Palo Alto optimistic about police-building proposal

City Council committe to discuss Jay Paul proposal Thursday

Palo Alto officials remain optimistic about the prospect of building a new police headquarters on Park Boulevard despite earlier concerns that the proposed facility would not meet the needs of the Police Department.

In recent weeks, city officials and their consulting architect, Michael Ross, have been discussing the project with representatives from Jay Paul Company, a San Francisco-based developer who had offered to construct the new police building in exchange for the city's permission to build two four-story office buildings at 395 Page Mill Road, next to AOL's Silicon Valley headquarters.

Under Jay Paul's proposal, the new 44,500-square-foot police building would be attached to a three-story garage that would be shared by the Police Department and the office workers. On April 16, Police Chief Dennis Burns expressed concerns about the proposed building and its ability to accommodate the department's operations. Burns told the City Council's Infrastructure Committee that the preliminary proposal does not appear to be operationally feasible, though he also said that staff will continue to work with Jay Paul to make it so.

Now, city officials are far more optimistic. City Manager James Keene told the Weekly Thursday that after several meetings between senior city staff and Jay Paul officials, the city is now "optimistic about the potential" of the proposed police building.

"The feeling is that the building can work, the size can work and there is enough flexibility with the program itself – to make sure that it can accommodate the needs of the Police Department," Keene said.

The police building has been a top infrastructure priority of the city for well over a decade, with numerous citizen committees concurring with staff recommendations that the existing facility in City Hall is too small and seismically deficient. With Jay Paul requesting a "planned community" zone change to accommodate its proposed office development, city officials see the new police headquarter as the main "public benefit" that the developer would have to provide to get the city's permission.

The council's Infrastructure Committee has been discussing over the past month ways to accelerate the schedule for reviewing the Jay Paul proposal because of its implications for the city's plan to place an infrastructure bond measure on the November 2014 ballot. Under the accelerated timeline that the committee received on April 16, the project would go to the City Council for review and possible approval in December. A revised schedule, which staff proposed Thursday, would push the approval date to March 2014.

The new report proposes five criteria that the new police building would have to meet. It would have to have an "emergency operations center" with a capacity for "immediate occupancy" in the event of catastrophe; it would have to be designed in such a way as to maximize efficiency and provide appropriate levels of redundancy to support police functions; it would have to be a "defensible building" that is both attractive and provides "modern day security and threat/hazard vulnerability risk mitigation measures"; its floor area would have to be approximately 44,500 square feet; and it would have to include appropriate egress/ingress setbacks and parking spaces.

Though there were some initial concerns from city officials and architects about whether a building at the proposed site, 3045 Park Boulevard, can meet these criteria, the new report is optimistic.

"All parties agree that the proposed site, while somewhat constrained, is workable, and staff, the applicant, and the architects are working collectively to design a public safety facility that meets operational needs to best serve the City," the report states.

The council's Infrastructure Committee will consider the report and hear from Ross at its May 7 meeting.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 3, 2013 at 11:36 am

The accelerated process hand the lack of transparency in the process is very concerning.

There is no benefit at all to be gained from the shell of a public safety building that the Police Department deems knows wont work, and will cost millions.

"Police Chief Dennis Burns expressed concerns about the proposed building and its ability to accommodate the department's operations. Burns told the City Council's Infrastructure Committee that the preliminary proposal does not appear to be operationally feasible"

Was Chief Burns one of the "several senior staff" city manager Keene alludes to as having had several meetings with the developer that resulted in a more "optimistic" view of the proposed building????

If Chief Burns was NOT at these meetings, than this looks like just another example of "The Emperors New Clothes" style of "leadership" that we having been getting lately from the senior city official!

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Posted by Defensible
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

The report says the new police building would have to be a "defensible building that is both attractive and provides modern day security and threat/hazard vulnerability risk mitigation measures". Having a non secure public parking garage attached to it prevents it from being very defensible. A previous plan allowed members of the public to use a "community meeting room" inside the new police building which also doesn't strike me as being in line with "modern day risk mitigation measures". If their plan is to bolster their security in times of "increased threat" they may want to look back at how many terrorist attacks or attacks on police building for that matter have been preceded by a stated threat. I would prefer police buildings to be secure and a deterrent against attack with a design that welcomes the public to the portion where they can go to file a report or meet an officer.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The City is currently testing the waters for a bond issue to pay for this building. Or something else if you'd rather have that instead.

There's a great article in the Post today about the Council reviewing a proposed pay raise for all the City Staff; it points out that city jobs continue to pay more than equivalent private-sector jobs, and also come with outlandish perks and retirement/healthcare benefits the rest of us can only dream of (as we pay for theirs). Plus an astonishing comment from Jim Keene on why all this is ok.

Depending on whether you accept the City's estimate or the independent ones, Palo Alto's unfunded public pension liability is $300-$500 million dollars.

This stuff is what the bond issue will really pay for, if we're all stupid enough to approve it; not "infrastructure." If the City managed its money correctly, we could build a police building without either a bond issue or a Faustian deal with Jay Paul.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I think we Palo Altans have to be a lot smarter and more cynical.

I think it is a very very bad idea to enter into a deal that a developer is
doing to get some other deal through ... this way we know ahead of
time that is it not going to get the attention it needs and will not be
optimal for the cash spent, or the value given away, and we will get
stuck yet again on the treadmill of expedient incompetency.

If we know what we need and want, then put it out in public and explain
how this is going to fit the bill and open the floor for comments that
should be dealt with and voted on.

Also, it occurs to me that sharing the police building with office
buildings is kind of creepy. Keep the police building alone and
isolated and civilians out of it unless they have business there.

I have to wonder if there will be private groups that want proximity
to the police for some alternative reason. What is there is some
terrorist threat or event, do we want the police building attached to
something it needs to defend or control?

It sure does look like the Kremlin or something :-(

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Posted by NO NO NO NO NO
a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

NO, this is most definitely NOT OK! If we don't voice our opinion/concern now, they're going to go through with this BS, without our say! The police in Palo Alto have plenty already... THEY MUST BE STOPPED. How much money do they really deserve? They get paid very generously for cleaning up the mess afterwards, they actually have no constitutional obligation to protect us. They're revenue generators for the city and state.

That money should be spent on something that is more beneficial for the community.

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Posted by finally an earthquake proof building
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

I congratulata our officials to finally agree on a plan that will build a earthquake proof building to protect our Police officers, and fire Department, and members of our community using the community meeting rooms for community proposes. We deserve a building that is the Geographical center of our town, and thanks for reducing the backyard space so the HSR can build the third and four track of trail for its use

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Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm

That is a lousy Idea, 395 Page Mill is in the AOL Parking lot.
They want to put two 7 story tall buildings there? In the Parking Lot?
Who is the idiot that dreams up this stuff? Traffic at that junction is already a nightmare.
Planners, go back to school..

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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