense 100%. The Arillaga project is enormous, out of scale with the rest of the city, and should NOT be permitted! My vote will reflect my views.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:47 am

another "bold" discussion should include a discussion of the "so-called" Arts & Innovation district" which does not currently exist.

This is a designation does not appear in our Comprehensive plan Land use Map,
( link:Web Link)

Currently this site is zoned as parkland and Major Institution/special Facilities ( the transit center portion)

two years ago (link:Web Link)
This parcel was identified by staff as a potential site for housing, appropriate for MIXED use development.

So as a community are we going to condone an influential developer to rewrite our zones and land uses for the financial benefits of others?

The entire site with the exception of the transit center is designated parkland. The site also houses a magnificent historic resource, The Julia Morgan building,which appears on the National Registry of Historic Places and honors the veterans of past wars.

Do not let greed prevail to the diminution of respect for community and history!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

These buildings will completely block the view of the foothills from the heart of Palo Alto. They will forever change the character of our town to that of a dehumanized, high-rise office park. The town has had a sampling of this sort of non-human-scale architecture in the Palo Alto Office Center and City Hall. They were the the reasons the height limit was instituted.

The architectural renderings of these type of projects always show the plazas at the base of these buildings in unrealistic bright sunlight. They never show the dark, cold shadows that are cast for blocks in the morning and afternoons.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marion MacGilivray
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:57 am

The other afternoon, around 4:15, it took me 15 minutes to go from Churchill to Oregon Expressway. I thought that there must have been an accident or road work. It was neither, just lots of traffic. How much traffic would this development add to our already crowded roads?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by helene
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

Too much traffic in this town already. I am against the development. Our City Council should pay attention to the needs of Palo Altans and not the needs of developers. When filling out my absentee ballot last night, I paid very close attention to the candidates for City Council. Those supported by certain members of the current City Council DID not get my vote....because it would be a continuation of what is going on right now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stephan
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2012 at 11:47 am

Please no more unnecessary developments like these. Downtown will be ruined if Arrillaga gets away with this! Tell him to go do more developments in the East Bay!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 11:59 am

Both Chop Keenan and John Arrillaga are offering "public benefits" in tandem with their out of scale and out of zoning regulation development proposals. They, of course, figure that they will reap not only super large buildings and super larger profits, but also a tidy tax deduction for these public benefits. The win is 95 percent for them as things look now.

Their requests should be a starting point in a negotiation with the City where the two must scale way back on the size of of their buildings' footprints and their height. Their requests should not be a given. If their new proposals schemes are realized as is, in conjunction with the new hospital development at Stanford and the still unsketched out plans for El Camino and Menlo Park down the street, we will be inundated with cement, traffic and seriously impair our quality of life in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Much has been made by the pro-development folks of the benefit of the "open space" plazas at the base of these buildings. How often do you see people hanging out in the existing plazas by city hall and the Palo Alto Office Center? Even the homeless avoid these areas.

There are several reasons for this. One is the ominous shadows cast by the buildings that are never shown in the architectural renderings (as I mentioned in my prior post). Another is that humans and all animals have an innate fear of standing near the base of a cliff. Have you noticed when you do stand at the bottom of a tall building, your first instinct is to look up warily to see if there is anything that might fall? This is one reason people are generally uncomfortable in these plazas. Another is that if you do venture in, there are hundreds of silvery windows looking down that make you feel you are on display for the office workers above. A third reason is that there is often no reason for people to gather there such as retail of cafes. Even if there is retail, people will not venture in unless they feel comfortable. And cafe's do not do well unless there is a pleasant scene and atmosphere for people to experience.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

This project has sneakily called itself an "arts and innovation" district (hello, Palo Alto is already an innovation district), with the theater story a potentially seriously corrupt play all around.

Some also want to bring up "transit", and this story about justifying high density near transit.

What is the truth about "transit"

If a city like San Francisco cannot efficiently use transit and reduce cars, what on earth is the city of Palo Alto thinking?

People who have jobs in office towers only know 1 form of transit, and that is called CARS.

If these commissioners would have any sense, they would be looking at things like making any new building zero energy.

A zero-energy building, also known as a zero net energy (ZNE) building, net-zero energy building (NZEB), or net zero building, is a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. Web Link

and certainly no building should be "reaching for the stars"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

ducatigirl is a registered user.

Again, does John Arrillaga even live here? if so, why would he want to so pollute this city? There used to be a saying about not "pooping" in your own pool.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

A

"There are several reasons for this {people not hanging out at plazas}. One is the ominous shadows cast by the buildings that are never shown in the architectural renderings (as I mentioned in my prior post). "

Of course. And most people also have better things to do than hang out at plazas.

Residents and shoppers (the ones who actually pay their way in Palo Alto) are not the ones at the plazas. Office workers may need plazas, so here again the benefit is not for Palo Alto.

This plan belongs in a small town that needs this kind of stuff, not here. Or move it our closer to the highway, where the real transit is.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Question: what's the real status of HSR and how would this plan mesh with that?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Agree with common sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Common sense said:
"The city council selected Commissioner Alchek over incumbent Fineberg; now we see why - Alchek has a pro developer, no limits view. Who voted for Alchek to serve as commissioner? Pat Burt, Klein, Price, Shepard & Espinosa.
So now you know Pat Burt, despite what he says in his ads for re-election, is not for the community, he's pro-developer. I can't name a single zoning change to PC (which gives developers the rights to much higher density) that he voted against."
Burt's big developer big contributions show his value to them
Alchek is in WAY OVER his head. He should resign before he makes a total fool of himself in public.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm


People stay in Palo Alto even if they are barely affording to live here because of the same reasons people with money come for.

A certain way of life - different from other places.

What we're missing is good governance. We've obviously been too busy to hang out in all the plazas developers and city staff are set on building, or paying attention to what they are doing.

How do we actually gut the entire system where a Pat Burt appoints people like Alcheck or his parks commissioner who is charge of his election campaign.

Is voting Pat Burt out enough?






 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

voting Pat Burt out would be a good start!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Agree with common sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm

> parks commissioner who is charge of his election campaign.

Also he shares his business office with a Planning Commissioner.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by carol kenyon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Put this issue on the ballot soon to get it over with! I VOTE NO!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

It doesn't look beautiful - tweak it and reduce it. If it stands to look anything like PA city hall, then I am totally against it!! I also believe a very careful examination concerning modes of transit (number of additional car trips, local impacts) is necessary as I just don't believe "everyone" will come in by Caltrain.I have not used Caltrain more than a handful of times myself, not all of us live near it or have use for it.Furthermore, I am a bit uncomfortable with billionnaire developers associated with Stanford, which itself is overflowing with money. I don't see the NEED for Palo Alto citizens and city to make "concessions" to such a powerful set of forces. The IDEA of the theatre has great merit and should be throughtfully pursued.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Carol

"Put this issue on the ballot soon to get it over with! I VOTE NO!"

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Apparently it's an "advisory" vote? What is an "advisory" vote?

I can't figure this out, anyone out there? City COuncil can get this done regardless of a vote?!?!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Long Gone
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

The "Palo Alto" way of life has been gone for decades. It has relocated to the more livable family friendly areas proximate to PA.
No real reason to even visit anymore with how bad DT has become.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Disillusioned
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I used to think Pat Burt was a good councilman. If he's rolling over for Arrillaga on this one, he's lost my vote.

These developer-friendly council members and planning commission members appear to have NO regard for the rest of us plain old taxpayers and parents who will have to live with the results of their reckless overbuilding.

It appears that all a developer has to do is wave a "public benefit" bone for our city officials to jump up barking for joy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

"There is no case for it" has it totally backwards in his reporting on Pat Burt.

Pat Burt actually said that he would take the advisory vote as the will of the people and follow the dictates of that vote. Burt said that if Palo Altans vote against the project, then he will vote against the project.

Pat Burt has also said that the 150' development is too high and he wants the developer to revise his project proposal to shrink the building heights. There are also several other projects around town whose size and impacts were shrunk through Pat's leadership. Criticism that he's pro-development are misinformed.

@Disillusioned, check Pat's record for yourself rather than believing misinformed or misleading online posters. Council studied this project on September 24, and you can watch the video of that meeting here: Web Link (the second-to-last "Watch Now" button).

Council minutes are posted online at Web Link (though the 9/24 minutes aren't up yet), and the videos of the meetings are shown live online and on Cable channel 26, and later archived at Web Link.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff due to incorrectly quoting from the Palo Alto Weekly.]



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

In the photos of the proposed project Palo Alto Online describes Mr. Arrillaga as a "philanthropist." That's certainly true, but is he not building this project as a developer? Semantics matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

It is a long video so I scanned it for Pat's comment on the advisory vote, and found it at time 2:43:00, where he said,

"I would also view the ballot advisory measure as binding on my decision as a council member. If we are going to put it to the community and its a vote, I would feel that as binding on my decision. Most things the council take the responsibility to take those decision. If we move forward and say we want it to go to the community then I would certainly view it as binding, and if other colleagues feel that way, I think it would help the community understand our intent as far as the ballot measure. And that might mean that we don't agree with the outcome, but that's what we would be doing if -- at least in my mind -- if we put it to the voters."
... staff comment and clarification, a little interchange, and Burt continues at 2:45:06:
"...If they said 'No', then the council would have an advice from the community and decide whether it would go no further. I'm saying that if the community said 'No' then I would abide by the community's vote."
(Pat had other comments following, as well as prior questions at 1:39:40-1:47, and began his comments at 2:37:45.)
(I have a renewed appreciation for the transcribers of those copious council minutes!)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Cedric,


If you saw my post that was removed, you can see why it sounded otherwise in the reported quote.

Another quote,

"Councilman Pat Burt said the project "has some really enormous community benefits" namely, a new theater with a public plaza; improved walkways and bike paths around the transit center;"

these are not "enormous" benefits., so I still cannot trust Burt's judgement and his appointing Alchek.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Pat pointed out that the larger community benefit may be improving the transit center downtown, which serves CalTrain, and busses for SamTrans, VTA, Marguerite, and the free Palo Alto shuttles (though they stop on the downtown side). Improving that intermodal transit station has been a goal of the comprehensive plan for at least a decade, and would be an expensive project for the city to do on its own. Pat pointed out that the current proposal does not close the existing gap in the north-south bike paths through the bus/train station, and asked that this be addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm

A lot has changed in Palo Alto since the City Council adopted the 50' height limit in the early 70s.

Let's let the people of Palo Alto decide this. Put it to a vote.

The posts on this forum may or may not be representative of the community's views.

The people of Palo Alto have never voted on the 50' limit. The City Council plans to bring this project to the people for a vote. I think that's the way to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More about Pat Burt
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Burt not only shares an office with Planning Commissioner Samir Tuma, he had invested heavily in two of Tuma's hotel management companies (in northern California).

It seems some commission members are in business with other commissioners. I wonder when this started. It doesn't smell right. Another investor in Tuma's companies is Jonathan Foster.

Behind the scenes financial alliances are not the public's interest. The investors are likely to agree to vote to support their financial interests, not ours. Why else would Lund and Boyd Smith give Pat Burt $1,000 (500 each) and a bunch of Woodside developers $500 each, and Jim Baer and Roxy Rapp? They are investing.

More research is needed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Let em build it, Let the city council ruin the city, Let em' build high density housing so the schools can become overcrowded, Then maybe Palo Alto can be afforded by the 99 percent get out now while you're house is still worth something before HSR comes screaming at 120 MPH.....;) Oh my has this town become lost


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I am running for City Council and a major part of my platform is opposition to the Arrillaga Towers proposal. I have been pretty vehement about it, and sometimes quite articulate, since I first heard of it, in March, although actually we now know that there have been secret discussions dating back to Aug., 2011.
Here is a link back to GS's reporting in March, and my comments, some of which are slightly obtuse, I admit. (and they get deleted by PAW).
Web Link

I was at the meeting described above and will comment more on my blog.

Mark Weiss
"New Residentialist Platform" blog


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm


Paly parent,

"A lot has changed in Palo Alto since the City Council adopted the 50' height limit in the early 70s."

People will continue to be as wise as they were in the 70's, or even wiser, demanding less destruction or obstruction of nature, and more impatient with developers.

Office projects certainly don't seem to have evolved. The rendition of the Arrillaga project looks right out of the 70's, probably expecting to house a lot of copying and fax machines.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by LikeIt
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I Kind of Like it!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Not only do we have to focus on the height of the proposed towers but also on their footprint. They are surely going to be very bulky. The site they're proposed for is too small to allow for the plaza areas and walkways misleadingly presented by the artist in those pictures we were shown.

Secret meetings between city managers and developers are not OK.

Bob Moss's letter in yesterday's Daily News said that we taxpayers are paying $268,000 to consultants for feasibility studies--why isn't the developer paying those fees? It's insult added to injury!

Pat Burt loves development--look at his pushing the Cal Ave project through, when none of the merchants wants it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:21 am


jardins,

I agree it's insult to injury, and wonder how objective the consultants will be.

They might be the consulting firm of Arrillaga and Arrillaga.

LikeIt,

What do you like about it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:26 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

@jardins, your statement that "none of the merchants" want the streetscape changes to Cal Ave is false. Many want it and many do not. I spoke with one owner of a popular restaurant who likes the changes, but stopped attending the city's meetings with merchants because those meetings had gotten hijacked by vocal opponents. Having been to most of the public meetings myself, I totally understand his view: you get these loud, rude, "anti" people that dominate the meeting and intimidate others from offering more moderate or supportive viewpoints. (I call them rude because of their behavior, not their views.) One such meeting started out like that, until one brave person made an eloquent comment in support of the project, and many people applauded. After that, people seemed to realize that others shared their support, and they started speaking up.

Many other merchants just don't have time or the interest in attending meetings. It's typically people who don't like what is proposed for something that feel more motivated to go to a meeting and speak up. So you end up with an echo chamber phenomenon, where only opponents show/speak up, and so they think that everyone is an opponent because they're the only ones talking.

Most of the opposition to the Cal Ave plan is centered around the fear that reducing the number of lanes will cause huge traffic jams, but none of the traffic studies support this fear. People try to compare Cal Ave to University, Castro, or Charleston/Arastradero, but those streets have three to four times as much traffic, so the traffic comparison is baseless.

Pat Burt has the courage to respond openly and honestly to people's baseless fears, to look at the evidence and act in the long-term best interest of the city. The Cal Ave project will add parking, widen sidewalks, make pedestrian and biking safer, and bring more shoppers and revenues. Many nearby cities undertook similar projects, survived opposition based in fear of change, and when complete brought in more business and turned opponents into supporters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 1:23 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

By the way, I should clarify that not all opponents are rude, nor that no supporters may be rude, but in my observation of this particular issue (Cal Ave Streetscape) several opponents were rude and disruptive of meetings. That said, I think it is important and valuable to send such projects through the ringer of public meetings, to get people's concerns, and hopefully address problems and shape projects into more broadly appealing forms.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:28 am

Marie is a registered user.

Copy of a letter I sent to the city council opposing zoning variances for office space (please be sure to send your comments to the city council directly as well - citycouncil@cityofpaloalto.org)

ABAG has been telling Palo Alto for the last several decades that it's office worker to housing ratio is way out of line. Yet council members keep approving zoning changes which allow new office developments that greatly exceed existing zoning limits.

Please approve only zoning changes to increase housing/retail (preferably combined) until Palo Alto is in compliance with ABAG requirements. Please appoint only Palo Alto residents to the planning commission, preferably those who are not in anyway connected to developers, in hopes of some decisions that will benefit the residents of Palo Altos, not local developers. Please note, any requests that comply with current zoning should be approved.

Palo Alto's increase in population from 2000 to 2010, exceeded the total population increase between 1970 to 2000 (5,805 vs 2,632 per ABAG). The US census estimates Palo Alto increased another 1009 people in 2011. It seems likely that most of this increase is a result of zoning variances, primarily due to pressure from ABAG. This has significantly increased school populations and traffic, and decreased the quality of life for most citizens of Palo Alto.

Approving zoning variances to increase office space will only bring more pressure on Palo Alto to add more dense housing. I can see no benefit to Palo Alto to adding huge amounts of office space, that include little or no housing. Palo Alto is full of arts and entertainment. Stanford has just built a beautiful new theatre. What benefit does an "arts district" add to Palo Alto other than more traffic, particularly if it is owned by Stanford, which pays no property tax?

Please turn the Arrilaga proposal down flat. Please reconsider spending any more money to evaluate development offers for high density office space until we are in compliance with ABAG. Please do not consider moving one of Palo Alto's greatest historical buildings, the Julia Morgan building near the train station until you know exactly where it will be moved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:48 am

Marie is a registered user.

I would like to thank Cedric for his very informative responses. I welcome civil and informative dialogue, even when I don't agree with some of the conclusions.

I am finding it very difficult to decide how to vote in this election as I am very disturbed by the many zoning variances for increased office space, for which I can see no benefit for Palo Alto residents. I have liked Pat Burt and voted for him last time. I will probably vote for him, but I wish he had fewer ties to developers. However, I think that if we vote down the Arrillaga proposal, he will too.

I will also vote for Tim Gray, who seems to be the best bet for supporting residents of Palo Alto.

I regret that Palo Alto has spent any money on evaluating Arrillaga's proposal as I can see no way that it can benefit Palo Alto. Let's stick to solving our housing and school crisis, and let the developers looking to build more office space find towns with too little office space in relation to their housing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

Anyone can pour through the transcripts of council and find "Pat Burt"saying" a lot of things. But talk is cheap and the proof is in the pudding...meaning: How does he vote????

Thats what counts, not the" thoughtful" soundbites that end up being quoted by the newspapers!

He votes for and supports BIG development in his voting time and time again!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Long Time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

In all this back and forth about Pat Burt, I think it is important to note that he has said all along: "the height of the proposed buildings needs to come down." It should also be noted that this is not an opportunity for Arrillaga to make a profit - he is donating the office buildings to Stanford, and the theatre to TheatreWorks, and is creating a solution to what is now an unsightly mess of a transportation hub that hasn't been seriously updated since the 1940s. I cannot for the life of me fathom why the readers posting on this site think he is "not offering any benefits for the community." Here in Palo Alto we talk about the important of using public transportation - but when someone wants to build a world class building (and donate it) right next to public transit ... and fix up the rest of our transit hub at no charge to us ... we scream and yell. Hopeless!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

Long time resident,

offer to "fix up the rest of our transit hub at no charge to us"

Can you describe the current numbers behind this transit "hub" issue?

Are we talking about 20 buses, 200 bicycles and 5 pedestrians?

By the way, these would be the bicycles that Palo Altans use because non-resident office workers come in CARS.

Please, we could fix our transit issue with one volunteer day of clearing paths, and putting up signs.

Nobody provides any numbers for any of these grand "benefits" you talk about? That is because there are no benefits, compared to the huge costs.

Our transit issues are not NY or CHicago transit anymore than this building is a "world class" building. It's just a tall building, that does not make it world class.

World class building is the Frank Gehry building for Facebook which will be 1 story, covered in trees.

1 story is a world class building.

covered in trees


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

Why not reduce the amount and height of the office buildings. Put housing in the third building, save MacAuthur Park, redo transit area. A 65 to 75 foot limit is fine with retail uses on ground floor only. Think small scaled down street design for bikes and sidewalk, wide enough to let police, safety access.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

One is fine, then you start needed more space for workers, offices and their cars. Transit needs to carry people, both ways at the same time. You might end up getting rid of one story world class building to add more space, first class buildings have been torn down before.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:39 am




GLASS towers, for pete's sake, wasn't glass an architectural innovation, from the 1800's?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More about Pat Burt
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

Burt's business office is on California Avenue but he was active in pushing his idea for the avenue. Maybe he rents his office so he gets around the Conflict of Interest rules. Typical clever end-run. His motto:
Speak warmly about the public interest. Then vote with developers.

"Behind the scenes financial alliances are not the public's interest. The investors are likely to agree to vote to support their financial interests, not ours. Why else would Lund and Boyd Smith give Pat Burt $1,000 (500 each) and a bunch of Woodside developers $500 each, and Jim Baer and Roxy Rapp? They are investing."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

Marie, Midtown

Your letter says it all.

Stanford pays no property tax.

There are no taxes from the rent of the offices either.

Stanford and Arrillaga will make millions into eternity.

Palo Alto wants to trade dedicated parkland for sham "benefits" and undertaking outrageous costs.

These Council people are either utterly stupid or blinded by the billionaire to not just laugh and laugh and laugh at this ridiculous proposal for Palo Alto.










 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm



Oh I forgot, Arrillaga is "donating" this doozie. How much does glass cost, and doesn't he get paid from building and will likely continue to build and fix things?

His "donations" don't make the sham benefits any different. It is still all laughable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm

When I think of a philanthropist, John Arrillaga does not fit my definition. A philanthropist does not throw people out of their jobs, as in the Stanford Equestrian Center fiasco. A philanthropist keeps the best interest of other people in the uppermost part of his mind, and is considerate of their needs.

The PA lifestyle many of us came here for no longer exists. It seems to have died in the late Nineties, and probably cannot be revived.

Between John Arrillaga and the high speed rail that is coming, I would have to agree with Hutch7.62. Sell your home now for top dollar, before HSP and John Arrillaga destroy the value of it. Move somewhere that has a sense of community, like Palo Alto used to have.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm


Ducatgirl,

I disagree with lamenting. We need to wake up.

They want to build us bicycle paths?

How about a steady stream of income into eternity from one of those buildings (under 50 feet in height) to go directly to PAUSD? That's a fairer price for dedicated parkland, maybe. It should be even more expensive than that.

Come on Palo Alto!





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm

On a side note, most of the buildings are glass, looks nice in those drawings that are supposed to impress people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Ginsburg Stern
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm


I just read the online comments concerning 27 University and I'm surprised by the negative tone of the discussion. I think it is important to find out the facts about this project and not just rush to condemn it without more thoughtful consideration. This project is in the planning stage and there will be many opportunities for constructive criticism and feedback to City Council members and others.

I have lived in Palo Alto for 37 years and I am certainly in favor of maintaining a high quality of life. But I'm also aware that some change can be good. 50 and 60 years ago some residents were probably horrified to learn that beautiful apricot orchards were being removed to build the houses we are now happy to live in.

I am in favor of 27 University. The height of the buildings is still to be decided, and the voters will have a chance to vote next fall. But I believe there are many aspects of the plan that provide benefits to our community. These include the clean-up and reconfiguring of the transportation area, and office buildings that can be reached by public transit. And
as a 37 year subscriber to TheatreWorks and a new board member, I am thrilled that this project could allow TheatreWorks to finally have a permanent home. I believe that this theater company is one of the many benefits of living in Palo Alto and I would be willing to be flexible about building heights in order to enrich our community's cultural life.









 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vote 'em out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Don't give up Ducatgirl! It's not too late to take back our town from the developers and our City Council that is in their back pocket. This is the same council that spent hours discussing Citizen's United and their concern over the influence of money in politics. Well, now's your chance! Stand up to the developers and show some spine!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Anoother way to look a this is, what would happen if this project was not built and these people went away.

1. We would lose a theater shell (that's all that would be donated) that even IF 1% Palo Alto residents would have ever used it, it would better be located downtown, where there is an already empty theater waiting to be revived and renovated for a 1/10th of the price it would take to just sound proof a theater on the train tracks.

2. We would lose pedestrian pathways which are unnecessary if this project did not exist in the first place. Did I her that the "transit" hub (for virtually non-exisitng transit) would cost 100 million? WHat could this be, gold plated pedestrian paths?

3. There are no property taxes on this project, or anything form the rent of offices, city makes no money there.

4. We would lose $268,000 from the feasibility study which could have actually been enough money to build a pedestrian and bycicle transit "hub."

Basically, while residents pay Palo Alto prices for houses, developers and offices get a free pass.

And the CIty wants to sell a landmark place, and create a huge amount of traffic and pressure on City services for nothing.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

It all seems out of our hands. If you have ever been to a City Council meeting, they don't let citizens give any input, and they discuss what they want to discuss first. Last month, I waited until after 10:pm for them to discuss high speed rail. The meeting started at 7:00 with lots of piddling things. By time they got to high speed rail, if they ever did, it must have been after misnight, because when I left at 10:15, they still had five more items on their agenda to go! I felt that they had deliberately scheduled the important things at the end!

It does not seem to matter who you vote for. Once they are on the Council, the power seems to corrupt and they do all the things they said they would not do!

There are better, less expensive neighborhoods with equally good schools and more community spirit (such as Willow Glen, which regularly votes down the city of San Jose)
I don't have to live on a lot the size of a postage stamp, either, if I stay away from PA and SF.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Here are some facts and figures about transportation and transit in Palo Alto.

According to the most recent Census, 36% of people in Palo Alto already get to work without driving alone most of the time, including 7% who use transit as their primary transportation.

Downtown Palo Alto Caltrain is the second busiest station on the line after 4th and King in San Francisco, and ridership was up 16% in the last year. Web Link

With 10% primary bike commute mode share, Palo Alto is already #2 in the country behind Davis. That only counts people who bike most of the time, and it doesn't count people who take their bike on the train.

Studies also show that having an office near transit is an even stronger predictor for using transit than living near transit. So near the transit center is the most effective place add office space while reducing extra car traffic.

With an excellent transportation demand management program, Stanford has more than 50% of its employees get to work without driving alone, and Facebook and Google both have about 40% of employees get to work without driving alone. Assuming that everybody drives to work is well behind the times.

The key to Stanford's success isn't magic. Santa Clara County required Stanford to have a "trip cap" with no new trips. Before the trip cap, over 70% of Stanford's employees drove alone to work.

If Palo Alto is serious about adding development downtown without adding car trips, it should look at some of the policies at Stanford and other major employers that are extremely effective in reducing car trips.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by 50 ft
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm

50 ft is 50 ft. How is 50 ft in the 70's different than 50 ft today? Are people so much taller today that we can see over the buildings or something. Has the sun changed its angle? Are the views of the sky and hills not worth looking at anymore? We voted for 50 ft in the 70s for the same reasons we would vote for it today. WE DON'T WANT TALL BUILDINGS TAKING OVER OUR TOWN!! PERIOD!

Mr. Arrillaga lives up in the foothills (although he probably lives multiple places since he is a BILLIONAIRE) on a giant sprawling estate behind Foothills park. It comes complete with two lakes! I don't see any tall office buildings in his backyard! Nor does he live near a transit hub so he can easily get to work. I'm sure he drives his car.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Revamping the transit center has the potential to be helpful in increasing transit use and decreasing cross-town traffic to Stanford. Many people with office jobs in Palo Alto are very sensitive to minutes in their commute time and daily schedule. Shaving off a few minutes from everyday trips makes the difference for many people between driving and other choices.

The initial proposal for the transit center revamp is a good start, but has room for improvement. I hope that Palo Alto provides the opportunity for public feedback on design options so that the transit station can be redone in an effective and cost-effective manner.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Thanks, Adina, for your figures on transit/bike usage.

To "There is no case for it", who wrote:
"Can you describe the current numbers behind this transit "hub" issue?
Are we talking about 20 buses, 200 bicycles and 5 pedestrians?"

Your uninformed guesstimates are way WAY off. Adina already pointed out that PA is the second busiest CalTrain stop. As for busses, there are 837 bus arrivals/departures each weekday at this location. (That's over 40 times more than your guess.)

As for bike connectivity, there is an existing problem particularly in the southern direction, coming from Menlo Park, from the Bike/Ped bridge at the El Palo Alto tree (over San Francisquito Creek). I face this problem fairly often. When you exit the bridge, you can either bike down Alma, which is sketchy, or you can go towards El Camino and take the bike/ped path along El Camino Park (though it is closed for the water storage construction). When you get to the transit center, you have to ride out of the bus depot where the busses drive in, or walk your bike through the bus waiting area full of pedestrians, and either way navigate the circle that goes over university, with its tight radius and plenty of busses and cars, before you can finally get back to the safety of the Bike Ped path along the CalTrain tracks (the path which goes to PAMF, the Homer Tunnel, T&C, and Churchill). That whole connection through the transit center is problematic for bikes, particularly in the southerly direction. Try it sometime and see for yourself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Cedric,

Being the second busiest station on one particular Caltrain line is only saying we are busier than Menlo Park or San Carlos - that is not a real measure of magnitude for this issue! Bring up actual comparables and numbers.

Would the amount of people actually getting off/on the train in Palo Alto be the equivalent to the Disneyland shuttle, or the N line at Grand Central Station.

These vague allusions to "transit" mean nothing without real numbers.

Anyway, notice that the efforts Stanford and companies are making are for people to not drive alone.They are still driving. Still using cars.

And 4 glass towers are not a "transit" solution just because it offers some sidewalks.

You can insist on putting lipstick on this, but the reality is that the City is gifting away a landmark spot in exchange for sham "benefits" to which nobody has any real numbers for.

If the City wants a transit hub (sidewalks and bike paths), why not put it up for competition?

Maybe another billionaire could donate this.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm



Cedric,

If you think my "uninformed guesstimates are way WAY off"

I think City staff and City Council are the ones who have been doing this based on guesstimates

Please show me the numbers if you can find them. LIke today?

Ask your buddy Pat Burt if he can present them.

Another way to measure transit is to just go stand at the Caltrain station. And bask in the light before it is suddenly dark after this project.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm

@there at Stanford about 10% of employees carpool/vanpool and 40% take transit, walk or bicycle. Info about their transportation demand program is online.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Adina,

"40% (STanford employees) take transit, walk or bicycle. "

This would include professors who practically live on campus? Palo Alto residents who live nearby? Take a bus from East Palo Alto, shuttle in town?

What percentage of Stanford employees actually take Caltrain? Ihope not any surgeons.

If you are throwing all these tidbits around, why are you not precise? You're just helping Cedric paint the lipstick.

Also, if this "transit" issue is to solve a problem for Stanford, let them pay for it, why should Palo Alto gift anything??

I do not see a bunch of people crossing the street or riding bicycles between Caltrain and Stanford. Hardly any at all. Students yes.

Even if we had all the bridges, sidewalks and ferries in the world between Caltrain, and Stanford, the numbers are small because on the other side of people's commute there is no transit, so they will drive.

People drive because there is no real transit in the Bay Aerea. Can we stop pretending?








 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adina Levin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm

"Employee drive-alone rate has been reduced from 72 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2011—compared to the national rate of 77 percent—and transit ridership is up from 8 to 28 percent."

"Ninety-six percent of undergraduates live on campus, as do about 57 percent of graduate students and 30 percent of faculty members."

Web Link

Google is your friend.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Adina,

"transit ridership is up from 8 to 28 percent"

is that on a base of 300 people?

If the "transit" numbers were in any way meaningful and Stanford really needed a "transit hub" for the walkers and bikers, they should "build" the sidewalks and paths.

A theater donation because the trustee of the theater company is the architect.

A "transit" proposal (transit being bikes and 3 cats on caltrain ) because Stanford needs it?

This eyesore is all Arrillaga/Stanford me me me.

Nothing in it for Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

To be clear, I am not necessarily a booster for this project, but I am interested in correcting inaccuracies and setting the record straight. I agree with Marie that we should do more to redress the jobs housing imbalance, where there are twice as many workers in palo alto as the night-time resident population. If this were more in balance, more people could both live and work in Palo Alto, and more could bike or walk to work, and this should improve the traffic issues we hear so much about. Note that it is perfectly viable to bike/transit to work even if you work far away. most of my career I have worked in San Mateo county, and even all the way up in Berkeley for a year, but that doesn't stop me from taking my bike on CalTrain about 50% to 80% of the time.

@There, you are being a bit ridiculous. 2nd busiest is 2nd busiest, including busier than ALL the stations south of downtown SF, including San Jose, Redwood City, etc. I'll leave it as an exercise for you to comb through CalTrain's website or that of the Joint Powers Board to find CalTrain's ridership numbers. I already did your work for you by finding out that it is not 20 buses but 837.

I doubt you or anybody actually cares, but here is the counts of buses stopping at the transit station, and the fact that there are so many is indicative of the high demand. If no one were riding, service would have been cut. Whenever I get off at downtown, I see gobs of people cuing up to get on those buses:

SamTrans:
KX: 18 + 18
280: 17 + 17
281: 29 + 30
297: 4 + 4
390: 34 + 36
397: 3 + 4

VTA:
22: 85 + 89
35: 29 + 31
522: 53 + 56

Dunbarton Express
DB: 24 + 23

Marguerite (Stanford Shuttles)
MCL: 13
N : 8
O : 8
S : 6
SE: 8
X : 50
Y : 53
P : 62
RP: 7 + 8


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Thanks to the writer who gave the names of the City Council members who SHOCKINGLY vote IN FAVOR of Arriaga's enormous and unwelcome projects for our Palo Alto. By knowing their names, we can be sure NOT to vote for them next time: Thumbs down on Pat Burt, Klein, Price, Shepard, and Espinosa. They seem eager to destroy the residential Palo Alto that many of us bought homes here for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Charles
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

@Adina Levin- The no net new trips in the Stanford GUP is a total sham.

Staff and students simply park on the streets of Palo Alto and walk or ride the Margarite Shuttle onto campus. The residents of Palo Alto bear the brunt of the traffic congestion and parking shortages in the neighborhoods around campus and the shuttle stops. Also, there are entrances onto campus that are not controlled or monitored during the traffic counts, so drivers can avoid detection during counts.

The facts and figures you cite don't tell the whole truth.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Cedric,

I was not completely serious about 20 buses or 5 pedestrians.

My point was basically in support of Marie's point, which you agree with, so we agree on that. This project tips the balance the wrong way. Just because there are better sidewalks or a nice station you think buses will grow from 837 to what?

And who decided that Palo Alto should turn into the Port Authority?

Anyway, if the City really believed in transit, why are they be asking developers for more parking downtown?

Transit is not serious. What is serious is that offices bring cars, traffic, and pressure on city services, and pollution, and not even enough money for the city - compared to retail or residential turnover. I much prefer another luxury shopping center next to Caltrain than offices.

This project not only piles on huge costs, it actually asks us to GIFT away dedicated parkland? Not to mention the request to build cheap glass towers three times over the height limit.

By the way, irrespective of this project, Stanford should be pitching in for any transit related upgrades, and so should ALL office developments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2012 at 12:19 am

@ Nancy Ginsberg Stern - Appreciate your acknowledging up front that you are a new Board Member of TheatreWorks. That means that you have fiduciary, or legal duties of care and loyalty, as established in corporate law. Both duties flow to the corporation. That is, your decisions must be made in the best interest of the non-profit corporation you serve - TheatreWorks.

So, we now all understand that you have a legal obligation to represent what is in the best interest of TheatreWorks. Your statements about the height limit or 27 University Ave. must be in the best interest of TheaterWorks or you wouldn't be fulfilling your legal duties.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2012 at 7:45 am

Transit works best in a well suited, well planned mixed use project. We need to place a few well laid out mixed use projects, not just offices or retail. Think mixed density.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2012 at 9:26 am


Garrett,

The shameful trade Palo Alto is being asked to make is a story of ridiculous. The other story though is what you always bring up, mixed use, transit, density - terms that apply to high growth cities. Like SF, SJ, or any other city that can't help growing and growing and growing.

Palo Alto is not any other city, and we should first decide what kind of growth is even good for us. Growth is not always good, in the body growth can be cancer, in an economy growth can bring inflation, growth is a potentially uncontrollable thing, and it can destroy.

We are at that juncture in Palo Alto, with City governance clearly out of control, where "growth"will be out of control. Stanford is already a huge engine of growth, and we are unable to keep up with their overflow. Downtown Palo Alto is simply not big enough, and surrounding residents are going to be crunched.

LIke wiser cities have done, primarily in places where there is a focus on respecting history, culture and nature in building, not destroying the character of a town - they keep tall buildings away from the historically residential aereas.

We should decide who we want to be. Kuala Lumpur?, even Paris controls height in buildings because they would not allow them messing with their light - notice there is only 1 EIffel Tower.

Density needs to be fought, it will add nothing to Palo Alto but destroy plenty.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More about Pat Burt
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

This probably should be a separate thread about money and other "gifts" to council members and staff, but here's more about Pat BURT:
Butler Construction Co., Woodside, $1,000.

Earlier listed, Lund and Boyd Smith $1,000 (500 each) and a bunch of Woodside developers $500 each, and Jim Baer and Roxy Rapp.
These are just the publicly listed campaign donations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I am not saying run out, approve density of 50, 100 or thousands of units in hugh apartment buildings. Paris which has very tight building rules but yet has tight rules. I am saying lets look at density design, duplexs, townhomes, cottages. So much design, why not take a Clark design and see what a 3 story building might look like.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Eiffel Tower had its share of haters, look at the old press clippings of the Golden Gate Bridge.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2012 at 1:14 am

I still want to get the official story from 7th floor and 5th floor staff on whether they think they made a good faith effort to poll concert industry sources on the viability of working with the owner of 456 University to create a downtown arts venue there and how that influenced staff as they proceeded shortly thereafter to add an arts element to the 27 University discussions. Repeat: original Arrillaga proposal was for office tower only and staff suggested making this more palatable to the public with a public benefit of arts, to use Theatreworks as the patsy or poster child or alluring sideshow.
Here is some PA Weekly reporting on 456:
I DREAM OF THEATER ... The looming departure of Borders Books from downtown Palo Alto has given some residents hope that the spacious venue could once again serve as a theater. The building at 456 University Ave. housed the Varsity Theatre, a single-screen movie house, between 1927 and 1994 and was converted into a retail location the year after the theater's closure. City resident Mark Weiss, a long-time advocate of public art, wrote a letter to the City Council this week urging the council to seize the opportunity and consider bringing a new theater to downtown Palo Alto. The venue, he argued, could be a future site for a "a public hall, for entertainment, for a marketplace of ideas, for live music concerts, for live theatre, for lectures, for government outreach, for film programming and high technology showcasing, for up to 900 people at a time." Palo Alto officials aren't so sure. Thomas Fehrenbach, the city's economic development manager, issued a report this week claiming that a performing arts theater for that site "has significant obstacles, especially in light of the constraints and costs of such a retrofit." He also wrote that given the site's "limited University Avenue frontage and large size," it would be a "major challenge" to find a single retailer to occupy the site. The report irked Weiss and local land-use watchdog Winter Dellenbach, who publicly denounced it at this week's City Council meeting as being filled with "unsubstantiated conclusions and odd assertions." She particularly disputed Fehrenbach's assertion that the site's frontage presents an obstacle to a potential new theater. "Borders was there for 10 years. It wasn't site failure," Dellenbach said. "The site is just fine."



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2012 at 2:13 am

Adina Levin - could you please elaborate and or provide a source for your statement on the relative value of working versus living near public transportation.

I think $100 MM for transit improvement sounds great for people selling cement or renting jack-hammers -- not sure how it benefits us or truly addresses the issues versus being pork.

Also, on the thread of bicycling (and possible pork) -- albeit distinct from 27 Uni -- I'd like to see an economist break down the value of the million dollar bike bridge proposed over 101 -- does that save many car-trips versus carbon footprint of building the thing?

Another point of fact: there is nothing in the 100-page staff report re Arrillaga towers proposal that says in writing that he is actually required to donate the building to Stanford; in terms of planned giving and relationships between donors and institutions there are various ways to make a gift; it's really between JA and Stanford, and then the IRS, but we should, in my opinion, try to assess this without assuming there is philanthropy involved.

Some people have suggested that maybe we can construct a monument to JA independent of this project to filter out how much of this is a swansong by a great man versus what anybody actually wants or needs. I heard it said that the height is non-negotiable, meaning JA will not agree to anything short of the 161-feet. Maybe that's the height necessary to see 27 Uni from JA's 100-acre estate up near Foothills Park.

I have as much problem with the process here as the proposed product, the secretiveness, the convoluted nature, the kowtowing.

Last, I think, as referenced above, it is a useful tool to figuring out what's going on here in Palo Alto ongoing to look at how commissioners got appointed, who voted for them -- you can even read the various applications on file for background, ideology, sophistication of thinking, the effort put in. And also the list of which council members are also either investors or developers themselves is interesting.

I think leadership-- council, commissioners and staff -- should listen to residents first and developers last -- yet I sense the opposite is what's going on.

There is a zeitgeist of people wanting change -- not sure how that impacts Nov. 6 election or if things will get worse before they get better.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 10:42 am


How does a bicycle bridge between Palo Alto and EPA cost 1 million, but Arrillaga's offer for "clean-up and reconfigure the transportation area" add up to 100 million? It's not like he is actually fixing transportation, it's to build a few sidewalks and byscile paths.

There is nothing to clean up or reconfigure on what is already great open space and a perfectly functioning transportation "hub"

Such dishonesty about this project.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 10:44 am



typo

Bicycle paths

how does that add up to 100 million?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Street Car line from Sand Hill Rd at 280 to Facebook. Stops at Rosewood/Sharon Heights, Stanford West, Hostipal, Medical Plaza, Stanford Mall, 27 University/Caltrain, Menlo Park, Sunset, VA, Willow and Facebook. Some more stops can be added, express cars or local.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Garrett,

You would get as much love out of a street car project near any neighborhoods, as high speed rail does.

But you distract with imaginary ideas, the same way this project does - golden gate bridge, eiffel tower, street cars.

The City is making a case for density near transit, but who wants it?

1. Density puts pressure on our schools.

2. Density that does not pay any property taxes (like this project), is particularly costly. This project will pay no taxes into eternity.

3. The word transit is being used extremely loosely to include our own residents walking, biking, and taking shuttles inside Palo Alto or from EPA. There are less people who use transit form outside Palo Alto than the Disneyland shuttle. People who come from farther away all use CARS>

The irony is that Palo Altans are biking more to save the planet, and to reduce traffic, yet these same people are being asked to let Arrillaga put parking lots on park land, destroy open space, and bring more traffic.

Beware of Arrillaga's offer to "reconfigure" this aerea to revamp "transit"

This project wants to reconfigure everything to suit the project, only.

I am shocked that the Weekly keeps calling it a plan to create a "vibrant" aerea - hello!! This BARELY strip of open space between Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Palo Alto is as vibrant as it gets already. It needs to be left in peace.

There are no big ideas about these glass towers, it's a cheap construction monster.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm




I will add the fact that density and transit increases crime.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Even if 27 University isreduced or not allow, still need to solve the traffic problem. Cyclists and people walking to works helps but how those who drive. We have such lousy transit options, shuttles are good but they have to share the road with all the other users. They all want that space front of you, don't get me started on the way in the rear. I think the same Street Car system will work from El Camino to Google in MV.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by former employee
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Stanford has offered powerful incentives for employees not to drive to work including subsidized Caltrain passes and expensive onsite parking permits. Employees also receive money for using alternative transit.

My understanding is that many people, especially those in the lower income categories, still drive but hop on Marguerite or simply walk across El Camino for the last leg of the trip. (It often takes less time to park off-campus and catch Marguerite than to circle around for ages looking for a parking space.) These employees have no qualms about collecting extra money either.+

San Francisco residents can take public transit to Stanford. Because the rest of our area has no real public transit, anyone who wants to take Caltrain from another city usually has to drive to the nearest station. At which point it's probably faster just to continue driving to Palo Alto than to wait for a train. So before accepting the statistics provided as genuine, I would consider the source and also consider the extent to which employees have learned to game the system.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm

On density, I don't expect every kind of density based project to be lower incomer or small rentals. What about a well planned and designed family style duplex, 2500 square foot. Not everyone wants kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

So sorry about mis spellings of words, try typing and what you want to say via a Samsung smart phone with a cursor that will move around. Don't text and drive, hard enough to just text.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Garrett,

You live in another community

Your ideas reflect your poor understanding of the Palo Alto community.

In Palo Alto we bike, we walk, and our school kids are probably the biggest crowd taking the shuttle. Our schools alone probably account for 2/3 of what is being called "transit."

The kind of transit you refer to, as former employee posted is not even employees who live in another city who take caltrain. That is because they have nothing on the other side to get home with. Those numbers are extremely small and do not need a fake "hub" anymore than we need a theater for the handful of Theaterworks fans who say they need a theater but do not bother to recycle one already downtown.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm



Garrett,

"What about a well planned and designed family style duplex, 2500 square foot. Not everyone wants kids"

A 2550 sq foot family duplex for people who do not want kids.

They will probably not be riding caltrain either because if I you do not want kids, wouldn't you have more money left over for a car? maybe two cars if you live in a 2500 squ foot duplex.

It has been entertaining to respond to you, do you get paid to do this?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

What about bike freeway from 280 to Facebook, you can park and have a ride in. Both ends of my idea street car line. But look at 2 hospitals, 1 mall, a large Stanford housing plex, medical office buildings, Senior citizen housing. That is the problem once you get pass college, options are mostly drive. What about bike bridge over 101.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm

This is a hobby, like city desgin, some of the cities I have lived in were small transit friendly cities. City that are designed and kept up. I have know people, no kids who have lived in such large units, homes. Did you know once Palo Alto once had a trolley line. Mayfield, er Cal Ave had a rail line to Los Altos and to the Saratoga area.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Garrett

You seem to have given up on Caltrain altogether and admit people use cars, especially employed people. Your focus is transit from 280 to Facebook and 101 to Stanford?

Good idea for Stanford- build a parking lot and bus "hub" at 101 with Oregon Expressway. Buses would go straight to Junipero Serra and take that road to all the Stanford stops. Another one at 280, shorter ride to Stanford. Stanford employees would have parking and a scenic route, as opposed to the gridlock downtown Palo Alto.

Facebook traffic is another story, but how about a bus hub at 280 and Woodside road, and have a shuttle thing going from there, for the 280 drivers.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm



One of the council members said people are asking for more adult entertainment, why not make the new bus hubs at 101 and at 280 entertaining.

Great views from both places, one the hills, the other the bay.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Haven't given up on it, just needs better connections for people moving towards hospital and Facebook. Get non Palo Alto cars, and others who use it as a shortcut.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Less cars, less traffic means less people speeding.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Garrett,

Facebook is in Menlo Park, not Palo Alto. For better Caltrain connections to FB, you missed your station. They need to figure that one out.

For the practically non-existent Caltrain riders who work at Stanford, there are shuttles, you can bike, walk, what more do you need to be transported from your train seat to across the street?









 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Garrett,

"Less cars, less traffic means less people speeding."

Of course, that is why it should be LESS offices.

Palo Alto will be better off as a bedroom community, and transit geared to going out to offices, away form here. We have plenty with Stanford.

Surrounding communities should bear more of the transit burdens instead of everyone deciding Palo Alto is the dumpy transit hub.

All the more reason to not budge on allowing tall buildings.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm




Actually, there should be a balance between housing, offices, and retail. It shouldn't be all apartment buildings either.





 +   Like this comment
Posted by keep Manhattan in NY
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

"There are no property taxes on this project …"

Not true. Palo Alto would get the property taxes, just as it does from the Stanford Shopping Center and the Stanford Research Park.

"With 10% primary bike commute mode share, Palo Alto is already #2 in the country behind Davis."

According to this list, Palo Alto is not in the Top 10 bicycling cities: Web Link

"we now know that there have been secret discussions dating back to Aug., 2011."

It took 4 years and 97 meetings of public vetting to approve the Stanford Hospital project.

When the contract was finally signed in June 2011, John Arrillaga approached the city about 27 University. Apparently no one outside of City Hall was informed.

TheatreWorks management began discussions for a theatre at the site in fall 2011. Still, the public knew nothing until March 2012 when Steve Emslie got approval from the council to spend money on studies. (BTW, TheatreWorks has an $8M budget.)

Six months after that meeting – still with no public input – an article about a 10-, 9-, 7- and 6-story office complex suddenly appeared in local newspapers, complete with architectural sketches.

I have serious concerns about the way this project has been handled:

1. The city has approved spending $286,000 on studies. Public money is being spent to study private office buildings. Normally, the developer pays for studies when he is trying to get a project approved.

2. Former planning commissioner Owen Byrd said of the proposed Arrillaga project, "The offices are a public benefit themselves." (Daily Post 9/21)

He is echoing city council members Greg Scharff and Nancy Shepherd, referring to the Lytton Gateway office building as a public benefit: "I think this is a prime site and having an office building … is itself a public benefit," Scharff said. Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd shared his view …. She said she considers the building itself a contributor to the public-benefit package. Web Link

There is no way a private, for-profit office building can remotely be considered a public benefit.

3. Two members of the city's land-use boards, former Planning and Transportation Commissioner Daniel Garber and former Architectural Review Board member Heather Young, conveniently resigned earlier this year to work on this unofficial project. The city has since conveniently approved a Contract with Fergus Garber Young Consultants in the Amount of $85,000 for Urban Design and Architectural Services.

4. While the office project studies are being done, Council is negotiating with Arrillaga in closed session, for the sale of city land. Yet this land has never been publicly declared to be surplus.

5. From PA Weekly Editorial September 28, 2012: "The public was inexcusably given just four days to absorb a long staff report prior to Monday's meeting, a breach of the policy goal of providing at least 10 days' notice before meetings on major and complex projects.
… the city staff has done the public and the City Council a disservice in prematurely giving up its role as impartial professional adviser. The staff report reads more like a sales pitch than a careful articulation of the challenging policy issues posed by the proposal and the very significant traffic problems that come with a development of this size."

The lack of transparency, the speed at which this enormous project is being rammed through, the incestuous nature of the relationships, the "arts complex" misnomer attempting to disguise the huge office complex are unprecedented.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Just because Facebook is in M.P. along with 280 and Sand Hill Road. Just thinking of what is in between, and what it will cost. 2 counties, 4 cities, one mall, 2 downtowns, some compaines, many young able bodies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by keep Manhattan in NY
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm

> your statement that "none of the merchants" want the streetscape changes to Cal Ave is false.

I think all the Cal Ave merchants want streetscape improvements, but at least 55 do not want the lane reduction.

> "Many other merchants just don't have time or the interest in attending meetings."

A lot of the Cal Ave businesses are restaurants and the owners find it difficult to attend city meetings that take place in the evening.

> " … meetings had gotten hijacked by vocal opponents. … So you end up with an echo chamber phenomenon, where only opponents show/speak up, and so they think that everyone is an opponent because they're the only ones talking."

How does a meeting get highjacked? People have to sign up to speak for 3 minutes. Do "highjackers" mug people if they try to sign up?

You probably don't consider it highjacking when the bicycle coalitions urge their members to attend and speak at council meetings and they outnumber everyone else, as was the case when the council approved the permanent changes on Arastradero.

Andrew Boone, of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, was quoted: "Your unanimous approval of the Arastradero Restriping Project sends a strong message to cities all over the nation that we can and we must pursue similar vehicle lane reductions everywhere it is feasible. Middlefield and Embarcadero should be next!"

> "Most of the opposition to the Cal Ave plan is centered around the fear that reducing the number of lanes will cause huge traffic jams, but none of the traffic studies support this fear."

As far as I know, there was only one traffic study done on Cal Ave in Dec. 2010. www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=25743

It says: "According to the City of Palo Alto, there are no pending projects or planned projects in the foreseeable future. … Therefore, traffic volumes on California Avenue between El Camino Real and Park Boulevard will remain unchanged with the current land uses."

This statement about no pending or planned projects is patently false.

The 2650 Birch project has been on the books since 2009: 25,000 sq ft building consisting of 8 spacious 2 and 3 bedroom condos plus 10,000 sq ft of office space.

In 2006, Council approved Hohbach's 157,502-square-foot project at 195 Page Mill Road (between the Caltrain tracks and Park Boulevard), which would exceed height and size limits in exchange for making a portion of the 84 apartments below market rate. A lawsuit held up the project for several years, but it was finally approved in June 2012.

The city had also been planning a police station at 2785 Park Blvd back in 2007, which is now back on the table, since Jay Paul is proposing to build a shell in exchange for zoning changes on his Page Mill developments.

Finally, the Cal Ave district is the city's ONLY PDA (Planned Develoopment Area), where "most of the growth from 2010-2040 [is] to be located… areas that typically would accommodate higher density development near transit stations or corridors."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm

keep Manhattan in NY,

Your summary helps explain why there was never a case for this project (for Palo Alto), in the first place.

The taxes Palo Alto makes from Stanford Shopping center are mainly sales taxes from the fine stores there. I'd like to know the dollar amount of property taxes which Stanford currently pays for Stanford Shopping Center, and for the land for this project? I also wonder what the current appraisal for it is. Or why people have said that Stanford, as a non-profit would not pay taxes.

The project wants to reconfigure current Palo Alto land, the transportation "hub", take some extra land from Palo Alto, what portion of this project is actually on land that belongs to Stanford? How can the city just sell public land?

Sounds like we need about 50 lawyers looking into this. Pro-bono.

I'm sure nobody wants to stand up to Arrillaga or Stanford. Any brave souls out there?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Weekly, Editor,

Any plans to write a meatier story about this project?

A story with lots of numbers and data.

On a map, exactly which land belongs to Stanford, which land is the city trying to secretly sell to Arrillaga? How much is currently paid in property taxes for this land. Comparison with Stanford Shopping center. An in-depth weighing offices vs retail. What on earth Pat Burt was referring to when talking about a transit hub? More about the incestuous relationships forged between city staff and the developer. I guess it should be enough two work for him now.

More questions will be asked, so this may need to be a 10 part story.

So far, the information sounds Arrillaga and City controlled/approved - fed to the public with a public relations slant. They thought we would buy the words "arts" and "innovation", and" vibrant", and "revamp", "transit", "breath taking," "reaching for the stars" and so forth.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm


Weekly, Editor,

The headline for this story is much appreciated

"Bold downtown plan spurs debate over Palo Alto's growth"

Indeed, it is time to have a serious debate over Palo Alto's growth given the increased robberies, traffic, and pressures on our schools.

To have an honest debate we need more information about how the city is making these compromises with developers in the name of public benefit when there are no benefits. Sounds like examples abound, this one is certainly crazy.

It's probably a lot to ask, when the city is hiding information or burying it in their secret meetings with developers or lead you to their website. But please just ask. Ask the City to provide this information because your readers are asking.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm



Another question, how does Prop 13 make a difference in residential vs commercial projects, for example who contributes more to our schools.

And how is it that other model cities are successful at zoning tall buildings away from their residential and historical districts, or already crunched districts. And we have city governance doing the opposite.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 8:29 am

re There is no case for it
"Good idea for Stanford- build a parking lot and bus "hub" at 101 with Oregon Expressway."
Does everyone know that, because of the construction of the new hospital and impending demolition of "Parking Structure 3," Stanford does have a lot at Embarcadero and 101 (I think) and a shuttle bus system into the Med Ctr to and from there? Maybe that will stay even after the construction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:38 am


businessdecision,

I go on Embarcadero at all hours, and rarely see a shuttle - occasionally the one that drops off students at Paly. Embarcadero is cars, and gridlock, increasingly ridiculous traffic - all cars.

This week I saw the driver of a Range Rover helping a student clean himself up, and pick up the kid's bike from under his grill. There was a ton of traffic, near aWalter Hayes, I was at a distance and the student seemed ok enough and likely was in a rush to get to school. I could not see the license plate or I would have called 911, but unless they exchanged information, it was practically a hit and run? Student looked young and shy type with glasses.

You have kids as young as 5 years old biking to school. SO, because 3 schools use Embarcadero during rush hour (Paly, Walter Hayes and Jordan), Embarcadero should not be the option for commuter traffic.

Stanford commuter traffic and employee bus/shuttle options should be on Oregon Expressway PageMill- Junipero Serra.

If Stanford maintains a parking lot at 101 EMbarcadero, bravo, I hope more of their employees use it. I would suggest them to scoot over to use Oregon. The ride may even be quicker, and all Stanford facilities are easily accessible from the West entrance. Hospital is actually closer to the west.

But do enough people even use this option? I maintain everyone drives.

Anyway, for traffic, transit and safety, there is no reason to have a major bus "hub" at the McArthur park (now Arrillaga?) location. On the contrary, anything with wheels other than bikes need to be REDUCED at that location.

This project is SO wrong at every level.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

Hi, There is no case for it,
Stanford's shuttles to and from "the Tech Center" (whatever that may be) use Embarcadero. I too wonder how many people use those vehicles, but when the axe falls on Hallowe'en (the axe falls on the parking structure), we may start to get a better idea.
What you say about Embarcadero is very disturbing but not surprising.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by harleyboy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:54 am

"I go on Embarcadero at all hours, and rarely see a shuttle - occasionally the one that drops off students at Paly. Embarcadero is cars, and gridlock, increasingly ridiculous traffic - all cars. "
This is very new--the shuttle and it runs every half hour in the mornings and the PM--no service midday.
The amount of traffic and gridlock you claim for Embarcadero Road is an exagerration.

"This week I saw the driver of a Range Rover helping a student clean himself up, and pick up the kid's bike from under his grill. There was a ton of traffic, near aWalter Hayes, I was at a distance and the student seemed ok enough and likely was in a rush to get to school. I could not see the license plate or I would have called 911, but unless they exchanged information, it was practically a hit and run? Student looked young and shy type with glasses."
Another Palo Alto traffic "horror" story--I see a car running over bicyclist on such aand such street every hour--I think by now most people ignore such exaggerations.

"Embarcadero should not be the option for commuter traffic."
Then you will have to close the 101 exits to Embarcadero and divert traffic elsewhere--people will love that.

"Stanford commuter traffic and employee bus/shuttle options should be on Oregon Expressway PageMill- Junipero Serra. "
Well, since streets are available to everyone, that i snot an option. But do we really wabt to close the Embarcadero enytrance to Stanford and divert traffic elsewhere?

"I would suggest them to scoot over to use Oregon. The ride may even be quicker, and all Stanford facilities are easily accessible from the West entrance. Hospital is actually closer to the west."
What "west" entrance are you talking about -Oregon is further from the hospital than Embarcadero.

"But do enough people even use this option? I maintain everyone drives."
Really? you maintain that witha straight face knowing Stanford's record for alternative transportation???

You must live on Embarcadero. Yoriko is proud of you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

harley boy,

I am calling the "west" entrance to Stanford, the back way - via Junipero Serra. The road by the dish. You've never used it?

I maintain that there is no need for a new transit hub, except or unless to accommodate the newly proposed 4 office towers, PLUS the additional 229,000 square feet Arrillga is developing to the right in Menalo Park.

Which exit is closer to the Menlo Park development? The Palo Alto exits. So the pressure will be on University and Embarcadero.

I maintain that a transit "hub" cannot be sold as a "benefit" when it would not be necessary in the first place if these office towers would not be developed. Combined, they are larger than the Hospital.

I also maintain that there is already gridlock on Univeristy, and Embarcadero, and that we need less cars.

Our luck, you are probably the consultant in charge of the traffic study.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 10:30 am



harley boy,

by the way, I didn't suggest that "Stanford cars" be reduced, though Stanford itself is suggesting that.

I am suggesting that for the "alternative transportation" options Stanford has developed, ie. commuter BUSES with parking options at 101- that they take Oregon instead of Embarcadero. Maybe they already are, how many buses? Probably 1 or 2?

The story is cars.

The proposed offices will bring more cars.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

harley boy,

My 5 year old on her bike will make your commute on Embarcadero slow in the first place. I have more in the pipeline.

Wouldn't a better location for your offices allow you to more fully enjoy your speed?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by harleyboy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2012 at 11:13 am

"I am calling the "west" entrance to Stanford, the back way - via Junipero Serra. The road by the dish. You've never used it?"
So you want all drivers to use Oregon to Junipero Serra to Stanford instead of the quicker Embarcadero, becuas eyou live there?

"I also maintain that there is already gridlock on Univeristy, and Embarcadero, and that we need less cars."
There is no gridlock on those streets. Yes, there is a problem with the Town and Country lights. Traffic may move slow at times, but not gridlock. This is just another of the usual inflated traffic concerns that we hear EVERY TIME there is talk of new business or development. Palo ALto residents have cried wolf too often. No one buy sit anymore.
If you want less cars, then campaign to shut down every business on University.

"My 5 year old on her bike will make your commute on Embarcadero slow in the first place. I have more in the pipeline."
Not sure what you are getting at, but why would a 5 year old on a bike slow down traffic on Embarcadero?

Let's see what happens when this is brought to a vote bythe residents of PA


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 11:20 am



harley boy,

Yup, you just might be in charge of the traffic study.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

I am voting against all of the current City Council members in the hopes that new blood in City Council will put a stop to the corrupt business of the majority of new growth in Palo Alto.
If any of the members are against this proposed monstrosity, please speak up now or go away!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 11:53 am

How much more time will it take, Cal Ave stop will be the station to get get a shuttle. How is the traffic on Expressway/Page Mill Rd. at ECR. Just trying to get ad many road users off the road.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ballot Please
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Let citizens vote on this. Put it on a ballot. City Council cannot be depended on to do what is right for the community. Besides, this is another 'toss out planning" where council tosses out an idea and spends millions of dollars planning, hiring consultants, architects, construction administration people which is all good for those companies, however, the city budget is what needs to be scrutinized PRIOR to approving ANYTHING. Get it right Council. Listen to citizens, NOT the city manager on this one unless you go through available funds with a fine tooth comb. And DON'T move funds in SAP to make it appear there is money available like it has been done in the past.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KMINY - is right!
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm

"There is no way a private, for-profit office building can remotely be considered a public benefit."

Unless they twist words and say 'public benefit will be the additional property taxes for the city". If there is no law saying they cannot, they will. That is the new Palo Alto way of doing business.

NO PUBLIC FUNDS ARE ALLOWED ON PRIVATE BUILDING/CONSTRUCTION. Citizens really need to watch the hen house. The City of Palo Alto cannot make backdoor deals with developers. It is illegal and HAS TO STOP. NO PUBLIC FUNDS ON PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION!!!!!! All the other what if's (traffic, pedestrians, shuttles) are distractions to confuse citizens. Stay focused on this one folks. Hold the city accoutable for EVERY SINGLE PENNY budgeted and spent IF this project moves forward.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

This project has a long way to go before, tell you the merits with or without theatre. Traffic on University, Caltrain upgrade to costly. Building would be better elsewhere and only with proper design and better land use planning. Traffic still neefs to be dealt with, transit ideas and ways to move people. To and from or here to there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No gridlock
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Just drove Embarcadero from Stanford to the Honda dealer-no gridlock whatsoever. Hysterical pronouncements about traffic have gone too far.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good Point Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Current neighborhood and travelway issues will become intensified with a mass project of this nature. City should conduct traffic surveys (temp help or interns can do for low/no cost) now for high and low peak traffic and durations to compare to future potential traffic flow and peaks, etc. Not complicated nor expensive at all. CalTrain parking would be somewhat limited in comparison but then again majority of commuters do not stop in Palo Alto. However CalTrain would benefit immensely with additional high peak/weekend use, it's just that the community (taxpayers) reasonable quality of life which needs to be considered first and foremost. That is where I believe Palo Alto Council/Citizens partnerhsip has been lost.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good Point Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

No Gridlock,

Play fair. If you just drove it at 2:20-ish in the afternoon on a Monday, how about doing it again at 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. hourly today and then again tomorrow between 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m hourly all day, then sample Thursday and Friday. Do I need to go further. Play fair in the spirit of good discussion.

Sincerley,
Good Point Garret


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm


No gridlock,

It's 2 pm, no schools are out, and it's not rush hour. It's 2 pm. If all those offices are built, it will be like a Stanford football game every day.

Anyway, measure of gridlock is relative. Zero gridlock if you compare it to Manhattan.

Palo Alto traffic today compared to 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 5 years ago, and 10 years ago.

I would say I encounter gridlock. Try getting to the Emergency room on a football day, you simply can't move on Embarcadero or EL Camino.

Now project this growth into the future, with all the "planning" the city has in mind. It will destroy Palo Alto.

Why would office workers even like working in a traffic jam? They suffer the 101 and 280 commute to get stuck at University.

And why would they want to commute to be greeted by a wall of buildings?

WHat people like about Palo Alto is what it's not, but city staff is quickly making it into what people even outside of Palo Alto dislike.

We can thank the visionaries who decided on the 50 foot height limit, making Palo Alto what it is today - that what people like, and we need to keep it that way.

I agree with KMINY, and why I suggested we need a few brave lawyers looking to do a good deed, to dig and dig into this mess.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm



Good point Garrett,

A lot of good ideas, but it's not what the CIty is doing. They will fudge the traffic numbers the same way they have so far fudged the perceived benefits.

Even if they projected some fake numbers ok'd by them, who decided traffic needs to grow?

We need to reduce traffic form the current level. There is no room for even a 1 story building at this particular pressure point.

Tall office buildings need to be zoned away towards 101 or 280;


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

long time resident,

The only candidate speaking out against developers is Mark Weiss. Be warned, he is extremely quirky.

But he's not that far off base with his perceptions of City staff and council. He just sounds crazy because the subject is so insane, he calls it like it is.

I have not met him, but I am planning to vote for him and take a shot at the dark with him than all the "serious" candidates.



Palo Alto politics are so crazy he needs to . Gunn and Dartmouth grad.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

It will take some time before project is approved. Is there going to be a promise of deals made for public benefit or will there be a get out of jail card? What promises will be made on transit beside improving train/bus stop and a shuttle. What kind of revenue stream. I have been reading the comments, go back to the drawing table, come up with smaller friendly protect. Less height, less ugly, less glass.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm



correction - Palo Alto politics are so crazy he (Mark Weiss) I guess will fit in. He's different in that he is relatively young, idealistic, a Gunn and Dartmouth graduate.

I saw his video on palo alto online, an interview with all the candidates, and he has a blog.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Find another place for glass towers like down by 101 at S.A. Rd.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by shameful
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm

A point was made about gridlock. A response was posted saying there was no gridlock. Then we get clarification. Gridlock only happens at certain times. No real news there. Typical hysterical pronouncements about traffic in Palo alto. A former council member wrote the book on it, her followers Parrot it


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm

shameful,

"Typical hysterical pronouncements about traffic in Palo alto. A former council member wrote the book on it, her followers Parrot it"

Which former council member wrote a book on hysterical pronouncements on traffic, can we re-elect her? I would be a follower, there are many reasons to be hysterical about traffic.


Garrett,

"Find another place for glass towers like down by 101 at S.A. Rd."

I completely agree, cheap glass towers are more suitable for highway 101 office architecture.

A landmark place should have a world class architect, with a competition to select the best idea. Wishful thinking but an example of a more thoughtful design is the De Yong museum in SF architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Fong + Chan

"...The entire exterior is clad in 163,118 sq ft (15,154.2 m2) of copper, which is expected to eventually oxidize and take on a greenish tone and a distinct texture to echo the nearby eucalyptus trees. In order to further harmonize with the surroundings, shapes were cut into the top to reveal gardens and courtyards where 48 trees had been planted. 5.12 acres (20,700 square meters) of new landscaping were planted as well, with 344 transplanted trees and 69 historic boulders. The building is clad with variably perforated and dimpled copper plates, whose patina will slowly change through exposure to the elements..."

I wouldn't allow any building on this site to be built at all, but if you have one, I would limit the height to the 50 feet or less, and request it to be hidden behind lots of trees.

Stanford needs to forget the current lush green view they have from there of Palm Drive. It will be Palm Drive with an in your face ugly building sticking out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I want to know why 'we the people' the citizens of Palo Alto continue allow outsiders like ABAG or some bilionare devloper with no taste, tell US how to live in OUR city, that WE pay taxes to reside in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm

From Morgan Hill to Santa Rosa there is an ossue with ABAG. Do you think a young married couple working in non tech, educated but between both make under 120,000 hundred thousand dollars a year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm

But ABAG is a whole other thing which is just to big for any one area, city, county or region of the Bay Area. Issue at hand is office buildings, height and zoning. I would prefer any building to have class, style and at least blend in with surroundings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm



Can someone explain ABAG, and how Palo Alto is beholden to comply or not. Can it ignore it? how does it work.

This would be another of my long list of suggestions for the Weekly to write hard news about.

Could there be some miraculously good reason to trade away the Palo Alto we all enjoy in exchange for a developer's playground?







 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2012 at 7:17 am

KMINY- is right!!

It is illegal and HAS TO STOP. NO PUBLIC FUNDS ON PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION!!!!!!"

The CIty signed a letter of intent with Theaterworks to go forward with this project. Theaterworks must be a front, and will provide the project all sorts of other loopholes.

Wouldn't that be illegal as well, to purposely use a non-profit to front a commercial project?

My appeal to the Weekly is going on deaf ears, for a hard news story answering all the questions and extremely serious concerns about this project. Certainly this one about Theaterworks is a big question. The theater company I have seen once in 5 years, and to which 99.99% of Palo Altans have never seen.

The other one is when did Palo Alto decide on this mantra city officials blather about, to push for "density near transit."

I don't want density.

We have San Jose, the 10th largest city in the U.S. barely 25 minutes to the South, and San Francisco, the 14th largest city in the US 1/2 hr to the North. They are the 3rd and 4th largest cities in California.

Why on earth would Palo Alto want to have density? and we already have plenty of transit. enough to serve the residents and visitors.

Don't turn Palo Alto into a wall of buildings. Not near transit or anywhere.

Transit in Palo Alto is a very short distance to all our neighborhoods. It's not like we are on the Upper West Side and the Port Authority is far enough away. Expect the city grit to get closer and closer to our streets with density.

The homeless currently by Caltrain will be displaced. You think the CIty will do anything about it, if they move to our streets? they have no idea how to manage density.

We don't even have a normally elected mayor. Nobody is in charge, as can be seen by this project.

























 +   Like this comment
Posted by Need transparency
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

Who's in charge? City Manager Keene and Asst. City Manager Emslie. Emslie is the former Planning Manager and has always been favorable to developers.
The staff is in charge. They can hire, and can fire anyone who opposes them. They hired a TheaterWorks board member to be the architect.
About the Advisory vote in March, we need to make our views known before they mealy-mouth the ballot description. The ballot could describe how wonderful the project will be so theater lovers and bike zealots will convince the people who aren't paying attention now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

I don't think this project should be approved. On thing, it would be nice to see a news report about the housing problem and how if affects us. Not every person who comes here will make money, make a killing in a IPO, be a hipster with no kids, of just a couple with no kids. If you have kids, will you kids compete with all the others trying to buy a house or even rent. Remember how many kids leave high school in Palo Alto each year, the look at the numbers of houses being approved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2012 at 11:34 am


SHOW UP!



THURSDAY 8:30 a.m.
Council Chambers, City Hall 250 Hamilton Avenue
WHAT: "Palo Alto Architectural Review Board will hold a study session and receive public testimony on a proposal to build a theater and office complex at 27 University Ave"

Notice the "theater" is always listed first, lol

The article includes
"The question remains whether a more efficient transit center and a 70,000 square-foot theater are worth the trade-off of buildings that are more than the triple the city's 50-foot height restriction on new development."

Surely the developer will have a crowd in favor of busting the code and agreeing to this,

SHOW UP to provide your input.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

Glass skyscrapers are bird killers. Toronto, with more of them than other major cities, has an unbelievably high rate of birds dying after having flown into these buildings. So here's another reason to oppose this ridiculous development!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Need transparency
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm

At the ARB this project is 4th on the agenda so showing up after 9 or 9:30 will be fine.
This is the city's strange ARB Agenda description:
4. 27 University Avenue: Study session to allow for additional public comment and ARB
discussion of site planning and urban design concepts related to the potential project presented on October 24, 2012 to the ARB and Planning and Transportation Commission, for comments in advance of further City Council consideration. The area bounded by El Camino Real, University Avenue, the improved areas of El Camino Park and the Caltrain Station and Right of Way, is the potential site of a new Arts and Innovation District. Included in the concepts are the relocation of the Intermodal Transit Center from Mitchell Lane to a transit circle at University Avenue and Urban Lane to enhance transit accessibility and capacity, improved connections across the site, and provision of an urban destination including a performing arts theater and contemporary office space.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by There is no case for it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

"Included in the concepts are the relocation of the Intermodal Transit Center from Mitchell Lane to a transit circle at University Avenue and Urban Lane to enhance transit accessibility and capacity, improved connections across the site, and provision of an urban destination including a performing arts theater and contemporary office space."

Need Transparency,

Would you know if it's common to discuss such relocations, ahead of a traffic study?

One would think these changes hinge on a traffic study. Pretty brazen, to have a meeting to fantasize about the project, with "community input" when the community has no information at all., or are there other documents to look at.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hamilton Hitchings
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

As a 20 year Palo Alto resident I would vote no the current proposal. If the height of the buildings were restricted to 50 feet, traffic and parking were fully addressed and space for high speed rail factored in then I could probably live with it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More about Pat Burt
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Donations by major developers to Pat Burt:

Butler Construction Co., Woodside, $1,000.00
Butler is the GENERAL CONTRACTOR for the Mitchell Park Library. Maybe they would like Burt to go easy on them in dealing with the incompetence and the shocking one-year delay and extra cost in that project.

Earlier listed, Developers of 4 story office building on Alma St., Lund and Boyd Smith $1,000 (500 each) and a bunch of Woodside developers $500 EACH, also, Jim Baer and Roxy Rapp.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Cho's, beloved dim sum spot, to reopen in Los Altos
By Elena Kadvany | 8 comments | 5,720 views

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 12 comments | 2,206 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,732 views

Guest Post from HSSV: Adopt a Naughty Dog!
By Cathy Kirkman | 1 comment | 1,432 views

First Interview
By Sally Torbey | 6 comments | 875 views