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New re-modeled Safeway in Menlo Park

Original post made by Marvin, Charleston Gardens, on Dec 11, 2007

Too bad we cannot have a store like this in Palo Alto for our shopping needs:

Web Link

Oh, I forgot, it would cause too much traffic and it would not be fair to the smaller grocery stores in town (though the other stores in Menlo Park do not appear to be concerned).

Comments (61)

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Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:22 am

Marvin, how long does it take you to get to that Safeway, five minutes? Palo Alto is already crawling with grocery stores.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:48 am

Joe--Palo Alto is crawling with small, overpriced specialty stores. PA has managed to drive all of the large grocery chains out of town, with the exception of the small Safeway in Midtown.
Our city wants us to shop in PA and they constantly talk about walkable neighborhoods.
i actually agree with your attitude about driving out of town for ALL of my shopping, be it groceries, electronics, clothes etc.


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Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 12:08 pm

I will definitely get over to this Safeway soon. When I need to do Safeway-type shopping, I have been going for years to the Safeway on California in Mt. View as I find the Midtown one very poor. Most of my tax dollars, in general, go to Mt. View.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2007 at 1:19 pm

It was depressing going to see the new Menlo Safeway. There is no way to compare it to our local "crapway" in Midtown. Menlo now has true one stop shop with fair prices and a great range of low end to high end goods in one store. In Palo Alto you would need to go to at least 3 different stores for this selection.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Los Altos will be re-modeling and enlarging their downtown Safeway as well:

Web Link

So now we will have multiple options for our grocery shopping besides Mountain View.

As far as PA is concerned the important thing is to make sure that JJ&F does not too much competition in town, even if it means that the stores in town are undersized and/or "niche" markets with higher prices.


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Posted by Shopper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Midtown Safeway is a joke. If, and I say if, I can park and get into the store, the aisles are full of impulse buys and deliveries, I may be able to find what I want. Unless it is the basics, I can't always find what I want because they do not carry as much inventory as the Safeway in California Ave. in Mountain View, and their fresh meat and fish is very poor.


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Posted by mike
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2007 at 2:50 pm



Trader Joes is coming to Town and Country soon it will provide a great alternative to both Safeway and whole paycheck Whole Foods



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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Dec 11, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Good luck getting into and out of that new Trader Joe's, Mike. Town & Country traffic is a nightmare. And now Palo Alto is about to give them the extra Embarcadero Road right-of-way that could otherwise be used to expand the underpass someday. I guess City Hall thinks the existing 3-lane underpass on a 4-lane road is good enough. The underpass is 70 years old. Wonder what the lifespan is? The City will never get that land back. Oh well.




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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 23, 2007 at 1:30 pm

I've just completed all my food shopping for Christmas at Safeway and Whole Foods in Mountain View. Like Marvin I live in Charleston Gardens and these large store are easily available to us and most of South Palo Alto. Now North Palo Alto has a new and enlarged Safeway in Menlo Park. Does anyone shop in those overpriced tiny PA grocery stores anymore?

I couldn't shop at the Midtown Safeway if I'd wanted to today, my neighbor gave up, she couldn't find a place to park!!!

Thank goodness our neighboring Cities are providing us with good, large, well stocked grocery stores with adequate parking.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm

It is hard to argue that the grocery stores and other retail options in PA are not market leaders for everyday needs.

Why do you think that is? What should the city do differently do develop market-leading retail? Since everyone else does it, is it really so hard to have modern food stores, big box retail, auto malls, etc.? Is it too late for us? Is there a different sustainable strategy?


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Posted by marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 23, 2007 at 5:19 pm

clearly what happened many years ago a vocal "large groceries would be unfair to jj&f" minority got the city to put a 20k square foot limit on grocery stores and the rest is history. All other big box stores are discouraged because they will cause too much traffic. Forget about all the driving done to neighboring cities for shopping.
I guess our city leaders and "neighborhood activists" thought that we would just shop in palo altos inadequate and overpriced stores due to civic pride


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Is there actually a formal or informal limit on grocery store size??


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 26, 2007 at 7:08 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 26, 2007 at 8:55 am

Terry--regarding the 20K square foot limit:

Web Link

"The current proposal expands the Albertson's to 29,000 square feet, with space for some small independent shops and a little housing in the remainder of the Plaza. The most-mentioned argument against this proposal is that Palo Alto has a zoning limit of 20,000 square feet for such stores. There is nothing magical about the 20,000 square foot limit: According to people involved in the decision many years ago, they looked at the size of the existing stores and decided that that size was a reasonable limit. Since then, the situation has changed dramatically, and there are a host of reasons for dismissing any arguments about the size limit and instead focusing on the impacts of the actual design."


Also:

Web Link


Not sure if there is a limit written into law, but there is definitely no large grocery stores in Palo Alto, so there must be some rule that has been followed over the years.



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Posted by Again
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 26, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Marvin, I would not think of interfering with your first amendment rights to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat. You must also grant others the same right. They notice that you sound more and more like Mike, even asserting first amendment rights as he did a while back when someone, not me, disagreed with him.
Your first amendment rights include being a repetitious bore, and I would not think of objecting to it.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 26, 2007 at 12:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Old PA resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 26, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Well, probably I am in the minority here. But except for "bulk stuff" like tissues, bottled water etc, I much prefer the smaller stores in PA and around the area. Schaub, Sigona's, Di Martini, Ditmer's, ... The quality of their meats and produce is better than whole paycheck or safeway, the staff know you and recognise you, you can get custom meat cuts when you need it etc.

Well probably as I said I am in the minority here. _One_ big-box grocery store would be nice for stocking up on bulk stuff (agree, the midtown safeway is bad), but that feels like enough.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I also like smaller stores like Piazza's and Country Sun. I know that everything at the Sun is healthy and I can do all my shopping in about 15 minutes. For bulk items I go to CostCo.

I do understand why many people like to find everything under one roof. Given that we're surrounded by big Safeways in Mt. View and MP, I wonder if Safeway would build another superstore here.

Hard to believe that the city will give up the Embarcadero Road right-of-way to Trader Joe's. That corner is a traffic nightmare. Four lanes and a right-turn lane from Embarcadero to El Camino north would be a huge benefit.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Marvin, thank you for those links. It does look like a 20k limit has been the practice, if not the law.

This seems like a case of "Palo Alto Exception-ism" or, simply, we think the world revolves around us. We limit stores to 20K sqft to limit traffic and protect existing stores. Now many of us drive even further to go to stores in neighboring towns and we lose the sales tax revenue to boot. The local stores are protected for a while - but since they are often not well capitalized they cannot sustain a negative event (as seems to be the case with JJ&F). So then we end up with - the Midtown Safeway ;-) Oops.

The lesson, I think, is that if we want to be different, it is very expensive. If we are not willing to pay (increasingly clear that we are not), we should adapt to the changing environment, and try to put it to our advantage (good stores in good places, helpful developer concessions). Otherwise, we all lose out.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Dear Menlo Park,

You rock! Thank you for being such a considerate, thoughtful neighbor and hosting a Safeway so close to North Palo Alto. While Safeway may not generate the same tax revenues per car trip as Nordstrom's, you generously approved an ample parking lot. When Whole Foods and Molly Stones don't have what we need, it's great to have a big, new store just minutes away.

Love,

Palo Alto

Seriously folks, we're getting 95% of the benefits with 5% of the costs. What's not to like?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 26, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Interesting to see so many folks for whom the cost of groceries is not really a consideration. Molly Stone, Whole Food, and Piazza's, are pretty expensive compared to Safeway. Instead of going to Safeway when we "can't find what we need" we go to Molly Stone or Piazza's when we only need one or two things - it is like a big convenience store for us, expensive but conveniently located. We always drive to a larger market outside PA for weekly shopping, for both selection and price.


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Posted by Shanna
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 26, 2007 at 7:29 pm


Anonymous wrote: "Seriously folks, we're getting 95% of the benefits with 5% of the costs."

... and 0% of the tax revenue!


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Posted by same old stuff
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 26, 2007 at 8:52 pm

I go to Trader Joes, and Piazza's as I like the personal atmosphere. Sales people will check the back for a missing item and actually smile when they recognize me. I am more than happy to pay the extra at Piazza's as I feel it is important to support a privately owned market rather than a huge corporation like Safeway.


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Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2007 at 9:06 pm

I like Costco (Mountain View) and The Milk Pail (Mountain View). How many tax dollars are really at stake since most grocery items are not taxable?


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2007 at 8:25 am

So I have a question, since grocery stores mostly sell food and food is exempt from sales tax, are they really a big revenue generator for a city?


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 27, 2007 at 8:38 am

They are probably not a big revenue generator, in itself. But if you drive to go grocery shopping, don;t you do other shopping as well sometimes. So if you are grocery shopping in Mountain View, you may also go do other, sales tax revenue generating shopping, in MV as well.
The bottom line is that Pa is not only lacking in good sized grocery store choices, they are also lacking in places to go shopping for everyday items--we have plenty of boutique and specialty stores, but nothing in the way of a Target.
I do not foresee any national chain wanting to open a store here--it is too much of a headache--every project is nitpicked to death by the "neighborhood activists" and the city council will not make decisions for fear of offending residents
Why even bother building in PA when you can get something done quickly in Menlo Park, Los Altos and Mountain View.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 9:12 am

Safeway averages $200 per square foot in annual revenue. Guessing 25% taxable - call it $50 per foot of taxable revenue.

Walmart averages $200 per foot.
Target averages $300 per foot.

Stanford Shopping Center non-anchor stores average $600 per foot. Some generate over $1000 per foot.

Apple stores average $4000 per foot.

In other words our Apple store on University probably generates ten times the sales tax revenue as Menlo Park's Safeway. Not a bad tradeoff.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2007 at 9:23 am

What's the absolute volume of sales among these retailers? Sure, Apple and some Stanford Mall stores are heavy sales generators, but please let's not think that Target's sales tax revenues don't blow Apple's out the door.

Another thing to consider: What did Palo Alto have to do with the development of the Stanford Mall? I'm always amused by the stuttered answer to this question by those who think our past policy groups have been so brilliant.

So much of the good, re: retail development, that has happened here has been a happy accident, with our neighbor, Stanford, having led the way through most of it - directly, through its own development efforts, and indirectly, through the proximity effect.

In short, where would Palo Alto - or even much of this valley - be without Stanford? Answer: probably another fruit-growing region.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:14 am

Safeway: 60,000 square feet @ $50 taxable per square foot revenue is $3m per year.

Typical Target store: 40,000 square feet @ $300 per foot revenue is $12M per year.

Apple store is 15,000 square feet @ $4000 per square foot revenue is $60M per year.

We'd need 5 Targets or 20 Safeways to match the tax revenue from one Apple store.

What's the point? We have great access to all the big box stores within just a few minutes and at the same time we're generating 5x to 10x the tax revenue per foot with our retail mix. Not a bad situation overall.

What I miss aren't the Safeways and Targets; I miss the eccentric little shops selling comic books, hobby shops, buttons and yarn, used books and records, sheet music...


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:26 am

Anonymous--those shops that you miss were all squeezed out of Palo Alto due to high rents and the desire to maintain a certain "image" for PA retail. You can find many of these shops in our neighboring cities.
BTW, were did you get the numbers you quoted? Are you saying that the Apple Store in PA generates $5 million in tax revenue per year (based on 8.25% of $60 M)?


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 27, 2007 at 11:11 am

"But if you drive to go grocery shopping, don't you do other shopping as well sometimes. "

Seldom, while I combine other shopping trips I dont with groceries. That is usually a big enough trip for me and groceries can't sit in a car while I do other shopping. That said the safeway in Menlo Park is not an anchor store for a shopping center, it is the shopping center. Visiting neighboring stores is not convenient.

I dont object to large stores if it means people don't have to travel as far, but I don't think grocery stores are the revenue producers for the city that some people seem to think they are.

I bet stores like Fry's and are better sales tax producers.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2007 at 11:14 am

"We'd need 5 Targets or 20 Safeways to match the tax revenue from one Apple store"

Peter Oppenheimer (Apple CFO): "Average revenue per Apple store in the quarter, across 190 stores counted, was $6.6 million, up from $5.6 million a year earlier. Over 31 million people came to the stores in the three months ended september, or 12,500 per week, said Oppenheimer."

One thing I'm thankful for this year; that you're not my financial advisor. How effective is it to project from Apple's phenomenal retail (and deserved) retail success, to all the other single-focus stores we have here? Yours is a poor generalization that begs more questions than it answers.

Also, maybe a Target store in Omaha could be trumped in "total" sales tax contribution, but certainly not the Mountain View Target. Same goes for Ikea, REI, Menlo Park Safeway, etc. etc.

Nobody is arguing against the Apple store; it's a great addition to our community, but how many exceptional examples like Apple are there?

the bottom line is that we have a poor retail mix here, and have lose great opportunities because past policy makers listened to anti-growth residents who were only thinking short term.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Marvin,

Apple store stats come from today's NYT.

Web Link

I believe the sales tax breakdown in round numbers is 4% goes to PAUSD, 3% goes to Santa Clara County and 1% goes to CPA. That's from memory, so could be off.

Bottom line is the desire to have a bigger Safeway shouldn't be driven by lost taxes, and not particularly by convenience given that the whole City is within 15 minutes of either Menlo Park or Mtn View. Do we think a big Safeway in Palo Alto would stock different products? Or do we think we'd be more likely to run into our neighbors? I don't think we'd be more likely to bike or walk to a super Safeway. Did you have some other reasons in mind when you started the thread?

Mike, I'm thankful I'm not your financial advisor, too.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2007 at 2:04 pm

I'm not sure if giant Safeway is what we need or not, but the retail in PA is pretty poor, with the exception of the Stanford Mall, and particularly on the South side. Drive down El Camino, south of Page Mill - it is a pretty grim and limited mix. Alma Plaza was dreadful before (that Albertson's was downright scary), and I gather will be fairly limited after redevelopment. Charleston Plaza - Piazza's is ok, though small footprint and high prices. Midtown - slightly better, but limited selection of shops and a grocery that not many like, and a difficult to negotiate set of strip developments.

We can, as Anon suggests, "outsource" all our modern, bigger box retail to neighboring towns, with the exception of Stanford('s) mall. We largely have done so already. But what we are left with isn't that great - it isn't "charming" and "unique" (think Carmel) but instead generally just not that interesting or useful (at least for my family).

Finding a way to bring modern retail development to South PA seems like a good thing, both from an urban amenity and a tax dollar point of view.


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Posted by ARF
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Dec 27, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I wish there was a store, any store, in Palo Alto South-west. I think with the new housing, increased density, at Charlston & El Camino it should be looked into. . . . Just a thought


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 27, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Anonymous--as others have stated and I agree, the retail in PA is pretty sad and it got that way because of city policies dictated by the usual suspects.
I think it is too bad that a city like Palo Alto has no decent sized grocery store and I think the general facts about retail in this town tell a lot about how t his town has been governed the last few years.
I do not think we will ever get a large supermarket int own for the reasons I and others have stated and I do not think that we will get any other large retail in town given the proximity of other stores. It is a good thing Fry's has been here for years--PA would not let a store like Fry's open in town these days.

Despite the fact that i would love to do my shopping in PA, I find that for almost everything I go to other cities to spend and give them my tax dollars--a sad result of our lack of vision and leadership.

The question is will the city have the vision to keep the last remaining large tax base in town--our car dealers, or will they bolt also when faced with the PA process and "neighborhood activists" and "too much traffic" crybabies?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Anonymous, how many other retail stores generate Apple-like margins? From that, you say we don't need large retail, and that boutique retail is the way forward? Whew! What % of stores see Apple-like margins, in PA?

5 Mt. View Targets to generate Apple-like tax revenues. You're out of your mind. There is NO WAY that a Target in this region is generating the AVERAGE $ per sq ft revenue. Get real!

Now compare that to a large Safeway at Alma (or Edgewood), or a large retail magnet on Park (where condos and R&D are planned - oops! I forgot, we have more anti-growth fanatics opposing THAT development, too :)

What about retail mix? You like that?

How about almost 300 places downtown where you can buy a meal, in a city of 60,000 people [not including eateries elsewhere in town)? How about 18-20 beauty salons or spas cluttering the California Ave district? Nice, huh? I wonder what their $ per sq. ft. take is - - opps! I forgot, no tax on services - - gee...*hundreds* of millions (into the low billions?) in attorney services {with Intellectual Property theives...err...attorneys setting up shop like mushrooms here].

Back to the topic at hand...
It's hard to believe that any rational person would say that Palo Alto's retail scene is adequate.

In this case, the City Council has been out to lunch (pun intended) when it comes to *designing* retail mix. [Does the word "design" ever enter the picture here, for anything other than small anti-growth fanatics picking over the facade of some unfortunate remodeler?]

Like I said, I'm glad you're not managing my money.



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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Marvin,

Really good points. I agree the El Camino corridor is a mess and Midtown retail is nothing to boast about either. The Horton development at the Rickey's site will probably bring some new business into that area over the next few years and the HP site redevelopment at San Antonio may help even more.

Couple paths forward: one is to say that since we have an adequate sales tax base, our goal is just to bring in a more interesting mix of stores. That would be my top choice and not to worry so much about whether we get a giant Safeway since that seems pretty well covered on the Peninsula already. El Camino is more of a destination retail strip today than for browsing. Too bad, because it would be great to have blocks like parts of Ocean in Santa Monica.

Another path is to argue we need a hermetic mix that includes big-box retail, etc. Tax base isn't the argument, convenience isn't the argument. There's no shame in buying your untaxed lettuce in Menlo Park if Menlo, Mtn View and Sunnyvale residents continue to shop at Stanford Shopping Center. I detect a sentiment about "shopping in our town." I sort of get it, but the reason to do it isn't the numbers or the environment. I'm also struggling to think of a site on El Camino south of Charleston that could house a 40,000 square foot Safeway with convenient parking and a loading dock. Whole Foods in Mtn View didn't even get convenient parking!

I think you're making another argument that our policies are actively driving businesses away. Auto dealers are still the biggest risk in that category. As the Menlo auto dealer shift away from El Camino shows, Embarcadero east of 101 and Bayshore are the only natural locations in town to put an auto row and you are right that policymakers have been reluctant to let an auto row develop.

Do you really feel it makes a difference that your local Safeway is in the next town?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Mike,

Your good ideas get lost in your polemics. We do have a retail mix problem. We don't have a sales tax revenue problem.

If you want to change the subject from retail to services, untaxed services are an issue, but frankly the attorneys are not even the juiciest service target.

Still glad I'm not managing your money!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Just to put a word in the defence of Safeway, I know that parking in midtown is terrible at times and that the aisles can be full of stuff very often, but the staff are great. Both in midtown and Cal Ave Mtn View, I know the staff and they know me. They have watched my kids get bigger and are friendly. I have had hugs from clerks when I have been upset, I have had special orders made up in the meat counters and the deli, my sandwiches at the delis are always made just how I want them, etc. etc. I get people looking in the back when necessary, and all the other perks of a neighborhood market. Don't just assume that you only get it at Piazzas and the like. The Safeway crews are great and I love the fact that they have some Downs's syndrome or similar staff giving great service. I love "Champ" at midtown and remember him from Paly.

So, although Safeways have faults, their customer service and staff are not one of them.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2007 at 7:28 pm

There is a lot of speculation on what kind of sales tax various stores/formats contribute. Is there a list somewhere? Does the city report a break down its revenue sources by store or location or ???

Redeveloping El Camino is difficult - very shallow lots and often just plain small lots with fragmented ownership, not well suited for larger format retail. A good application of eminent domain perhaps?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2007 at 8:04 pm

"Redeveloping El Camino is difficult - very shallow lots and often just plain small lots with fragmented ownership, not well suited for larger format retail. A good application of eminent domain perhaps?"

An expensive (more than $100K) study was completed just a few years ago. It was a wonderful piece of work that showed we could narrow El Camino to four lanes, and by simply changing the timing of traffic signals from San Antonio through to Menlo Park, we could increase the average travel time from (then) 15.3mph to 23 or 24mph, with traffic flow *just as efficient as with 6 lanes*.

This would permit wider medians and sidewalks, creating a "boulevard-like" ambiance that would be far more attractive for pedestrians and retail frontage. The whole thing died for lack of interest, and some other reasons I'm not privy to.

El Camino is a pathetic embarrassment; I would gladly support making it a redevelopment corridor. As it is, we will see new housing on El Camino betweem California and Page Mill, sometime in the next 5-7 years, but a LOT more could, and should be done.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2007 at 8:24 pm

"An expensive (more than $100K) study was completed just a few years ago. It was a wonderful piece of work that showed we could narrow El Camino to four lanes, and by simply changing the timing of traffic signals from San Antonio through to Menlo Park, we could increase the average travel time from (then) 15.3mph to 23 or 24mph, with traffic flow *just as efficient as with 6 lanes*."

I think this study was done under the direction of Joe Kott, the same guy who wanted to put roundabouts on Embarcadero and who claimed that two lanes on Middlefield would be just as good as four -- UNTIL he actually tested that theory by blocking off two lanes. There was a big traffic backup and general uproar and Kott admitted his theory was wrong.

El Camino is a mess now with six lanes, and it really slows down in Menlo Park where it narrows to four. Left turn lanes aren't adequate and cars back up into the left through lanes.

Maybe the El Camino study was done by the same group that proved Palo Altans are happy with their government.


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Posted by anonymous2
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 28, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Why am I not surprised that it was one of the "Apple Faithful" who trotted out the Apple Store on University to show that retail is alive and well in Palo Alto???

Next thing you know, Apple will be set forth as our solution to affordable housing, illegal immigration, and global warming.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 28, 2007 at 10:43 pm

"El Camino is a mess now with six lanes, and it really slows down in Menlo Park where it narrows to four. Left turn lanes aren't adequate and cars back up into the left through lanes."

This was all addressed in the study. From past posts in this forum, it's clear that you have a problem with the conclusions reached by most of our municipal studies.

Perhaps you should consider starting your own study design firm, and then sell your services to municipalities. That way, you could guarantee that the studies you design meet with your specific design biases.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2007 at 7:50 am

Forget all the data. I love this store!! Will do all my grocery shopping now in Menlo Park. Sorry Palo Alto :(


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Posted by ilovesafeway
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2007 at 8:12 pm

the new safeway is the disneyland of all safeways! i love it! even if it does take me 2 hours and TWO SHOPPING CARTS to finish my shopping..... there is so much to choose from:)!


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Posted by No More Kids
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 31, 2007 at 9:22 am

Not having a place to buy food is part of Peter Drekmeier's plan what we should stop having kids and depopulate Palo Alto.

Shopping at Whole Foods or JJ&F or Molly Stone really isn't too expensive when you are shopping for one.


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Posted by backed the wrong horse
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2008 at 9:49 am

It's wonderful, isn't it, that as of January 14th, you won't have the VTA 22 bus going to that spiffed-up Safeway. You'll have to drive and try to park there.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Apple store? What apple store? I know I go to a grocery store multiple times per week. I go to the apple store exactly zero times per lifetime.

By the way - how many low income "BMR" residents does the apple store employ? versus how many employed by a single safeway???

So Mike, maybe ABAG needs to go do its calculations again. No employemnt here for low income residents as far as I can tell. They're barking up the wrong tree.


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Posted by Isabelle
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Why do we have two pharmacies almost next to each other in Midtown: Walgreens and Longs Drugs? The stores carry virtually the same stuff. I still wonder why one of them has not gotten out of business by now. What a waste!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Isabelle, yours is an excellent question. It's puzzling that we don't have some parameter or policy to prevent retail overload like the one you describe. The only winners in a non-regulated business environment are landlords. Business owners and community members lose, in the long run.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

I remember when we didn't have one in Midtown. Then Longs came in and everyone was pleased. Then the rumours started about Walgreens coming and for some reason everyone seemed delighted. They thought that having the competition would be good. I could never see it myself.

I think Walgreens is far better than Longs. Many times I have found the staff at Longs rude and unhelpful, while Walgreens are pleasant and friendly. I always choose Walgreens for that reason. Strangely enough, if what you want isn't there (sold out) such as school supplies, I find the other is equally sold out.


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Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 5, 2008 at 1:40 am

According to Web Link the State sales tax rate of 7.25% is allocated 6.25% to the State, 0.75% to the City (or County, if unincorporated), and 0.25% to County for transportation (that VTA in Santa Clara County). In Santa Clara County, we also have a 0.50% permanent transit sales tax and a 0.50% sales tax for 30 years starting in 2006 from the 2000 VTA sales tax measure. School districts do not get funding from sales taxes (at least not directly).

Recent Palo Alto sales tax figures can be found at Web Link

Palo Alto sales tax (our 0.75% share) amounts to a little over $5 million per month or about $21 million per year. So annual sales subject to sales tax in Palo Alto amounts to $2.8 billion.

VTA's annual share of Palo Alto sales taxes is about $7 million (for 0.25% state-specified tax), $14 million for permanent sales tax, and $14 million for 30-year tax.

Based on Web Link the 0.50% sales tax for Santa Clara would raise $160 million. So annual sales subject to sales tax in Santa Clara County amounts to $32 billion. So Palo Alto's taxable sales amounts to nearly 9% of Santa Clara County's taxable sales, while having only 3.5% of the population.

In contrast, Mountain View with all its big box stores has only about $17 million in annual sales tax revenue, and about 15% more residents than Palo Alto.

So I think Palo Alto is doing pretty well in terms of sales tax revenue.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:09 am

Sales tax revenue in Palo Alto has been stagnant at the above levels, with just under 1/3 of the top 25 retailers at Stanford - all at a time of increasing need to support services. Why?

Alternately, revenues in Mt. View have grown at a faster rate. Why?

Also, from your link " It's important to
note that one company in Palo Alto in the past year is generating significant tax revenues above historical levels. Should this positive trend discontinue, sales tax receipts will be adversely affected. "

Based on the bar charts, that "one company" is either 1) the Apple Store, 2) Fry's, or 3) HP

This is NOT indicative of a *diverse* retail economy - not at all. We have a lot of work to do at the policy and business development level, especially given well-thought-out population projections.

*Stanford* may be PA's primary economic driver, via the mall. That's ironic, especially given the flack that Stanford commercial (and other) development efforts receive.



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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:18 am

btw, in terms of relative retail revenue derived sales tax growth, I'll bet EPA and Mt. View have blown our socks off in the last 5 years.

Also, given the continuing and antagonistic attitude toward commercial development here, one wonders how we're going to fare in the future.

We need more retail with housing overhead. In fact, we should be demanding that all housing developments include some kind of unique retail component. We need better integration of these two modalities, to stimulate growth, walkability, and neighborhood integrity.


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Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 5, 2008 at 8:11 am

Dear Mike, the Planning and Transportation Commission and City Council have changed zoning to require mixed use (that is retail) whenever there is housing in CN (Neighborhood Commercial) and CS (Neighborhood Service) zones. That would have precluded the Hyatt conversion to all housing. (Changes enacted in 2006 and 2007.)

The Elks Club conversion to all housing is because long stretches of El Camino were rezoned to housing in the 1980's, forcing the loss of retail and commercial services in favor of housing. That pro-housing policy allowed housing to go anywhere (which is why 3 large properties in the LM zone along East Meadow Circle and West Bayshore converted to 100% housing; as of early 2007 a Conditional Use Permit is required). In fact, Fry's Electronics site was rezoned to housing back then too, and would have been forced to close in 2019 if that provision were not repealed by Palo Alto in 2007.

Large housing complexes now require some small amount of retail integrated for use by residents, according to changes that went into effect in 2007.

The PTOD (Pedestrian and Transit Oriented Development) zoning (enacted in 2006) in the California Avenue is intended to be vertical mixed use.


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Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 5, 2008 at 9:33 am

That's PTOD in the California Avenue *area* (the word "area" was omitted).


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Posted by Matt Raschke
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jan 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Arthur,

I thought the Fry's site was omitted from that recent rezoning action. Are you sure?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Matt, Fry's maintains its zoning.

Arthur, you're correct re: the re-zonings that require small retail among housing, and the PTOD. This is a step forward, but still not enough.

The problem comes when developers propose retail, and the latter gets chewed up in delay and process. Alma Plaza is a great example of this, with some retail requirements (for instance, front-facade retail in a back end space) that is a sure loser - for the landlord, and retailers who house there.

Prior to the PTOD, a property at 195 Page Mill - which would have brought almost 100 2nd floor residences over R&D offices - was held up by a sore loser law suit. (the property will almost certainly be built anyway - with the delay costing our city and the developer unnecessary funds.

That's what I was referring to when I mentioned the "antagonistic attitude toward commercial development".


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Posted by Belle
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Well - I LOVE the new Safeway!! I'm from back East and am accustomed to having my dry cleaners in my grocery store and having a wide variety of products and services to choose from. I have on several occasions had my family ship me grocery items that I couldn't find here - but amazingly the new Safeway has them! When I moved to PA I was so surprised by the tiny and very shabby Midtown Safeway. I began shopping at Mollie's and JJ&F but the prices make it too much for my budget. The new Safeway has a great meat and fish counter with excellent customer service.

When I need a last minute item yes I stop in a local spot but for my major grocery shopping I go Safeway Menlo.


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