A bustling business park, a fresh crop of stores, a new overpass above the highway and a bike path along Adobe Creek are all elements in Palo Alto's latest vision for the neighborhood around East Meadow Circle.
The traditionally industrial neighborhood in the city's southeast corner has witnessed an explosion of housing units over the past decade, prompting city officials to revise the zoning code and to create a new "concept plan" for the area.
The concept plan, which was unveiled to the city's Planning and Transportation Commission Wednesday night, is part of the city's revision of its Comprehensive Plan the city's land-use bible.
The East Meadow Circle neighborhood is one of two local neighborhoods whose land-use designation is undergoing an extreme makeover. The area around California Avenue, which includes Fry's Electronics south of Oregon Expressway, is facing a similar re-evaluation. There has long been talk among city officials of finding a new location for Fry's, but no precise location has been proposed.
Both areas have seen major changes in the past decade.
In the East Meadow Circle area, major new housing developments, which include Echelon, Vantage and Altaire, brought more than 500 units to the neighborhoods, frustrating south Palo Alto residents and prompting city officials to look for new ways to restrict housing.
"We're attempting to close the barn door after the horses have left, in case there are any more horses out there," Commissioner Arthur Keller said Wednesday, referring to the city's effort to discourage new residential developments in the area.
The concept plan for the area seeks to change the zoning code to encourage more industrial businesses, a new grocery store and mixed-use developments. In addition to East Meadow Circle itself, the concept-plan includes Fabian Way and portions of San Antonio Road and Charleston Road near the Mountain View border.
The plan created over the past year with input from area residents and businesses seeks to bring new research facilities to East Meadow Circle and new stores to Charleston Road. It also envisions a new overpass spanning U.S. Highway 101 that would give residents better access to the baylands. City staff and residents are also pushing for a new pedestrian and bicycle path along Adobe Creek.
The commission supported the bulk of the staff recommendations, though members split over some components of the plan. Commissioners Samir Tuma and Lee Lippert both said they'd like to see intense retail development in the area.
Planning commissioners Arthur Keller and Eduardo Martinez supported staff's proposal for economic revitalization and argued that the new plan should specifically restrict additional housing.
"We have to take housing off the table," Martinez said. "You can't have research parks next door to apartment buildings."
Property owners and neighborhood residents also said they would support an effort to revitalize East Meadow Circle and restrict housing, though a few cautioned against changing density requirements just yet.
Developer Jim Baer said many of the buildings in the East Meadow Circle area were built about half a century ago and have been degraded by age. He praised the new concept plan as an "exceptional document" and said he favors seeing a revitalized East Meadow Circle area.
But he also asked the commission to refrain from making any specific changes to the city's density regulations at this time.
Boris Foelsch, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, said he and his neighbors support the city's effort to improve bike and pedestrian access in the area. He also said residents feels that new jobs should take precedence over new housing around East Meadow Circle.
"Employment revitalization makes more sense to people in the area than continued residential development," Foelsch said.
The commission will have at least one more public review of the concept plan, which the city plans to integrate into the Comprehensive Plan, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012.