Mountain View's Milk Pail deal goes sour

Merlone Geier pulls out of parking agreement

It didn't last long. Following the last-minute deal announced July 1 between developer Merlone Geier and Milk Pail Market owner Steve Rasmussen to save the Milk Pail, Merlone Geier rescinded the offer two days later, putting the future of the popular European-style market in jeopardy.

The deal would have allocated 11 additional parking spaces at the San Antonio shopping center to the Milk Pail, enough to meet city requirements for the Milk Pail market to stay in business past 2016, when its current parking agreement expires.

The deal was revoked following the decision at the July 1 City Council meeting, where the council voted 6-0 in favor of delaying the second phase of Merlone Geier's Village at San Antonio Center development, with John Inks recused. In a revocation notice to Rasmussen by Michael Grehl of Merlone Geier, it said one of the conditions of the agreement was that phase two be approved on July 1.

In an email to the City Council, Rasmussen said there was a "false illusion" in the community that the Milk Pail has an amended parking license that would allow it to stay in business beyond 2016.

Rasmussen said the confusion may be because everything was decided so quickly leading up to the July 1 meeting.

"It was all last-minute stuff," Rasmussen said. "A lot of stuff happened in the meeting."

While the July 1 deal is now history, Rasmussen said he and Merlone Geier made pretty good progress, and there's a possibility of a long-term solution. He said he expects there will be a follow-up with the developer for a deal in the near future.

Lenny Siegel of the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View called the deal with the Milk Pail was political posturing by Merlone Geier to try and get phase two development of the San Antonio shopping center passed by the City Council that night. He said Merlone Geier thought attaching the Milk Pail deal would garner enough council member votes to pass.

"To me, this letter was a political faux pas," Siegal said.

Phase two of the controversial development project includes two office buildings that would add as many as 2,500 office workers to the city. The plan also includes 167-room hotel, a large public square, 109,000 square feet of retail space, a 50,000-square-foot movie theater and a six-level parking garage with just over 1,300 parking spaces, and an office garage with 1,174 spaces.

Siegel said when the City Council does finally approve phase two, the pressure will be on Merlone Geier to make a deal work with the Milk Pail.

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Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 7, 2014 at 10:13 pm

The traffic is absolutely horrific on San Antonio from 101 to El Camino and Page Mill to San Antonio. Is Palo Alto City Council influencing or demanding studies and improvements for better traffic flow? Can you imagine how much worse the traffic will get? So many people run red lights at San Antonio without proper traffic enforcement that I worry about future motor vehicle and pedestrian safety with the expected increase in traffic from this development.

Like this comment
Posted by San AnWOFUL Traffic
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 8, 2014 at 7:59 am

Failure to adequately understand the impact of development on the San Antonio Road traffic corridor in Mountain View and Los Altos has resulted in horrific traffic for South Palo Alto.

Lets see, adding 2500 parking spaces for the new Merlone Geier development and the three large apartment complexes in construction on El Camino in Mtn View and Los Altos which results in adding a minimum of 7k to 10k cars a day to the already clogged traffic on San Antonio Road.

Toss in the traffic entering and exiting the pre-existing day schools along San Antonio...oh yeah...the traffic to/from the new Google complex at Alma/San Antonio...and what we have is not San Antonio Road.

What we have is San Antonio Parking Lot.

The spill over traffic will accumulate in the residential neighborhoods of South Palo Alto with the inevitable result of residents demanding one way traffic much as North of University Avenue residents currently have to prevent Stanford pass through traffic.

What ever happened to the idea of "Regional Planning"? I guess its business as usual for the developers and politicians. Why should they care.

Traffic does not suck in Atherton.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:37 am

I'm holding out hope that either they'll stay where they are with parking spots, or move to the Alma Village.

Let's face it. Miki's was the best market ever and now Grocery Outlet is absolutely the worst.

I've been in several time since I live close, however it's full of faux food (that processed boxes stuff designed for profit, not consumption) and tired lifeless looking produce that I just won't eat.

I did take advantage of a good price on an orchid, and some toothpaste, but really, there's nothing there for me.

There don't seem to be any more people shopping there now as when it was Miki's and there was so much wonderful food to choose from.

The Milk Pail, I'm confident, would do well in this spot!

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

What about College Terrace Center?, 2180 El Camino Real ?? Might The former JJ&F site be a good home for the milk pail, a proven and popular grocer???

Currently the city is considering a request by the applicant's son and partner , who has no grocery experience, to operate the grocery store on site.

Having a grocery store was a requirement of the PC agreement that allowed this development. Wouldn't it be better to have a proven grocer; with the extra benefit of finding a new home for Milk Pail?

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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Let's hear it for Milk Pail at Alma Village if they can't remain where they are.

Like this comment
Posted by MaryMarcia
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 8, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Corporate development should not be allowed to push out smaller business, period. A produce business such as Milk Pail, with it's history and loyal customers in that location should not be allowed to be pushed out, or be used as a bargaining pin. Architectural design does not have to shove local business, but it seems to be the strategy which only considers corporate business, not small businesses. I am for change, growth, housing expansion but design planning should NOT be allowed be inconsiderate of an area, or forced be incorporated into their complex at a higher rent cost. Doing so is nothing less than the thoughtfulness of a big bully.

I'm very sorry that Miki's never got the support and appreciation that it deserved for high quality variety of produce. It was real smaller business not a chain, like what we have Grocery Outlet, alright but a step down; not much more than value first big box warehouse goods in a nicer setting than most. I notice parking isn't such a big deal, people are very polite and thoughtful when there's a bargain to be had. So, why should developers think an differently?

Like this comment
Posted by Trouble in Paradise
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Why on earth would anyone want to drive a profitable and successful business out of business? Because they are small? Because they have been around a very long time? Because they are in the way? This is such stupidity, such duplicity--but not unexpected from a developer.

For some reason, this developer does not seem to believe in a win-win situation, but must have someone--or everyone but him--lose. Truth is, his whole development has been a bad idea, and the second phase is the worst--the straw that broke the camel's back. It is too much density, crowding, and adds even more traffic burden to a site overburdened with traffic before the whole project began.

Bigger is NOT better! Rescinding his offer just shows the public what a rat he is!

Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Brown
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 8, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Does The Milk Pail rent or own? They probably saw this coming.
The operation is a niche. Maddeningly crowded inside and out at times, but truly a unique place where you can buy a jar of whole black truffles and unique cheeses. I remember driving through when they were a milk/dairy market in my nightie and buying milk. That was in the /60's. I would hate to see it move. I like the location. A parking garage is what is needed.

Like this comment
Posted by My Take
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jul 8, 2014 at 7:47 pm

I'll be boycotting the entire center, with the exception of Milk Pail and Trader Joe's until this developer improves his behavior. I doubt he can do so in a convincing way, so, bye bye Safeway and the Counter, etc. And because of the terrible traffic after phase one, it's clear that what ever traffic studies were put forth, they were just more fakery. I think I'll just shop a lot more at Milk Pail from now on.

Like this comment
Posted by 2474 cars
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2014 at 7:52 pm

2474 cars! Yikes. That means a lot of traffic and congestion. With the movies it will mean traffic at all times. Stop the mad development. Save our neighborhood

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Designing out Milk Pail is a major error in this poorly designed over-sized
project. It looks like the international architects never visited the site
and just mailed in the plans.

Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

Milk Pail is owned, not rented. It just doesn't have enough parking on its own parcel, so it rents sparking space from the developer. The developer's scoping doesn't include the Milk Pail parcel because they don't own it. Their announcement about a deal with Milk Pail's owner was a foolish & cynical mistake on their part.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2014 at 9:00 pm

If people are going to demand that cities have huge parking requirements, most of the stores that have been around a while are going to end up shut down for not meeting them. If the "residentialist" movement got everything it wanted, the whole area would end up looking like Fresno.

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Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I'd love to see the Milk Pail where Miki's was, but I'm not sure the space would work for them. Part of the appeal of the Milk Pail for me was its proximity to Trader Joes. You could get your groceries at TJs and then head over to the MP for fresh fruit and veggies.

Combine that with a larger foot print, confusing parking lot and a not as prominent location and it's a bit of a tough sell.

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Posted by WeNeedMilkPail!
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2014 at 8:09 am

Interesting to note that the word "Geier" means "Vultures" in German…Nomen omen. This particular specimen should at least try to understand that the Milk Pail Market is important to the Mountain View/Palo Alto community, and any attempt to dislodge it by refusing to allow it sufficient parking spots is a shameful exercise.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2014 at 8:14 am

What is being forgotten in all this, is besides the loss of Milk Pail which I love, is the fact that we are going to love Bev Mo (which I also use), Ross, and other businesses which are not replicated in the new Phase. This means more inconvenience as we search for somewhere else and drive further to get these things.

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Posted by margaret brown
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Oh, no! Ross and Bev Mo, too? There are so many other, less appealing places that I would happily see go off to the Miki's site. I like the Milk Pail location for its proximity to TJs, 24 hour Fitness, and because you can make a truly elegant picnic just by stopping in and spending about 1/2 hour shopping. Perhaps having 20-minute or 30-minute parking spaces is the answer? Kohl's parking lot never seems full to me. How about sharing folks?

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