News


Buildings of up to eight stories planned for East Palo Alto

Economic development, mixed use dominate 20-year plan

With an eye on affordable housing and the city's bottom line, East Palo Alto officials on Monday night unveiled the city's plans for the next 20 years.

The community meeting, which focused on land use and economic development, was part of the city's general-plan update, known as "Vista 2035." The general plan presents key strategies for housing, businesses, neighborhood development, parks and open space, public health and safety, jobs development, water infrastructure and traffic. It would determine land use for every parcel in the city, officials said.

The plan divides the city into six sections for targeted development: the Westside, bordered by West Bayshore Road and San Francisquito Creek to the Menlo Park and Palo Alto borders; east of U.S. Highway 101 areas that include University Avenue, bordered by Donohoe Street, Bay Road, Euclid and Capitol avenues; Gateway, which is occupied by the Ravenswood 101 shopping center; East Bayshore, a commercial district of strip malls, which runs along East Bayshore Road from Euclid Avenue roughly to Bay Road; Willow and Newbridge, a commercial corner bordered by Willow Road; and Four Corners, a large tract of land bordered by Fordham and Weeks streets and the San Francisco Baylands.

Left nearly untouched in the plan: the mostly single-family and multi-story residential areas that are at the city's core.

University Avenue would perhaps see the biggest change. Buildings of between four to eight stories would be allowed in an area from Euclid Avenue to East Bayshore Road. They would be mixed use -- residential or office space over ground-floor retail. The area currently includes the Chevron gas station, the former Drew Medical Center and the Ravenswood City School District offices. In addition, both sides of University Avenue to Bay Road would allow for three- to five-story residential buildings over retail shops.

The proposal for the East Bayshore strip, where there are currently one- and two-story retail buildings, would allow three- and four-story mixed-use residential or office buildings over retail. A small number of single-family homes would be removed under the new zoning.

The existing Gateway area, where IKEA and Home Depot are located, could also take on a different look. The two magnet stores would remain as the core retail, but the other sections could be zoned for up to eight-story-tall buildings of retail, or office space, or mixed-use residential or office space over retail.

The Four Corners area plan would remain as it was previously conceived under a redevelopment plan: two- to three-story research-and-development and light industrial space on its eastern parcels; four- to eight-story offices overlooking the Bay; and three- to five-story mixed-use residences over retail or offices along Weeks Street.

The Westside, which borders Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood and is accessible by the Newell Bridge, has already been the subject of numerous public meetings, as officials seek to create a vision for that specific area. Containing about half of the city's low-income and affordable rental housing, the area is being considered in five parcels, three of which would see no change.

One parcel, west of the University Circle office complex, could be zoned for four- to six-story multifamily homes. From Newell Road to University and West Bayshore, there could be multi-story residences, ground-floor retail, offices and a hotel. Near University, structures could be up to eight stories tall.

Other options for the Westside are higher-density apartments between three and eight stories with limited ground-floor retail or simply three- to six-story-tall multi-family residences. The plan could provide some permanent, deed-restricted affordable housing and prevent the eviction of existing residents, officials said Monday. The retail, office and hotel revenue would improve the city's fiscal stability.

City leaders have previously said that a high amount of commercial use, including a hotel, is needed on the Westside for a program that might subsidize rent increases and preserve low-income housing. Fifty-seven percent of the city's residents are renters.

The city also needs to develop revenue sources for improving roads, lighting and sidewalks.

Many of the 50-plus attendees indicated a preference for mid-range building heights as opposed to the top 8-story options.

City officials noted that the zoning changes are not forced redevelopment.

The city will hold public meetings on other aspects of the general plan in December and January. Meetings include: Transportation and Parking on Dec. 9; and Public Health and Quality of Life on Jan. 8. Both meetings take place from 6:30-9 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Senior Center, 560 Bell St.

Public review and comment on the first draft of Vista 2035 is expected in late spring 2015. City Council adoption of the final general plan and the more specific Westside Area Plan and Environmental Impact Report is scheduled for December 2015.

More information regarding the general and Westside plans is available at [http:www.vista2035epa.org www.vista2035epa.org.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:30 am

revdreileen is a registered user.

Thank you for reporting on this important planning process, Sue. It is helpful to those of us who live in EPA and work in PA to have our PA friends better informed about the big changes that are coming to EPA.


7 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm

The one thing I see missing from the proposed plans is sufficient park space, I think the residents of EPA deserve additional outdoor recreational space, particularly with the proposed high density housing.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

The fight over the future of the Newell Bridge just went nuclear.


5 people like this
Posted by Big Newell Bridge
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:58 pm

They need a good wide bridge to accommodate all these changes and so the new influx of EPA residents can easily and swiftly come into and get out of PA for shopping and errands.


6 people like this
Posted by Go EPA!
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Go EPA! The property value will increase along with the new changes and improvement made on the city.


16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm

This is great for PA, too. Now Kate Downing can find a nice, affordable high-rise to live near the excitement of downtown Palo Alto from which to take her bike or public transit to her job in Santa Clara every day!


6 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 20, 2014 at 9:42 pm

This will be good for EPA, and that means it will be good for PA. But it also means a lot more traffic, so it becomes more important to eliminate the Newell street bridge. Shopping is accessible via University, or Bayshore. There is no reason to route traffic through a residential neighborhood.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:09 pm

A few people are going to make a ton of money. How do I get to be one of them?


2 people like this
Posted by Pumpkin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2014 at 1:22 am

Yay, EPA! While I sometimes I miss the old music venue in Whisky Gulch... am thrilled to bits about the improving buildings, streets, businesses and schools. Imagine! Real high rise living and working with views of San Francisquito Creek or the baylands over there undergoing restoration. At this rate "we" will just be little old, short, fuddy-duddy and dumpy West Palo Alto. :)


7 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

"Shopping is accessible via University, or Bayshore. There is no reason to route traffic through a residential neighborhood."

Last time I looked, the stretch of University from the creek to downtown was quite residential. Why should those residents get dumped on while you get a free ride?


1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2014 at 11:21 am

Exactly, Curmudgeon. Thank you for your comment.


3 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 11:31 am

Please! Before we use up all this land for buildings, how about using some of it for a BART line from the east bay via the old train tracks by the Dumbarton bridge, running up University and then underground to the University CALTRAIN (which should be converted to a Bart line too). We desperately need to improve out 1960's version of public transportation to fit the future vision of the Bay Area. It is wonderful that these large companies are growing in our communities and offering so many good paying jobs but they must consider the good of all, not just themselves. Perhaps we could get the Googles and Facebooks of the world to consider the big picture by contributing to these huge public transportation costs. What a legacy that would be!


4 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Nancy - "Before we use up all this land for buildings"? There is no we. This is the City of East Palo Alto, not Menlo Park. Perhaps retooling your idea to use Menlo land is something you can take to your city government and see if they're amenable. Of course, I wouldn't hold my breath - many politicians just prefer to give lip service to public transpo ideas.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Because it is already a major thoroughfare, has it's own freeway offramp, and if you were looking for a less imaginative name that "Univerity" then you might call it "Main Street".


4 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Traffic on University Ave is maxed out. But Newell Road is a vastly underutilized transportation resource, offering our EPA neighbors a connection to downtown by way of Channing, plus a direct shot to Embarcadero and on to El Camino and Stanford. Just replace that rickety Model-T era bridge with a modern rightly-sized one and we're in business.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Because Newell is a residential street, not a artery like Uni or Embarcadero. Environmental impact report will be enough to stop it.


2 people like this
Posted by Only one way in = traffic
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 5:56 am

Since more than one route into PA will ease traffic more than having just one single route, the Newell Street Bridge project will need to be fast tracked so we are not left with just one clogged road in and out.


1 person likes this
Posted by Or
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 6:00 am

Actually, turning the NS bridge into a pedestrian and bike route might work too since many in the lower cost housing will need to walk and ride bikes since they may not own cars. The Newell St bridge could serve as a pedestrian corridor in and out of Palo Alto for those new residents living in the low cost housing.


1 person likes this
Posted by For CP Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 6:11 am

To quote form a poster above:
"Last time I looked, the stretch of University from the creek to downtown was quite residential. Why should those residents get dumped on while you get a free ride?"

One route increases the opportunity of huge traffic snarls. An alternate route to the main route is always better than just a single route.


Like this comment
Posted by Delores
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

Thank you, Nancy for mentioning transportation. Agree we need to bring Bart
down the Peninsula, up to the airport, across the Bay. Years ago this initial plan was opposed and blocked by the old guard from their limousines. They are now in nursing homes or deceased.What a positive lasting legacy and contribution this could be from the the local billionaires and millionaires.


1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:11 am

The planned buildings might be offices or non Palo Alto priced housing. New companies that can't in PA can just move to EPA.

Why not build a BRT along what would have been Willow Expressway.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

Out of curiosity, does raising the height limit of buildings cause potential issues with Palo Alto airport? Remember the Tesla employee who flew in fog over EPA and crashed...
Also, is it wise to add in tall presumably costly buildings in that area which I have been told is a major flood risk area.
Space is verrry rare around here and there are pressures to "expand" up and out and fill in every nook and cranny whether for residential or commercial space, but putting more buildings in flood-prone areas seems strange to me.


4 people like this
Posted by SarcasticSOB
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Palo Alto Airport is already surrounded by a web of 100-foot-high power lines. Oracle has 200-foot buildings a mile off the departure end of the San Carlos runway. And a few taller AM-radio towers inhabit the bay. The FAA determines what are hazards to navigation.

If anybody knows or cares about birds, maybe they could enlighten us on how many are killed flying into glass high-rises. I guess that would be part of the Environmental Impact Report, being this close to the migratory patterns through our National Wildlife Refuge. Might want to rethink 8-story office buildings at the end of Bay Road.


1 person likes this
Posted by Iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Nov 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

EIRs only analyze the impacts. They do not of themselves stop anything. City Hall must get one, but it can just ignore it, and it very often does.


2 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm

[Portion removed.]

The bridge needs to be rebuilt to prevent flooding. All I'm against is changing the alignment and widening the bridge (except for adding sidewalks and bike lanes)...which would allow for greater traffic and at higher speeds. But the bridge should be rebuilt. Just like the Chaucer Bridge...no more floods.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 23, 2014 at 2:16 am

There's just some folks that like to troll about Channing or Newell converting to main arteries and the Newell Bridge converted into some kind of feeder path for traffic that is going to sidetrack off of University or Embarcadero, winding along West Bayshore and Woodland Ave and go right through major residential parts of Palo Alto.

[Portion removed.]

The object for Palo Alto AND East Palo Alto should be to support thriving healthy neighborhoods, and NOT allowing more and more traffic into smaller and more chopped up neighborhoods - that would be the opposite direction.

Nobody would begrudge or insult East Palo Altans for wanting to do fix the neighborhoods in their town, so why do we get that in Palo Alto?

I'd be a bit skeptical about high-rise housing in East Palo Alto since most of the rental housing problems seem to center around the larger more dense apartment complexes.


2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto is a candy shop
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Jordan
a resident of University South
on Nov 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Good! It's about time high-rise affordable housing was build. More should be built in EPA, and Palo Alto should follow their example. EPA is lucky they don't have to deal with a bunch of residentialist nonsense miring them in the past.


2 people like this
Posted by Jordan
a resident of University South
on Nov 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm

There are far too many [Portion removed.] and [Post removed.] here. Methinks the censors need to chill out a bit.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm

@Crescent Park Dad - to fix the flooding, the current bridge needs to be removed. Whether or how it is rebuilt is a separate question.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I know. If you want less traffic in CP, certainly removing the bridge would provide the best result. But I don't think that's realistic nor does it take into account that there is an existing bridge that some people rely upon.

However, I am unabashedly selfish in not wanting a new/rebuilt bridge that will allow for greater numbers of cars or greater rates of speed. That's why, if they must replace the bridge, I prefer a bridge that gives space for bikes and pedestrians --- but does not provide any conveniences for autos. Keeping the alignment and the narrow road lanes the same will dissuade greater usage and higher speeds. Of course a pedestrian/bike bridge would be even better.

The other consideration is the overall flood plan. They're looking at erecting flood walls up and down the creek. Flood walls at Newell would probably eliminate the bridge altogether.


2 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2014 at 1:13 pm

"I am unabashedly selfish in not wanting a new/rebuilt bridge that will allow for greater numbers of cars or greater rates of speed."

If you're gonna be selfish, build the bridge yourself. If you want tax money from the rest of the town, build a bridge that serves the town as a whole and looks to the future. Four traffic lanes (to support the eventual widening of Newell Road), plus two bike lanes, and two pedestrian lanes, would be about right.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

At least I'm being honest. There are many posters on here who are not.

Newell to 4-lanes. Right. That would require using eminent domain on over 70 privately owned residential properties, plus taking land from Rinconada Park, the Fire Station, Art Center and the Library. Multiple $100's millions.

Me thinks you're just trying to stir the pot & trying to cause a little tempest in a teapot. Not going to bite. Nice try though.

Removal of the existing bridge is a given due the flooding/bottleneck issues. You can just build flood walls and don't use any tax money to build a new bridge as far as I'm concerned. And BTW - flood prevention funds will come from the JPA and the Feds...not exclusively from PA.


2 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Respectfully, a reminder - this story is about housing, not Newell St. Bridge. Some thread drift is understandable, but the bridge has many threads about it.

This is an interesting story, and is indicative of what we are seeing all over the Peninsula - vertical housing. I see an upside and a downside with this. Sadly, though, East Palo Alto isn't very affordable anymore.


1 person likes this
Posted by Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2014 at 11:06 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

@Memories - discussing traffic impacts of development isn't thread drift. I only wish the local governments were responsible enough to address the two issues together.


1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Of course it's thread drift, Recycle. Once again, PA residents seize upon an E. Palo Alto issue.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

OK ... someone mentioned the Newell St. bridge ... that always pushes my Newell St. bridge button.

First order of business is to remove the bridge for purposes of preventing water from backing up there and jumping the banks in a heavy rain.

To build a new bridge there is not a very good way to reconfigure that double intersection and there are problems with the way it is now. From the EPA side you cannot see if anyone is coming across the bridge from PA. Threre is no room for pedestrians to really walk across that bridge safely, though many do. You depend on the drivers on the bridge being very careful. Same when two cars try to cross simultaneously.

If you "correct" the problems with the bridge, then you get a bigger, safer bridge that will be used more and push more traffic through residential areas where people bike, walk, to school, the library to the park. It is not good for the residential area.

No one is very much inconvenienced by the removal of the Newell St. bridge. They can claim they are, but what it really amounts to is a few minutes at most having to use University of Embarcadero. Both of those intersections could be designed much better, and putting money there makes more sense than trying to force this bridge into the heart of Crescent Park and residential Palo Alto.

The removal of the bridge would also make less traffic on Woodland, making it safer to walk or bike, and quieter too, that is it adds to the quality of life on the EPA side as well as the PA side.

Removing the bridge also would remove the motivation for people to use Palo Alto's residential parking for the needs of East Palo Alto's apartment complexes and motivate EPA to deal with its traffic problems instead of letting them overflow.

Putting in another bridge, a bigger bridge, is going to encourage more traffic and more noise, more cars and will eventually expand a thoroughfare into Palo Alto down Newell and possible Channing that is already going to be growing because of the Edgewood Center and more development. It's too much.

OK, end of Newell St. bridge rant. Thank you. ;-)


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

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