Original post made
on Oct 4, 2012
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The thing about Arrillaga and the Stanford Trustees is that they
throw pennies at fixing the traffic jam problems they create.
Do you really think train/bus passes and a free Marguerite will solve the traffic jam coming to Stanford/Palo Alto/Menlo Park/El Camino due to the dramatic overbuild of Stanford land????
There seems to be a lot of visionaries to get buildings built
but NO vision on transportation issues. Why not take a lead from Leland Stanford himself and getting back into the rail business??
If there was BART from Millbrae to San Jose you could cut traffic in half. But no - these folks are just about making $s on buildings.
And cities/county/state are all salivating at the tax base.
Use some of your $17 billion tax exempt endowment and fix the traffic problems. Surely there is mechanical/civil/electrical engineering expertise to get it done at Stanford????? Put it to use.
[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Start from Sand Hill Rd to Facebook, build a streecar line. Brach line up and down El Camino from Menlo Park to San Antoino Cal Train Station. Streetcar line down Page Mill Rd to Cal Ave Caltrain station. Build streetcar line San Antoino Rd down Middlefield to Central Expressway. Design bus and rail services to feed streetcar lines.
I'm all for substantially improved public transportation. The Cal Train line is the place to start. Whether it is electrified Cal Train, BART or high speed rail there should be service every 15 minutes and Palo Alto riders should be able to get to San Francisco in 30 minutes and San Jose in 15.
What ever happened to the proposed commuter rail lines across the Dunbarton rail bridge? Commuters to and from the East Bay really need that.
Now that 101 in 5 lanes in each direction, do we believe that enough is enough? It's getting to look like LA around here, and that's not a compliment.
I have no close ties to Arrillaga but I do think he builds a LOT. Traffic around here is brutal and if you knew just how many projects he begins and pays for (often with very little reasoning and notification to those it will disrupt) you might feel differently. To each their own opinion!
Stanford is currently building a vast new Medical Center which will employ a huge number of additional workers.
Shouldn't Stanford be building, or asked to build, at least some housing as well as commercial construction on this Menlo Park acreage?
Or could it be that Stanford is giving Arrillaga the rights to develop this Menlo Park land as a quid-pro-quo for developing the MacArthur Park site for Stanford's financial benefit?
This is too much of a coincidence coming so soon after the Palo Alto council enthusiastically endorsed Arrillaga's preliminary proposal for a hight and density busting development for Stanford's financial benefit.
I am suspicious of all these "donations."
and wish there was better reporting about the true costs and benefits of all these projects, to the city and its residents. Instead of simply printing what the developers want it to sound like. Basically, false advertising.
For example, calling the project on University and Alma an "Arts and Innovation district."
University and Alma are already an innovation district, the buildings will only "cash in" on this by using the address, and otherwise ruin the aerea.
Arrillaga donates huge amounts for Stanford buildings. However, the construction company that Stanford always seems to use is Vance Brown, and it is my understanding that Arrillaga has (or did have) close financial ties to this company.
Does anyone else know about this? Is this no longer the case?
Maybe the way Arrillaga "donates huge amounts of money" is by using Stanford land and the Stanford name, to create these projects where the builders give him a cut, but it's all really part of the cost of the total "business" he does with his counterparts, us included.
He "donates" a rec center and a theater to Menlo Park and Palo Alto which are worth in the tens of millions.
Stanford provides the land in the 100s of millions, and gets money back form the rent on the buildings
Palo Alto gives away park land that is literally priceless.
Builders make money on the buildings above and beyond the value of the rec center and theater, plus repeat business
and Mr. A gets a cut of the above, enough to "donate" again in the future.
With free land from Stanford, and priceless parkland form Palo Alto Mr. A can donate a few more rec centers and theaters, while he destroys our landscape.
BART and Caltrain have their places, just thinking we need a system that is effient, feeds Caltrain at this present moment. BART will take years to build, would you like it running down El Camino. We also come to the question; tunnel or elevated track?
Thank you for your post. It gave me a chuckle. The posts on this topic have been all over the place, but your's was amusing without being nasty. I suspect Mr. Arrillaga was a very good Monopoly player in his youth.
I mostly appreciate his generosity, but am wary of the latest proposal. I hope everyone can get what they need without overbuilding on the 27 University site.
I have read the staff report about 27 University and will describe my objections to it on my campaign blog.
candidate for Palo Alto City Council as a residentialist meaning I think land use projects should be vetted more carefully by commissioners, council and staff
I have less interest obviously in Menlo Park my neighbors but the relationship between Stanford and Arrillaga is certainly interesting and this case potentially offers clues to what the actual power dynamic is, and what is going on re 27 University.
There have been almost a year of secret meetings including Palo Alto staff and presumably some council members; public learned of it in March and it is coming up on various dockets for public meetings this month, including discussions of the 50 ft limit and, I believe the total cap on commercial development downtown and city wide.
There is certainly a difference of opinion here on whether we want to "urbanize" Palo Alto or the pros and cons of the deluge of office space projects.
Gus, loved your take on this and gave me quite a chuckle too.
If I sound mean spirited above, what frustrates me is the lack of transparency in so many deals that profoundly affect the city, and the disregard for existing zoning.
Zoning overlays are developed periodically (every 5 or 10 years?) and involve a large number of residents and city staff and hundreds of hours of work.
In recent years the city staff and council have had less and less respect for all the thought and work that went into the existing zoning document. Allowing more and more precedent setting loopholes. The 27 University proposal is quite jaw-dropping.
If there are some who value more "urbanization" and density with ten story buildings, then this should be raised the next time zoning regulations are formally reviewed and updated.
Perhaps I am mistaken and the zoning document is meant to be a guideline for the city council to disregard, and the residents input just a token to be ignored.
I don't know. At Terman and Gunn, with John Attig, Clay Leo, Clay Henry and others, we were taught something about "of the people, by the people, for the people" but maybe I'm a dinosaur.
Here is my first draft at vetting Arrillaga Towers at my campaign blog:
Did I mention I am running for public office?
"If there are some who value more "urbanization" and density with ten story buildings, then this should be raised the next time zoning regulations are formally reviewed and updated."
Palo Alto Weekly,
Can you report WHEN is the next time zoning regulations are formally reviewed and updated?
This laissez faire approach to reporting AFTER we're royally "donated" to a pulp is not exactly helpful.
We know the CIty will keep us in the dark.
instead of gasping in surprise, fluttering like an innocent, and saying how "breathtaking" all this is, why are you not really reporting on everything about these projects?. I would be happy to"donate" money for more reporters or lawyers to get the facts out. Including information on those private meetings.
By the way, I am not against development as long as it is under 50 feet height and within reason in note irreparably destroying this town's nature.
Just what we need....more construction, more traffic jams, more high rise buildings. STOP please Arrillaga. Palo Alto doesn't need more traffic! Retire already Arrillaga. Greed monger...
Vance Brown is Arrillaga's contrustion company.
None of you have any clue what is actually going on. No idea how the Arrillaga/Stanford arrangement works; no clue what the relationship w/ Vance Brown really is; and especially no clue what Arrillaga's motivations are; I can promise, as someone who actually does know, that all of these comments are quite far from the reality. The concern about traffic is legitimate - but everything else being said is pure speculation and unnecessary suspicion. Arrillaga is in a true giving mode right now in his life. Calling him a greed monger is embarrassing. You may not agree with the way he exercises his generosity, but he is doing it freely and without self-interest - and in the best way he knows how given his background. Thank goodness someone is being so thoughtful with their own gifts and resources. The rents from these buildings will not be for his further personal enrichment or some other developers, but will be directed for purposes at Stanford and the sustaining of these facilities.
Today during rush hour, traffic was a full stop going into University from Town and Country.
City "staff" forget that we have a High School at the heart of El Camino between Stanford and Palo Alto. Arrillaga's plan to turn El Camino into an office and high rise building drag is a flood change to this town.
There is no amount of anything that would "mitigate" destroying the academic and peaceful atmosphere of the Paly and Stanford aerea, to house a bunch of suits.
It is highly inappropriate for anyone to influence PUBLIC officials to advance ANY personal project, regardless of the generosity involved.
It does not matter who or what a project benefits, if the project does not come from a democratic, TRANPSARENT, and inclusive purpose.
Clearly Arillaga has enough people weak in the knees, in awe of him. So what?
He clearly pushes Stanford around, and they accept anything because of his 100 million dollar gifts, it is a PRIVATE university.
"democratic, TRANPSARENT, and inclusive purpose."
meant to say democratic, TRANSPARENT and inclusive PROCESS
and by the way WHO does not have a clue of how generous this man is"
alright already, we know he is generous, but that is not what the objection is about.
Here is a Profile of John Arrillaga and the millions he has donated to Stanford athletics (not academics)
"He doesn't want to be part of anything where he can't make the decision," says a Stanford insider who has known Arrillaga for years.
I was trained as a journalist before I started by small business and well-before I started following local policy issues so o.k., maybe I don't know what is going on in the secret negotiations and I am reading between the lines a little in the 100-page staff report: so I have a lot of questions, to say the least.
There is nothing in the staff report that states in writing that this is a gift. The letter from Jean McCown speaks generally and evasively and non-commitally on the point. And even if it is a a gift to Stanford, which is really between the giver and the U.S Treasury, if it does us harm -- traffic, noise, waste of the $200,000 of public money to research this -- we have the right to speak out.
Why don't you sign your posts with your name if you have something significant to add to the civic discourse?
JA: this is not philanthropy/generosity nor a business decision but something more like anguish.
if the land is developed - Menlo Park can get property tax revenue -
the real problem will be if hospital/med school buildings are put there - then no property tax revenue due to exempt land use.
For the part of the land that is owned by Stanford, it would generally be between Stanford and whomever it is getting gifts, but why does this get reported SO often about this project?
Is the City is doing this project because of the gift to Stanford, or to facilitate a gift to Stanford?
For the part of the land that is owned by Palo Alto, neither Stanford, or Arrillaga should interfere or influence, which is why they put Theaterworks as the "front". According to the TW website, Theaterworks was "chartered by the CIty of Palo Alto."
There must be a host of reasons why Stanford and Arrillaga want to USE Theaterworks to be a part of this project, and the whole project should be stopped in its tracks ONLY because of this. Inappropriate use of an organization to FRONT other interests.
Shocking and disgusting that City "staff" is participating in using TW as a front, to push to give away dedicated parkland and to build a building over 160 feet tall at this address.
It's so stupid too, because even if it was developed at under 50 feet and all legit, the dedicated parkland should be worth at least TWO of those office towers in revenue to the city.
Nothing is worth building over 50 feet in this aerea, but since the City has said that what matters to bow down Mr. Arrillaga is the office complex, and all the square feet he can get in the air, maybe the CIty will sell out, or already has because it cannot say no.
I think this is great news! The old car sites along the El Camino in Menlo Park and ugly and need some development, everytime I drive by and see those sites, I wish for development. One, to improve our city and two, to create jobs and businesses. Arrillaga is a very generous man, just because he has made a lot of money and has developed a lot of land does not make him a bad person nor greedy, he gives a way a lot of money for good causes and creates jobs and opportunities for everyone. Think about it, what would you rather see, new buildings, homes and jobs or empty lots?
Maybe Menlo Park can handle more development downtown.
Palo Alto is hurting because traffic is terrible, and there are too many tourists here already, have you seen the Stanford Shopping Center lately? It's busting.
For Palo Alto, development needs to happen outside already dense aereas.
Palo Alto also has issues where the City, on appearance has been unduly influenced for these projects.
There's that word "generous" again, more hackneyed ideas.
Hi False Advertising,
I totally agree with you that there is a lot more traffic than in the past few years, it takes me 20 minutes just to get to the 101 in the morning and now with school in and starting at the same time people go to work, it is frustrating... but think about what you just said, "More Tourists"- they bring in revenue to the businesses - "Stanford Shopping Center is busting"...Yay! finally, after 4 years of no jobs, small businesses going out of business, etc. It looks like things are finally turning around and adding more development can only increase the upswing of the economy. I like some of the ideas I have read about transportation, and hope that Mr. Arrillaga and the cities will take that into consideration when planning. Maybe closing off University, making it like 3rd street in Santa Monica, and have more tranportation options between Stanford, MP and PA going out to Facebook and Google. Creating over-crossings for pedestrians and bikes, so they do not stop traffic when they cross on crosswalks in the middle of the El Camino or Alma, that would help eliminate traffic and make it safer for those folks, especially on Alma, by the train station.
I am all for responsible development, which is NOT what Arrillaga is doing.
A good development would start with a transparent process, taking into account all the ideas just listed on this thread about traffic and transportation, including your own if you are a Palo Alto resident.
The back door, secret meetings and use of a "front" to bust zoning, and impose a monument in our face is what Arrillaga's project is about.
Regarding economic activity, you are kidding right? You make it sound like Palo Alto is inner city Detroit, and need a jump start of some sort.
Regarding economic activity, you are kidding right? You make it sound like Palo Alto is inner city Detroit, and need a jump start of some sort.
typo - make it sound like Palo Alto is inner city Detroit and nnedS a jump start.
People talk as if this is downtown anywhere,
Mr. Arrillaga wants to cash in on the air space of an ALREADY economic success story.
Even of all the projects are built within the 50 foot limit, drop the theatre you will get more office building, less open space means more office building. Traffic will get worse, transit will get worse, housing will go higher.
I agree with Garrett.
Nobody goes to Palo Alto anymore -- it's too crowded.
Do you (or anyone else) know what the current zoning for this parcel is? Under the current zoning, what is allowed to be built?
Would be very interesting to compare what is allowed and what exceptions are being requested by Mr. Arrillaga. And what exceptions the council has already given the nod to.
No one can deny Mr. Arrillaga has been exceptionally generous to the Stanford athletics program. But is this a reason to give him carte blanche to build this blockbuster development In Palo Alto at a location that is already going to have to absorb the Stanford Medical Center traffic in the not too distant future?
Of course, our current city council members will probably be gone long before then. Who remembers who was on the council when they approved the Alma Plaza development?
Very hard for our city planners to stand up to high-powered developers when staff know the council is going to disregard zoning and give developers more or less what they really want. Developers now know that all they have to do is call a proposed project a PC and all zoning requirements vanish.
Zoning rules and the Menlo Park Downtown Plan which mention 2 different rules for El Camino Real, where the site(s) in question. Height limit can be 30 feet to 5 stories. Mixed use, certain kind of uses will not be allowed, medical and dental are welcomed but depends on community need. We haven't seen a plan or what will be allowed, height and size will have to be worked out in accordance to zoning and the precise plan. Remember just becuase it is prosed doesn't mean it is going to be built.
Not sure zoning is mandatory or that it would even be respected. City Council may actually be able to override anything - as they apparently already do. A post on another thread mentioned that voting on exceeding height, in March in Palo Alto is an "advisory" vote, and Pat Burt said he would vote for the Arrillaga project regardless of the resident vote outcome.
Another pro-Arrillaga poster taunted that the 50 feet height in Palo Alto was never voted on, implying it can be changed by City Council. Is it actually 30 feet?
My take is that ALL of the rules can be broken by City Council, and I have yet to hear any good news about what really protects residents. Certainly voting council in or out does not help. We need to first protect ourselves from City Council.
Would a referendum to zone out offices from this aerea help, and how does one go about doing this?
30 feet in Menlo Park, 50 feet in both Palo Alto and Mountain View. Height rules vary on heights depending where the site. Four 10 story buildings are too much for site, maybe if major transit networks our in place, open field space can be replaced and other factors need to be answered before approval is given.
Someone needs to tell Developer John Arrillaga, "It's Housing, Stupid". (OK, delete the stupid). But not just Arrillaga - PA Online readers too.
Guess what, folks: It's NOT the traffic - yes, the world doesn't generate around how much traffic a development will generate - the response to traffic is:
1. Where is the development located - is it by transit?
2. Is the developer going to offer transportation demand management strategies, such as transit passes, to residents and/or workers?
3. Will the development be designed for walking, biking , transit, or auto access? Eg., will there be a huge parking lot between the street and the building(s).
I'm disappointed with Arrillaga for neglecting transit, and my fellow on-line readers/commenters for only focussing on traffic. I seem to recall that MP just had to settle an expensive lawsuit because they have disregarded their state housing obligations since 1992.
John Arrillaga makes large "donations" using the same methods Mitt Romney employs in his "donations". They give money to very wealthy and powerful entities, in Romney's case it's to the Mormon church, the wealthiest cult in the world. In return they receive great benefits, not just tax-wise but also by being supported by two very powerful entities in their political and/or business ambitions. Both are robber barons who care little about the effect their actions cause to the human and natural environment.
Can we all agree that transit-oriented anything is a joke? We do not have real public transit in this area. If you travel to/from San Francisco (which does have good public transit) during commute hours, and only during commute hours, you can take Caltrain. The El Camino buses are so slow that hardly anyone takes them except students who can't drive. Just for fun, check out one of the online apps, google maps for example, and see the difference between driving and public transit for any given trip. At best, public transit takes twice as long. At worst, it takes 2 hours to travel to a destination that could be reached in 15 minutes by car.
We don't need more housing. Not unless we also figure out where all those new people are going to shop, play, send their kids to school, and drive. There's no room for any of that if all space gets rezoned for housing!
As for Arrillaga's professed generosity: he isn't Bill Gates. He doesn't donate his money to anything unless it is self serving. The residents of Menlo Park paid (and are still paying) for most of the construction on the city's campus, including the new gymnastics center, rec center, and gym. Arrillaga threw in the last few dollars, kept his construction workers busy, and got his name on all the buildings in return.
All the cities affected by this massive monument building need to work together. Arrillaga's about profit and self-aggrandisement, clothed in a thin veneer of community service. After he finishes clogging the arteries of both cities, he'll just take his money and move on. It's not about the residents. It's about enriching him. And it's time for us to collectively say no.
In case you haven't noticed, you can already bike and walk to/from Stanford and Palo Alto.
There's a train station there too. Plenty of "transit."But Arrillaga plans a ton of parking there. A TON of parking, enough for 4 buildings, that only means TRAFFIC. There are simply not enough roads to/from this part of Palo Alto and Stanford, to accommodate the traffic from the additional parking.
Actually there should be zero additional parking in this aerea. No more cars! and more open space. We need OPEN space there, a park. A really nice park with more trees, lots of trees. It can even be called Arrillaga nature park.
"The residents of Menlo Park paid (and are still paying) for most of the construction on the city's campus, including the new gymnastics center, rec center, and gym. Arrillaga threw in the last few dollars, kept his construction workers busy, and got his name on all the buildings in return."
Definitely time for neighbor cities to work together to stop the false advertising about Arrillaga's "generosity."
His generosity may be ok at Stanford Univeristy, a PRIVATE school, because their governance allows money to buy access, but is that even legal for public stuff?
Arrillaga is not a philanthropic billionaire. He gives money to Stanford, a very wealthy and powerful entity, which buys him access and very profitable business connections. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
This one project has done the final discrediting of JA and his AM (alma mater). Very interesting. His kid might even have to find another slant for the courses she teaches at Stanford's B School.
Unfortunately, our City Council and our governance is first to blame for this situation. And Stanford's governance as well, to let Arrillaga loose on us.
But it is City of Palo Alto's fault. Billionaires and powerful institutions will do what they need to do.