VIDEO: New Lytton Plaza opens in Palo Alto

Renovated plaza now features fountain, new seating, improved landscaping

Lytton Plaza is back and it's cleaner, busier and splashier than ever.

The prominent plaza, located on University Avenue and Emerson Street, reopened in style Friday afternoon with a special ceremony featuring food, music and proclamations by city officials and local business leaders. The new plaza features spruced up landscaping, new street furniture, a refreshed "Digital DNA" statue and a triangular fountain.

Dozens of residents and local dignitaries attended Friday's celebration, including members of the Friends of Lytton Plaza -- a group that partnered with the city on renovating the once-gritty plaza. The group includes Leland Levy, Roger Smith, Barbara Gross, Sherry Bijan, Sunny Dykwel, Chop Keenan and Roxy Rapp.

On Friday, City Manager James Keene and Mayor Peter Drekmeier both thanked the Friends group for making the renovations of Lytton Plaza possible.

"When the Friends of Lytton Plaza came to the city to request a public-private partnership, we were elated," Drekmeier said. "Obviously, the project turned out even better than we hoped for."

Keene said the new plaza is "the epitome of Palo Alto" because it represents the two things that the city does best: "partnerships" and "process." He said the city would support future activities at the plaza, including musical performances, arts displays and protests against City Hall.

The $750,000 renovation of the plaza began in September, after several years of discussions and planning. City officials approved the project in early August, but had to wait a month before breaking ground because of a city ordinance that gives residents a 30-day period to challenge the project.

Despite the delay, the Friends group and its contractors managed to complete the project before the end of the holiday season. On Friday, group members celebrated this accomplishment.

Chop Keenan cited Thomas Edison's quote, "vision without execution is hallucination" and credited Barbara Gross with spearheading the project to completion. Leland Levy sang his rendition of "Wouldn't it be Loverly," based on a song from "My Fair Lady."

Visitors to Friday's ceremony said they were pleased with the plaza's new look, though local resident Mark King said he wished the new plaza had a drinking fountain. King, 24, said the plaza now has a more family-friendly atmosphere. He said he hopes to see more business owners and residents mingle and socialize at the site.

"Instead of everyone just minding their own business, maybe they can be a little more loose and talk to each other a little more," King said.

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Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 19, 2009 at 11:39 am

hopefully this new plaza wont be filled with bums by the end of the day again. Palo Alto has a strange way of killing downtown communities.

Like this comment
Posted by control
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2009 at 12:17 pm

welcome to social control plaza. card tables that mimic a jail environment. sit down keep head bowed .plaza still has hiding places though.pot smokers have acute perception and can already see even better places to hide than before!those lights act as a screen,better that that wall.and you can see cops coming easier.

Like this comment
Posted by ed
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 19, 2009 at 9:29 pm

slum for bums....

Like this comment
Posted by maditalian
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm

This City is so far in the red making budget cuts, slicing this program and that, but they can come up with money to waste money by remodelling a plaza that long ago was commandeered by bums, winos and teenagers who evidently never go to school.

The City did remember to move that ridiculously expensive egg back to the new plaza.

The parking adjacent to the plaza always seemed a bit seedy. I've a few of them who tried to get money from of me over the years. I refused, but I've gotta' admit that I felt a little intimidated, especially in the evening.

I was in Downtown Palo Alto Friday afternoon and saw the usual cast of characters, a few of whom were already playing in the fountain. (I can only wait for the first lawsuit from a skateboarder getting hurt playing on the fountain. It's an (un)attractive nuisance to say the least.) The music being played was so loud that it was obnoxious. I'd hate to own the pizza place adjacent to the square.

The City ought to hire a few more police officers to patrol the downtown especially on some of the poorly-lit side streets at night. Oh, gee, it slipped my mind: Palo Alto doesn't have money to hire any more cops.

Like this comment
Posted by water conserver
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

I hope the water in the fountain is recirculated. If not, it should be shut of in light of the water shortage

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2009 at 10:12 am

I invite every Palo Altan to see Lytton Plaza AT NIGHT. Don't miss it.

Like this comment
Posted by Not to worry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2009 at 11:57 am

maditalian, don't worry about the adjoining restaurant. It is owned by developer Roxy Rapp's brother in law. Rapp is the original planner for this remodel.
You can be sure he has moneymaking plans for the restaurant building. Big office building in the future, you can bet on it. Their next step is to change the name of the plaza.
Drekmeier is "thrilled" so you can be sure it's a big business boon.

Like this comment
Posted by Capbreton
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2009 at 10:55 am

Nice idea to improve it but the execution stinks, unless, of course, the whole idea was to make the space as boring as possible.

Like this comment
Posted by lookit
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm

too much lighting,its like you are on display. it encorages human centered interaction rather that personal space. in essence,you cannot relax from the '' human position'' .you must now ''sit down , stare at everyone who walks by and be visible to the patrol watching you''. so now,the thing to do is peruse the darker peiphery and watch the plaza inhabitants climb the human monkey bar little tables and chairs. there is even a sandbox in the middle for the human monkeys who sit there! the design says ''sit here and look normal because the bright lights prevent relaxing privacy. the lighting literally gives you the feeling of being ''held in place''. ypu cannot relax from human interference of perception. you are on display,you will stand out they want to watch you. people should gather in the middle and have a collective soke out and if police arrive ,put it on you tube and let the whole world see it! DRESS UP LIKE SGT> PEPPER POKE SMOT AND YOU TUBE IT !! the police would look like storm troopers the world will watch!!!!!

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Posted by thin tim
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 21, 2009 at 3:49 pm

notice the postion of the '' egg '' .is there a spy camera and audio recorder in there ??? it is positioned in a place where you might want to relax , maybe the '''egg''' is a snooping device!! that is reallly how these times are. it maybe is someone spying on you. thats the current american atmosphere.

Like this comment
Posted by The Great Divide
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Well, then there now... you do not know how happy I am that they refurbished this 'slum for bums'... it has ALWAYS (since the 60s), been a gathering place for 'marginals'... I have memories from this park and my youth that I'm very happy to part with. Dreams that became nightmares and false friends... I am looking forward to making new memories around this park which just so happens to be right across from one of my favorite landmarks, Stanford Theatre. It is a good day! I have yet to sit there and comtemplate the ether, but I will when I return from the holidays. THANKS PALO ALTO!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I love it. Thanks to the privates and the publics who planned together. I walk 2-3 times daily and it is such a pleasure to stroll by this nice space with people sitting around. By the way, I am so glad the cool tech egg is back. I missed it. Thanks, again.

Like this comment
Posted by why worry
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:57 pm

so what if they installed a camera in the egg after it was refurbished?
the place looks plenty comfortable for relaxation.

Like this comment
Posted by buddy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

not many people are using it though. it is a daytime plaza now. the lights didscorage night ''hanging out''. who needs it anyway.

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

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