City officials should seize the opportunity to add $1.6 million each year in new sales tax revenue for Palo Alto through increased auto sales. In talking about locating an auto center at our Municipal Services Center and other sites along West Bayshore that are prime candidates for auto sales, consider the following:
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.