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Groceries lie dormant in Palo Alto

Original post made by shopper, Midtown, on Jul 17, 2009

Sounds like the NIMBYs are blocking all attempts to bring new grocery stores to Palo Alto. Story in the Mercury-News: Web Link

Comments (12)

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Really? Which NIMBYs are blocking Trader Joe?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm

They're not blocking grocery stores, they're blocking housing. Slightly different.

There were no objections to a grocery at Edgewood, but to some housing. I, personally, thought the housing addition wasn't that bad--small number of them.

Alma Plaza has also been a fight where residents wanted to retain retail.

Remember, both of these locations were zoned retail and were retail centers for decades. Both sites should be able to support the right retail center--both are on arterial roads and not particularly close to other retail.

At the same time, both sites, particularly Alma, could use some serious updating and management. This is doable--I remember when Midtown was dead and I think we're seeing a serious turnaround at Town & Country. Alma and Edgewood aren't as easy as both are much smaller, but Charleston's been doing okay as well.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm

As for Edgewood - the "NIMBYs" have two concerns: traffic and/or preservation. The traffic issue goes around the idea of housing, their theory being that housing will bring too much traffic to an area that will already have enough traffic once the store opens. The preservation issue is held by a small minority of Eichler fans - their claim is that it is the only shopping center that Eichler designed and/or built.

I understand the traffic concern. Though I would have to ask if 20 more homes will make that much difference. I don't know - but it doesn't seem like much. Some people worried about crowding at Duveneck school...with the planned re-opening of Garland, that should not be an issue.

The preservation issue, IMHO is purely emotional. The existing buildings are u-g-l-y. These same preservations have even mentioned that the developer should create a "welcome center" with space dedicated to Eichler. I remember one quote, "people will want to get off at the exit and have some coffee and see the Eichler center". Sorry - but outside of the few "enthusiasts" --- there will not be a stampede towards this type of setting. It's a local grocery center - not a destination.

Negotiate the housing and get the thing built. No museum, no welcome center, no "meeting room". Get on with it.

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Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 5:18 pm

My recollection is that the NIMBYs would not let Albertson's build a bigger and better store at Alma plaza, so Albertson's just left instead. I do not recall any housing issues when that discussion was going on.

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Posted by Liberty
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Somebody please let me know if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that there is some sort of local ordinance that states that you cannot have a store over a certain size. And that size is well below an average supermarket size.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Liberty: You cannot have a store bigger than 20,000 sq. ft. in Palo Alto.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

Yeah, it's amazing how there are people who want to preserve that dysfunctional set of boxes at Edgewood. Yeah, Eichler built some interesting houses, but maybe there's a reason he was never big in the shopping center business.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A pity those opponents to development are not required to purchase the affected property. Once public health ans safety concerns are alleviated, the rest is up to the investors.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2009 at 3:37 pm

How do we get them classified as blighted? My own opinion is that they are blighted and probably vermin and crime traps. If we can get them to be officially called blighted do we then get them demolished?

Nothing can be worse than the eyesores and blight they have become.

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Posted by Seth
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

"A pity those opponents to development are not required to purchase the affected property. Once public health ans safety concerns are alleviated, the rest is up to the investors."

Walter, you are almost right, but not completely. If the NIMBY's had to pay for their obstructions, and the developers were willing to develop within the existing zoning, this city would be MUCH better off! I would add that the PA Housing Corporation is a major skunk in the woodpile. They push the city to relax zoning, in order to get more BMR housing. It is time we called them on it. That deal in College Terrace (JJF) is tied up in PAHC blackmail.

In case nobody, in Palo Alto, has noticed, this area is at a tipping point for economic purgatory. My daughter lost her job last month, and there are no opportunities, period. The jobless rate (official) is 11.8% for the Silicon Valley. Things are *not* getting better, they are getting worse. In fact, if the real jobless rate were to be reported, it would closer to 25%, close to Great Depression rates. Obamavilles, anyone? I voted for him, and I still support him, but this is getting absurd. At the local level, we need to support development, within the existing zoning. The NIMBY's can go to heck, as far as I am concernd.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2009 at 11:25 am

Honestly, if there was an opportunity to allow a variance to build a larger store (but not exceed total sf for the site), the Edgewood site is the place.
- access from a main thoroughfare (Embarcadero)
- right off the freeway

Traffic concerns for a larger store are valid - but you have to admit that if the store was still small, there would still be other stores taking up the space - so what is more efficient and desired by *all* of the residents?

So as part of the process, why not redevelop the traffic flows for the property? I'm not a traffic engineer, but I'm sure there's a way to mitigate neighborhood drive-through traffic. Close off St. Francis to Embarcadero or make the center it's own closed site with Embarcadero traffic signals for access and exit. Re-organize the already dangerous "exit zone" for the 101S exit, the overpass, the shopping center and the neighborhoods. (How many near crashes have you seen when someone tries to exit the Shell station by turning left towards 101? I'm surprised someone hasn't been killed there).

Create a solution that goes beyond the shopping center and the next-door-neighbors. If the city wants to see something done, then perhaps provide some traffic engineering resources to help get it done. Make this a shopping center for the greater area of the city while protecting the nearest residents - it can be done.

My two cents...

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

I agree--there's a lot to be said about the Edgewood location as a retail site--blocking off St. Francis from Embarcadero would be a benefit, I'd think to the residents--then some sort of light for the shopping center and Shell should get traffic in and out.

It's one of the few sites in PA where there would be ways to mitigate the effect on neighbors as one side of the property backs up to 101 and the other faces Embarcadero.

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