News

City to look at new uses for Municipal Services Center site

Palo Alto considers study to resolve seismic issues at sprawling complex

A proposal to relocate some of the services at the sprawling Municipal Services Center on East Bayshore Road will be the subject of a $250,000 study staff recommends undertaking next year. City officials are backing off, however, from a prior proposal to move the nearby Animal Services Center.

The study was part of a list of appropriations that the City Council was set to carry over from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. The study was pulled off the list, however, after Councilwoman Karen Holman signaled her opposition and her colleagues agreed that the item warrants more discussion. The other budget requests were approved on the "consent calendar" without discussion.

The study of Municipal Services Center didn't come up during the Sept. 16 meeting, when the council's Finance Committee voted 3-0, with Holman absent, to approve the list of appropriations. On Monday, before the council was set to approve its consent calendar items, Holman said she will be voting against the appropriations request because of the inclusion of the study.

According to the budget request the study will consider "options for relocating City functions, personnel, and equipment currently operating out of the Municipal Services Center (MSC) and Animal Services Center (ASC), and then repurposing the sites to produce longterm economic benefits for the city."

The idea is far from new. Two years ago, when the city was on the verge of closing its animal shelter, officials were considering bringing in an auto dealership to set up shop at the shelter's site next to Highway 101. At the same time, the Municipal Services Center has been identified as a seismically vulnerable complex in 2010 by a council-appointed infrastructure committee. The committee recommended considering land swaps with auto dealerships so as to transfer the center's functions from the east side of the highway to the west.

The sprawling complex currently includes various Utilities and Public Works department functions, along with some administrative offices and the bulk of the city's vehicle fleet.

In the last two years, as the city's economy has recovered, the idea of closing the shelter has largely faded from public discussions. In fact, staff is currently considering substantially improving the local animal shelter in partnership with the Palo Alto Humane Society.

Given the changing landscape, Holman said she opposed going along with the study of relocating the city's operations.

"The consideration of moving those facilities and locating those that will bring revenues to city, such as auto dealerships, has been at the front of discussion for a few years," Holman said Monday, noting that it has recently receded into the background. "When those projects came forward before, it seemed like it really was not a financial advantage to the city."

Councilman Greg Schmid agreed also, saying he plans to vote against the list of appropriations because the study should not be approved on consent with the other budget items.

"It is appropriate to have a public discussion of this substantial item," Schmid said.

After Holman and Schmid expressed their concerns, Councilman Greg Scharff proposed removing the study from the appropriations list and approving the remaining items, which include library books, Fire Department camera equipment and more than $250,000 for outreach in connection with the update of the city's Comprehensive Plan. The council agreed to approve the list, except for the Municipal Services Center study. That item will now be discussed at a future meeting.

Public Works Director Mike Sartor told the Weekly Tuesday that even though the proposal to relocate the animal shelter remains in the scope of the study that the council was set to approve Monday, it is no longer something that the city is considering.

The wording in the staff's description of the budget has remained unchanged since the citizen committee first recommended performing the study, Sartor said, even though the circumstances around the animal shelter have changed substantially.

Based on the council's conversation Monday, staff will return to the council to consider the new scope, which is not expected to include the relocation of animal services, Sartor said.

Related content:

Palo Alto to review plan for new animal shelter

The story has been updated since its original version after Palo Alto officials clarified that relocating the Animal Services Center will not be in the scope of the proposed study.

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

Yes, Animal Services needs a facelift. But why ugly car dealerships along and adjacent to our precious wetlands? I for one do not want to see a row of shiny cars smack in the middle of the marshes that provide a scenic view from 101.

The current municipal services complex is far less obtrusive that a car dealership would be. Leave it to our city council to find another way to blow money on another useless study. Can't these people make any common sense decisions without hiring an expensive consultant?


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 22, 2014 at 11:06 am

The current good economy generates money that is really burning holes in the City Council's pocket. Palo Alto residents like the Animal Shelter where it is and don't need wasting 250K on another useless study. The explosion in new condos, hotels, and business space should provide more than enough money for anything that Palo Alto residents want.
They actually want no new construction, no more "affordable housing", more parking on California Street and downtown and more safety. The number of burglaries and street crime in Palo Alto is unacceptable and the most important topic to address.


6 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I agree with Curmudgeon and Jerry99 and I'm glad the Council removed the $250,000 allocation for a study of moving the Municipal Services Center in exchange with an auto dealership. Maybe the City doesn't know that the current Honda Dealership is also built on seismically unstable filled wetlands (filled c. 1975). Our Public Works and Utilities functions would be no safer there than in their currently location. The same is true for the Los Altos Treatment Plant site -- all former wetlands and half still designated as wetlands by the Army Corps of Engineers. "Bayshore" Freeway's name is no accident. It was built on the edge of the Bay and parts of Palo Alto West of Bayshore are also former parts of the Bay as far west as Louis Road. Thank you, Karen Holman, for taking the lead in removing this "stealth" item from the Consent Calendar.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

The City did a rather exhaustive study several years ago that proved that this idea was not beneficial to the City. Why is it that that findings of that study (done by the P/W Dept. for far less than $250,000) has been ignorned by this City Manager and Council?

And what in the world does anyone at 250 Hamiliton believe that they are going to get for $250,000? That is a lot of money, which people making this proposal don't seem to understand.

It's a shame that we don't have an Auditor that has the power to look into these crazy ideas, and make recommendations about changing the process so that we spend less money on stupid ideas. Oh, we actually do have an Auditor who could look into these sorts of things .. if she wanted to ..


7 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Leave it alone. Feel free to spend the money on the animals or something useful, not another wasteful study.

The city spends way too much money on ridiculous studies and guides around City Hall.

Enough. Do something productive. Like synchronizing the Town & Country lights.


Like this comment
Posted by Animal Friend
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Another reason not to vote for Karen Holman. In 2012 I thought they had an agreement with the Humane Society to build a state-of-the-art shelter, am I wrong? I thought they were going to partner and collaborate to submit bids.
What happened? Why is the Animal Shelter at the bottom of this list again?


1 person likes this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2014 at 7:53 am

Yes, Animal Friend, I think you are wrong. Karen Holman is the one who raised the issue of why the Municipal Services Center and Animal Shelter site was still being studied for a swap with an auto dealership -- especially since negotiations were ongoing with the Humane Society to operate the shelter. See quote from article below.

"In fact, staff is currently considering substantially improving the local animal shelter in partnership with the Palo Alto Humane Society. Given the changing landscape, Holman said she opposed going along with the study of relocating the city's operations."

Karen Holman's careful attention to detail is exactly why we SHOULD re-elect her.


3 people like this
Posted by The Shadow Knows.......
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2014 at 9:20 am

This study and the related development concept has been a pet idea of City Manager James Keene since he arrived in Palo Alto in 2008. He has continued to pursue it in spite of repeated evidence that it is a bad idea.

The original proponent of the car dealership development idea was John Anderson, owner of Anderson Honda. One wonders what ties there might be between Anderson and Keene, and why this idea is still being pursued........


3 people like this
Posted by Carole Hyde
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

Council Member Karen Holman has championed a discussion about the creation of a new or improved animal shelter, in a public-private partnership involving Animal Services and Palo Alto Humane Society. Karen has been an outspoken advocate for keeping animal services located in Palo Alto instead of outsourcing them to out-of-area facilities. Whatever the outcome of the animal shelter discussions, Karen has been sensitive to public opinion regarding the care of the community’s shelter animals and services. –Carole Hyde, Director, Palo Alto Humane Society


Like this comment
Posted by Scottie Zimmerman
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Animal Friend,
When you say "Humane Society," which of these organizations are you referring to?

* Humane Society Silicone Valley (HSSV), in Milpitas, a great new shelter

* Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA (PHS/SPCA), in Burlingame/Coyote Point, with a fabulous new shelter in Burlingame, and an older shelter in Coyote Point which is slated for replacement by another new state-of-the-art shelter

* Palo Alto Humane Society PAHS), a local organization that's been around for 106 years, has not operated a shelter since 1972, takes education on the humane treatment of animals into classrooms, and provides low-cost (or no-cost) vouchers to help get animals spayed and neutered and prevent the suffering of stray kittens and abandoned puppies.

Since 2012, there have been ongoing discussions among these groups about how to provide a new shelter in Palo Alto. Karen Holman, Bob Beacom (Asst. Chief of Police), Connie Urbanski (Superintendent at PAAS), and the group I belong to, Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter (FoPAAS) are determined to cooperate & collaborate with the larger established shelters to ensure the best possible outcome. And Karen Holman has been a steady voice and a leader at keeping the discussion focused on the solution.

When Carole Hyde (PAHS) submitted a proposal for a public/private partnership to create the new shelter, Karen Holman was the Council Member she chose to bring it before the Council, as a colleague's memo. Karen is always accessible & responsive and strongly supports the presence of an animal services shelter in Palo Alto.

Before we get started with the architects and construction crews, we have to raise a lot of money. That's going to take at least 5 or 6 years, maybe longer. Meanwhile, we have Palo Alto Animal Services who went through fiscal 2014 understaffed, but not complaining. The people at PAAS deserves high praise for putting the animals' welfare first and working longer than normal hours to provide excellent care and serve the animal lovers in our city.

From where I sit, Karen Holman has always been supportive of keeping the shelter and improving it. She most certainly has my vote in the next election.


1 person likes this
Posted by guest
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

The Honda dealership already keep vehicles next to Animal Services, seems like this will be pushed through when we find a $250k 'study' that support this idea.


Like this comment
Posted by Animal Friend
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I would like to see the city fund the study, and find a place on the other side of 101 to put Animal Services. It's not an earthquake safe building.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm

> It's not an earthquake safe building.

And how many animals have been killed in California in the last 10,000 years from buildings falling on them during earthquakes?

[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm

I applaud the City Council's brainstorm idea to authorize a Blue Ribbon Task Force to study how the Municipal Services site can become an iconic gateway to the City!


2 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

"Animal Friend" above continues to mis-read (or not read at all) the facts regarding the Palo Alto Animal Shelter and Municipal Services Center site. EVERY PROPERTY "on the other side of the Bayshore Freeway" is on land subject to severe ground shaking in an earthquake and even liquifaction because of the high ground water table. So it makes no sense at all to move the Animal Shelter from one site East of Bayshore to another East of Bayshore because of earthquake threats. It's all the same. That being said, we are fortunate that facilities built there so far withstood the Loma Prieta earthquake, so they must have been structurally sound.


2 people like this
Posted by wesley
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

Where would services yard be relocated? The buildings were structurally upgraded once before - visible exterior braces. Buildings are only seismically stable until the next earthquake when seismic codes are upgraded. The existing maintenance services yard is only single story. Except for staff meetings, and vehicle service personnel, the buoldings are used primarily for maintenance and service and not heavily occupied.
Keep the facility in place. Except for airport, water treatment area, and previous dump site, there is not other place to relocate this size of an operation. Money should be allocated on more important items like new police facility


Like this comment
Posted by Scottie Zimmerman
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Wesley, I like all your points about the services yard. Having volunteered at PAAS for many years, I can say that you guys are good neighbors. My vote is to keep the services center where it is.

You forgot to mention the solar collectors that have been installed outside your fence, in the parkway along E. Bayshore Rd. I don't know how much power the city harvests from that setup, but it's impressive.


Like this comment
Posted by guest
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I believe some of the sites being looked at somewhere on Page Mill or up the hills?


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Any one who wants to put car dealerships in that location needs to go to Menlo Park and look at El Camino - there is a whole strip of empty, ugly blocks that used to be car dealers and are now the bone of contention in this next election. Or go to PA - El Camino at Charleston - I bought two Fords way back but they moved on to be replaced by high end auto dealers.
How are those high end auto dealers doing? They have changed dealers.

An auto dealer is not just selling cars - they also have to have the maintenance at the location to support the warranties for the cars.
And they have to be able to store the new cars coming in. The whole idea does not make sense if you look at the depth of the lot.
If the city hires another "consultant" to look at this then we should be storming city hall to get accountability on all of the 'consultants".


3 people like this
Posted by Godot
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Let's move most of the functions of City Hall to the Animal Shelter site and move the Animal Shelter to City Hall. Animals don't need the precious parking spaces our city employees and consultants use, a $4.5 million directories to the first floor, etc. etc.

Great. Now send me the $250,000 consulting fee.


Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Emily wrote: "That being said, we are fortunate that facilities built there so far withstood the Loma Prieta earthquake, so they must have been structurally sound."

That is an extremely poor statement. Did any structures collapse in Palo Alto in 1989? No. The destructive P-Waves went right under most of the Penninsula and surfaced in Oakland and San Francisco. We were extremely lucky. Next time, that may not be the case.


1 person likes this
Posted by The Shadow Knows.....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

@ "Engineer" -

Actually, the buildings at the Municipal Services Center were reinforced AFTER the Loma Prieta earthquake, in response to that very event. My recollection is that it was done at the initiative of the then Public Works and Utility Department Directors in order to provide continuity of City services from their departments.


Like this comment
Posted by Another resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 28, 2014 at 12:47 am

1/4 million dollars for a study? I'd rather we spend that to get more equipment to reduce flood, beautify the city streets(not just on university) with holiday lights and decors (even EPA has more city decor on their streets in holiday)


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm

I drove by the Service area today - this is the perfect place for the amount of equipment at that location - there is no other place you can put all of this variety of trucks. The Google people have consumed an area near San Antonio so I cannot figure out why this is even a topic on the table. That is a huge amount of equipment. I wish PA would leave well enough alone - finish the projects that are in play now so we can see how that will look. We have half finished projects all over including the "soccer field", flood levee, golf course refinish, baylands interpretative center, community center(s).


Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2014 at 11:24 pm

The late 90's building reinforcement project that the Shadow knows about was not a comprehensive structural upgrade. It was meant to keep the buildings from immediately collapsing on the occupants. These important structures probably won't be usable after a large earthquake.

Here's a link to the Council action on the temporary bracing mentioned above. Web Link

The permanent solution described in the linked ordinance has never been done.


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

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