Town Square

"Just Like Other Cities" Proposal

Original post made by Your Neighbor, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 11, 2007


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Posted by pam
a resident of The Greenhouse
on May 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm

No Bond or Tax Measures for 30 years?!

Where do I sign?

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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2007 at 3:35 pm

I'm sure that was meant to be funny, but most of it makes sense and much of it would improve things. Things I liked:

Branch libraries, which will be closed (we could have a great main and mitchell park then!)

Thousands of acres of open space and non urban parkland, which will be turned over to Mid-Peninsula Open Space (this is bad why?)

Childrens’ Theater and Junior Museum, which will be sold to a private partnership (this is bad why?)

Daily trash collection and grounds cleaning at parks will be reduced to twice weekly

Classes and programs as described in the Quarterly Palo Alto Enjoy catalog - (could be part of the private partnership)

Use of city parks and school grounds for organized sports (please note that designated playing fields will still be available, based on an annual lottery) funny

Course, could be leased to a private mgt co

Airport, not our choice

Utilities, which have been sold to PG&E (and rates went down!)

All City Commissions and Advisory Boards—your City Council will review and approve everything itself


We also are pleased to inform you that our zoning and planning policies have been adjusted to ensure that Palo Alto’s residential, retail, and industrial areas are Just Like Other Cities. WalMart and Lowes already are in negotiation with our Planning Department and Stanford to add these important retailers to the Shopping Center. The land along El Camino Real and Arastradero which previously was occupied by auto dealerships will be developed by Safeway, Target and Home Depot. (Stanford would never agree to the non-upscale, but the rest sounds like tax $$ and convenience for PA residents)

The Palo Alto Process also has been eliminated, no other city has anything like it. We anticipate that this will enable developers to more efficiently develop new housing that draw from designs and architectural concepts found in many other cities nationwide. (Yeah!!!!Ever tried building or renovating a house in PA?)

In order to fund important infrastructure and city facilities, such as a public safety building, Palo Alto will do Just Like Other Cities, and sell land and other assets in order to pay for these other needs. This is a major reason why we sold the Utility, in a fashion Just Like Mountain View sold land in order to fund its City Hall and Community Center. (Do we have land we could really, legally sell?)

In the same vein, proceeds from the sale of the Utility will pay to replace the Forest Library building with a new public safety building, and workers at Lucie Stern Community Center will move into the old police quarters. As part of the negotiations with the private partnership for the Children’s Theater and Junior Museum, all options for the Lucie Stern asset are under careful consideration. (Sounds ok too!)

Just think, we could shop, drive on smooth streets, have an up to date library, a safe police station, maybe even storm drains and a safer creek!

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Posted by Juliet
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2007 at 10:25 pm

What is a Forest Library? is that a poetic allusion?a library in a park?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2007 at 11:54 am

I agree with Pam - where do I sign? This is by far the best proposal I've ever heard from Palo Alto city government. The only downside I can think of is that Palo Alto probably had to spend $5M on consultants to come up with this groundbreaking approach.

The main thing that they left out was to cut the salaries and outrageous benefits packages of city employees, which we've heard were needed to allow the city to compete for employees during the dot-com boom. In the private sector, those bloated compensation packages ended years ago. Perhaps this news hasn't reached the Palo Alto city council yet--it's hard to pay attention when you are worrying about global warming.

Oh, and can we retire the planning commission while we're at it? Or do they have a few more pins that they need to stick into poor citizens trying to remodel their dilapidated houses?

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Posted by Noah
a resident of University South
on May 12, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Where do I sign up?

Seriously though, I question why our city has almost double the number of employees than surrounding cities. My estimate is that we have about 500 more employees than we need (we have somewhere around 1100-1200 employees where other cities nearby with larger populations have 500-600). Figuring salaries, benefits, and overhead to be 75k/year, this amounts to $37.5M per year on extra staff.

What can we do with the extra $37.5M per year? Here are some wild ideas (not necessarily the best / most important, but just for fun). Note: these aren't my favorite projects - just a sampling of what I see people asking for. Also, these could be done in parallel, so the year numbers are just for conversation sake.

Year 1: Fully funded brand new library - at a cost 30% higher than San Jose's new library. I'm sure if the city "offered" the library system $37.5M, they could figure out how to get a new building for it. Forget the $50M library at double the cost of San Jose.

Year 2: Brand new Police / Safety building. Same thing, $37.5M should really be able to afford a new building.

Year 3: Fully eliminate the backlog of basic street & infrastructure repairs.

Year 4: Total overhaul of the storm drain system, starting with replacing or tearing down the Chaucer bridge.

Year 5: Oh what the heck, we have 40k houses and almost $40M in cash, why not outfit the entire city with fiber to the home. Even if individuals didn't want it, it would surely raise home & commercial real estate values.

Year 6: At current market rates (just over $10k/home and falling), we can start a 10 year city funded plan to add solar power to all homes & offices. More realistically (both practical terms and efficiency of scale), we could have a wholly owned CPAU set of renewable energy farms (wind, solar, hydro, etc), in just a few years.

Year 7: I just can't think of what we need with an extra $37.5M / year. Maybe general upkeep on the place, eh? Maybe we'll not let our infrastructure degrade so quickly. Oh yeah - that surplus would be roughly 2x the school parcel tax. We can repeal that and still fund it out of city coffers.

Year 8: By now (and along with the fiber to the home), we should be able to speed up utility undergrounding. I'm sure we can get that done in < 5 years for 100% of PA homes, with the extra ~ $5k over that time period.

Anyone want to vote me for Mayor? Just kidding - I have a full time job, but am always willing to help out with technical infrastructure & low-cost private solutions.

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Posted by just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2007 at 2:01 pm

If you go bak and look at posting related toaddressing the unhoused/homeless situation, there is one regarding actions proposed (and stalled) in Berkeley, and that we should copy them. But if you look up Mayor Bates' proposal, he cite Palo Alto as an example of what they should be doing there.
Is that putting the cart before the egg, or the chiken before the horse when one advoctes copying those copying us to deal with something by us copying them????

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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Now THIS is a good posting. So provocative and thoughtful that you can't tell if the proposal is serious or mocking. Superb job.

I personally think a lot of the proposal has merit and that the overall concept - a fresh, clean sheet approach to what is Palo Alto and what's important - seems overdue and very stimulating. I have noted that on many issues, a vocal (supposed) minority defends the status quo and there's not enough in it for the distracted (supposed) majority to get organized.

So, as the poster illustrates, let everyone's ox be gored, and the return, we get a more cost effective city, with a few, widely supported points of difference, like our schools, maybe a brand new central library, and, hey, that Stanford place. (Just my personal favorites, the actual ones can be filled in through political process.)