News

City racks up costs as Cal Ave streetscape project evolves

Proposal to replace street lights would bring price tag to more than $4 million

When Palo Alto officials unanimously approved in 2011 a controversial plan to reduce lanes and make a host of streetscape improvements to a commercial strip of California Avenue, they heralded the $1.7 million project as one that would transform the area into a new University Avenue or Mountain View's Castro Street.

Since then, the plan itself has undergone some hefty transformations -- including wider sidewalks, new plazas and more outdoor seating -- and its price tag has transformed proportionately. The latest proposal from staff to replace streetlights on the California Avenue stretch between the Caltrain station and El Camino Real would add another $1 million to the cost, bringing it to more than $4 million.

The city's Planning and Transportation Commission discussed the proposed lighting improvements and the status of the city's most contentious and dramatic streetscape project Wednesday night. And while members agreed with the city's planning staff that the time is ripe for replacing streetlights and making the street brighter and safer, some commissioners had deep concerns about escalating costs and the fact that this element of the plan is just not coming to the forefront.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck lamented the fact that no one was discussing the new lighting (and, accordingly, the new budget) at the time the council approved the project. He called that "a failure of the planning department." In February 2011, when the council initially approved the streetscape project, officials planned to fund it through a $1.2 million grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and with about $500,000 in local funds.

Since then, the council had directed staff to make further improvements, including new plazas near Park Avenue and between Ash and Birch streets and wider sidewalks. These components would push the price tag to about $3.5 million. The change to streetlight could add another $1 million.

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"If we're talking about a $6 million streetscape improvement or a $3 million (one) – those are decisions that the City Council has to make," Alcheck said. "How is it possible that this project has gotten this far along without the discussion of street lighting?"

Despite his reservations about the process, Alcheck joined the rest of the commission in supporting the plan to brighten the streets and sidewalks in the city's second-most prominent commercial strip. Shahla Yazdy, the city's transportation engineer, said existing lights are 40 years old and "don't provide adequate lighting for the sidewalks and the pedestrians."

Staff expects the streetlight component of the project to cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million, depending on whether the council opts to keep existing streetlights and add pedestrian lights (the cheapest option) or install new lights. The most expensive option includes installing new lights and spacing them closer together -- 75 feet instead of the current level 100 feet -- to achieve better lighting. Staff had recommended the $1 million option -- replacing all the streetlights with new fixtures that would illuminate both the roads and the sidewalks without shortening the distance between these fixtures.

"We've been hearing form the community, and this is something that we feel would be good to include as part of the current project that we're proposing," Yazdy said of the streetlights plan.

Terry Shuchat, owner of Keeble & Shuchat Photography, a business on California Avenue, urged the commission to go along with this improvement. Shuchat, a strident opponent of the lane-reduction plan and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city over the project, sided with city planners for a change on Wednesday.

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"Even though we have hundreds of people who oppose it (the California streetscape project as whole), I know of no one who opposes changing the lighting," Shuchat said. "It looks old; it's way too high; and it seems that since the city has the great plans to redo the streets, making the street look beautiful, it only makes sense to change the lighting also -- to bring the lighting down and make the sidewalk safer."

Bob Moss, a land-use watchdog, disagreed and said the funds would be better spent on other infrastructure items of more critical importance to the city, such as renovation of two obsolete fire stations. Moss said he is bothered by the way the project "keeps on escalating and the cost is going up and up and up."

"Taking money away from the capital-improvement pot to do additional decoration on California Avenue strikes me as an unwise use of city funds."

While some commissioners shared Moss' concerns, they all agreed that the lighting replacement is well worth pursuing given that the city will already be tearing up the streets to make the more substantive street improvements. The commission didn't take any votes on the staff recommendation.

"The project makes sense. The option you're recommending makes sense," Commissioner Alex Panelli said. "The frustration you heard here, and I echo it, is the cost overruns."

Panelli, who has recently served on the citizen commission charged with tallying up the city's infrastructure backlog, said he is concerned about taking $1 million from the city's pool of capital-improvement funds.

"I get very, very concerned because I know this million is coming from somewhere else. I just don't know what's not getting done to make this project happen," he said.

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City racks up costs as Cal Ave streetscape project evolves

Proposal to replace street lights would bring price tag to more than $4 million

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 10:52 pm

When Palo Alto officials unanimously approved in 2011 a controversial plan to reduce lanes and make a host of streetscape improvements to a commercial strip of California Avenue, they heralded the $1.7 million project as one that would transform the area into a new University Avenue or Mountain View's Castro Street.

Since then, the plan itself has undergone some hefty transformations -- including wider sidewalks, new plazas and more outdoor seating -- and its price tag has transformed proportionately. The latest proposal from staff to replace streetlights on the California Avenue stretch between the Caltrain station and El Camino Real would add another $1 million to the cost, bringing it to more than $4 million.

The city's Planning and Transportation Commission discussed the proposed lighting improvements and the status of the city's most contentious and dramatic streetscape project Wednesday night. And while members agreed with the city's planning staff that the time is ripe for replacing streetlights and making the street brighter and safer, some commissioners had deep concerns about escalating costs and the fact that this element of the plan is just not coming to the forefront.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck lamented the fact that no one was discussing the new lighting (and, accordingly, the new budget) at the time the council approved the project. He called that "a failure of the planning department." In February 2011, when the council initially approved the streetscape project, officials planned to fund it through a $1.2 million grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and with about $500,000 in local funds.

Since then, the council had directed staff to make further improvements, including new plazas near Park Avenue and between Ash and Birch streets and wider sidewalks. These components would push the price tag to about $3.5 million. The change to streetlight could add another $1 million.

"If we're talking about a $6 million streetscape improvement or a $3 million (one) – those are decisions that the City Council has to make," Alcheck said. "How is it possible that this project has gotten this far along without the discussion of street lighting?"

Despite his reservations about the process, Alcheck joined the rest of the commission in supporting the plan to brighten the streets and sidewalks in the city's second-most prominent commercial strip. Shahla Yazdy, the city's transportation engineer, said existing lights are 40 years old and "don't provide adequate lighting for the sidewalks and the pedestrians."

Staff expects the streetlight component of the project to cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million, depending on whether the council opts to keep existing streetlights and add pedestrian lights (the cheapest option) or install new lights. The most expensive option includes installing new lights and spacing them closer together -- 75 feet instead of the current level 100 feet -- to achieve better lighting. Staff had recommended the $1 million option -- replacing all the streetlights with new fixtures that would illuminate both the roads and the sidewalks without shortening the distance between these fixtures.

"We've been hearing form the community, and this is something that we feel would be good to include as part of the current project that we're proposing," Yazdy said of the streetlights plan.

Terry Shuchat, owner of Keeble & Shuchat Photography, a business on California Avenue, urged the commission to go along with this improvement. Shuchat, a strident opponent of the lane-reduction plan and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city over the project, sided with city planners for a change on Wednesday.

"Even though we have hundreds of people who oppose it (the California streetscape project as whole), I know of no one who opposes changing the lighting," Shuchat said. "It looks old; it's way too high; and it seems that since the city has the great plans to redo the streets, making the street look beautiful, it only makes sense to change the lighting also -- to bring the lighting down and make the sidewalk safer."

Bob Moss, a land-use watchdog, disagreed and said the funds would be better spent on other infrastructure items of more critical importance to the city, such as renovation of two obsolete fire stations. Moss said he is bothered by the way the project "keeps on escalating and the cost is going up and up and up."

"Taking money away from the capital-improvement pot to do additional decoration on California Avenue strikes me as an unwise use of city funds."

While some commissioners shared Moss' concerns, they all agreed that the lighting replacement is well worth pursuing given that the city will already be tearing up the streets to make the more substantive street improvements. The commission didn't take any votes on the staff recommendation.

"The project makes sense. The option you're recommending makes sense," Commissioner Alex Panelli said. "The frustration you heard here, and I echo it, is the cost overruns."

Panelli, who has recently served on the citizen commission charged with tallying up the city's infrastructure backlog, said he is concerned about taking $1 million from the city's pool of capital-improvement funds.

"I get very, very concerned because I know this million is coming from somewhere else. I just don't know what's not getting done to make this project happen," he said.

Comments

Full Circle
College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm
Full Circle, College Terrace
on Jan 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm

The Cal Ave streetscape project has come a full circle. It started off as a small Capital Improvement Project to replace the street lights. When it was found that the cost of replacing the street lights exceeded the budget, the decision was made to use the funds for streetscape improvements like replacing the trees.

After the clear cutting fiasco, there was simply an acceptance that replacing the lights was still too expensive. Then, over a period of time, all the new elements of the current proposal were piled on top and Council approved increasing the budget. Neither the residents, the merchants, the property owners, the Staff, the PTC, nor Council considered adding back the street lights that started off the whole process, until very recently.

Yes, it's too bad that no one thought to add back the lights earlier. But, it's simply not accurate for Alcheck to say no one was discussing them. Alcheck's lamentations show that he has no knowledge of the history of this project. This is what the City gets when Council appoints a young, real estate attorney who had not attended any Planning Commission Meetings prior to his appointment. Web Link


Joe
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2013 at 1:41 am
Joe, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2013 at 1:41 am

The City is in the process of replacing the current street lights with LEDs. Why wouldn't this change alone be enough for California Avenue?

There has never been any claims of accidents on California at night. After 7:00PM, the street is almost empty. There are some pedestrians on the street generally up until the restraurants close, but it's pretty much a ghost town after that.

This seems to be more creeping elegance--not something that is needed. Claiming that the streets will be safer with new lighting is not something that can be proven--at least on California Avenue, since it is already a very safe three-block street segment. Given the crime in downtown--maybe those street lights should be put in a place where they might actually do some good.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:05 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:05 am

None of this is surprising. Anything being done in Palo Alto takes too long and costs too much. Changing plans is another common occurrance.

Just get it done.


midtown resident
Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:36 am
midtown resident, Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:36 am

When the city wants to cleanup the downtown area, everyone cheers. When the city wants to cleanup the southern part of the city, all the whiners appear. California Ave is old and boring and attracts few customers from Palo Alto, let alone from other cities. Making the street more pedestrian accessible and pedestrian friendly will make it much more interesting to my family.


also midtown resident
Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2013 at 9:52 am
also midtown resident, Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2013 at 9:52 am

"California Ave is old and boring and attracts few customers"

On this planet, California Ave parking is close to impossible during lunch and dinner. It's been like that for years. The current plan calls for reducing the number of parking spots, which is nuts.


midtown resident
Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 9:59 am
midtown resident, Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 9:59 am

The city keeps talking about building a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks from midtown to California Ave. If they ever do this, California Ave will be easily accessible by thousands of midtown residents who will not need cars to get there. Distance between Middlefield Road and the train tracks in only half a mile (10 minute walk at a casual pace), so walking will be faster than driving, if there was a safe and direct route. More pedestrian access = less need for cars and car parking.


MadamPresident
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 10:56 am
MadamPresident, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am 100% with the midtown resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood posts!


Annette
College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:00 am
Annette, College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:00 am

This is reminding me of the HSR debacle: vote yes now and we will divulge the details later. We have here a perfect example of why many of us are wary of City Staff and the plans they propose. If the whole story were told up front there'd be greater credibility and higher trust. What Staff wants will happen regardless of the cost b/c that's how things unfold in this city, but the process should change so that a complete analysis and honest budget is presented before a project is approved. It's not unusual to include some amount of money for contingencies. Is anyone else amazed that the current approach is tolerated?


Star Teachout
Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:02 am
Star Teachout, Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:02 am

We use California Avenue ALL the time (via bicycle) for our groceries (Molly Stones and Country Sun), bagels, Accent Arts, No Knew Books, Cal Optometry, Farmer's Market, PA Baking Company, Stationery store, Keeble's, Thrift Store, and occasional gift and restaurant outings. Although we love it the way it is, we're open to changes that help the business owners, but don't want it to be a higher rent/exhorbitant boutique lane. It is useful now, something that often disappears with development. We might even consider bringing back a small hardware store, or perhaps a fabric/craft store.


Dianne
Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:20 am
Dianne , Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:20 am

Once again we are faced with the politics of Money, Let us remind ourselves of the earnings that all of our members of council receive and that the almighty dollar is what we are really battling here. It wasn't enough that all the trees on Calif. Ave were ripped out with little knowledge to the public and still to this day have not been replaced and now we are battling over new lighting? Really???


Geography Lesson
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:39 am
Geography Lesson, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:39 am

Cal Ave is North of Oregon Expressway so it is in North Palo Alto, not South Palo Alto. The neighborhood on the other side of Alma is Old Palo Alto, not Midtown. Midtown is south of Oregon Expressway.

There is currently a tunnel under the tracks and Alma that connects the Cal Ave shopping district to Old Palo Alto. A bridge or better tunnel might be an improvement, but there is already a route for pedestrian and bicycles.


DC
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:53 am
DC, Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:53 am

I agree w/ Dianne. Whatever the question, the answer is always money. Especially in politics. Anyone who saw the CNN segment on HSR in Vermont knows what will happen here with that absurdity, and I feel citizens have little power re the Calif Ave project as well. Politicos need to do their due diligence for ANY project, like regular people in regular jobs do, and provide regular updates to the community for discussion and input. Perhaps a particular council member as the contact person for each project. But for now, why don't we just start from scratch, put ALL the information together, allow community to vote on 2-3 plans, and be done with it?


Dan
Southgate
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm
Dan, Southgate
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Midtown resident:
There's already a tunnel under the tracks from mid-town to California Ave.


midtown resident
Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm
midtown resident, Midtown
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:16 pm

The existing California Ave tunnel is inadequate and even dangerous for midtown residents. We have to take a long and unnecessarily convoluted route to get there, including walking across the Oregon speedway where car drivers rarely respect the crosswalks, even the ones with stop lights. Also, the narrow width and steep grade of the tunnel makes it impractical or impossible for many users (eg wheelchairs or larger strollers). A wider gentler bridge on the south side of the expressway would open up the California Ave business district to thousands of new customers without the problems of car traffic or car parking.


Bob
Community Center
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Bob , Community Center
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Don't even think of a bond issue or a parcel tax to pay for this. And this is just the way that city 'staff' operates, most of whom don't even live here. THey all have delusions of grandeur, big project-make work ideas, and hiring more staff to do it. They live in la-la land.


Tricky Sitch
Southgate
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm
Tricky Sitch, Southgate
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Why on earth is the city so dishonest with us, so full of trickery, and why do they jump in head first into project ts without researching what the costs and effects will be. As in that silly stoplight on Embarcadero between Paly and T&C. A simple crosswalk with embedded lights as seen in Sunnyvale and San Jose would have been cheap, effective for pedestrians, and of shorter duration in stopping traffic. And it would ONLY stop traffic for pedestrians, not go off at inopportune times.

All of these projects lately are either stupid, costly, costly and stupid, useless, impractical, ugly, or all of the aforementioned. I honestly wonder why in the world the powers that be are trying to make Palo Alto an undesirable place to live, work, and shop! It should be a no- brainer that damage is being done.


Deep Throat
another community
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Deep Throat, another community
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Somebody in the Planning Department didn't read the script that calls for Terry Shuchat dropping his lawsuit in exchange for the City of Palo Alto spending $1,000,000 for streetlights.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Tricky, there is no doubt about why. It is because the city government is spending other people's money, and there is only very weak accountability though occasional elections which often focus on other random issues, if people bother about them at all.

The mystery is why so many intelligent people want to put even more power and funding in the hands of the low-accountability government sector.


jm
Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm
jm, Evergreen Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 4:39 pm

"Council appoints a young, real estate attorney who had not attended any Planning Commission Meetings prior to his appointment."

The council is gradually becoming a haven for those with real estate agendas.


jimmy boy
College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 5:36 pm
jimmy boy, College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Tricky sitch, do you mean the stoplight at the main T&C entrance? That light is so necessary, imagine getting onto east bound Embarcadero without it. Fairly impossible, except maybe Sunday morn early! Cal Ave parking is nearly impossible, esp around the noon hour.......,so anything new needs to accomodate this...


Gail
Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm
Gail, Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Palo Alto is becoming uglier and uglier as each new building/ development is built. The Planning Department and the Architectural Review Board needs to clean house, and fast!


who cares
Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm
who cares, Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Somebody in the city must be responsible for this Public Works project. Somebody in the city had to make a decision to spend $2.3 million dollars more than the orginal funding cap placed on this project. Somebody in Public Works has to be in charge as a project manager to assure that the project is completed in a timely and cost efficient manner. City staff only follows management and councils lead. City senior management and council are responsible for this escalating mess and need to be held accountable for their lack of leadership and uneducated decison making capabilities. The City Manager complains about escalating employee costs but stays ignorantly quiet when his Senior Management staff demand that taxpayers foot the bill for their inability to perform even the most basic requirements of their job description.


Katie
College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:45 pm
Katie, College Terrace
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Joe, check crimes on California Ave. There was arson and then a car jack near the fountain less than a week apart. Not to mention all the theft that occurs almost weekly. California ave. Is NOT safe at night.


Bob
Community Center
on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:50 am
Bob , Community Center
on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:50 am

Time to "clean house' in the Planning Department - and the Planning Commission also. Come to think about it, maybe a recall of this Council wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe the Transportation Department too. This city is a mess, and fed up residents are feeling helpless to do anything about it. Good for Jay Thorwaldson's latest BLOG.


also midtown resident
Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:19 am
also midtown resident, Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

Just a little reminder that no one was ever held accountable for cutting down the trees on California.


Jo Ann
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm
Jo Ann, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

The Planning and Transportation Departments are disgraceful. Let them do something sensible like fix the timing of the traffic lights. Also have them watch the traffic tie-ups around Town & Country and on Embarcadero.

Everyone you talk to says what a disaster it is. I've been tempted to lurk at the Embarcadero light with a petition for everyone in jammed up cars to sign.

NEWS FLASH: KIDS AREN'T IN SCHOOL at 3AM so you don't need red lights for them crossing the street.


musical
Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

The Cal Av tunnel is PEDESTRIAN ONLY. Bicycling is expressly prohibited. It is legal there for pedestrians to be pushing a bicycle. Those wishing to actually bike under the tracks may legally use the Oregon Expressway. I gave up long ago and detour to Meadow. Unfortunately Alma just north of Meadow, while still lawful, has recently become unbikable either direction for all but the insane.


pedestrian
Midtown
on Feb 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm
pedestrian, Midtown
on Feb 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm

California Avenue is full of pedestrians, especially on warm days like today when there are lines leading in to the popular cafes and the sidewalk tables are full. Pedestrians have a real hard time crossing the 4 lane street, even on bright sunny days with fantastic visibility. It is really hard for a pedestrian to keep track of where the cars are on all 4 lanes as well as the cross streets. If you make one mistake, you can easily be dead.

I constantly see pedestrians make it across one or two lanes, only to be stuck in the middle of the street when a car does not stop for them in the 3rd of 4th lane. Yes this is in a marked crosswalk. The city really needs to either (1) put up stop lights at each intersection or (2) change California Ave to 2 lanes. I don't care which option they chose, but the current situation is a death trap and the city knows this. There is no excuse for a 4 lane street with heavy pedestrian traffic and no stop lights.


jm
Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm
jm, Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Addition to "also mid-town resident."

Mr. Keene said he would make the internal investigation into the Cal Ave tree-cutting report public. But he has suppressed it and it has never been made available to the public.

The director of Public Works took retirement and now has a whopping pension and health care benefits paid to him for the rest of his life.

Since the original Cal Ave beautification plan was first proposed roughly 7 years ago, the Planning and Transport Department costs for staff time, traffic consultants, evening meetings for the public, etc. must now run into many hundreds of thousands dollars in addition to the proposed budget.

At this point, I hope the cost-benefit, the extra sales tax brought in by turning Cal Ave into a mini version of University Avenue/Castro St., the stated goal, will justify the massive cost to the city.


katie
College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2013 at 12:09 am
katie, College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2013 at 12:09 am

To pedestrian,you're nuts! What World do you live in?? Geez if people can't figure out how to cross California Ave and would be dead if one mistake is made then these people should never leave their home! I would not want these people driving, biking or walking near me. Maybe what you meant was no texting or talking on cell while trying to cross the street, now that makes sense. Find a friend to complain to and stop non sense chatter on this forum.


pat
Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:45 am
pat, Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

Katie is right. I’ve never seen pedestrians “stuck” in the middle of CA Ave. and I’m there at least twice a week, often during peak lunch hours.

What I did experience on Thursday was a huge traffic jam caused by construction on Birch and paving Park Blvd. I was trying to get to the Country Sun. The exit from Oregon west to Birch was closed off, so I made a U turn at El Camino to get to Park Blvd. Once there, I couldn’t make a left turn because of the paving, so I had to go around to Lambert to get to El Camino north to California, which was jammed with cars headed to El Camino. Total of 25 minutes to reach the Country Sun. Imagine what it will be like for merchants when the "streetscaping" is going on.


pat
Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:47 am
pat, Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:47 am

> “… this is just the way that city 'staff' operates, most of whom don't even live here. THey all have delusions of grandeur, big project-make work ideas, and hiring more staff to do it. They live in la-la land.”

And so does the city council. It sent the planning department back to the drawing board – after the “final” plan was presented – to add wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

January 13, 2011 Commission votes to cut California Avenue lanes
Banking on an inexpensive way to spruce up California Avenue's retail district, the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of an environmental "negative declaration" for the controversial California Avenue Streetscape Project, including reducing the roadway from four lanes to two. (NOTE: This plan did not include bike lanes.) Web Link

October 21, 2011 Plans for California Avenue continue to evolve
City Council advocates widening sidewalks, retaining parking spaces, exploring central plaza

Palo Alto's plan to redesign the commercial stretch of California Avenue … is becoming more ambitious by the moment, with some City Council members directing staff this week to explore creating a new central plaza and a new parking configuration for the commercial strip. … The proposal to explore the plaza and parallel parking alternatives passed 5-4, with Mayor Sid Espinosa, Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Gail Price joining Schmid and Scharff. … Everyone agreed, however, that the "modified hybrid" alternative should be the focus, even if it will require additional investment by the city. Web Link


pat
Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:53 am
pat, Midtown
on Feb 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

> “California Avenue is full of pedestrians, …”

Yes. But how did all those pedestrians get there? How many of them arrived by car?


frank
Evergreen Park
on Feb 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm
frank, Evergreen Park
on Feb 2, 2013 at 5:44 pm

pedestrian, remarkably! i don't think i ever seen california ave the way you describe it in the last 25 years. but you must be one of the people the city council listens. The only dangerous condition is the lack of adequate lighting. read the crime report. maybe you don't have the same worries like having a car so carjacking would be foreign to you.


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2013 at 1:02 am
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2013 at 1:02 am

I'm dismayed to see the costs of Cal Ave go creeping up, but widening the sidewalks in conjunction with the streetscape work is good timing and will I think pay off in the long run. I look forward to more places to sit and eat outside, especially during the farmers' market, when people are eating sitting on the curb between Country Sun and the Bank. The bike flow to/from the Cal Ave underpass will be improved and have fewer conflicts with pedestrians on the plaza (see page 18 of Web Link).

According to the city's webpage about this project, Web Link, as well as page 12 of the Jan 2012 presentation Web Link, the plan currently calls for additional on street parking, a valuable asset to merchants and shoppers, with each new space representing an approximately $40K value (per previous community meetings and the cost of adding parking elsewhere). Note that this additional parking is not possible without reducing the number of lanes. So the lane reduction is not just for sidewalk and landscaping, but also for more parking and for safer pedestrian mid-block crossing.

It would be helpful if the project page were updated with the latest plans.


Joe
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm
Joe, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

> There was arson and then a car jack near the fountain less
> than a week apart. Not to mention all the theft that occurs
> almost weekly. California ave. Is NOT safe at night.

The need to take out two lanes of California Avenue in order to reduce crime has never been seriously discussed. The claims about "safety", to date, have revolved around street traffic. To what extent "crime" is dominant in this section of town, is an open question--as is the question as to whether new street lights will reduce, or thwart, crime in that area. It's really hard to fathom how new street lights will stop "arson".

The Palo Alto Police do a terrible job of documenting crime in this city. The post the police blotter for a short while, but it has traditionally not be in a "readable" format. The police do no make a simple aSCII (or .xls) file available of the crime-to-date stats on its web-page, so it's never easy to ascertain crime numbers for a section of town, like the California Avenue Business District, or the city as a whole.

To that end--it's hard to believe that the Cal. Ave. area is a "high crime" zone.


Native Mayfield
College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm
Native Mayfield, College Terrace
on Feb 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto for 53 years and College Terrace for 45 years. California Avenue was were as an Escondido elementary school student I use to visit Pattersons, Drapers Music Store, my Pet Store, Kirk Burgers, Keystone, Co-op Market, RTPizza (current site of Subway Sandwiches) and our college terrace neighborhood Movie Theater. I also recall Open House. Wonderful memories. Since those days I have also enjoyed Know Knew Books, Joanne's Cafe, and many recent additions. What makes California avenue so cool is it scale. In contrast to University Avenue, I can still enjoy a small town feel unique to college terrace residents and welcome to others alike. Downtown is good if one wants a city feel. Midtown remains underutilized but maybe that's what those local residents want in terms of less overall traffic and people. Parking has become a challenge given the influx of the Silicon Valley demographics but still easier than downtown. I would keep the 4 lanes for ease of access and use the cash flow to replant those beautiful trees and think about a 2 to 3 level parking structure behind what is the present day Nut House public parking area. I am not keen on attracting more people. However, I like the concept of creating a place to park and California Avenue is a short street and thus easy for most people to walk.


Larry
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm
Larry, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Cedric, why would the City redo a street at $4.2 million be part of anything for Farmer's Market, let them add to the $4.2? As far I've seen at the City meetings, PA Bicycle Coalition, knows the latest on California Avenue Streetscape before other residents and merchants. Please don't hide behind your statement on this.


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Larry, what was your question? I don't know what you think I'm hiding, as I am very open. In fact, just last night I emailed the transportation dept asking them to put the latest plans for Cal Ave up on their project page (www.cityofpaloalto.org/calave), because the latest available info is dated.

The Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC) has been asked on several occasions to give advice on the bicycle aspects of this project, usually before the item would go to the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC), and sometimes before a community meeting but not always. Keep in mind that PABAC was created by the PTC to give advice to the Transportation Department, which is why stuff sometimes comes to us before it goes to the PTC, just as the PTC will review matters before they go to Council.

All PABAC meetings are open to the public, in fact we meet this Tuesday at 7:30 pm. The agendas and minutes are usually posted at Web Link .


Anne
Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2013 at 12:24 am
Anne, Barron Park
on Feb 4, 2013 at 12:24 am

Cedric, don't be upset about it. I think there are many who appreciate what you have done for the bicyclists. I think everyone is very frustrated with the City. I think most feel they are all hurt one way or another by some of the City's recent plans and decisions. Palo Alto Online is one place where people can still express their opinions. In the end, we are in this together. Hopefully, the City will post their latest plans on their website, which they should have as soon as they were available. If the Planning and Transportation go to PABAC first for advice, then that meeting should be known and welcome any member of the public. You can understand why if some people are not happy with PABAC, because input should be from any interested party. It might appear that the City not only takes PABAC's advice but then it becomes part of their plans, don't know if this is true though. It's too bad we can't all work together without these frustrations.


Toady
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2013 at 10:55 am
Toady, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

Where was all this distrust of government last November in the election? You would think we would be in the middle of a red state (or at least the Central Valley). Hilarious that such a blue area is actually complaining about government.

Government is a pig, whether it's local or federal, but I guess a lot of folks in PA can't put 2 and 2 together.


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2013 at 3:10 am
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2013 at 3:10 am

In response to my email to staff, I was sent the correct Cal Ave project page, which does have the current design concept: Web Link

(I know from previous conversations with PABAC's staff liaison that after the city's new web page was deployed, stale pages from the old site still abound and one can easily navigate to the wrong one. It is also sometimes a pain for staff to get the pages updated, I think perhaps for not having the right write permissions.)


pat
Midtown
on Feb 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm
pat, Midtown
on Feb 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm

> “The Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC) has been asked on several occasions to give advice on the bicycle aspects of this project, usually before the item would go to the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC), and sometimes before a community meeting but not always. Keep in mind that PABAC was created by the PTC to give advice to the Transportation Department, which is why stuff sometimes comes to us before it goes to the PTC, just as the PTC will review matters before they go to Council.”

This is absolutely unfair to drivers.


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

A good reason to abandon this project is the involvement of Cedric and the biking committee. Too many negative decisions impacting traffic in this city are made because the city gives preference to he PABAC as mentioned above. -and do not forget they are pushing for an over priced bridge over101 .


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Anonymous attacks are "a good reason to abandon" anonymous posting on this forum. There are legitimate cases for anonymous posting, but you are jeopardizing this forum's allowed anonymity with your incivility.

There were more community and business input meetings than PABAC meetings on the topic. We were only one of several communities to which outreach was conducted.

The traffic engineers are trained foremost in automobile traffic, and that is a primary concern for them. They don't have necessarily as much training in bicyclists' needs, which is partly why there is an advisory committee for that. Plus, detailed experience of almost every stretch of street can only come from crowd sourcing. There have been times when committee members have expressed interest in a certain street configuration and been told that wouldn't work well for traffic flow. In addition, I would venture to say that likely every cyclist on the committee is also at times a driver and doesn't necessarily have a bias towards destroying traffic flow in the city. The city conducted not one but two independent traffic analyses of the proposed lane reduction on Cal Ave and both found negligible impacts. An assumption of extreme bias and unreasonableness by PABAC is baseless, and well, extremely biased and unreasonable.


Foolish bike advocates
Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm
Foolish bike advocates, Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

The Cool Cities bicycle advocates recently wrote and testified in favor of REDUCED PARKING for the huge office building on the corner of Alma and Lytton. They said that making parking more difficult would force people to use the train and alternate means of transportation.
I lost all sympathy for the bicycle advocates then. Did the PABAC agree with them?


compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm
compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

"Anonymous attacks are "a good reason to abandon" anonymous posting on this forum."
Then post on a forum that requires registration, Cedric.

"There are legitimate cases for anonymous posting, but you are jeopardizing this forum's allowed anonymity with your incivility."
More importantly you are confusing legitimate criticism with "incivility". Note how my posting has been up for 19+ hours and the editors have not removed it. They must feel it is okay.
Do you think I want you to know who I am, so that you and some crazed bikers can attack my car when I am out driving (look at the recent incident in Woodside of bikers gone wild).
You have always been thin skinned, Cedric. You also do not like anyone to disagree with you. Too bad

Time for the city to think about all residents and not just cedric and his biking coalition.


Ugg
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm
Ugg, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Well folks, that's why we elected Liz Kniss, she gets the money from the County!!

Stanford doesn't want to build trails with County money so Liz gets it transferred to Palo Alto. That's why we have County money to build a bicycle bridge to the Baylands and next a bicycle path along Matadero Creek.

All available County grants go to the powerful bicycle lobby!!


100percent
Community Center
on Feb 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm
100percent, Community Center
on Feb 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm

This project is no longer an improvement but a 100% waste of time, manpower and money for the city of PA


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Compliant,
In this thread, your only basis for objecting to this project are:
1. because you think the city gives preference to PABAC.
2. because Cedric and PABAC support it.

point 1 is unsubstantiated and inaccurate. PABAC was not consulted more than the community or businesses, and it would be negligent of the city to develop such a large transportation project without consulting affected stakeholders and advisory bodies. In this case, all stakeholders were consulted, Council has the final say, and as far as I can tell, they have based their decisions on scientific and economic evidence. They neither bought the claim that the changes would cause gridlock or drive away customers, nor in the opposite direction went with some people's (neither mine nor PABAC's) desire to close the street to cars entirely.

point 2 is not a "legitimate criticism", as it offers no real reason why the project, in itself, is a bad idea. Yours is an ad hominem attack, which Wikipedia concisely defines as: "An ad hominem ... is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument. Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy, more precisely an irrelevance."

As you have so far presented only inaccuracy and irrelevance, I do not consider you to be discussing rationally nor in good faith. I will ignore your subsequent posts unless and until you can post something of substance that is based in evidence, and not a simple ad hominim attack.

Good day to you.


blame the bicyclists
Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm
blame the bicyclists, Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I cannot believe all the whiners blaming bicyclists for this project. This project has little value to bicyclists since the street is so short and does not take you from one part of town to another. This is entirely a pedestrian safety project. A vibrant commercial district has to be pedestrian-friendly and California Avenue is not. Wasn't a family with kids nailed by a car in the crosswalk in front of the Keeble & Shuchat camera store last year? I cannot believe that Keeble & Shuchat is not strongly in favor of pedestrian safety. If their customers are afraid to cross the street in front of their store, then they are losing business.


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Cedric--- how dare I disagree with you. As you say, point 1 is something that I think. I realize you take issue with people thinking of things that are not agreement with your view.
Point 2 is based on my opinion that you and PABAC have an agenda. An agenda which is not in the best interest of the city as a whole. An agenda based on a dislike of cars . That is my opinion on the matter-- it is just that an opinion and certainly not an " ad hominem attack" .
Obviously you view any disagreement with your view as an attack. You initially complained that I was not being civil, now you claim that I am engaging in ad hominem attacks. Is that how you react when people do not buy your spiel, hook line and sinker?
What do you plan for an encore?
You are embarrassing yourself, Cedric.
The project should be abandoned because it is not in the best interest of the city as a whole and is based on the city ( and specifically Jaime Rodriguez ) being biased against automobile traffic and unduly influenced by PABAC and one of their leaders, Cedric.

A good day to you also, cedric ( and say hi to Peter)


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Pray tell, when was a" family with kids nailed by a car"? I believe this urban myth appears quite often on this forum,by those that feel the need to constantly bash drivers. Probably by a follower of lance Armstrong and his training regiment.


nailed by a car
Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm
nailed by a car, Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Easily found in the police log. Woman and 7 year old son were hospitalized after being hit in the crosswalk in front of Keeble & Shuchat. July 29, 2011.


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Nailed-- according to the police log website
Web Link
10 days of reports will be available on line. Pray tell where did you get your data from?. Please provide us with a link.


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm

I cannot find any reference to a mother and son " nailed" by a car in the Palo Alto Weekly either.


nailed by a car
Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm
nailed by a car, Midtown
on Feb 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm

You want proof? Just ask Keeble & Shuchat. Their own employees comforted the victims until the ambulance arrived.


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Thanks again to Google:
Child, 7, hit by car while crossing California Avenue: Driver did not see pedestrians when making a left turn, observers say (Web Link)

I agree that it is difficult to get police records and statistics, and should be easier and more accessible to the public. At the PABAC meeting last night (again, open to the public), one of our members reported he'd contacted the police department to try to get bicycle-related police data (like getting hit by cars) I think for the Bryant Bike Blvd, but police told him to talk to transportation. Our staff liaison said he can put in a request to the police to get those records. A few years ago, PABAC saw police data relating to bikes (including thefts) across the city, and if I recall correctly, it had to be abstracted to the block to protect people's privacy, and it was just a list, not as accessible as a map would have been.


Compliant
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2013 at 5:37 am
Compliant, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2013 at 5:37 am

Nailed-- there was apparently only 1 victim. The victim was not " nailed" and it is not clear if the driver was even cited. Your gross over exaggerations do no good in dealing with traffic issues in the city


Laughing
Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm
Laughing, Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I love (read sarcasm) how the first post berates the one planning commissioner who suggested the process was problematic. Is there anyone in this town who thinks the cal ave project process was a good example of city decision making? If I understand Full Circle's comment, he/she would prefer old commissioners who think our process is working well?

What's next? Is the city going to ask for another million to correct the fire hydrants and water mains on cal ave? Am I the only one who thinks the city's planning department is the problem here and not the commissioners who finally try to hold them accountable?


nailed by a car
Midtown
on Feb 9, 2013 at 10:14 am
nailed by a car, Midtown
on Feb 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

Doesn't matter if the driver was cited or not. Fact is that the police rarely cite or charge a driver who nails a pedestrian unless the victim is killed. The news report says the police did find the driver at fault, which is enough for the victim to file a medical expenses claim with the driver's insurance company.

The 4-lane design of California Avenue almost certainly did contribute to this child being nailed by the car. When the driver is making a left turn across a 4 lane road, the driver actually has to cross 6 lanes (2 horizontally and 4 vertically). Most drivers are too distracted or impatient to carefully check the entire space for pedestrians. Part of the problem is that this is a large area to study and the driver is too easily distracted by other issues, like other cars in the intersection. A second issue is that the pedestrians near the far corner are a large linear distance from the car and drivers with poor eyesight or lots of distractions are going to give up looking before they see that far and "out of sight, out of mind". Another part of the problem is that the pedestrian that is crossing a 4 lane road is exposed to danger for twice as long as a pedestrian crossing a 2 lane road.

I have no doubt that making California Ave a 2 lane street will make it far safer for pedestrians. I'm just glad that this family was not killed or more seriously injured. There is no excuse for having 4 lanes of traffic on streets that have more pedestrians than cars, especially when there are no stop lights at the intersections to protect the pedestrians. Fixing the street now will make is safer for the next family trying to use a crosswalk.


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