News

New Lytton Plaza to debut downtown Palo Alto

Egg sculpture will stay, but new trees, benches, fountain to be added to University Avenue plaza

Lytton Plaza -- the shabby but prominent gateway to Palo Alto's main retail strip -- is slated to be demolished and rebuilt before this year's holiday season.

As part of the project, which the City Council unanimously backed Monday night, the famous egg-shaped art piece "Digital DNA" will be moved away from University Avenue and toward the back of the plaza, along Emerson Street.

Trees and lighting fixtures will be removed and replaced, and stone walls along the perimeter will be taken down. The plaza will also be adorned with a new fountain and an assortment of new lights, tables and benches.

The project has been spearheaded over the past two years by the nonprofit group Friends of the Lytton Plaza, which is composed largely of downtown business leaders and property owners. The group has raised $348,800 for the project and has shepherded it through the city's application process. Palo Alto is contributing $348,800 from its own coffers for plaza renovations and adding another $50,000 for sidewalk repairs.

The council enthusiastically approved the expenditures at its meeting Monday night, with all seven attending members voting in its favor.

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Former Palo Alto Mayor Leland Levy, member of the Friends group, said Monday he expects the project to be completed in 10 days and finished before the holiday season.

Levy said the concept of renovating the plaza has been under deliberation by city officials for more than a decade. But the project didn't really get off the ground until private interests and city officials joined forces to make it happen, he said.

Lytton Plaza, one of the city's most visible public spaces, was built in the early 1960s by banker Bart Lytton and was acquired by the city in October 1975. A new staff report denotes its "proud history" as a "freedom of speech area," dating back to Vietnam War protests in the early 1970s.

Currently, peace groups regularly try to engage the public at the plaza.

The new improvements will include energy-efficient lights and landscaping designed to use minimum water. Total costs are estimated at about $748,800, which includes about $637,272 for construction.

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The council approved the project Monday with no delay or debate. Mayor Peter Drekmeier said he looked forward to seeing the improvements at the plaza and expressed surprise at the ambitious timeline.

"If this is done by the holiday season, I'll be very impressed," Drekmeier said. "I'll even do some extra shopping to reward the community."

Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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New Lytton Plaza to debut downtown Palo Alto

Egg sculpture will stay, but new trees, benches, fountain to be added to University Avenue plaza

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 5, 2009, 6:08 pm

Lytton Plaza -- the shabby but prominent gateway to Palo Alto's main retail strip -- is slated to be demolished and rebuilt before this year's holiday season.

As part of the project, which the City Council unanimously backed Monday night, the famous egg-shaped art piece "Digital DNA" will be moved away from University Avenue and toward the back of the plaza, along Emerson Street.

Trees and lighting fixtures will be removed and replaced, and stone walls along the perimeter will be taken down. The plaza will also be adorned with a new fountain and an assortment of new lights, tables and benches.

The project has been spearheaded over the past two years by the nonprofit group Friends of the Lytton Plaza, which is composed largely of downtown business leaders and property owners. The group has raised $348,800 for the project and has shepherded it through the city's application process. Palo Alto is contributing $348,800 from its own coffers for plaza renovations and adding another $50,000 for sidewalk repairs.

The council enthusiastically approved the expenditures at its meeting Monday night, with all seven attending members voting in its favor.

Former Palo Alto Mayor Leland Levy, member of the Friends group, said Monday he expects the project to be completed in 10 days and finished before the holiday season.

Levy said the concept of renovating the plaza has been under deliberation by city officials for more than a decade. But the project didn't really get off the ground until private interests and city officials joined forces to make it happen, he said.

Lytton Plaza, one of the city's most visible public spaces, was built in the early 1960s by banker Bart Lytton and was acquired by the city in October 1975. A new staff report denotes its "proud history" as a "freedom of speech area," dating back to Vietnam War protests in the early 1970s.

Currently, peace groups regularly try to engage the public at the plaza.

The new improvements will include energy-efficient lights and landscaping designed to use minimum water. Total costs are estimated at about $748,800, which includes about $637,272 for construction.

The council approved the project Monday with no delay or debate. Mayor Peter Drekmeier said he looked forward to seeing the improvements at the plaza and expressed surprise at the ambitious timeline.

"If this is done by the holiday season, I'll be very impressed," Drekmeier said. "I'll even do some extra shopping to reward the community."

Comments

Oldtimer
another community
on Aug 5, 2009 at 7:41 pm
Oldtimer, another community
on Aug 5, 2009 at 7:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Frank
Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2009 at 9:30 pm
Frank, Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Removable tables and chairs? I can see one going through Pizza My Hearts window on a weekend night or used as a weapon in a drunken fight.


citizen
Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm
citizen, Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Objectively speaking there is nothing shabby about the plaza. Why don't you just say what you mean "Lytton Plaza, where people we disapprove of congregate, will be renovated for the sole purpose of trynig to make Shallow Alto less diverse."


Save the brick floor
Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm
Save the brick floor, Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm

It's criminal to destroy that beautiful brick floor. They didn't have the imagination to fix it up. They know how to bulldoze but are blind to the value of what is there.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Rob
Woodside
on Aug 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm
Rob, Woodside
on Aug 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I don't think this is going to turn PA into a hip destination. I never go downtown anymore, unless I am meeting someone who thinks it is a place to go. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Jayne
Community Center
on Aug 6, 2009 at 8:43 am
Jayne, Community Center
on Aug 6, 2009 at 8:43 am

So, the rotten egg stays with it's many polluting parts; and a fountain, they'd be better off installing one of those portable European toilets!!


It's Pat
Midtown
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:48 am
It's Pat, Midtown
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:48 am

So the city of Palo Alto is going to just throw out almost 400 thousand dollars. The city is in financial crisis. Schools and public services are in need.
A project like this can wait for better times. Again, this is a perfect example of palo alto being the responsible city it is.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:59 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:59 am

I can't see any problem with the Plaza the way it is. In fact, the paving stones are really attractive.


Irvin
University South
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:19 am
Irvin, University South
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:19 am

Long, long overdue...what a relic the plaza is, yet such a prime location. Hats off to Lee Levy and nonprofit group Friends of the Lytton Plaza, - great job in your civic activism, and putting $348,000 of private funds into this project...hope it works!


Maria
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:35 am
Maria, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:35 am

There is nothing wrong with the plaza as it is. I agree with Pat that the money could be more constructively (no pun intended)used for schools, and street repair is another needed area. The only places I shop downtown is Discorex-Walgreens and Longs - I can do without the coffee and cookie shops.


MidTowner
Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:42 am
MidTowner, Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2009 at 10:42 am


"If this is done by the holiday season, I'll be very impressed," Drekmeier said. "I'll even do some extra shopping to reward the community."

How about rewarding the community with a better use for $400,000.00!


pecuniac
Midtown
on Aug 6, 2009 at 11:26 am
pecuniac, Midtown
on Aug 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

Lets see...$400,000 divided by approximately 1/2 of sales tax rate of 4.5% would require $10,000,000 in retail sales. Will a new, glitzy plaza pull in that much more retail sales, even over a 5 year period?

Since Palo Alto downtown has become a weekend watering hole destination for MBA's desiring MBA's, object: matrimony, lets permit more wine bars instead.


Rob
Woodside
on Aug 6, 2009 at 5:21 pm
Rob, Woodside
on Aug 6, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Since downtown Palo Alto is so well known for it's plentyful rug stores, why don't they carpet lyton plaza with beautiful rugs? The MBAs can sit on the rugs and have conversations about social networking and other silicon valley topics. They can add wi-fi and electric car charging station too. Special parking place for hybrids.


Carroll Harrington
Community Center
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm
Carroll Harrington, Community Center
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Come on, folks, lighten up! Accolades to Le Levy and the Friends of Lytton Plaza for their dedication and vision.


Dave
another community
on Aug 7, 2009 at 1:42 am
Dave, another community
on Aug 7, 2009 at 1:42 am

WOW. obviously a lot of posts from people who don't ever see this place after dark. Teenagers hanging out with random scroungy adults, and garbage strewn all over.

And months and months of Sheriff, PA Police and Highway Patrol taking turns--sometimes all at once patrolling that dump. How much are we spending to have them stand around just watching people there?

Had a few of the horrified posters ventured out to see this turn into a nasty eyesore after dark, they might also have been there to see a PA officer tell a CHP officer "yeah that guy (a teenager)...he's a scumbag too. He knows where to get any kind of drugs"

Renovation might not stop the detritus that piles up there nightly, but at least while its fenced off, downtown PA's number one spot for discarded pizza boxes, cups, and other garbage will be relatively clean.

Maybe after the facelift the police will do something other than just stand there, and make it a place that would be pleasant to be in, not a place that makes you move your wallet to a front pocket.




Listen to Harrington?
Community Center
on Aug 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm
Listen to Harrington?, Community Center
on Aug 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


jardins
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm
jardins, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Just a few months ago, the city said it couldn't afford to give InnVision $50,000 to provide meals for the homeless.

To now turn around and commit almost SEVEN TIMES that amount of money to renovating anywhere--let alone Lytton Plaza--is obscene.

And what about the environmental impact of (needlessly) jackhammering up the brick paving, just because its lines don't provide the correct optical illusion of making the plaza appear seamless with its environs??!!!

And as for Palo Alto's pretentiousness, Parisians would mock at this local effort to create a little rendition of a square in their lovely (and truly world-class) city.

Delusions of grandeur--while those who've lost their jobs and their homes are denied food.

Disgusting!








better decisions
Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2009 at 8:12 am
better decisions, Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2009 at 8:12 am

So glad to see this improvement to Lyton Plaza. As Palo Alto moves towards a community center gathering place, more like European cities, I'll be encouraged to spend my entertainment money here. Closing part of University avenue is next. Currently Redwood City is hard to beat on a Friday evening. gb


Listen to Harrington?
Community Center
on Aug 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm
Listen to Harrington?, Community Center
on Aug 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm

When the project was originally proposed it was supposed to cost $400,000. Now that the developers are pitching in, according to what I read the cost has ballooned $800,000. The numbers go up every day. Great financial thinking!
It is an unhealthy situation when former council members ally themselves with developers and help them get projects through that benefits their property. Or their family's property. We know how distasteful it is in Washington, it isn't any different here.


anon.
Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2009 at 7:20 pm
anon., Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2009 at 7:20 pm

The other day I walked downtown and just stood and stared at Lytton Plaza. It was twilight and the sun shining through whatever kind of trees we have downtown shined this mysterious kind of green glow to everything. It was quite nice ... except for the recorded music that someone was playing, the fact that the benches are so full and filthy that one hesitates to even walk into the plaza, and there were several people having arguments with themselves quite loudly.

Didn't there used to be one of those green public restrooms in that location? That would be nice. I don't know how to motivate unpleasant people to get out of there, and the people that replace them - are they guaranteed to be more pleasant?

The real answer is probably to have more parks downtown so it is not so crowded in any one of them that you feel nervous or unwelcome or threatened to to into them, but that is not going to happen anytime soon.


Dave
another community
on Aug 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm
Dave, another community
on Aug 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm

One thing PAPD will be happy for is to have that stupid concrete wall gone. I've heard them talk about that more than a few times.

However, their tactic of standing there doing NOTHING was an enormous waste of resources. Of course the kids and adults aren't going to sell drugs right in front of them.

And the Sheriff --and the CHP two cars at a time--- they all have nothing better to do?

Maybe this will change with a new plaza and a new police chief. Meanwhile the city council is too busy banning plastic and wringing hands to grasp the concept of no one wanting to shop/dine in a place full of aggressive panhandling and the wafting smell of urine.

If not for us, I'd like to see PAPD clean up that dump for themselves.....You'd think the police would figure out that running out the people that drain money will attract the people who inject money....more taxes, more OT, more officers. Meanwhile the city council sticks to lofty ideals that everyone should have the right to ruin someone elses visit to Palo Alto and drive them and their shopping dollars elsewhere...

Good Jorb!!!!


Barbara Haas
Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2009 at 7:55 pm
Barbara Haas, Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I really live in Menlo Oaks now, but hey I'm within walking distance of ye old "Plastic Park" as me and my friends dubbed it in the mid-60s. I've lived here most of my life and I am SOOOOO happy it's finally being renovated!! It will make me wanna hang out there again during my downtown night walks, listen to music, and forget about the more negative parts it represented for me. WAY TO GO! It makes me wanna spend time there again. Not everything has to stay the same; change can be good.


Anonymous
another community
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm
Anonymous, another community
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm

This park always attracted druggies and marginals with nothing better to do than hang out there all day... like my creepy old boyfriend in the 60s. Thanks for FINALLY changing it. Good riddance!


Rain
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 4, 2011 at 6:55 am
Rain, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 4, 2011 at 6:55 am

To Anon,
Creepy old boyfriend that did drugs? Were you an innocent bystander? Was Joplin creepy? How about Kerouac, Mare Mare, Owsley,Morrison. Didn't you have free will? Let the bitterness die.."Let It Be"


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