Council addresses $455 million infrastructure lag

Palo Alto moves toward two-decade plan to start on massive catch-up effort on maintaining city buildings and facilities

An "alarming" need for Palo Alto to finance $455 million of overdue infrastructure maintenance in the next 20 years was tossed to the city staff Monday night by the City Council.

The council asked staff to recommend ways to tackle the huge backlog of work outlined in a recent study by the Kitchell Corporation, hired to assess the condition of the city's physical infrastructure.

Although Palo Alto is not unique, it has more and older facilities for its size than many other communities, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Sartor told the council. A recent consultant's report also recommended the city hire four additional maintenance employees to care for the city's many buildings, parks, roads and other properties.

The council's four-member Finance Committee discussed the challenge March 18, but decided it was so important the entire council should discuss it.

"We have to at some point address these in a systematic way," Councilman Jack Morton said. "Right now it's just a nebulous need out there, but we need to begin to prioritize. We need to begin to schedule ... and actually fund some of this."

"It's nothing short of alarming," Councilman Sid Espinosa said, although he said he didn't think a 20-year time frame was realistic because of the amount of change in that period.

He said he is surprised the city only is focused on maintenance and "not planning for things that are visionary."

The need is so great the city doesn't have the resources or the ability to generate new money to do much other than focus on maintenance, City Manager Frank Benest said.

Mayor Larry Klein said the city isn't likely to devote the $20 million per year — out of its $140 million budget — necessary to keep pace with the infrastructure need.

"I don't know where we're going with this other than to face that it's a huge problem," he said. "I think as a community we're going to face some very tough decisions."


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Posted by tell-IT-like-IT-is
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2008 at 1:28 pm

(1)how come no one is minding the store?
(2)how come the city runs in reactive mode?

If we can answer those questions we can understand why we are
in crisis mode.

Question(1): Possible answers.
---The bottomline is the tax payers pay so who care.
---Maybe if we had a major, we at least have someone accountable.
---Who is accountable now. The city manager, city staff, or city council. Or is this just the fox minding the hen house. I say this because how do we give as a benefit to city managers a whole house. Not even the United States President get to keep his house. What else is out there we citizen don't know about.

Question(2): Possible answers.
---Maybe city planners need to understand that what is done today come s home someday to roost. For example, I have noticed many condo's being developed on El Camino. Does anyone ask, who will pay for the children in these condo's to go to Palo Alto schools. I forgot, see answers to question 1. Does the city make these developers pay to build schools. Or does the city stamp "APPROVED" for every new housing project. Then some time 1 year or two later the headlines read: Schools Over Crowded in Palo Alto. Who can we get to pay? The developer made money, he's long gone. The city manager and city staff make recommendations for more taxes. City council stamps "APPROVED".

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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Just read the last lines of the article to see how the city council plans to address this matter:

"I don't know where we're going with this other than to face that it's a huge problem," he said. "I think as a community we're going to face some very tough decisions.""

Our elected officials in action!!!!

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Posted by Brian M.
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2008 at 2:35 pm

"Sid is surprised the city only is focused on maintenance and "not planning for things that are visionary."

Our city has always been focused on maintenance alone. If there is a crack in the side walk the city will patch it up rather than spend the money to redo it. "Patchwork Palo Alto". Sid's idea of visionary plans is great, however, this approach will not get us any further ahead when we don't have the money to spend on visionary things.

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Posted by Foothill
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 15, 2008 at 8:46 pm

The council responds to citizens who resist every effort to cut programs. After all, every program has its adherents. If some of you were actually to go to city hall during budget season and tell them to cut expenses and fund infrastructure, instead of carping here, you might achieve something.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2008 at 9:09 pm

We are not all able to go to City Hall whenever, but we can send emails and if the City Council are able to read their mail and pay attention to what Palo Altans are telling them, then we would not have to carp here. These officials were elected to do a job, not to be nannied by the electorate. The job they were elected to do is to run this City in a financially responsible way, not to waste money, not to worry about their carbon footprints and not to complain how difficult it is to look after infrastructure because of the cost. We know that it is a costly business, but looking back at the election promises and seeing that they did indeed promise to pay attention to the bread and butter issues, is what they entered politics for. If they are unable to follow through, then they made mistakes running for office. If they are unable to follow through, then the electorate made mistakes electing them. If they need to be nannied by having residents waiting for their allotted three minutes each meeting to hear what we want, then they are not doing their jobs.

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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2008 at 6:07 am

My proposal my first year in Palo Alto, 39 years ago, was to disincorporate and become a municipal service district with specific, limited authority. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Making a Brave New World is so much more interesting than housekeeping.

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2008 at 8:24 am

Now why? Are you{The PUBLIC/TAX PAYER}.


The city had to cut back, the Employee's,the citizens.

However the MONEY?FUNDING was there ALL the time to pay FRANK and FIND MONEY to give him special perks and BONUSES for things that no onther CITY MANAGER has ever gotten.
(900'000'$k for a house, 500'000 $k cash and what else??$$??
BONUSES, and then/now THIS CITY IS LOOKING to find a City Manager, THAT IS NOT LIKE THIS ONE.
Also the CITY AUDITOR and Assistent CITY Manager has also junped ship.
FRANKIE STAYs to keep filling his pockets and SETTING HIS BUDDIES up? only in PALO ALTO.. DO DA DO DA....

Blind Mice with MILLIONS to waste??

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Posted by Glen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:02 am

Can we get a copy of this report? How much of this is a wishlist for a bond offering?

I know that Dana Avenue is a patchwork of asphalt and we have two holes in sidewalk that have been there for 2+ years. If a pedestrian stepped into one of these holes, they'd easily break an ankle if they stepped into them. We've also got a street lamp that looks like it's about to fall off of the pole.

The current strategic objectives of our council:
Library/Public Safety Building
Environmental Protection
Civic Engagement
Economic Health

It sounds like they need to be:
Infrastructure Spending
Law enforcement

Like this comment
Posted by Glen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:11 am

I believe that this is the link to the report in question:
Web Link

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

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