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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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My Palo Alto pet peeves – yours too?

Uploaded: Feb 2, 2019
In my high school yearbook, we were each asked to list our “pet peeves” and the “peak positive points” about our senior year. It was a fun experience that I occasionally carry on.

My pet peeves this past year were not complex problems, and some are easy to solve.

Parking alternatives for California Avenue drivers? -- The lack of parking in the California Avenue area is now acute because two parking lots have been torn up to accommodate a new Public Safety Building and a 656-stall parking garage (which will offer only 310 spaces for the business district). These projects have been planned for years, but since January, now that the lot sites have ben scraped and the existing parking lots gone, I see no signs, postings, or suggestions on where people should park. Why not? In September, the Public Works Departments said it was working on alternate plans but nothing has appeared. The garage is slated to be completed in spring of 2020, so unless some alternate parking solutions are found, we’ve got a long year ahead of us of frustrated drivers and businesses. Some merchants are already suffering, particularly restaurants. Solution: Public Works must find a solution right away – rent space from Caltrain or whatever entity that has parking lots or start a local California Avenue shuttle system.

City Council meeting starts – Council meetings don’t always start on time, particularly when preceded by labor negotiations, and sometimes a 5 pm-7 p.m. closed session doesn’t end until 7:30ish. In the meantime, the residents in the council chambers have to sit and wait – and wait. That’s either a blatant display of power by the council members (e.g., see what we’re talking about is more important than your waiting for us to start) OR simply impolite. Solution: Start council meetings on time, not a half hour later. And if there’s a closed meeting scheduled for an hour, end it in an hour!

The Embarcadero Road-El Camino traffic tie-ups – Since 2009, traffic at this intersection has been tied up because of uncoordinated traffic signals on both these two streets in the area around Town & Country and Palo Alto High School. The city has been working on it for a decade now, and while there have been a few improvements, the traffic is still clogged up. Sometimes one has to wait two or three traffic light changes to turn left onto Embarcadero. Or going west on Embarcadero, the high school on-demand pedestrian crossing switch still halts traffic, and a half-block later, those motorists then have to stop for the light at the shopping center, which usually has a line of 10 cars waiting for it to turn green. Solution: Get better coordination with Caltrans on the El Camino part of it and get it done now, not a decade from now. And have the high school students walk across the railroad overpass a half-block away, and eliminate the pedestrian crossing light altogether.

Ross Road disarray – Talk about ineptitude in handling a public project, the downsizing of Ross Road into a “safer” route for pedestrians and bikers resulted in public anger and confusion. Not only were Ross Road residents not thoroughly informed about the project details in advance, but also the result was a road full of sidewalk bulb-outs and street "furniture." Plus bikers and cars have to share the road in places, and installation of a lot of road “furniture” such as roundabouts, bigger bicycle paths and a multitude signs that only distracted, not guided, drivers. Some residents discovered their driveways had been accidentally blocked so those areas had to be repaired as soon as they were installed. A community meeting was held but several residents later told me, “The staff dismissed my concerns.” Solution: do a better informational job, get and use resident feedback (which is happening now on an Arastradero Road project), and when designing a road, don’t only think about making it safer for pedestrians and bikers, but also for motorists.

My “peak positive point” – Clearly this year I loved watching all the public interest in trying to make this city a better place to live. Resident attendance at city council meetings is amazing, and their knowledge about what is happening is considerable. Thank you, fellow residents, for all that you do to make Palo Alto a great place to live – which it is!

And your pet peeves and praises?
What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

 +   24 people like this
Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Feb 2, 2019 at 6:34 pm

My biggest pet peeve is speeding cars. They are a danger to other drivers and all pedestrians every day. I also hate drivers that run stop signs and red lights. Running a red light by turning right without first coming to a complete stop is still running a red light and extremely dangerous, especially to pedestrians. Road furniture like what happened to Ross Road would not be needed if car drivers obeyed speed and stop sign laws to begin with.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 6:59 am

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> speeding cars ... drivers that run stop signs and red lights. Running a red light by turning right without first coming to a complete stop

Agree 100%. Motorists in this town keep pushing the right-turn-on-red-after-stopping-thing into "slowing down slightly for right turns on red or stop signs". And, because of the massive rush hour traffic on arterials, there are speeders cutting through all the neighborhoods in the city, not stopping at stop signs. All the time.

>> Road furniture like what happened to Ross Road would not be needed if car drivers obeyed speed and stop sign laws to begin with.

Agree 100%. Why can't we get some enforcement? Yeah, yeah, I know that nobody supports the idea of giving people tickets for going 26 in a 25 zone. Surely the police can prioritize drivers by speed and recklessness? I see people going 40 in 25 zones -all the time-. If traffic enforcement started with the top speeders and most aggressive drivers, and worked their way down, average drivers would get used to respecting speed limits again.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by anon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 1:42 pm

More than anything, including traffic and parking, I am daily laid low by the pervasive petit bourgeois holier-than-thou self righteousness of this town.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by KB, a resident of Barron Park,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 2:00 pm

I don't think anyone will disagree with putting Embarcadero / ECR on this list; it's a disaster, and it's amazing that what seems obvious to drivers and locals can't be comprehended by the Transportation Dept staff. I'm sure there are extenuating circumstances... And I agree about using the railroad bridge for pedestrians!

Re Ross Rd, I don't drive it much, but do use Meadow a lot. And I love the Meadow / Ross roundabout! It's not perfect, but it works pretty well, much better than a 4 way stop. I wish the city would roll them out in a lot of other locations. With the addition of better signage, and a low, smooth hump with zebra striping on it for the crosswalks, it would be perfect.

But I've given up hoping for any improvement in transportation issues. In the 12+ years I've been here, it seems the Transportation Dept doesn't care at all what residents think or say, and is certainly not about to consult with us or inform us in advance. I think I'd rather go to the DMV than have to talk to Transportation staffers again. At least at the DMV they actually get your request done!


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm

I have two pet peeves about Palo Alto.

The first is from a practical point of view and that is the traffic/transport/parking problems which get worse by the year and nobody seems to care - at least nobody in the City seems to care. How they can make climate change a priority when it is difficult to see how a town can solve a global problem when they do so very little to work on practical measures to improve a local problem is beyond me.

The second is a less tangible one, the topic of free speech. I can't believe how many times I am shouted down on town square because I suggest something that shows deeper thinking than the liberal cliches most people tend to spout. I consider myself an independent thinker and generally put a lot of thought into ideas rather than just repeat the latest trend of spiteful rhetoric that goes for discussion. I enjoy intelligent debate and discussion, bouncing ideas back and forth, willing to admit when I am out of my depth or lacking in substantial fact, hoping to learn something new if it can be substantiated as well as hoping my point of view will be listened to and taken with respect if not agreement. However, I find that I am belittled, called names, or treated with complete disrespect that it makes dialog infuriatingly difficult and often a waste of time. Whenever I give an opinion it is at least due the respect of being a valid opinion rather than deleted, or closing down discussion altogether. To me being able to discuss something with intelligent discourse is a sign of true freedom and enjoying debate is a sign of true intelligence.

It is no wonder that most people commenting here are unwilling to post their real names. It is no wonder that anyone who holds an opinion that differs from the majority are afraid of stating said opinion in public to neighbors, coworkers or sometimes even friends.

We live in a time when it is difficult to say something without "offending" someone. I can differ in my point of view but it does not mean I feel offended by others opinions, and it does not follow that I should be thought of as giving offense if I state it. We are not all the same, we do not all think the same, and the idea that we should be all the same is very wrong to me. We are not a vanilla society, we should not strive to be a vanilla society, and our strength should be in our diverse opinions from which we can learn from each other rather than have to stifle our opinion just to suit those from whom we differ.

Palo Alto is one of those places which should be much more open and full of intelligent conversation due to the many different places from which we have come and the education many of us have. Unfortunately, in my experience, the exact opposite is the case.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Brenton Hanlon, a resident of College Terrace,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

I would like to add a comment to "Ross Road disarray".
Six days a week I travel a few blocks on Ross Road on my way to and from the YMCA. I rarely see a bicycle. I wonder what the cost per cyclist of this silly project would be.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by First World Problems, a resident of College Terrace,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Sounds like you do a lot of driving. Also sounds like your frustration and irritation increase while driving. Maybe you should consider walking more? These "pet peeves" are little more than complaining that your priorities aren't everyone else's priorities. Get a little perspective, gheesh.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 3, 2019 at 10:20 pm

Palo Alto pet peeves, or pet Palo Alto peeves? Barking dogs at 3 AM, or a revamped Ross Road that is too dangerous for bikes at any time?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Rob, a resident of Atherton,
on Feb 4, 2019 at 4:55 am

All these homeless people because of the Opportunity Centers handouts that enable all these people. Also, all those RVs along El Camino smh


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Heather, a resident of College Terrace,
on Feb 4, 2019 at 6:37 am

Ride your bike, walk, build capacity for alternative transportation modes, and high-density housing on those rediculous surface parking lots on Cal Ave. Everyone seems to love to complain instead of actually doing something.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Feb 4, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Gee, Rob, I wonder why an area as rich as Silicon Valley can't provide MORE services and basic housing for homeless people. Perhaps you are not aware of the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States (and around the world). Where do you expect these homeless people to go? I suppose anywhere they will not disturb your gentle sensibilities. I find it objectionable that someone who lives a privileged life among the elite in Atherton would have the audacity to post such a comment. Stanford offers a Compassion Cultivation Training. I highly recommend it for you!!


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Points of order, a resident of Mountain View,
on Feb 4, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Anon of Charleston Meadows: Thank you for demonstrating (even if it was unintentional) what both "anon" of Downtown North and Resident mentioned above.

It has become necessary, apparently, for many people who disagree on policy questions to frame their views not as reasoned arguments but in moral terms (always with a downward angle of vision toward those they disagree with).

Believe this or not, but it is possible to discuss things like the squatting-RV issue (and complex aspects of it -- such as towns with RV-tolerant policies attracting squatters from elsewhere, and opportunistic entrepreneurs parking used RVs and renting them out without benefit of residential codes and customary amenities, a common practice in my town) without recourse to gratuitous moral judgments ("a privileged life among the elite in Atherton") of people whose thoughts and situations you do not know.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by member, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Feb 5, 2019 at 8:40 am

By far the biggest concerns is developer and telecom interests are prioritized ahead of residents. This affects quality of life in all ways: excess traffic, inability to park on resdidential streets unless you are in a permit district, radiation and cancer with memory loss to boot that eventually we will experience as cell towers are being installed in front of homes, etc. Resident majority does not seem to drive council decisions.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:15 pm

SPEEDING CARS.... 35mph in most of the neighborhoods.
Not talking about kids driving PARENTS with kids is biggest problem....
Midtown speeders, Middle Field road is a disgrace 6am to midnight!

Homes being demolished at an amazing rate Midtown. No concern about
neighbors right to privacy. Often knocking down 50yr old trees. Trucks and construction workers for 4 months 8am-6pm M-Sunday bombing down street and during day noise. Then like I said, have a new neighbor with a 2+ story home staring down at you in your back yard.

Buildings being demolished at an amazing rate. Look at old Elks lodge parking lot rebuild on el camino. Sun is actually blocked 3-4 hours in morning from reaching ground next to complexes that run almost 2 blocks. Like New York City.

Influx of off shore money is beyond amazing. Well if you got it, spend it here in god's country I guess.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:52 pm

I live on Ross Rd and participated get the speed bumps in the 1990s.
Be it known, PA Traffic did a 3 week speed study. Average speed was 42mph!!! Was horrible for the neighborhoods!
The bumps reduced amount of speeders by almost 88%!! Rare to see over 30mph anymore.

The round abouts did nothing to help. Now they allow cars to simply not stop and pick up speed as drive across the 15mph bump at 30mph... Disaster! I personally think speeding has increased due to this change.

Having bike lanes in middle of the streets is beyond stupid. (as to one asking about the bikers, it is school hours 8am to 8:30am and 4pm-5pm where see lots of bikes on Ross Rd).

Light at Ross, and no left turn. I do not believe has really changed the amount of cars coming onto Ross Rd. Although light is little long when on Oregon Expressway going left to Ross Rd. Generally am satisfied with results.

As to taking away spaces for residence cars at corners, due to narrowing of the road. IF HAD BEEN MY DRIVEWAY or parking area I would be very very very upset. So I have sympathy and support improvements to that concern! I was lucky, did not impact me.

Overall I give the entire project a C+.... Not sure what if anything solved as to everyone's main concern: SPEEDING DRIVERS


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 6, 2019 at 4:46 pm

III, I disagree about the roundabouts-- I have traversed many times now, and, haven't seen any problems. Since so many people don't stop at stop signs anyway, the roundabouts appear to be a safety improvement to me.

I agree 100% about this though:

>> Not sure what if anything solved as to everyone's main concern: SPEEDING DRIVERS

City -- please get some enforcement going!! We have cars going 35-40 through residential neighborhoods now all over the city. I never see people pulled over for speeding, or cruising through stop signs at 15-20 mph.

Back when the city wasn't so rich 3-4 decades ago, there was serious enforcement. Now-- nothing.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by pedestrian, a resident of Midtown,
on Feb 6, 2019 at 7:15 pm

We think the roundabouts do help somewhat at reducing speeds. Reducing speeds is a big safety improvement for pedestrians. I wish drivers would slow down even more at intersections, but the roundabouts are an improvement from 4-way-stops that too many drivers ignore.

Yes, we do need more police enforcement of speed limits, especially in areas with a lot of pedestrians (which is most of town).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by So basically, traffic., a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Feb 7, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Since the only way to reduce our traffic mess is to reduce the number of cars/car trips on the road, you can be added to the list of people hoping other people start getting out of their cars and riding bikes, walking or otherwise using an alternative mode.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Y member, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Feb 8, 2019 at 8:26 am

Two episodes of unsafe driving I have witnessed at the Roundabouts at Ross Rd and Charlestown are: one a car entering the Roundabout from Charleston street and not seein a bicycle going towards her on her left .
The man on the bike saw the car and stopped in time to avoid being hit. I was behind this driver and saw it all happen. Wish I'd gotten her license as she entered the Y ahead of me.

Second another time at this round I as going around from Charleston Rd. Coming from Middlefield Road a car to my left at the Roundabout just ignored the Roundabout and drove straight over the bumps, not bothering to go around.

I see bikes mostly junior high kids after the 3 o'clock dismissal riding mostly safely in the shared lame, but it would be safe if the had a bile lane.

City did a fast one oking this disaster of lane squeezing as well,as the mess on Arastradero Rd., both roads I have to frequent often. Once the construction is finished on this road it will be back to the same speeding when school isn't in session.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Lucy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Feb 8, 2019 at 9:18 am

"Gee, Rob, I wonder why an area as rich as Silicon Valley can't provide MORE services and basic housing for homeless people. Perhaps you are not aware of the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States (and around the world). Where do you expect these homeless people to go?..."

This comment, posted in response to a complaint about the Opportunity Center, is pretty good virtue signalling, but betrays a lack of thoughtfulness about the issue of homelessness. We should all be concerned about -and have compassion for - the unfortunates who roam our streets and populate the Opportunity Center (and account for something like 40% of police activity in our city according to the most recent data). But this compassion does not mean we should accept uncritically the Opportunity Center style "solution" to the homeless center.

Most of the homeless around here - though certainly not all - have a diminished capscity to support themselves because of substance abuse or mental illness. Many of the rest simply do not have the skills to earn enough to support themselves. What possible sense does it make to attract these people to the most expensive housing market in the country. Even those who manage to overcome their problems have no chance of becoming self supporting - with all the self esteem and pride that goes along with it - in Palo Alto. It must seem like defeat after defeat for most of these people. No wonder there hasn't been any progress in the homeless "problem" since the Opportunity Center was built.

Wouldn't it be better to apply the resources dedicated to the Opportunity Center and to the local homeless problem in general to finding an environment where the homeless have a chance of succeeding? Who are we helping when we encourage them to stay around here - the homeless themselves or Atherton residents who enjoy flaunting their imagined moral superiority?

I am sensitive to the argument that we shouldn't be trying to export our homeless problem...but who are we helping by doing what we're doing?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lucy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Feb 8, 2019 at 9:18 am

"Gee, Rob, I wonder why an area as rich as Silicon Valley can't provide MORE services and basic housing for homeless people. Perhaps you are not aware of the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States (and around the world). Where do you expect these homeless people to go?..."

This comment, posted in response to a complaint about the Opportunity Center, is pretty good virtue signalling, but betrays a lack of thoughtfulness about the issue of homelessness. We should all be concerned about -and have compassion for - the unfortunates who roam our streets and populate the Opportunity Center (and account for something like 40% of police activity in our city according to the most recent data). But this compassion does not mean we should accept uncritically the Opportunity Center style "solution" to the homeless center.

Most of the homeless around here - though certainly not all - have a diminished capscity to support themselves because of substance abuse or mental illness. Many of the rest simply do not have the skills to earn enough to support themselves. What possible sense does it make to attract these people to the most expensive housing market in the country. Even those who manage to overcome their problems have no chance of becoming self supporting - with all the self esteem and pride that goes along with it - in Palo Alto. It must seem like defeat after defeat for most of these people. No wonder there hasn't been any progress in the homeless "problem" since the Opportunity Center was built.

Wouldn't it be better to apply the resources dedicated to the Opportunity Center and to the local homeless problem in general to finding an environment where the homeless have a chance of succeeding? Who are we helping when we encourage them to stay around here - the homeless themselves or Atherton residents who enjoy flaunting their imagined moral superiority?

I am sensitive to the argument that we shouldn't be trying to export our homeless problem...but who are we helping by doing what we're doing?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Feb 8, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Pet Peeve 1: Even though Bryant Street is named a "Bike Lane," in reality it is not. The car traffic has increased tremendously, and, so far, the bikers are not safe on this road.

A possible Solution: Add hours of closure at entry of Embarcadero and Bryant, for example, in order to encourage and protect bicyclists, i.e., closed for cars during 7:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M., and during 4:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. For very little spending, it will have a major impact.

Pet Peeve 2: Biking on certain streets in Palo Alto, especially in Old Palo Alto, makes you lose your fillings! The quality of the upper surface of these roads is appalling.

A possible Solution: Get the road planning people together with the folks who plan AT&T and other technology expansions. Not too long ago, one of our surrounding streets underwent new road surfacing. Fantastic! Two weeks later, another group was digging a big hole in the street in order to do an installation of a project. When I mentioned to one of the workman that the street had just been refinished, he laughed and made some kind of comment about the different planning departments not working sufficiently with each other.

Pet Peeve 3: (Too) many rentals and even Airbnbs in an R-1 Single-Family Residential District.
Possible Solution: Not sure what can be done. It does cause problems with parking.

Pet Peeve 4: Too many residents not utilizing their driveways and/or garages. Fortunately, in our block of Bryant Street, neighbors have been very good.

Possible Solution: This is a difficult one, as, I believe, City Hall would give out many more permits, if the parking were less dense.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Peter poper, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Feb 9, 2019 at 7:58 am

Tiny, understocked, dirty grocery stores. One has to go to Menlo Park or mountain view for a full service store. But on the plus side is that the reason for this, JJ&F is gone.
Biased one-sided "reporting" from the Palo alto weekly. Examples-- the attacks on the old owners of buena vista, fanning the flame against judge persky to appease Michelle dauber


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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