News


Merchants delay California Ave. street project

Metropolitan Transportation Commission puts funding for California Avenue project on hold after business owners complain about traffic impacts of reducing lanes from four to two

Palo Alto's plan to reduce lanes on California Avenue and to bring a host of streetscape improvements to the vibrant commercial strip hit an unexpected speedbump this week when a group of local merchants convinced the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to put the project on hold.

Despite the setback, the City Council plans to vote on the environmental documents for the streetscape project Monday night. City officials say the streetscape changes would create more parking while also making California Avenue more attractive to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The MTC, which distributes funds for transportation projects to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) (which, in turns, directs it to member cities), heard the business owners' complaints and pulled the California Avenue project out of a package of transportation projects it approved at its Wednesday meeting. The $1.7 million project is banking on a $1.2 million grant from the VTA.

The commission's approval is usually a perfunctory matter once a transportation project has the VTA's endorsement. The package of projects was listed on the MTC's "consent calendar," which lists items that are automatically approved without discussion.

But the commission decided to exclude the California Avenue project after attorney William Ross and several business owners complained that Palo Alto officials ignored their concerns. The group specifically opposes a plan to reduce lanes -- a plan that it says would create congestion on the busy street.

Ross told the commission that the city assumed, at the time it was approving the streetscape plan, that transit services would expand around California Avenue in the coming years. Since then, however, Caltrain has announced severe budget shortfalls and service reductions.

Ross had made similar complaints at various public hearings on the California Avenue complaints.

"Are we building a bridge to nowhere?" Ross asked the commission. "Are we authorizing a project for transit capability that doesn't exist?

"Quite honestly, the issue is we need somebody to listen. That's it."

The commission agreed to discuss the project at an upcoming committee meeting, after discussing the merchants' concerns with the VTA.

Palo Alto had already conducted a traffic analysis on the lane-reduction plan and found that the proposal would have no significant impact on traffic levels. A new report by the city's Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez states "there would be negligible impacts due to lane reductions." He notes that California Avenue has considerably less traffic than other major two-lane streets such as University Avenue, Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park and Castro Street in Mountain View.

The report states that the "intent of the project is to provide for place-making design, traffic calming and safety enhancements, and retail vitality and other economic benefits."

Comments

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Posted by Freida L
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Jaime Rodriquez? Isn't he the same fellow "in charge" of the disaster on Arastradero Rd.? Try getting anywhere on that road before school or when school lets out!!


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I'm very pleased with the Arastradero Road changes, and was looking forward to the planned improvements on California Ave. Why is it that so many of the posts on this forum find a way to demonize an individual? Can't you please state your opinions about an issue without attacking people.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

About the only reliable thing you can count on from business owners is opposing any change.

Much busier downtown streets in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Menlo Park, to give but three examples, do just fine with one lane each way. You can't even drive through on California Avenue since it's a dead-end, but somehow reducing it from four lanes is going to cripple things.

If the street was two lanes today, you can bet your bottom dollar that the same business owners would be out there opposing a change to four lanes.

And how about the empty threats? Remember when Palo Alto hardware promised to close if the condos went in? Last time I drove by, the doors are still open. And the same will be true of Molly Stone.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2011 at 5:21 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Frieda L. on Arastradero: Jaime Rodriquez starting working for Palo Alto last summer and inherited the Arastradero design, and is responsible for evaluating and modifying it.

On impact of Caltrain: I don't understand why reduction in Caltrain service would increase traffic in the Cal Ave corridor. Very few residents in the immediate area use Caltrain (estimate is about 3%).

Most of the commuters using Caltrain at CalAve are inbound which means that the vehicles they use are the shuttle buses. For those working outside the Cal Ave area--the Research Park, Stanford University,...--commuting by car would not take them onto Cal Ave.

And you wouldn't see any increase in vehicle traffic from people commuting into the CalAve area because the limitation is parking spaces. There is a long waiting list--over six months last I heard--for the parking lots and complaints from residents in the adjacent neighborhoods indicate they are heavily used by employees who can't get into the lots. The parking situation for employees is so bad in the CalAve area that businesses have left or decided not to come. Thus if someone working in the CalAve corridor chooses to drive to work, the parking situation means that their trip will end many blocks from Cal Ave itself and thus be totally irrelevant to the traffic on that street.

It would be most helpful if the reporter could elicit an _analytic_ explanation of what the opponents claims are.


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Posted by New streetscape is great for Cal Ave
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

The article is somewhat misleading. Listen for yourself to the audio track of the meeting here:

Web Link

The primary reason the MTC postponed the perfunctory vote is due to a jargonistic legal claim about procedural issues brought forth by Palo Alto land-use attorney Bill Ross, who claims that Brown Act procedures weren't followed. Ross has previously made several such claims against other city-development projects,but hasn't been successful in those claims to date. MTC’s legal staff will likely clear the claim and move on.

Ross presented a few non-legal claims before the commission – claims that weren't substantiated by fact or reason. He's concerned about significant traffic congestion on El Camino Real; however, the independent traffic engineering report shows only a slight delay. He stated that California Avenue is unique, but didn't state how. In most ways, California Avenue is just like University Avenue, Santa Cruz Avenue, and Castro Street. These streets see a slight increase in traffic during peak times, but, then again, so do most other throughways. Ross mentioned that a two lane street will impact truck loading and unloading. It’s difficult to understand why an attorney would need to receive delivers from a tractor trailer on California Avenue, particularly when many businesses on the street, including La Bodeguita, direct truck deliveries to the alleys behind the building. The city has already taken this into consideration, and assigned “delivery only” zones on cross streets in the project plan (just like those on University Avenue). Ross claimed that most business patrons of California Avenue drive directly to their destinations and go nowhere else. If that were the case –and note that Ross provided no data to substantiate this– then the increased parking included in the plan would surely be of interest to these same patrons and business-owners. Ross also claimed that the plan eliminates or decreases mass transit stops on the avenue; however, there are no mass transit stops mid-street today. Lastly, Ross voiced concern about the impact of street construction. This has been a widely discussed topic in the various public meetings, where it was clarified that construction work will likely be done in phases to minimize impact on the neighborhood. No businesses will face closure.

There were three business owners present – certainly not a majority representation of California Avenue’s commercial establishments. The owner of La Bodeguita presented an emotional argument, but no data or facts regarding her concerns. She mentioned a business loss due to another completely unrelated project. She's right to be concerned about construction, but those concerns have already been addressed in the plan. She didn't present any new facts or credible research showing that a new streetscape will substantially hurt her business. She stated that the city hasn't listened to her concerns, when the city has invited business-owners and residents alike to various public meetings addressing these very concerns.

The owner of Norge Cleaners indicated that patrons arrive at her business by car. There's nothing in the plan that will prevent her patrons from continuing to do so. Her business is actually one of two on the street which has its own parking lot. She also cited significant traffic delays, but had no data to refute the independent traffic engineering analysis that states only a minimal delay. The same analysis also states that peak traffic volumes are typically only 25% of traffic on the aforementioned streets.

The last presenter at the MTC meeting owns a shoe repair store. Her primary argument against the project was that the City of Palo Alto has made many bad decisions regarding the small businesses on California Avenue. She neglected, however, to cite specific issues created by the City for her business or any others. Having lived in the neighborhood her entire life, she stated that "we don't want the change." She failed to specify whom she was referring to by "we," apart from alluding to the three business owners present. Overall, she also did not present any new research or evidence indicating that a new streetscape involving lane reduction would negatively impact business on California Avenue.

Although this is clearly a conjecture, it appears that the opponents present at the MTC meeting are fearful of the change – one which is likely to positively impact their businesses and beautify their neighborhood.

It’s easy to find information about similar projects: A simple Google search on "lane diets" or "lane reductions" results in a list of similar projects showing positive impact for small businesses. Below is a summary of the impact of similar projects on other communities:
- The City of Lodi saw a 30% increase in retail sales tax revenues as a result of increased business.
- The City of Mountain View saw a $150M investment injected into the neighborhood as a result of an improved street.
- The City of San Francisco has performed multiple streetscape improvements. A researcher studied the impacts of the Valencia Street bike lane project and found that "increased congestion (41%) and reduced auto speed (46%) were good conditions for business" as indicated by the business owners.

The small number of vocal, fear minded, change averse and uninformed opponents to the California Avenue streetscape project have asked the city to listen. The city has held several public meetings about the project and listened to as many sides as possible and put forth a great plan for the streetscape. Perhaps if these opponents take their own advice and listen to the research and customer input which shows their business will not suffer any negative impact, we can all enjoy improvements to the neighborhood.


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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Response to new streetscape:
As a consumer on Cal. Ave. from talking to residents and business owners all want change for better landscape but do not want at least 6 months of construction.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

What they want is pretty irrelevant.

Of course, everyone would like a prettier, revamped environment if they don't have to pay for it. And of course, if it could be done overnight (like on tv) that would be wonderful.

In the real world, it doesn't work like that.

Shopping is pretty incidental. The restaurants and parking lots are always full so why draw more people to the area anyway? The only reason to shop there is if you live in the neighborhood, are getting on/off a train or are there to eat at a restaurant. There is no shopping to draw people there otherwise.

On top of that, Caltrain and Palo Alto don't have the money. I just don't understand the need for this.


Like this comment
Posted by Annette Isaacson
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Some people don't want any change. Some people fear change until they are convinced that the change will bring about something better. When I attended the meeting about the proposed changes to California Avenue, I left convinced that the proposed changes would be good for California Avenue. This is a great opportunity for Palo Alto. The city received a $1.2 million grant to revitalize our long neglected "second downtown" area. The detailed independent traffic study concluded that there are not significant impacts to drivers with the proposed reduction from 4 to 2 lanes plus turn lanes at intersections. The proposed changes will enhance the experience for pedestrians and bicyclists without negatively impacting drivers who will actually get more parking places. I think this project is going to be a great chance for the city of Palo Alto to show businesses that the city is on their side. The city can meet with businesses to discuss their concerns about the construction process. The city can take out ads in the paper asking Palo Altans to support our local business and reminding folks that CA Ave businesses are open during construction and include suggestions for access and parking during the paving process. A successful project will do a lot to restore people's faith in local government.



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Posted by Frank
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2011 at 12:40 am

Okay, New streetscape is great for Cal Ave, you sure sound like one of those City Staff employeesp. If you are taking that kind of time to write such analysis, most likely you are a City Staff that probably lives in the South Bay or elsewhere. Mtn. View has TheatreWorks and is not a dead end street neither are Santa Cruz Ave and try comparing apples to apples, San Francisco is a city with many neighborhoods with different demographics. Most people who move into bigger cities like SF or NY plan on not owning cars because they enjoy that everything is close within their neighborhood and often are singles or couples without kids. PA has not achieved that status as a city. PA is a friendly family oriented suburban community. This person also mentioned an article was "misleading" but claims that "small number of vocal, fear minded, change adverse and uninformed opponents to the California Avenue...." seems to be quite judgmental. Sounds like a politician......looking for a sound bite.


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Posted by Yes Again!
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2011 at 9:47 am

Frank, nope not a staffer nor a San Jose resident. Rather, I'm a concerned neighbor who thinks this is a great plan and can't follow the reasoning of the opponents. Like the opponents you don't present any additional fact and your reasoning doesn't make sense.

Thanks for mentioning Theater Works in Mountain View. If anything you support my argument that Castro St. dramatically improved after the streetscape improvement.

Mentioning that California Avenue dead ends is a great point and supports the traffic studies and what we all know about the Avenue - that traffic won't be congested after a lane change.

By definition Palo Alto is a city with many neighborhoods and demographics. Investing in California Avenue, like many similar neighborhoods have done in many places, will simply make it better without impinging upon car owners.

Regarding families, I wonder if the previous poster ever visits California Avenue, particularly on a Sunday. The vast majority of visitors walk or bike from various parts of the city. More importantly, how in the world could a streetscape improvement be anti-family?

The biggest problem I have is the opponents haven't presented a cogent argument against the plan. Further, they haven't proposed an alternative way to improve the neighborhood. Most importantly, they haven't found $1.2m from another source. So basically they want to leave the neighborhood as is without change. This isn't acceptable to the vast majority of people who live in and love the neighborhood.


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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

In response to
"New streetscape is great for Cal Ave, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, 22 hours ago"

If you had any valid points to make they are entirely negated by what appears to be your personal motivation for having made them. You mention Mr. Ross at least 8 times in your posting yet you do so anonymously. I find it very unproductive and disagreeable for people to use this forum to air personal grievances.

Any comparison to Castro street in Mountain view is entirely irrelevant. The sidewalks were widened in that case which facilitated real "European Style" sidewalk dinning.
The current plan for Cal avenue does NOT include widening the sidewalks.

The additional parking spots created on Cal Ave are nice, but do not adequately address the parking needs for employees or the lunch time rush.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

Although I may sound like one of the opponents to this project, I am not really.

My opinions are based on discovering the aim of the project. If the road needs to be resurfaced and a few upgrades are needed, then it may make sense. If the aim is to make it more pleasant for those who live in the neighborhood and already use the area, it may make sense. On the other hand, considering it is already a place that attracts commuters and diners I question the rataionale. If the aim is to attract more people then it doesn't make sense.

I am all for making neighborhood facilities better. I visit Midtown several times a week and would love to see improvements. Parking can be difficult and although there are some useful businesses, it is pretty ugly and some beautification, sidewalk widening, and seating could make the area much more inviting. Bike parking and empty storefronts are also a problem, but don't dare reduce lanes. But I am fairly local and I don't necessarily want to see more people coming to make it too busy for me to park.

I feel sure that people who live close to Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza would say the same about their neighborhood shopping facilities too. In fact they have lost theirs.

So why spend $$$ on attracting more people to a busy area? If it needs to be improved because the road surface is full of potholes, then say that is what it is for. But, so do other areas in the City and can these other areas expect the same treatment? The answer is probably not, because the money isn't available.


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Posted by another opinion
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

I don't think the "Yes..." poster was airing a grievance. It looks like they were stating fact and doing a decent job of breaking down the story. There didn't appear to be attacks on Mr. Ross, except maybe the arguments he attempted to make.

About Mt. View, no 2 plans or improvements are the same. It's hard to argue, though, that the Mt. View project was a bad one. The fact still remains that doing nothing or only repaving aren't options. The neighborhood needs improvement badly.


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Posted by Just-Say-No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

> He stated that California Avenue is unique,
> but didn't state how. In most ways, California Avenue is
> just like University Avenue,
> Santa Cruz Avenue, and Castro Street

None of these streets are only three blocks long, and dead-ended. That’s how California Avenue (at least this segment) is unique. The California Avenue Business District is totally dependent on auto traffic for its survival. While that’s probably true on most business districts, there simply are not enough people in the surrounding residential districts to keep California Avenue alive if motorists stop driving to this location to shop, and/or dine. There are also no “anchor” stores in this Business District, with the exception of Molly Stones (and that is arguable). All of the other cited districts have significant "anchor" stores to draw shoppers.

> The City of Mountain View saw a $150M investment injected into
> the neighborhood as a result of an improved street.

And what is your source for this number? Are you including the City Hall/Performing Arts center? MV City Hall had to go somewhere in MV. Castro Street was as good a choice as any, with, or without, the streetscape "redo".

But how does the MV situation reflect on PA? Is there $150M (or more) in the wings, waiting to “swoop in” once the public money is on the table? Can anyone cite any source that developers will be spending 50 to 100x every dollar spent on this streetscape in new construction? No! No one can. This statement is just “smoke and mirrors”!!

> The City of Lodi saw a 30% increase in retail sales tax revenues
> as a result of increased business.

It’s very hard to get sales tax information at the block level, since that requires getting information at the store level. Being able to disambiguate any possible increase in sales tax from this project, presumably in a recovering economy and with Stanford Shopping Center generating about 30%-40% of the City’s sales tax now, is a pipe dream. This sort of statement is useless in this discussion.

Caltrain is broke. VTA is in deep trouble (and probably no better off than Caltrain). Just refinish the streets, put in some bike racks, and retree it (if that hasn’t already been done). The City has committed to a fountain design that is “inspiring” to at least one person on the so-called Art Commission, and there will no doubt be a little money floating around for other art in the future. That’s enough for now.

Reject this project, and come back with a much simpler proposal that does not take lanes out of the street, or send a message: CARS NOT WELCOME! DRIVERS NOT WELCOME! OUTSIDERS JUST GO AWAY!


Like this comment
Posted by Approve the project
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Great points and counter points.

Regardign the last poster, the presence or absence of anchor stores and the length of the street are only two factors that differentiate between California Ave and other streets. For the most part they're still the same and the other 2 lane streets are thriving.

The most important thing mentioned in the post seems to be motorists. Keep in mind that most motorists as well as pedestrians and cyclists support the project.

Regarding the other facts, you can find all kinds of detail on various sites like the Local Government Commission's website on such matters. Mountain View matters mostly because people like it and it's much better after the upgrade. That seems pretty simple.

"Disambiguate". Great word. A brief search into local government posts show that data. In fact, a brief search into nearly every similar project has shown a net benefit to the residents, visitors and business owners to the neighborhood.

The new streetscape is about more than just cars and repaving. It's about a friendly neighborhood for pedestrians and cyclists and a revitalized place to visit, shop and dine.

Regarding the fountain - at least we agree on one thing.


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Posted by emulate Castro
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm

From above:
"Any comparison to Castro street in Mountain view is entirely irrelevant. The sidewalks were widened in that case which facilitated real "European Style" sidewalk dinning.

The current plan for Cal avenue does NOT include widening the sidewalks."

The California Avenue plan must model itself on Castro's transformation, or it will be a tragedy (and a travesty) and not worth doing.

CA Ave merchants should go spend time talking to Castro merchants who lived through the pre-transformation ghost town years.


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Posted by Gail
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:05 am

To Resident, I am in complete agreement with you. Thank you for the explanation. I am not an opponent but I may sound like one too. The plan does not make sense for our neighborhood. Will people like driving with bulb outs and will the city maintain and keep it landscaped or will this be passed onto property/business owners/CAADA? Look at the bulb outs in College Terrace. Couldn't Plto Alto use the matching $550,000 money for improvements in other parts of the city? The most ridiculous comparison is the 1950's 4 lane out of date, out of style roadway. Is this partly about trying to update our roads to fit today's trend? I don't want to sound negative but do people want all this new sitting areas knowing it might attract homeless into California Ave area? Does this Jaime fellow live in Palo Alto to know what is best for our community? How much money has the city spent on this project so far? That would be interesting to know. Is this something we can find out? What if they already spent $150,000, then the $550,000 suddenly becomes $700,000!! What happens if construction causes problems like gas line, phone lines, these would increase the city's cost again? If anyone knows answer any one of my questions, please explain. Please improve California Ave but not by reducing lanes.


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Posted by LJF
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Gail and others questioning this project,
Do you throw out your medical questions or financial planning questions on the Web and believe the answers you get? Why not at least read the staff report first?

People who assume that this plan will deter drivers from coming to Cal Ave or that businesses will be hurt should look at actual evidence. The total daily traffic volumes on Cal Ave near El Camino are about 5300, which goes down to about half that at Ash, Birch and Park. Peak hour traffic volumes are +/- 250 cars in each direction. That works out to just over 4 per minute. The bogeyman of backups for drivers scaring customers away is sheer fantasy.

Here's the link to the Cal Ave staff report for tonight. After an 8 page summary, it includes both the traffic analysis and evidence of revitalization that comes with this type of streetscape changes. Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by JAM
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

Good news they're putting this silly and costly plan on hold.

And whoever came up with the idea of back-in diagonal parking should be fired. The city should have checked with Fremont on what a disaster it was when they implemented it in a light-traffic area and had several accidents on the first day alone!

The merchants need business and the city needs sales tax revenues, not an ill-conceived plan to destroy both. That shouldn't be rocket science. I wonder how much the city spent on this?? Maybe they wouldn't have had to raise our water rates to pay for it.


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2011 at 10:59 am

I use Calif. Ave. several times per month. It is dangerous to drive down the lanes which are adjacent to the diagonal parking with the current four lane configuration, due to being so close to vehicles backing out of parking spaces. Two lanes traffic will be much safer, and there is not enough traffic to warrant four lanes. The naysayers just like to say nay without thinking.


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Posted by Mollie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

How safe is back-in diagonal parking? The only city to implement it is Fremont and they had several accidents on the very first day and that was in a low-traffic area, not a busy street like Cal Ave.

Also, I question why the reporter said the merchants' objections are "unexpected" since Mollie Stone's threatened to close if it was implemented and other merchants were equally upset.


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm

To New streetscape is great for California Ave.
From your tone, you must think cutting all those trees was "great" change for California Ave. It changed! But wait, I bet you have an answer. The cutting of the trees was long ago and we need to move on, right? After all, that's the message the city has sent out. How would you like it if someone butchered your yard and then tell you only concrete should be in parts of your yard! Although, I'm sure your fearless mind would embrace the "great" change. The city knows what is BEST for you.


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Maybe the city could use the money it saved and spend it studying and fixing the problems with traffic light timing that causes ridiculous backups??

Do something useful that would benefit us for a change.


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Posted by F
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm

David, your meesage is clear that the people who say 'yes' to this California Ave change just like to say yes.


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Posted by Gail
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Hi LJF, I guess you believe everything you read. My questions were to invite others who might have information I do not have. I just looked through the traffic data. Why aren't intersections that bring cars onto to California Avenue analyzed like ElCamino and Page Mill or Cambridge, etc.? LJF, do you know? Do you have the background to interpret this data? If you do, I will keep an open mind but don't send out a message to me and others with similar thoughts on this issue and that we believe the answers we get on the web. I thought I was reaching out to my fellows neighbors for input not criticism.


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Posted by Just-Say-No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm

> The most important thing mentioned in the post seems to be
> motorists. Keep in mind that most motorists as well as pedestrians
> and cyclists support the project.

With all due respect, how would you, or anyone, know "that most motorists and pedestrians support this project?" Have you personally asked "all of the motorists and pedestrians" in the Silicon Valley whether they support a lane reduction on California Ave.? No, of course you haven't. Logic 101 says on Page 1--> "Assertion is not proof". You seem like an intelligent person, so why don't you treat the rest of us as if we were too. Statements like "most motorists and pedestrians ..." are blatant disinformation.

Making it "nicer for pedestrians" seems to be a recurring theme in these projects that attack the ability for motorists to use their cars. Why? What evidence is there that pedestrians buy more groceries, or sofas, or pharmaceuticals, than people who come to a store in their car, park in a parking lot, buy what they want, return to their car, and go on to their next task? There is no evidence. And certainly there is evidence that these sorts of streetscapes draw persons of no fixed abode. How much increased spending can we expect from this crowd?

> Anchor stores ..

Must respectfully disagree. Anyone who reads the trade press knows that small shopping centers have been struggling across the nation for quite a while now. Anchor stores have been under attack from e-commerce, as well as "big box stores", so there has been a retrenchment of many of these "brand name" stores, over time, to the demise of the smaller shopping centers. (Anybody remember "The Old Mill" in Mountain View, for example?)

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of hoo-haw about the size of the market that was to be allowed to replace the now-gone Safeway/Albertsons on Alma in South Palo Alto. The project's sponsors engaged an professional who wrote a well-structured paper, and presented her work clearly to the City Council about he minimum size of a market that would survive in that location. In rebuttal, all of the "Neighborhood Association" experts rebutted the consultants claims--pointing to JJ&F (frequently) as "proof" that a small "super market" could make it in Palo Alto. Well .. JJ&F's is now history. It's doubtful that the Neighborhood experts will remember their claims, but they are recorded in the City's public records archive. Point being, that none of the people opposed to a larger supermarket ever owned a supermarket, or ever managed one. In fact, many admitted driving to Mountain View to shop in the larger stores. (Certainly the Whole Foods in MV is a lot nicer than the one in downtown PA, and worth the drive.)

While some people claimed that they walked and biked to the Safeway/Albertsons, the reality is that virtually all of the business came from motorists.

> A brief search into local government posts show that data

Why not share a link or two to help us all out here. It's more likely than not that no data of this sort can be found on-line. While it's possible that some consultants reports might exist, which "predict" an increase in this, that, or the other, these sorts of reports most often are not on-line, because the consultants are wrong at least as often as they are right.

> It's about a friendly neighborhood for pedestrians and
> cyclists and a revitalized place to visit, shop and dine.

With the exception of one, or two, angry panhandlers working California, it is all of those things now. People suggesting otherwise are just spreading man.. (oh, strike that) .. they are just spreading disinformation.

Say .. how about this? We pass an ordinance to tax pedestrians and cyclists for these changes. Got any idea in what century the project costs would be paid off?

One final point. Many years ago, the Cal. Ave. Bus. Dist. merchants created an Assessment District to pay for a parking garage. (Actually, the customers paid for it through higher costs for goods and services provided by the member merchants.) How come the merchants are not looking to fund this project the same way? They all understood the value of increased parking. Isn't it strange that none of them seem to be promoting more walking and cycling via another cash infusion from the Assessment District to increase their sales the way they did when it came to building the parking structure?


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Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I grew up in this town and have noticed how this area has become an absolute eyesore~ especially when the trees were massacred.

I would love to see the whole street blocked off and filled with table and benches for outside pleasure which would also encourage foot traffic for the businesses. Outside dining would be a plus where one could actually eat without the smelling the cancerous odors of the automobiles passing by and trying to park.

The city, instead of filling in the area with cement and asphalt could erect a huge overhang over most of the area (like they have in the older part of downtown Las Vegas) and keep the area green and inviting to shoppers and visitors year round.


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Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

P.S.
I cannot make the City meeting tonight but hopefully someone who is reading this will pass on my recommendation thoughts to the council.....


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Posted by Just say YES!
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

This is a great project. Even a 5 minute search online yields terrific results from other places:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

I wonder why the previous poster hadn't done such an easy search.


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Posted by Majority want this
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Weren't there a lot more supporters at the planning meeting than opponents? I think that's one supporting data point.


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Posted by Meg
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Many Palo Alto residents who shop at Mollie Stone's and other Cal Ave merchants live a few miles away from there each way for a total of, say, 5 miles round-trip.

I'm still waiting to hear how many project supporters are going to walk or bike my groceries home for me. I usually shop once a week, so that would be only 4 grocery bags and 3 big refillable jugs of water. No problemo, right?

I'm sure it would be a cinch for the civic-minded bicyclists and pedestrians who support this project. How many trips do you figure it would take? On a bike? On foot?

Volunteers????

Didn't think so. Welcome to reality.


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Posted by not a zero sum game
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 15, 2011 at 12:11 am

Meg,
What evidence do you have that the street design as a zero sum game in which drivers are somehow losing? Nothing about the proposed plan will prevent you or any other motorist from driving to Mollie Stone's or anywhere on California Avenue whenever you want.

Not only would you still have that choice, but with maximum peak period volumes of 4 cars per minute in each direction, it's laughable to imagine that there would be the feared congestion! You may be delayed by congestion traveling through the traffic signals on El Camino, but your travel time on California Avenue is not going to increase as a result of switching to a more efficient and much safer street 2 lane design with turn lanes at intersections.

Here's something to consider before substituting snide remarks for actual information in the future: Each person who actually does choose to bike to Cal Ave to do their shopping or other business means one less car occupying a parking space in the Mollie Stone's lot or on the street. And the City's plan gives 17 more spaces for drivers to use -- free. So the next time you see me with my 4 bags of groceries and bottles of water on my cargo bike, please remember that revamping Cal Ave's sad and inefficient 1950s design helps the rest of us who have been suffering for years -- and it doesn't hurt you.


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Posted by Meg
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2011 at 2:10 am

Dear Not,

What is it about Mollie Stone's saying they'd close the store and turn the property into condos if the plan is implemented that you don't grasp?

If Mollie Stone closes as they threatened to do if the plan is implemented, it won't matter if you can carry a case of groceries and 3 elephants on on your cargo bike because the store will have CLOSED, taking their tax revenues with them and destroying yet another unique store in Palo Alto.

If Mollie Stone's closes you could drive 35 wagon trains down the street and no one will notice because there will be no reason to drive, walk or bike down Cal Ave. and you're entirely right, congestion won't be a problem at all.

Have you noticed how many vacant storefronts are there now? The place that was supposed to become Mac Barbecue has been vacant for more than a year. Two newer storefront vacancies have popped up around the corner on Birch a few months ago, one where the Mexican restaurant was.

Most restaurants get patronized during lunch and dinner and are otherwise closed. Drive down Castro at 10AM or 3PM and you'll see that.

I happen to like shopping at unique stores like Mollie Stone's, not monoliths like Safeway. I've lived here since 1985 and have watched too many unique grocery stores close in that time: the Co-op, Midtown Market, John's Market and JJ&F. What replaced them? Long's/CVS and Walgreen's.

I prefer locally owned interesting stores to boring national chains, don't you?


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Posted by Mark
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I think Mr. Ross did a great job trying to help merchants and residents of this area. The supporters live in another World. People will find other areas to do business when California Avenue becomes one lane. So much for being "green Palo Alto". We lose more than what "appears" to gains. This project is a waste of our tax dollars. We need more transit/shuttle services for students, residents and businesses.


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Posted by Joann
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 25, 2011 at 11:45 pm

I shop on California Avenue and don't have a car. I don't really care what they do to the number of lanes on the street, but they sure need some major paving. And so do the alleys -- you could lose a toddler on a trike in some of the crevasses.

Wider sidewalks would permit more restaurant seating out there. As it is, it's an obstacle course with tables and chairs, newspaper boxes, planters and signs to wind through. Two lanes of traffic and wide sidewalks for outdoor urban living, hmmm, maybe.

What we don't need is a sterile, "upgraded" street with doubled rents that only muffin boutiques and chain restaurants can afford. With an ugly steel flame at one end. Bye-bye used bookstore, art supplies store, recycling center (the only one in town, I believe, where you can actually get your "deposit" refunded).

If you want 13 shoe stores in a row, go to Stanford shopping center. If you want the Olive Garden (burp), there's one right around the corner on El Camino. I prefer a pokey neighborhood where useful if marginal stores can survive. Then maybe even pokey, marginal people like me can get by.


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