Palo Alto is scrambling to restore driving lanes around the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center to their original configuration after an uproar from area residents who argued Monday that recent changes to their street have made conditions unsafe and confusing for residents and commuters.
Among those affected was Lynn Tashbook, who was shocked to discover on a recent Friday morning that the parking curb in front of her home is now painted red and that a previously wide bike lane on Middlefield Road, near Mayview Avenue, has been narrowed to accommodate a brand new turning lane.
"I resent the fact that we weren't notified that this was happening," said Tashbook, one of about a dozen residents who attended the council meeting.
She said she had recently undertaken a landscaping project, which includes creating a new egress to the sidewalk without walking through the landscaping. This project, she said, is now wasted. She also said she was particularly upset about the safety hazard the new setup creates for students who frequent Middlefield Road for their commutes and whose bike path now tapers significantly near Mayview.
"When you stand on the street and watch the children you get very, very frightened," she said.
City Manager James Keene said Monday that the new configuration was prompted by construction of an entrance for the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center -- the most ambitious project under a library bond voters approved in 2008. But Jay Chesavage, who lives on the block, said Public Works staff told him that the lane changes would remain even after the construction. This creates a major problem for bicyclists, who now have to put up with cars and buses routinely veering into their lane, Chesavage said.
The new setup also includes left-turn lanes near the library and a new barrier for drivers in the form of two sets of double-yellow lines. This, Chesavage said, creates a problem for residents whose homes are near the barrier because they are no longer able to legally turn left from their driveways on to Middlefield. The result is riskier conditions for all parties, he said.
"This creates risks to pedestrians, bicyclists, residents and motorists going down the road," Chesavage said, referring to the new lane design. "This takes the speeding problem and brings it front door to residents who are trying to come out of driveways."
Chesavage asked the council to immediately restore Middlefield Road to its original four-lane (with no turning lane) setup. He also asked the city to find out who is behind the new striping proposal, which he and Tashbook both said was done with absolutely no public outreach.
"We discovered this by virtue of it having been done," Chesavage said.
Though the council did not respond to the residents' comments (the item was not on the council's agenda and members, by protocol, don't respond to comments made during the "oral communications" period), Keene said staff has been directed to fix the problem and restore the lanes.
"I want to apologize to the residents affected by the work," Keene said. "Public Works staff are correcting the situation over the next week or so by restoring on-street parking and a preexisting bike lane."
Public Works Director Michael Sartor told the Weekly on Tuesday that his staff has been working with the planning department to determine how the restriping plan became adopted without community notification. He said he understands the residents' concerns and frustrations.
"There's been lots of public outreach about the entire project but they are correct, there's been no public outreach on this particular change," Sartor said. "I directed our crews to put things back the way they were as soon as possible."
Sartor said he expects the restoration to be completed in a few days.
Keene said the city will also be working with residents in the coming months to create a suitable striping design before the grand opening of the new facilities. The library and community center are scheduled to open this fall.