Needed: A Freeway-Centered Auto Row
Original post made by Karen White on Jul 16, 2006
An auto center along West Bayshore should be considered a new extension of our current Embarcadero auto row, not a replacement for current dealer space. An auto center on all or part of the MSC site would become one part of a synergistic Embarcadero-and-West Bayshore row. The resulting critical mass will increase auto sales across the board. It may be possible to use 8 acres of airport land for half of current 16-acre MSC operations. This would open 8 acres with freeway frontage at the MSC for auto dealership use.
Car dealerships represent small-scale development when contrasted with the square footage that could be built along West Bayshore, given what zoning allows. Dealerships are low trip-generators and bring minimal negative environmental impacts. Encouraging the use of green building standards would enhance the community value of new dealerships.
With these thoughts in mind, the City should move assertively to establish transfer of development rights, creating an economic incentive for establishing auto dealerships (instead of building housing or offices) along West Bayshore where vacant offices now sit. These sites border the freeway and are prime locations for auto sales.
In short: Palo Alto should create a freeway centered auto row by 1) using any portion of the MSC that proves economically sound, remembering its prime location, and 2) immediately adopting land-use incentives to encourage auto dealerships on private land along 101. We stand to gain $1.6 million each year in new sales tax revenue. But the opportunity costs from not acting on these initiatives include losing our dealerships altogether.
on Jul 17, 2006 at 10:40 am
I believe and hope you meant East Bayshore, not West Bayshore. West Bayshore is the name of the frontage road that is the border of the Palo Verde neighborhood in which I live. East Bayshore is the road on the Bay side of the freeway.
on Jul 17, 2006 at 11:04 am
Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.
Checking with Karen White, she "Absolutely!" means East Bayshore Road, not West Bayshore, and apologizes for the confusion. -jay
on Jul 17, 2006 at 9:34 pm
I respectfully disagree with Ms. White's posting. While the basic idea is, I think, a good one (opening East Bayshore for development of a business that could potentially provide the city with additional tax revenues), the execution of it seems completely at odds with what has made Silicon Valley the thriving place it is.
Instead of letting dozens of groups of entrepreneurs or other businesses decide what kinds of businesses would make sense in that location, the proposal goes well beyond to circumscribe exactly what kind of business would be allowed. Which is to say that the City of Palo Alto has decided that it can pick business winners, and probably pick them better than any of the venture capital firms on Sand Hill.
Why not open that area for development and see what value everyone puts on it? Answer: because the winner of that contest might not be an auto dealer. The solution, apparently, is to not only restrict the development to auto-dealers, but probably give them incentives to come to our fair city.
But the last time I checked, Palo Alto is not the only city on the Peninsula bordering 101. Even if we were able to identify a dealer to take our offering, do we not think other cities will learn that lesson and try to lure them away? It doesn't seem to be much of a secret that auto dealers can provide tax revenues - is there any sustainable advantage that Palo Alto has that would make dealers want to stay here? The answer to that question is quite possibly "yes," but I haven't seen anything to support it.
And does anyone really believe that people will think "Gee, I need to get a good deal on a car. I should head down to Palo Alto" ?
The dealers are clearly (sorry) in the driver's seat. Instead of trying to "catch" them, we should do what we can to make Palo Alto a business-friendly town. And while we're at it, we might want to evaluate our current city budgeting in light of likely lost revenues.