Work begins on new Performing Arts Center at Paly

With a second major project to break ground mid-year, students to face parking squeeze

Palo Alto High School students will encounter a construction zone and a parking squeeze this fall as two major building projects take shape on opposite sides of campus.

Workers have fenced off all parking spaces to the left of Paly's Embarcadero entrance, clearing the asphalt to make way for work on a new Performing Arts Center to rise near the perimeter of campus, across from Trader Joe's in Town and Country Village.

On the Churchill Avenue-facing side of Paly, demolition of the school's two gymnasiums is now slated for the end of the year, clearing the way for construction of a new athletic center.

Campus parking will be reduced by about 110 spaces while both projects are under construction.

"We've been telling (the school) that everything they can do to get kids on bikes is going to be helpful," construction manager Tom Hodges said. "After these projects are done, things will improve greatly."

The payoff for years of construction noise and dust will come in about two years — the summer of 2016 — when Paly students and teachers will have a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and an Athletic Center to go along with other recently completed new buildings on campus.

But even then, there will be two smaller projects ahead: renovation of the school library and a $5.5 million science addition, both likely to begin in 2016.

When the 2014-15 school year opens next month, students will occupy two major new buildings: a two-story, 27-classroom math and social studies building near the railroad tracks between the 400 Building and the Corporation Yard, and a 23,000-square-foot Media Arts Building, a home for Paly's journalism and photography programs.

But portable classrooms in the quad -- installed four years ago for "temporary" use -- will remain through the next construction phase. The portables will be reconfigured as science labs as well as for locker rooms for physical education and school athletic teams.

A delay in demolition of the old gyms -- from the originally scheduled June until probably December -- means Paly's pool will be available for fall water polo before it closes for the duration of construction on the Athletic Center, according to school officials.

Palo Alto's volleyball programs also will be able to use the old gym, instead of playing all their matches on the road.

Most of the new building and renovation of Paly's campus has been funded through the $378 million "Strong Schools" bond, approved by voters in 2008. Major planning and construction expenditures at Paly have included $4.7 million in improvements to the track and football stadium, a $2.6 million field for soccer, softball and baseball, $34 million combined for the two-story classroom building and the Media Arts Center and $1.2 million in improvements to the Tower Building.

An additional $24.4 million is budgeted for the Performing Arts Center, which will include a 583-seat theater.

Most of the cost of the new Athletic Center — now estimated at $36 million to $40 million — will be covered by a private donation, but the district's budgeted share recently more than doubled from $5.7 million to $12.8 million.

In addition, the school district remains in court over $3.5 million in disputed funds in its $25 million contract with Taisei Construction Corp. for construction of the Media Arts Center and two-story classroom building. The contractor sued the district last year, alleging that "unbuildable design elements within the plans and specifications" caused problems and in some cases forced them to "remove and replace completed work elements so that buildable follow-on work could be completed."

A case management conference in the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 28 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

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Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2014 at 8:50 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2014 at 10:24 am

what about the spangenberg auditorium at Gunn? this seems to be forward looking. where is this funding coming from? these high schools do need facilities for performing arts

Like this comment
Posted by Renderings please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm


Can you please post the renderings of what the PAC at Paly will look like?

They are digging up right smack up against the street (Embarcadero) and I recall the PAC will exceed the height limits, so does this mean that there is a fortress look coming up?

Please someone show renderings of how this will look. A few views will be helpful.
1) What will it look like driving east and west
2) what will it look like when you are crossing the street between T&C and Paly
3) What will it look like when you are sitting down in the Peet's coffee sitting area.


Can you please post the renderings?


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Renderings please,
Suggest you could do your own research.
Here are the results of my attempt to find the latest plans.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Oops. Looks like I grabbed the wrong link. Here's the correct one.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Theatre Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm

@renderings: these were posted three-five years ago when the design was being considered and created at OPEN public meetings by the Paly Facilities Steering Committee and the Theatre Subcommittee. You may still be able to find them on the district website.

The funds are from the bond we passed 6 YEARS AGO.

The City of PA height limits don't apply to the district property. This theatre will have a "full fly" enabling quality theatrical productions.

When the design was being considered four years ago, the committee held public meetings and community outreach meetings. In addition, the School Board reviewed and considered the designs in at least four public meetings.

I just checked the PAUSD website and the dates and minutes of all those meetings are listed there. You can also search the paonline website for articles published at the time.

I am so excited that construction has begun! The students whose parents advocated for the new PAC will have graduated long before construction is complete. The students to first occupy the new theatre were in elementary school when the hard work was done.

You're welcome.

Like this comment
Posted by Renderings please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Theater mom,

I recall that PA city height limits don't apply, but I was not conscious or very aware that the building which breaks with the city height restrictions would be at the street level. I sort of imagined it farther away.

The renderings from these links are not comprehensive or very forthcoming. Just 1 view from the parking lot, and 1 short view from Embarcadero. But even from what is available, you can see the building completely changes the openness of Paly.

My comments have nothing to do with the merits of the Paly theater program by the way.

Weekly and PAUSD, please post more comprehensive and more realistic renderings - like what it will look like when you're crossing the street from Trader Joe's, longer shots from T&C and the view from the Paly entrance to the outside.

Like this comment
Posted by Renderings please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I realize this is all a done deal, but at least we can be prepared for the change. It's a big one.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 19, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Great to see the work being done, but my poor almost junior has been going to school in construction zones from kindergarten moving into a portable half way through the year , through middle school and now Paly, for his whole school career. He has never seen the benefits of any of the construction in any of the schools he has attended.

He even got bumped out of the kids "The Drop" in 6th grade to make way for the new Mitchell Park library. I wonder if he will graduate before it is finished?

Nice for the young ones though who have never seen any of the construction.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 9:30 pm

To the poster way towards the top: Gunn will be doing a theater renovation and expansion.

To renderings: page 11 and 12 of the linked presentation show a street view from TC and another from the Paly parking lot.

I appreciate that all of the new buildings reflect the established architecture of the campus. That the architects did not attempt to make statement buildings like what is going on around town.

Like this comment
Posted by rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 21, 2014 at 11:59 am

Students shouldn't be driving to high school if they live in town. Walk or bike and l) protect their health through exercise 2) have fun riding 3) reduce traffic 4) reduce air and noise pollution from unnecessary car trips 5) reduce their parents' transportation costs It's a no brainer!!!
What can we do -- charge for a parking permit at Paly and charge A LOT. That's one successful thing Stanford did to reduce unnecessary employee driving.

Like this comment
Posted by
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm

This new project reinvigorates the need for rapid bike and pedestrian safety improvements on Embarcadero. The City and School must make improvements in the next month to increase safety as they invite more students to use this hazardous access approach to Palo Alto High.

The obvious hazards are differentiated by the time of the day - when the street is gridlocked or when the street is unobstructed.

When the roadway is gridlocked, students routinely unload in the middle of Embarcadero or jaywalk one side to the other. The pedestrian crossing is unprotected as vehicles in the gridlock do not stop where the pedestrians stop, nor can they view the signals. In morning and afternoon, students wind through cars on Embarcadero.

When the roadway is unobstructed, vehicles speed upwards of 50 mph as they open the car up to speed under the crossing. At the same time pedestrians and bikes are the unprotected sidewalks sloping toward the street. The same pedestrians and cyclist are sitting ducks as the cross the exit from Embarcadero to Alma - again at high speed.

Now there are no structured bike lanes or pedestrian access from the eastern side of Alma. Walking and cycling is on tired sidewalks, asymmetric cross walks, and is poorly lit. Improvements were promised by the City when Town and Country was expanded -- the promises were not kept.

A few recommendations include:

- Install railing on the underpass between the sidewalk and roadway that discourages crossing Embarcadero, discourages unloading in the middle of the street, and protects youngsters if they loose control while riding down Embarcadero's ramps.
- Enhance the bike/pedestrian access routing from Kingsley/Emerson (on north side) - this might entail widening and lighting the sidewalks, and clarifying bike/pedestrian use. A similar change should be studied on the south side.
- Consider ways to slow the traffic on Embarcadero. There is little enforcement of speed, especially when cars race to access Alma. Should there be speed bumps as cars exit to Alma?

I expect there are other improvements that can increase bike and pedestrian safety while still carrying the high traffic demands of this corridor. If we increase safety and streamline the bike/pedestrian routing, more parents will feel that the safety of their children is provided for. I too on my bike commute to work, would feel considerably safer.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Serious recommendation - add speed bumps to the Embarcadero/Alma underpass. Three spots - each downhill/uphill section and the bottom of the underpass.

Too many drivers fly through there. Especially when heading towards 101.

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

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