Garden-supply business ordered to close

Ciardella's failed to submit needed permits, planning director says

Forced out of its East Bayshore Road site to make way for a key flood-control pump station, Ciardella's Garden Supply has begun operating illegally at 1001 San Antonio Road, the Palo Alto City Council learned Monday evening.

The 48-year-old business lacks city architectural and environmental permits, planning director Steve Emslie said.

The council voted unanimously -- minus Councilman John Barton who has a nearby client -- to delay the rezoning of Ciardella's new location until the business applies for and receives the required permits.

Approving the zoning change Monday would have placed the city in "some legal jeopardy," City Attorney Gary Baum said. "We haven't done an adequate environmental review."

"We do have to abide by the law," Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto said. That could mean the family operation will need to close, at least temporarily, leaving the nine employees who attended Monday's meeting, and others, out of work.

"This is a really disappointing situation to be in," Councilwoman Dena Mossar said.

The council had planned to rezone and change the Comprehensive Plan designation for the 1.8-acre Caltrans-owned property at 1001 San Antonio Road, Ciardella's new location, to "general manufacturing" and "light industrial," respectively, Monday.

But acting on information from neighbors and others the city had sent a code-enforcement officer to check the condition of the site.

"I learned that Ciardella's Garden Supply is open for business but without any city permits or approvals to do so," Code Enforcement Officer Judy Glaes wrote in an Oct. 4 notice.

"This is a demand for an immediate cease of all commercial activities at 1001 San Antonio Road," she said in the letter, which was both delivered and mailed to Ciardella's.

Nicholas Jellins, an attorney representing the business and the former mayor of Menlo Park, said Ciardella's had been told to leave 2027 East Bayshore Road, land owned by Santa Clara Valley Water District, by the end of August.

Jellins said he did not think architectural or environmental permits could be acquired until the city had approved the zoning and land-use designation, actions that had been planned for Monday.

Jellins said owners Larry Ciadella and Bob Budelli have begun work on the applications, but he didn't know what would happen next.

"We're discussing our options," Jellins said.

By Ciardella's moving before it had acquired the permits, the business complicated a previously straightforward application, Emslie said.

The city worked with Ciardella's to find a new site and supports its relocation, he said.

"We couldn't have been more accommodating," Emslie said.

Ciardella's new neighbors on Transport Road, Paul and Patricia Pearson, have already expressed concerns about dust, noise and parking -- issues that should be included in the environmental review, according to letters submitted to the city.

The East Bayshore Road site will be used for the San Francisquito Creek pump station, which is needed to carry rainwater into the creek when the creek is elevated.

Once the application has been submitted, Emslie said his staff could issue permits within six weeks.

In other business:

• Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, a former council member, met with the council Monday evening.

"It is really intriguing to be back here," Kniss said, noting that many of the county's health and public-safety efforts gain little notice.

Kniss expects to become the next chairperson of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency (VTA), Kishimoto pointed out.

Palo Alto faces cuts in its bus routes beginning in January.

To compensate, VTA plans to investigate Palo Alto's public transportation options and opportunities for streamlining, beginning with a public meeting tonight (Tuesday) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Jordan Middle School.

Palo Alto is the only city that is receiving a special analysis, Kniss said.

"You are not seen as a needy community and I think sometimes that does influence your (treatment)," Kniss told the council.

She said VTA General Manager Michael Burns came to Palo Alto to ride buses and was sometimes the only person on the bus.

Vice Mayor Larry Klein challenged Burns to return during morning or afternoon school commute periods.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2007 at 4:46 pm

The neighbors were 'concerned' about dust, noise, etc.???

Check out the location of Transport St -
Web Link

It's adjacent to Costco and 101, in a clearly commercial sector. So, nine families lose their income. Sad.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2007 at 5:08 pm

This is a sad state of affairs. Ciardella's has been a valuable asset to many of us in Palo Alto. I was just down at their new site a few days ago. It is very well organized, and clean. There is ample parking, within the site. Dust is minimal.

Council: Please expedite this thing. This is not time for the Palo Alto process.

Like this comment
Posted by karen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2007 at 5:37 am

This is sad. That's a great business, run by great folks. Hurry up and do the right thing, city council.

Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 6:02 am

A couple of neighbors complained about the usual (noise, traffic etc),so now the city council must put this through the rigorous PA process, otherwise the neighbors will become upset. The city must do everything to appease the upset neighbors otherwise there will be conflict.
SO what if 9 people are out of work--the law must be obeyed (unless you are a former city council member, a district attorney or the head of the utilities department--then you can do what you want without fear of punishment)

Like this comment
Posted by Right on NSF
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:14 am

Right on Not so fast! The heck with the law. Alberto Gonzales for City Attorney!

Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:30 am

Right on NSF--
the heck with the law if it is selectively enforced in PA--why weren't Ojakian and the district attorney charged for having off leash dogs Why was the former Utilities director and his underlings allowed to get away with theft of city services etc?
If you are part of the "ggod old boy" network at city hall anything goes. Frank and the city council protect their own.

Like this comment
Posted by James F
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2007 at 8:11 pm

I have been going to Ciardella since I was small(50+ years ago). My father, Aunts, uncles all bought a LOT of stuff from them (dirt, rocks, gravel soil, and they deliverer!). God only know how much soil/dirt rocks we bought from them last year. Gardeners, laypeople, would travel all over to come, shop, etc. From Morgan Hill to Sacramento and beyond. They came to get answers to questions, advice, ideas and more, all was freely given
I know the family, the products, the service - they have all ways been they for me. I carry one of the 'hats' proudly!

NOW I am there for them!


James Ferrando

What is there new #??? Whe are they located I NEED them!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Need more info
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2007 at 9:02 pm

What a mess. Does anyone know why they didn't apply for permits?

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

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,211 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 961 views

This time we're not lying. HONEST! No, really!
By Douglas Moran | 4 comments | 467 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 415 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 385 views