New Edgewood Plaza wins final approval

City Council approves rehabilitation of Eichler plaza, which will include a Fresh Market grocery store

Edgewood Plaza, the only shopping area created by Palo Alto homebuilder Joseph Eichler, will soon welcome a new grocery store along with 10 homes and a small public park under a proposal the City Council approved Monday night.

It took months of public hearings, a series of revisions and extensive negotiations with neighborhood residents for the project to win over its critics, get through Palo Alto's planning process and reach the council. On Monday, council members signaled their support for the effort to revitalize the dilapidated and mostly vacant plaza near Embarcadero and West Bayshore roads by approving the project 8-1, with Karen Holman dissenting.

The council vote was the culmination of more than five years of planning by the developer, Sand Hill Property Company. Its initial proposal, which called for more than 30 homes, was soundly rejected by the surrounding neighborhood and had led to a lawsuit. Though council members expressed some concern about traffic and parking issues Monday, they agreed the new proposal would be a welcome change for the plaza, which Councilman Larry Klein characterized as one of the city's most unsightly areas.

The plaza was built in the late 1950s by Eichler and architect A. Qunicy Jones and has gradually fallen into disrepair. Klein, who lives about a mile from the plaza and who worked across the highway from the plaza for many years, estimated that he has driven by the site about 15,000 times in recent decades. This included weekly trips to a dry cleaning establishment that was located at the plaza. It left the plaza last year, he said.

"Over the time, I sadly witnessed the gradual decline of the shopping center until now. It's probably the biggest eyesore in town," Klein said.

The most significant change to the plaza will be a new grocery store, an amenity that has been missing since Albertsons left in 2006. The new store will be operated by The Fresh Market, a chain that specializes in organic food and currently has about 115 stores in the nation. The Palo Alto store, which could open in early 2013, would be its first west of the Mississippi.

"We've known this was always going to be a neighborhood shopping center, and a neighborhood shopping center means a grocery store," John Tze of Sand Hill Property Company told the council. "We've known that we'll need to bring a grocery store, and the grocery store is The Fresh Market."

The renovated plaza will also feature a small community park and 10 two-story homes, designed in an Eichler style, which emphasizes open spaces, natural light and glassy exteriors. One of the existing retail buildings will be relocated as part of the project.

Councilman Pat Burt, who proposed approving the project, called the plan a suitable compromise between the developer and residents.

"The community has been looking forward to this project for a long while, and I think we have something that's a very good balance of a variety of competing interests," Councilman Pat Burt said.

"We're very pleased to have this market coming in, and I think the project as a whole is going to be a real net gain for the community," he added. "I think the bulk of the surrounding neighborhood is really anxious to see it get built."

Most of the speakers who addressed the council Monday supported the project, though some called for the city to make sure it addresses anticipated traffic problems. Members of the Architectural Control Committee, the group of residents that challenged the previous proposal, came out in favor of the new one. Martin Yonke and Diane Sekimura, both of whom took part in the lawsuit against the project, said Monday night that they look forward to the plaza's redevelopment.

Others viewed the project in less rosy terms and criticized it for what they said was a shortage of parking and unsafe traffic conditions at the plaza. Some council members, including Greg Schmid and Klein, also raised questions about potential traffic issues – problems that staff plans to address in the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

The council's approval also includes a condition calling for a left-turn-arrow traffic signal on Embarcadero at St. Francis Drive. Another condition that Burt attached to the approval was retaining an exit between Edgewood Plaza and the Shell gas station next to it.

Holman voted against the project, saying she was concerned about traffic safety at the new plaza, given its location in a busy corridor next to to Highway 101. She also questioned the adequacy of the city's environmental review, which concluded that the new development would not have a "significant" historical impact. The finding was the subject of a dispute between two different consultants.

Despite questions over the project's historical impact, the redevelopment proposal had no problem clearing the city's approval process. In recent months, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, Historic Resources Board and Architectural Review Board had all signed off on the redevelopment plan.

"It is a very important project in the city in that it revitalizes a really dead corner at one of the main entrances to town, so it's really a significant project," Architectural Review Board Chair Judith Wasserman said. "We felt it was very successful in doing what it intended to do, which was to really consider the viability of the retail component."

Wasserman said this was achieved by relocating one of the buildings, a move that allows all parking in the plaza to be contained in one place. The city's Historical Resources Board had ruled that the relocation of the building would not reduce what Chair Martin Bernstein called the "Eichler feeling" or diminish the plaza's historic significance.

"When we looked at the level of detail the report focused on, it gave us confidence that it has spirit of Eichler," Bernstein said.

Council members agreed that the plaza, despite the major changes, will continue to honor the Eichler tradition. The homebuilder will also be honored with a plaque in the plaza's park.

"It has been a tortuous and winding process on this piece of property," Vice Mayor Greg Scharff told the developer. "I like the design. I like the way you honored the Eichler architecture.

"I think you've thought carefully about this project, and it shows in the design."


Like this comment
Posted by really
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

Just what we need, yet another over priced grocery store, and more homes no one can afford to buy...AWESOME

Like this comment
Posted by Edgewood Eats
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

Sounds good, but I do hope the fantastic Edgewood Eats food truck event finds a new home. I look forward to it every week, and based on the long lines there, a lot of others do too!

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2012 at 9:49 am

How are they going to squeeze ten 2-story homes on that little lot? So these homes are going to be right next to 101? Doesn't seem appealing. Is there a link to the development plans somewhere that shows where these homes (and let's not forget the park) are going to be located?

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

As someone who actually lives in the neighborhood, I can state our family is delighted. A wonderful renovation for the center and a tangible improvement to a major entrance to the city.
I will walk over to the grocery store the first day! Thanks to the developer for sticking with this project through the insanely long "Palo Alto Process."

Like this comment
Posted by Inga
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hurray! Can't wait to be able to walk to a closer store. At least it didn't take as long as the Alma Plaza site. Traffic will always be an issue in Palo Alto. People still want to move here. Just be more observant to what is going on around you. This isn't sleepy Palo Alto anymore, it is a vibrant community with lots of traffic and more people. Enjoy the diversity or move somewhere else.

Like this comment
Posted by Latest moneymaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

What a surprise, Greg Scharff and Judith Wasserman are thrilled with a major moneymaker for a developer. Even though the public benefits for the Planned Community zone are trivial. Anyone surprised?

Like this comment
Posted by question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:05 am

Any idea how much the project exceeds zoning? Not all PC's are alike.

Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:25 am

"10 two-story homes, designed in an Eichler style" - 2 story Eichler! "the "Eichler feeling" - flat and glassy comes to mind - nice on a suburban lot, but largely impossible to achieve in a crammed, townhouse space. I have a feeling that Eichler the innovator would find all this "Eichler feeling" business a bunch of nonsense. He'd probably wonder why the project couldn't come up with something modern and innovative circa 2012 to replace 1950s "modern and innovative."

Like this comment
Posted by PAonlinereader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:52 am

It's glad to see that "ghost" like shopping center is re-born with the new life.

By the way, I hope Palo Alto Online would provide the location or map information for such reporting. Here's the location of Edgewood Plaza:

1161 Embarcadero Rd
Palo Alto, CA 94303

Like this comment
Posted by Google-Streets-Is-Great
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

> I hope Palo Alto Online would provide the location
> or map information for such reporting.

Anyone who wants a map, or a full aerial view, need only use Google/Maps and/or Google/Earth and shift into "Street View".

Like this comment
Posted by Nearby resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I am thrilled! I'm so glad this finally got approved. I'm disappointed to read the few negative views some people have posted, but apparently there will always be someone who is unhappy. We really look forward to having a nice new grocery store at this location.

Like this comment
Posted by HB
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm

There is NO safe pedestrian access for half of the neighbors of this neighborhood center. Just north along West Bayshore are 90 homes, filled with children, who for lack of a path or sidewalk will walk to the new grocery and park on the road, dodging traffic.

The EIR failed to study this impact despite neighbors' writing, testifying, and holding site visits with planning and traffic staff, who agreed that a path or sidewalk was necessary for safe access.

And yet the EIR was certified and the project approved without making pedestrian access a condition of approval or as a public benefit. Staff estimated it could be seven years before a sidewalk is built. Surely the city and the developer can find a way to create at least a path so that children are not put at risk for the next seven years.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

So you propose leaving the shopping center - which already exists - derelict?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve Eittreim
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Patience has finally won out and we seem to be headed for a nice plaza which will be very useful to the community. We will no longer have to travel a mile for that missing kitchen ingredient. Hopefully many residents will now be able to sell that 2nd or 3rd car and take up the serious biking/pedestrian lifestyles that many of us crave. Now, if we can just get the city to re-instate the old 88 bus line up and down Channing Ave, then we will be really making progress in that LCH objective: Leave you Car at Home!

Like this comment
Posted by HB
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Not sure if "anonymous"("So you propose leaving the shopping center - which already exists - derelict?") is responding to my comment above about the need for pedestrian access, but, for the record:

Residents of the 90 homes referenced submitted over 80 petitions and letters expressing enthusiastic support for the project AND requesting that a provision for pedestrian access be included.

There is no reason not to mitigate this impact to public safety--indeed the planning and transportation staff agreed it should be mitigated--except for funding. However, a park-like path with short posts, with reflectors, separating the path from the road would be inexpensive and quick and protect children while grants are sought.

Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Very happy to see this parcel redeveloped. A specialty market like Fresh should be a good fit for Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Odd. I don't see 90 homes in Palo Alto just north along West Bayshore.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2012 at 12:14 am

Musical - that's because they're in EPA; condos that replaced the 2 trailer parks, on the left as you head north on W. Bayshore.

So they just have to drive - we all do a lot if that, anyway. What's w/the stuff about kids, HB? So people can't send their kids to the store. Besides, where & how would they be able to build an easy, inexpensive sidewalk, as you mentioned? Would it be built along the easement/walkway that runs on the south side of the creek?

Also, if those condos were involved, how come more west siders weren't included?

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2012 at 12:20 am

Okay, looked at the EIR comments and saw these are in the next county.

Can't fix our own problems without creating a mess for somebody else.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2012 at 12:56 am

A mess? Seriously, Musical, what mess? So people will drive there instead of across the freeway or across town - no biggie. We'll get more traffic from the residents driving W. Bayshore- no fun, but c'est la vie. Maybe they'll give us more tax revenue eating at Three Brothers & The Four Seasons :-))

I don't get HB's tragic tone re kids & lack of sidewalk. What am I missing? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's odd that they'd even believe, in thus economy, that a different city would provide a sidewalk - but I don't have the full story.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2012 at 1:10 am

Hmmm -- our first comments crossed in the mail, but I waited this time. I guess those new condo residents feel they are a big step up from trailer parks. I'm not too familiar with that end of town, and hadn't considered PA's little neighborhood centers intended to reach across into other communities. I had the same thought about tax revenues, flowing the opposite direction.

I see mostly locals in Midtown or at Charleston Center, and in the old days Alma Plaza (at Meadow) before it went derelict and got replanned for high density housing. I never remember retail areas sitting vacant for so long in my youth.

Wouldn't it be nice to have easier pedestrian/bike access across the freeway into that Gateway 101 complex? Like maybe a bridge or tunnel from Newell and West Bayshore. Yeah, dreaming, but you never know what the government might earmark funding for.

Like this comment
Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:56 am

This will be a great improvement. I will definitely shop at the new grocery. How many years has this issue languished........I can't even recall..........

Like this comment
Posted by Diane Isonio
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

Happy my Dad will once again be able to walk to the store. My parents have owned their home for over 63 years... Just wondering how they will fit the homes in such a small parcel.

Like this comment
Posted by hmm
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

We're looking forward to the new shopping center, but "a park"? It's more like a pocket handkerchief with a bench on it. If you try to throw a ball in this "park," it's likely you'll break a window in one of the ten new houses....

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm

W. Bayshore - no sidewalk. Apparently there has been no sidewalk for decades. Yes?

The section that has no sidewalk is PA, not EPA. But the logic of no sidewalk is pretty simple - all the homes along that stretch have their backyard fences up against W Bayshore - no driveways, no access points. The entry side of all those houses is on Edgewood.

To be fair - the city's failure to install sidewalks 40 years ago should not fall onto the developer to remedy. The city should solve this problem if they are so inclined.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Hundreds of homes have access to this center by their residents easily biking or walking down Channing, Embarcadero, or crossing over Embarcadero at Greer, etc.
Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood IS the neighborhood designation and I hope as many additional folks as possible can access the center, but SOME - from whatever direction - clearly have to drive, whether by reason of their location or for time constraints - and that includes people who may consider this a place to reasonably shop but who reside farther up Embarcadero, say, in Community Center neighborhood.
As I posted earlier, the shopping center has been there awhile, to put it mildly and objecting to the renovated center on the basis of W. Embarcadero Rd. and how it is setup - whether EPA or PA - is not a valid objection IMO.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Agreed, anonymous. I think it'll also draw commuters, which is great. I look forward to *driving* there. Some of my neighbors have already mentioned they're looking forward to it.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

I appreciated the positive, uplifting comments by those who live in the neighborhoods near the new development - technically a redevelopment. Quite a coup you scored as this will be the first Fresh Market west of the Miss'.
One commenter responded to the naysayers with, "so what would you like, the market center to remain derelict?" Exactly. It's like so many other redevelopments - you have a choice between what the developer and council and PTC work out, or leaving it the way it is....

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

That "first Fresh Market west of the Mississippi" keeps getting repeated. Pardon my geography, but on their website I see 3 counter-examples in operation and two more pending, including a California location in Roseville.

Like this comment
Posted by Dog owner
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

We live two blocks from the Edgewood Plaza, and we're delighted that the city has finally got around to accepting a plan for this eyesore. We're really looking forward to having a grocery store in the neighborhood that we can bike to with the kids. How about a new dry cleaners, coffee shop, hair stylists, and hardware store too to make it a really useful neighborhood place? Great news.

Like this comment
Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2012 at 2:00 am

This is good news--while the 10 townhouses are going to seem dense, it's a lot better than the original proposal of 30. I'm looking forward to being able to walk to shopping.

Though I do hope a place is found for the food trucks. They've been a lot of fun.

It is amazing how people are still finding something to complain about--not sure why Really, who's south of Midtown, really cares. Midtown has Safeway and south of Midtown has Piazza's. Duveneck and Triple El haven't had anything in walking distance in years.

Like this comment
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

OhlonePar wonders >still finding something to complain about--not sure why
Just a suggestion here, maybe you should find out.
Maybe you don't live where the excess parking will fill your street. Maybe the original 30 houses they proposed is the typical developer ploy, propose something ridiculous then compromise and people will think you are a good guy. It's well known in marketing, propose a number or a price, and people will use it as a baseline.
Ten houses won't seem dense. It will BE dense.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Edgewood Eats needs help relocating! Next Tuesday is their last meeting before the wrecking ball arrive. They posted the following on their Facebook page:

We're appealing to our FB & Twitter followers to help us find a new home for Edgewood Eats. If you know of a nearby location that could accommodate 6-12 trucks which would be making a charitable donation in lieu of a location fee, please email

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm

As a resident who actually lives in the area, I'm delighted that the project is moving forward, anything is better than the eye sore it had unfortunately become. I just pasted by this morning and it looks amazing! They're making great progress. Congrats to all who help work on the project, what a success for Palo Alto and it's residents!

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