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Shop Palo Alto?

Original post made by Diana Diamond on Sep 10, 2006

"Destination Palo Alto is an initiative of the Palo Alto City Council to encourage
visitorship to the city. The effort involves a host of partners, including Stanford
University, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, Palo Alto Downtown Association
and other business districts such an (sic) Stanford Shopping Center and California
Avenue Merchant Association. "
— from the City of Palo Alto website

City officials want us to "shop Palo Alto." They have launched a campaign to encourage people to come to Palo Alto to shop here. As Mayor Judy Kleinberg said, they don't want too many people that would crowd our streets, but they do want people. Their reasoning: If people buy things in Palo Alto, the city will get part of the sales tax dollars, and that will enrich our city coffers.

But as loyal a resident as I want to be, if I am interested in not splurging all my hard-earned dollars, I find shopping in Palo Alto a bit difficult.

Several weeks ago I needed a new digital camera. My old one refused to click. So I went to Best Buy at the new Charleston Plaza shopping center in Mountain View and purchased a nice camera at a considerable discount. I checked with Fry's first, but they didn't have the model I wanted, and the better price was at Best Buy.

Two weeks ago I needed new outdoor lights for the front of my house. I went to Orchard Supply in Mountain View and to Home Depot in East Palo Alto and purchased three lovely lights for $69 each at Home Depot. Had I shopped in downtown Palo Alto or at the Stanford Shopping Center, I would have paid $160 apiece for similar-looking lanterns.

This past weekend I needed a new pair of slacks. I drove to the Eileen Fisher outlet store in San Leandro and bought two pairs at 50 percent off. On my way back, I stopped at the big Safeway store in Menlo Park because I wanted their freshly made bread, and a birthday cake for one of my grandsons. The Midtown Safeway store does not have its own bakery. A couple of weeks ago the Midtown store did not have any wild rice or brown rice, I guess because it did not have enough shelf space. The larger Menlo Park store had both.

For years Palo Alto residents living near shopping centers have fought putting in decent-sized grocery stores in Palo Alto, claiming they would bring in more traffic. So we have 20,000-square-foot stores with limited space. Albertson's at Alma Plaza wanted to expand but was told it could not. The typical grocery stores in other towns are 50,000 to 60,000 square feet.

And for years our city council members have said they don't want any "big box" stores in Palo Alto. These kind of discount stores do not befit the image of our community, some council members say.

So what has happened as a result? Like the Great Wall of China, we are surrounded by big box stores that rest just outside our borders — in Mountain View and East Palo Alto. It's not like we can't see these stores or that passersby separate city boundaries – the Ikea store along Highway 101 is a big blue box. It may be in another city, but it certainly is a dominant visual element that casts a big shadow over Palo Alto. Ikea is always crowded; East Palo Alto gets all of its sales tax revenues. If it were on our side of the highway, Palo Alto would be getting all the revenues.

Mountain View has Costco, which it welcomed with open arms, and it has brought that city a lot of sales tax dollars. Now that Charleston Plaza has opened (on Charleston Road in Mountain View, near Orchard Supply Hardware), the big box center there has several chain stores, and it will soon expand.

Palo Alto officials are set in their ways. Some council members still proclaim they will never ever allow big box stores in Palo Alto. We could have put them on our borders, but we chose not to do so.

And yet Palo Alto officials are now telling us to "shop Palo Alto." I sense a disconnect.

Comments (56)

Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 10, 2006 at 6:21 pm

I agree with you 100%. I want the practical every day type of shops here not the specialty or clique stores that follow the Palo Alto image. See my post of a couple of weeks ago, I only had one comment but I know many people feel the same.

Posted by Periwinkle, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 10, 2006 at 6:26 pm

I can't help starting this post off with a quote from "Just a Citizen's" cool 'local haiku", post.

"Big box retailer

Everyone has one of them

Not Palo Alto"

We're now on our way to becoming the only thing that's left for Palo Alto - an enclave of high-end boutiques and restaurants, surrounded by very, very expensive housing. That's all were going to be in 20 years - no doubt about it. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it will be very different than a lot of people currently envision. Get used to it.

That's really all we've got left for tax base here, looking ahead. Where would a big box store fit? How about Edgewood Plaza? Oops! god forbid!! How about the current Fry's site, for a big box complex...nope! Stanford Shopping Center? never, the current owner is after ultra-chic - - - discount ANYTHING? NEVER!

Fry's will also leave unless PA gives away the farm (resulting in probably zero net gain for PA), especially now that Fry's has all but had us turn over every single negotiating card we have, face up, (thanks to local retro actvists) they WILL probably force us to give up the farm.

I'm beginning to lose faith that our municipal government can really execute, as regards business development here. They just don't have the chops (pun intended).

Does "Shop Palo Alto" have ANY kind of a metric attached to it? How do local merchants (the relative few that know about it) quantify revenue gains against investment made? It sounds nice, but where's the shoppers?

As Gilda Radner used to say "oh well, never mind"

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2006 at 6:12 am

I have a long time ago given up on shopping in Palo Alto. Palo Alto grocery stores are too small and do not have a wide selection of products (but we must keep stores under 20000 square feet--that is the Palo Alto way). i shop at the Safeway on Shoreline Blvd or for bulk food I go to Costco. If I need electronics I go to the Best But in EPA or Mountain View--Fry's is a dump with unhelpful staff. The Stanford Shopping Center? haven't been there for years--that place has become a mecca for the rich.
The bottom line is that the City of Palo Alto has created this revenue problem that they face.
Trust me if this shop Palo Alto campaign is sucessful, there will be people in the city who will wantto cut it back becuase too many people are coming in and there is too much traffic.

Posted by ssquared, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2006 at 9:24 am

If the City Council really wanted us to "shop Palo Alto", why did they approve a Longs and Walgreens a block apart from each other (Midtown)when they could have had a Trader Joe's. It's not too late to approve of one at the Albertsons site (and it has ample parking which the Mountain View site does not have). How about it? I, too, go to Mountain View to shop and don't find anything appealing in Palo Alto besides Stanford Shopping Center.

Posted by ssquared, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2006 at 9:24 am

If the City Council really wanted us to "shop Palo Alto", why did they approve a Longs and Walgreens a block apart from each other (Midtown)when they could have had a Trader Joe's. It's not too late to approve of one at the Albertsons site (and it has ample parking which the Mountain View site does not have). How about it? I, too, go to Mountain View to shop and don't find anything appealing in Palo Alto besides Stanford Shopping Center.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2006 at 9:36 am

the midtown safeway is terrible. not only do they lack certain types of food that menlo park safeway has, but they are ALWAYS unloading food no matter if it's day or night, and in the way of shoppers

Posted by anon, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2006 at 10:23 am

For the first time ever, I completely agree with Diana! Other than dining in PA there is nothing I could buy there that I could not get somewhere else cheaper and easier!

Posted by Maria R., a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2006 at 10:29 am

How interesting that Ms. Diamond won't shop in local small stores, but partonizes Big Box stores, thereby probably helping to drive the small stores out of business. Yes, the City Council bears some responsibility for not allowing more and larger stores, but I doubt Ms. Diamond lives next to the former Albertson's site on Alma where the only choice was a huge store overhanging adjacent houses. This project only failed because Albertsons and the city would not compromise. Ms. Diamond could shop Palo Alto if she was willing to, but she values her money more than small Palo Alto businesses. This is her choice to make, but it is a choice.

Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2006 at 10:46 am


Are you a parent of a school age child? I doubt it. If you are, where would you go to buy school supplies on the first day of school?
Not Longs or Walgreens, they had long sold out. Where would you buy shoes for an 8 year old who uses his feet instead of his brakes on his bike and wears shoes out every month? Not Stanford, much too expensive. Where would you buy lunch boxes, back packs, soccer shoes, snacks for the whole soccer team, six pizzas for the team party, etc. etc. etc. I don't know about you, but small businesses are not a necessity to me. Yes, I like to look around some of the quaint stores we have here when I have time to window shop or when I need an unusual gift, but that is not what I need to do everyday. I need practical solutions to my everyday needs. I want to do one stop shopping because I am too much in a hurry to keep getting in my car and driving 2 miles in the opposite direction to get what I need. And, while I am at it, I want a gas station in an area I pass all the time, without having to make a detour and a post office close to all the other useful amenities without having to drive the other side of the freeway or find a parking spot (in or out of a garage) downtown.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2006 at 10:53 am

I, like Ms Diamond, patronize big box stores--if small business' are driven out because of that, so be it. This is the free market system.
Palo Alto has told it's citizens that they will not allow big stores in the city limits--that is too bad for the shoppers in PA and the tax revenues that the city collects.
With rents, gas and other costs high, I value my money and will shop where the choices and prices are better (i.e. outside of Palo Alto).
Maybe the PA City Council can pass a law to force PA residents to shop within the city. That could take up years of their time and allow them to avoid addressing real problems facing the city.

Posted by Susan, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2006 at 12:58 pm

It's easy to advocate for these stores when you don't live next to where they will be built. How about it Ms. Diamond - where do you live? And would you like to live in the shadow of one of these stores with its attendant noise?

Posted by Anna, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2006 at 1:23 pm

While your concern for some 1% of the population having to live in the "shadow" (as you put it) of a big box store is genuine, it's also true that Palo Alto has now begun to live in the shadow of neighboring communities that have a commercial base sufficient to pay for services.

I would like to hear what you and others say 10-15 years hence, when we have lost many of the services that sales taxes pay for.

The overconcern for the vocal few in Palo Alto has led to nothing but stagnation. As I stated above, we're now on a path toward high end boutiques/restaurants, chain stores, and very expensive housing. Get used to it.

Posted by DJ, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2006 at 3:01 pm

With daycare/school aged kids (who have not started demanding namebrands as yet!) - with a tight budget - I have no options in the shopping offered at the Stanford Mall. I need good quality clothes for the children and cannot afford to pay big bucks. My options so far have been SEARS, Mervyns and Walmart in Mountain View.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2006 at 3:20 pm

Right on, Anna!!
The NIMBYists and the vocal few hold too much sway over the PA City Council--look at Alma Plaza--at least 10 years and still no progress--too much retial, then not enough retail and on and on and on.

Can you imagine anyone trying to build any kind of new shopping area in Palo Alto??? The NIMBYists would be out with their usual statements--Too Much Traffic--It will negatively affcet our quality of life etc, etc etc.

That is why retailers like REI, Best Buy, Whole Foods etc have set up shop in Mountain View--they know that they will get the okay to build in a reasonable time

Posted by Esme, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2006 at 4:41 pm

It's easier to dump on the neighbors rather than on the developers who won't compromise. Is big money more important than quality of life for those who live nearby?
Albertson's is/was having financial difficulties nationally. That's what caused them to go away.
Have you noticed that they recently closed their big, fancy, self-checkout supermodern store in the Mountain View shopping center - near Beverages and More and the fabric store. How do you account for that?

Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2006 at 4:50 pm

The governments of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Mountain View must shake with laughter when they think about how they've snatched high end hotels, nationally known retailers and coming soon, auto dealerships, away from Palo Alto. Palo Alto needs to dial back the IQ level ten or twenty points and play some catch up.

Diane Diamond for Mayor.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2006 at 5:16 pm

No supermarket chain, be it Albertson's, Safeway or whatever will agree to build a 20000 square foot store anymore. It is a money loser.
The real problem is that the PA City COuncil over the years (doesn;t matter who is on council, it is the same old song and dance) refuse to exercise any leadership whatsoever and bring the ongoing discussions to an end. That is why Alma Plaza has dragged on for years and now Edgewood will be start of a new saga.
People in PA need to realize that there has to be some flexibility and change. So what if there were no stores in your neighborhood before--does that mean that things have to stay the way they where?
The city council is afraid to confront so-called neighborhood leaders, NIMBYists and the vocal few--so we will have no resolution on shopping areas, businesses will leave town, the neighboring cities will build large retail areas and the council will ring thier hands over lost revenue--and so it will go on and on.

Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2006 at 8:12 pm

I see so much arrogance on the part of neighborhood "leaders" who think they know better than developers what the market is and put so many restrictions on retail that they give up and move to other cities where the NIMBYs aren't so powerful. Until the council wakes up and realizes that "neighborhood retail" only works if people shop there, you'll get what you deserve - reduced services due to declining sales revenues.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2006 at 9:40 am

Let's see if I understand this. First, D. Diamond continually obstructs and criticizes the Palo Alto City Council and won't let them do the job they were elected to do. (And, knowing her, I can guarantee she would not want ANY business next to her house!) Then, she refuses to shop in Palo Alto! Hypocrisy, thy name is Diana Diamond!

Posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger
on Sep 12, 2006 at 10:38 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

One of the reasons I am critical of the City Council's unwritten ban on box stores in our town is because these stores are now the places many of us frequent -- more so than we did 10 or 20 years ago. We do have to change with the times. If we had a few box stores in town, Palo Alto would collect more sales tax revenues, which could be used for the many services our city provides.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2006 at 11:31 am

As for Anon's comments:
How does DD "obstruct" the city council and prevent them from doing their job?
It is not DD, but the NIMBYists and "neighborhood leaders" that are obstructing.
As for criticizing--DD has the right, just like anyone else, to criticize our elected officials, especially when they are not doin their job's and/or are under the sway of a select vocal few in the city

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2006 at 11:58 am

Isn't that the problem? Over the years DD and many others continually criticize so the council can't do its job. When they try to get retail someone always second guesses them. We elected them - let them work!

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2006 at 12:10 pm

You are just making excuses for the inability of the City Council to reach a final decision about anything. If criticism is what is preventing the council from deciding something, then maybe we need to elect members with a real spine that will tell the NIMBYists "enough" and proceed with construction etc.
DD does not go to the City COuncil hearings and makes demands about retail.
Look at Alma Plaza--the neighbors have been holding up progress there for almost 10 years--too much retail, too little retail, too much traffic, too many houses, not enough public space, traffic studies for the Charleston corridor etc. etc.
Meanwhile we have two Best Buys, a Home Depot, a REI, a Bed Bath and Beyond, WHole Foods, Trader Joe and other retail on our doorstep--in that time the city council has still not approved some housing that will also contain a small grocery (high-end of course, since no chain will go into such a small space), a dry cleaner and a coffee place.
In a few years the remaining auto dealerships will bolt since they do not want to put up the roadblocks and time-consuming Palo Alto process.

Posted by Eileen, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 12, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Bet Marvin and DD don't live next to Alma Plaza!

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2006 at 1:37 pm

You are right, Eileen, I do not live near Alma Plaza. However it is ridiculous that the people living near Alma Plaza have managed to hold up development of the site for over 10 years.
in addition, what about the needs of the entire community? Should the less than 1% of the cities poplulation who may be affected by Alma Plaza, for example, be allowed to hold up a project that may benefit the entire city.
Let's face it-Palo Alto needs tax revenue and it seems that any kind of development or building immediately raises the ire of the neighbors.
Things change and times change--there is no guarantee that traffic or noise will remain the same years after you move into a home.
The question really is will Palo Alto ever have the kind of leadership that will be able to say to these people that it is time to move on.
Maybe Palo Alto should become like Atherton--no business in town. That way you will not have to worry about traffic and shoppers from out of town. That is the way, IMHO, that this city is heading to now.

Posted by Charles, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 12, 2006 at 7:21 pm

Here's an idea to generate some tax revenue... Open up Foothills Park for development. A luxury-home community with golf course and a Sharon Heights-style condominium complex and shopping center. Now there's an idea I can get behind.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2006 at 1:33 pm

I agree with Mike: Diana Diamond for Mayor!

Do our city officials realize how ridiculous they sound when they say they want people to come shop in Palo Alto, but "don't want too many people that would crowd our streets"?

To all those who complain that bigger stores will bring too much traffic: Shoppers going to Mountain View or East Palo Alto or other cities that have bigger/better/cheaper stores often drive through our city. We still get the traffic, but we don't get the tax.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 13, 2006 at 2:09 pm

I have a great idea. You know how if you buy online from a retailer who does not have a physical location in the state you do not have to pay him sales tax, but you are supposed to pay the sales tax to the state (of course, most people do not do that and the state does not usually pursue it). Well, we can ask neighboring cities to collect the sales tax from Palo Alto shoppers shopping in their cities and then turn the tax revenue over to palo alto. That will then solve the problems of no tax revenue, having to have stores in the city and dealing with Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza.
Why will the other cities do it, you ask?
Because we are Palo Alto and we can not be bothered by too much traffic or have the qualities of our lives "negatively impacted" by shoppers ect. Then we can allow all businesses to leave town, which will reduce traffic and cogestion. We will not have to worry about those lowly workers wanting affordable housing in town to live in and so on and so on.
I am sure Mountain View, EPA and Menlo Park will start turning over the tax revenues as soon as the City COuncil here asks them to.

Posted by Mary, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2006 at 5:16 pm

Well, no one who makes an ordinary salary can buy a house here anyway. Our city workers cannot live here so why should they shop here?

Posted by get_real, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2006 at 5:20 pm

To the "Trader Joe's Dreamers" ... it ain't going to happen. They are not going to put a store at Alma. It's called geographic distribution ... putting a store in at Alma will cannibalize the sales at their Menlo and MV locations.

To the "Smaller is Better Crowd" ... you're not going to get very much in sales tax dollars on a grocer who is confined to 20,000 sqft. Why? Because they will need to use almost all of that 20Ksqft for groceries ... groceries are not taxable. Further, the margins in grocery products are razor thin ... sales tax dollars and margin dollars come from non-grocery products - which is the reason why the stores want more space.

Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2006 at 5:59 pm

Sears is leaving Mountain View, can't we get them here in Palo Alto? I'm sure Alma Plaza will do fine. How about Loews, don't know anything about them, but I see them advertise on tv all the time. A grocery store is one thing, but out of habit, we will go to the places we use already. Staples, another good suggestion. Come on, let's be more imaginative and see what we can come up with. And, who is using Alma Plaza for storage at present. I expect it is a big box store in Mountain View that needs space for a warehouse.

Posted by Chuck, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2006 at 10:31 pm

Carol wrote: "Sears is leaving Mountain View, can't we get them here in Palo Alto?"

Come on, Carol, that's ridiculous. Palo Alto deserves far better than Sears. Have you seen the kind of people who shop at Sears?? Do you really want them in Palo Alto?

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 14, 2006 at 5:53 am


I believe it is Wal Mart that is using Alma Plaza for storage. there was an article last year before the holidays that Wal Mart had temporarily rented Alma Plaza for stoarge use.
But don't tell anyone else in the city--people will be shockec and outraged if they find out there is a Wal Mart presence in PA.
For get about putting a Loews or Staple at Alma Plaza--they would not want to go there and the neighbors would never allow it.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 14, 2006 at 9:36 am

Shop Palo Alto is like "BUY NO CHINESE GOODS"

Where are the non-chinese goods these days !!!!

Posted by James, a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2006 at 11:09 am

I wonder where the city of Palo Alto buys their "supplies" to maintain the city? I bet they buy very little in Palo Alto since we do not have stores like Cost-co, Office Max, Walmart, Home Depot, Ford or Chevy Dealerships, etc.

Posted by another Paly mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2006 at 9:20 pm

I find the shop Palo Alto effort to be kind of feeble so far.

Other cities around Palo Alto have forged ahead and managed to keep up with modern times, install attractive stores, even large ones, while Palo Alto residents and officials argue at length. Alma Plaza and Edgewood look terrible. I don't think all big-box stores are ugly. I also think gas stations are a necessity - it is awkward and costly to get gas in Palo Alto so...along with my shopping, I get gas in other local cities.

I used to live in Sunnyvale and found it to be a well-run city during our nine years or so there. Nonetheless, some Palo Altans aren't usually interested in the practices of other local cities. Here's a recent campaign that caught my eye: The Sunnyvale School District Educational Foundation in conjunction with El Camino Real Sunnyvale Autorow put on a "Support our Schools" campaign (I am looking at a hardcopy brochure I saved). The gist of it was Feb. 2006 through the end of June 2006, for every car sold at participating (Sunnyvale) dealerships, $100 was donated to support local public schools. Local residents may have found that appealing and 11 dealerships participated, so with this straightforward program, it's likely a resident in the market for a car could support a local city business, obtain money for the local school district, find a suitable car and contribute to local tax coffers!

I still spend time in Sunnyvale and notice car dealerships integrated in with all sorts of other businesses, hotels, facilities, and yes, gas stations, in an attractive region along El Camino Real.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2006 at 11:57 pm

These blogs should be required reading for the city council. There's a tremendous amount of logic and wisdom contained in these comments that council members need to hear, e.g., get_real's notes on groceries being non-taxable.

And I'd like Council to answer James' question: Where does the city buy its supplies?

Yes, Carol, the Shop Palo Alto efforts are feeble at best. We just don't have the right mix of stores and the city seems to get grungier every year. See also the comments on "University Ave" at Web Link

Posted by Mary Blackford, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2006 at 6:56 am

It is too gross to shop in Downtown Palo Alto for me. If University Ave and the surrounding streets weren't so full of people constantly begging me for money, I'd consider shopping in Palo Alto-- but for me, it is just too darn unplesant to shop anywhere in Palo Alto. The streets smell of urine, there are swarms of homeless people who park outside Whole Foods, Starbucks, and other local places to make the thought of shopping there very uninviting. It is too gross to be in down town Palo Alto and the City wonders why we are losing shops and tax dollars??? Take a whiff in the streets and you will get your answer.

Posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger
on Sep 17, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

I agree that this has been a really interesting discussion about shopping in Palo Alto - a lot of thoughtful comments, many good ideas, and it is also evident that many of us do shop in other communities for groceries, gas and big box items because Palo Alto falls short in providing what we need.

I also agree that two of our neighborhood shopping centers are an embarrassment to look at -- sometimes we drive by things each day and don't really focus onappearances. But take a good look at Alma Plaza, which is nearly deserted now and looks amess, and also take a look at Edgewood Shopping Center. Both are visual blight.

The shopping center at Charleston and Middlefield roads is a bit better, but it, too, could look prettier. At least Town & Country will soon be renovated.

I hope we can all let our views be known to city officials and to shopping center owners. They could learn a lot from all that you all have written.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 18, 2006 at 7:13 am

Diana--well said.
However, the city officials are not interested in the views of the majority of the people of PA--they are more concerned with the vocal group that tends to oppose any and all construction and growth.
That is why Alma Plaza has been held up for years--remember how the city council, at the urging of a "neighborhood leader" snuck the Alma Plaza issue into the moratorium for the study of the Charleston Corridor?
Until we get a City Council that is willing to stand up and make timely decision instaed of being held captive by a group of no growth zealots, we will be in the same sitation and it will only get worse.

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2006 at 9:32 am

What's wrong with the Charleston-Middlefield shopping center? I shop at the Piazza market frequently for their great produce and it's usually busy. The Peets is also busy and there is a nice local restaurant there. What in the world do you want? It's a shopping center! Should they pretty it up more just for you and charge the rest of us higher prices? Also, stop characterizing the Alma Plaza neighbors as wanting no changes. They were happy with changes, just not huge stores right next to their houses than loomed over them and shaded them 24 hours a day. Don't all citizens of Palo Alto deserve a say?

Posted by Simon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2006 at 10:31 am

Silly, Diana and Marvin think only THEY should have a say because they don't live next to a shopping center. As to those of us that do? - Diana and Marvin don't want to talk to us or hear from us or listen to any of our suggestions!

Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 18, 2006 at 10:49 am

I would like to know where the neighbours of Alma Plaza (and Edgewood)buy their essentials. I feel sure that they go to Costco, Target, Mervyns, Wal Mart, like the rest of us. We must stop being elitist.
We have all chosen our homes for various reasons and in all neighbourhoods changes are being made. It may be for some that a large store will open, in other areas the residents are worred about monster homes destroying their neighbourhoods, for yet others it is increased housing instead of offices and worries about increased traffic. Yes, these are all valid concerns. But, this is now the 21st century and we all live in it and can't go back to the 50s and 60s when life was slower. We want to live up to date lives, after all this is silicon valley and many of us make our livings from the latest developments in technology, and we want the benefits of technology in our homes. Can't we also live in an up to date city with modern stores and modern conveniences?

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 18, 2006 at 11:03 am

Simon, maybe you should go back and read my posts more carefully. You clearly missed my points and think you can now engage in name-calling.
Once again someone comes up with the "if you do not live right next to a shopping center....". Shopping centers benefit the whole city, not just the neighborhood.
If PA really wants money spent in the city, then they need to provide proper shopping areas. These areas will inevitable be near housing.
the problem,as I have stated many times before, is that a vocal few are pulling the strings. The question is what percentage of the PA population do they represent and if it is a neighborhood issue, do they speak for all or even a majority of residents.
Everyone's opinions should be listened to, but there comes a time when decisions must be made. I blame the City Council for our situation since they have prolonged a decision on Alma Palza, for example, for over 10 years.

Posted by Simon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2006 at 2:26 pm

Of course the City Council should include stores, industry and housing in any city plans. The problem is that they don't want to listen to even reasonable suggestions from Palo Alto citizens who are most impacted by large changes and big developments. We would all benefit from reasonable developments, but when citizens have concerns they tend to be dismissed as irrelevant by certain council members and by newspaper columnists like Diana Diamond who uses the Weekly to push her own ideas and opinions.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 18, 2006 at 2:36 pm

Well some of these citizens who you claim are having their concerns dismissed as irrelevant have held up Alma Plaza for years.
Did you read Don Kazak's column last wednesday about Alma Plaza?
First it was too much retail, then the Charleston Road study, now it is not enough retail. Now it turns out the group is trying to put forward a new face, since even they realize that their almost 10 years of fighting change is not being well received.
The problem is that citizens have too many concerns and are not willing to compromise (their is a constant nitpicking to the PA Process) and the City Council does not have the stomach or the desire to put their foot down and make a final decision.

Posted by another Paly mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2006 at 2:58 pm

I live fairly close to Edgewood "shopping center" and I am astonished that neighbors closer have objected to modernizing it, have objected to the developer's plans. Nothing is being done. It definitely is blighted and looks unsafe. As for the Eichler architecture, I have owned two Eichler homes and respect this architecture, but this center is not worth saving and needs to be completely re-done.

Posted by Simon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 18, 2006 at 3:30 pm

Yes, I read Mr. Kazak's column. As usual, it was a mixture of exaggerations, innuendo and partial facts. The P.A. Weekly needs to check his columns before publishing them. He is frequently guilty of stretching the truth, half truths, and, well, hate to say it, but UNTRUTHS!

Posted by Involuntary Palo Altan, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 18, 2006 at 9:27 pm

My god, the big box envy displayed in this discussion is depressing. Where shall we place these big box stores? Remember, big stores don't exist in isolation and require parking. Eminent domain and paving over those pesky parks are no-no's.

The spaces for retail in Palo Alto are relatively small and were set up to support stores that provide local service. Big box stores and their pricing power just didn't exist 30 years ago. Poor Palo Alto was built out by the time Prop 13 kicked in. Palo Alto was structured so as to be supported by local property taxes, not sales taxes. The surrounding communities were less developed, and thus had had time to adapt to the multiple idiocies of the California Constitution. Should local retail serve provide convenient local services or be a generator of essential levels of sales tax revenue? It is a fallacy to believe that Palo Alto can solve its budget problems by inviting in big box stores, even if there were room for them. Additional stores will simply cannibalize sales from each other. Palo Alto refuses to face up to the fact that it needs much higher levels of tax revenue than adding large retailers can provide.

Palo Alto makes appears to be an upscale suburb, but comparisons with "similar" communities outside of California are troubling. My brother lives in a wealthy NY suburb and we both pay about 15K a year in property taxes. He lives in a larger, less expensive and nicer house, his children go to dramatically better funded schools, and the community facilities are in much better shape. And, oh yes, he has to travel to the surrounding communities to shop at big box stores. How do they do it? The unspeakable answer is obvious. Given the amount of money I have paid to live in Palo Alto, I expect something better than the combination of slum and sprawl we are degenerating into. The entitlement mentality that permeates large segments of the Palo Alto population leads me to expect to expect otherwise.

Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 19, 2006 at 6:26 am

Well, Simon, I will agree with you about Kazak's columns. Did you read his fluff piece on Joel Beinin a few weeks ago?
However, I do believe that at least some of what he said about Alma Plaza is true since I have been following that story since I moved to PA.
As for big box envy (the last post), I am not sure it is really that--the city is pushing this "shop palo alto" issue, but as many people point out--the day to day shopping needs of most people in PA are hard to get done with the upscale botiques that are in this city.
I think that the City Council is being un realistic and is just trying to avoid having to make tough decisions. this has been their problem for years--no display of leadership--just talk and more talk.

Posted by amy, a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2006 at 8:27 am

Alma and Edgewood are supposed to be neighborhood retail.
Why doesn't the City Council ever discuss retail along El Camiino?
There are properties that have been vacant and/or underutilized for years. El Camino would appear to be better location for big-box stores.

Posted by Simon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 19, 2006 at 9:54 am

I agree El Camino should be looked at. I notice that the new Los Altos Whole Foods Market solved part of the parking problem by having underground parking. However, I do think that the PA Weekly has, at times, unfairly criticizd Council Members who sincerely tried to listen to everyone. This led to at least 2 interested citizens either not running again or not running at all.

Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 19, 2006 at 1:15 pm

I think we can and deserve better. Be it El Camino, Alma(or Edgewood) or the area off Embarcadero where the auto mall has been proposed. Ikea, Whole Foods (in Mountain View), and Safeway in Menlo Park have all solved their parking problems with underground parking. This in fact is an asset as it is much easier to get your purchases to your car this way if designed properly. Noise, traffic, and other inconvenieces to local residents can be similarly seen to with the proper design. Palo Alto is a great place to live for all sorts of reasons but it will not be so if we cannot maintain some of the things we take for granted. Our downtown is over-run by homeless, our schools are overcrowded, our libraries are full of problems, our shopping is useless, need I go on. The fact that the residents of the city are dissatisfied is evident by the length of this thread. We must move ahead and be the leaders of the area, not the also - rans.

Posted by Curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2006 at 10:31 pm

Read D. Diamond's latest article: Web Link

What is bad, is that even though the city has a problem with sales tax revenue, it is giving raises & perks to the city employees!

This doesn't make any sense at all.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 19, 2006 at 11:24 pm

Palo Alto has lots of industrial-nonresidential areas, such as across Bayshore all the way to the airport. What's the harm in wooing some "big box" retail to those areas?

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2006 at 4:15 pm

I urge everyone who contributes to these blogs to send their comments to the city council at .

I wish council members would read these blogs to see what citizens think about major issues facing the city, but Council seems to pay attention only to those few residents who show up to speak at council meetings.

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