News

Office surge expected to continue in downtown Palo Alto

New study projects 'significant and continued pressure' for redevelopment of underutilized sites

You don't need too many tools beyond a set of eyes to know that downtown Palo Alto is going through an office boom, a trend that has achieved a particular poignancy over the past year.

A new analysis commissioned by the city suggests that this growth will not abate any time soon. Barring new zoning restrictions, the city will likely get roughly 10,000 square feet of new office development annually for the next decade and possibly more, according to a study that the Planning and Transportation Commission discussed Wednesday night.

The analysis was performed as part of the first phase of the "Downtown Cap Study," an effort that the city is required to undertake under a 1986 law that set a limit of 350,000 square feet for new non-residential development. That policy also specified that the city should review the cap and consider new rules once development crosses the 235,000-square-foot mark, a milestone that the city reached in 2012.

The study, performed jointly by the firms Dyett & Bhatia and EPS, evaluated growth trends, examined downtown's zoning designations and evaluated how much growth downtown can accommodate under the existing zoning. It also considered the current market for office space, which continues to sizzle.

According to the study, downtown has seen about 10,500 square feet of new commercial development annually between 1997 and 2014, though figures vary widely from year to year. A chart showing downtown office construction indicates that there was almost no increase from 2002 to 2005, a relatively modest increase of roughly 10,000 square feet in 2006, and another in 2007 and in 2009. In the last five years, the numbers spike considerably, with more than 60,000 square feet of office space constructed this year alone.

In analyzing market forces and downtown's ability to absorb more growth, the study concludes that there is an "extremely favorable environment for commercial office development in Downtown Palo Alto."

"Values are robust and new development projects have surged in recent years," the report states. "Downtown Palo Alto, while not immune to market cycles, is sure to remain a sought-after location for workspace, given the competitive factors that have driven the market to the value highs and vacancy lows that are currently exhibited. The Downtown market is likely to experience significant and continued pressure for redevelopment of underutilized sites (e.g. properties currently development well below the allowable floor-area-ratio) over the long term."

In many cases this growth will be achieved without requiring zone changes. Using existing zoning, downtown can theoretical accommodate 491,000 square feet of new non-residential development, not counting the various additional density developers can request for providing affordable housing.

But as the city's consultants pointed out Wednesday, the actual level growth won't be nearly that high because of various constraining factors. These include the fact that some of the buildings are historical, while others are too new to be replaced with bigger structures any time soon. Existing laws such as parking requirements may also make it difficult for developers to build bigger structures downtown.

Given the constraints, the consultants estimate that downtown will see an actual level of development between 53,400 and 146,000 square feet over the next 10 years, said Sophie Martin of Dyett & Bhatia.

As part of its report, her firm surveyed downtown companies in hopes of learning more about the area's business trends. The results showed that 80 percent of the surveyed firms occupied offices with less than 5,000-square-feet of space and nearly two-thirds had 10 or fewer employees. Furthermore, more than half don't provide their employees with parking and most don't offer commuting incentives.

The one thing that the consultants weren't able to determine was whether today's companies cram more workers into their space than those in the past. While anecdotes abound about tech startups having far more employees per square than the city's assumed level of one per 250 square feet, the study could not verify this trend. That's because only 9 percent of the tech firms that were contacted responded to the survey. Martin said the consulting team "did not feel there were enough data points to draw any firm conclusions."

"While there was some evidence that tech companies do have smaller amounts of space per workers compared to other workers, the sample size is really too small to be reliable," Martin said.

The new study represented the first phase of a broader planning effort aimed at setting a new policy for downtown development. It focuses on gathering data and surveying recent trends. The second phase will consider different policy options that the city can undertake to further its vision for downtown's future.

The study comes at a time when the Palo Alto is updating its Comprehensive Plan, the city's official land-use bible. One of the questions that will be considered is whether the city should adopt a new development cap or if it should pursue other strategies for easing the negative consequences of growth, chiefly parking shortages and traffic jams.

Commission Chair Mark Michael suggested that it might be time to "declare a victory" and move on to "a more efficacious planning methodology" for downtown. This could include creating a new specific plan for the area, encourage mixed-use developments and consider abolishing the 50-foot height limit for new developments.

"Let's say it (the height limit) got moved to greater than 50 feet so that it might allow five stories rather than four stories," Michael said. "It might give head room for beneficial changes, both architecturally and in land use, and you might have some pattern where you have expanded ground-floor retail with a couple of floors of office and a couple of floor of residential."

Commissioner Greg Tanaka characterized the development cap as a "blunt tool" and argued that residents care less about the square footage of new developments and more about practical things like parking and traffic.

Commissioner Michael Alcheck, the commission's chief proponent of growth, noted that while the real estate market is now "white hot," that could change. He pointed to the cyclical nature of booms and busts and said that this trend is also something that the commission should keep in mind as it plans for downtown's long-term future.

"We are rapidly approaching what could potentially be the next cliff in terms of development," Alcheck said.

Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 1:16 am

> The one thing that the consultants weren't able to determine was whether today's
> offices cram more workers into their space than those in the past

Anyone walking down the sidewalk can peer into the windows of some of the sardine factories and see people sitting side by side at long tables. Presumably there is a bathroom in these offices, but given how poorly employees are treated compared to previous years--it's possible that people might have to go to a coffee shop to use the facilities.

Why, for the money this survey cost, couldn't the contractor do a better job than this?


3 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:37 am

But where are they gonna park?


15 people like this
Posted by avoids downtown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2014 at 10:55 am

There are no longer any businesses of interest to residents downtown. It has become an office park and restaurant row serving commuters.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

@curmudgeon

Office workers? That sounds like their problem, not yours.


6 people like this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

This study overwhelmingly suggests that the recent growth rates in office space is good for Palo Alto. Some of the Planning Commissioners even contemplate changing the plan, e.g. exceed the 50 feet limit, so that even more growth can take place. The study gives only a nod to the parking and traffic problems that have been created by the excessive growth whereas these and other problems of saturating our infrastructure are what are most apparent to the average citizen. We need to rethink the question of how much growth we want/can endure, before we change the nature of Palo Alto for good.


10 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:58 am

Did this study take into account the election results? And how much did this latest "study" cost?

Why do we have real estate developers like Mr. Alcheck on the Planning Commission when it goes against what the residents voted for in the last election? I'm so glad Los Altos rejected his pressure on them to become as dense as PA. Does he even live in Palo Alto or does he just go to all the local towns pushing for more density?

Shame on PA for destroying what used to be a nice place! Shame on the Planning Commission for ignoring the voters.

But hey, they got another raise and make more than in surrounding jurisdictions. It's outrageous.


14 people like this
Posted by C'est Moi
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I think the nature of Palo Alto has already been changed for the worse. It has become rather undesirable for people who have lived here more than five years--that's when the bulk of the undesirable changes in quality of living first became really obvious. However, it seems the whole character of Palo Alto started becoming stuffy and arrogant about 12 years ago.

Once my kids are in college, I would like to live elsewhere--hopefully some place more like Palo Alto was before 2002.


4 people like this
Posted by 50'
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The 50' height limit leads to all the boxy buildings with no set backs. Taller without additional square footage will lead to greater set backs, more landscaping and more interesting buildings. 72' set back is far more inviting than 50' straight up on the property line.


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Then we'd end up with 72' straight up on the property line.


15 people like this
Posted by C'est Moi
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 11, 2014 at 4:35 pm

The city councils of the last ten years, it seems, have relished annoying residents. The downtown and Cal Ave areas have more appeal now for people who work here but live elsewhere, and for visitors who live elsewhere. The residents seem to be at the very bottom of the city council's list this past decade.

I doubt that, outside of New York City, there is any other town or city in America hat does this--give preference to non-residents, that is.


8 people like this
Posted by Just say NO!
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2014 at 4:51 pm

The city council forgets that it is elected to represent the interests of the city's residents. They have utterly failed to rein in over-development and we are worse off for it. (Overcrowded roads, poor infrastructure, overcrowded schools, loss of tranquility and neighborliness). The answer now is to down-zone where previous councils have up-zoned, stop allowing add on footage to zoning, perhaps look at lowering height limits and setting a square footage per employee, and most important of all, hope that the incoming council has the ability to use the word NO to the pro-growth staff and developers that are running the city.


2 people like this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm

trees is a registered user.

I go to the downtown area and shop there and eat there all the time and meet Palo Alto friends and neighbors there as well. I have no idea where this claim is coming from that residents of Palo Alto don't go there. Indeed they do and in such high numbers that you're finding it hard to park sometimes! It's a boon to this community and its offerings are the very reason why I chose to live in Palo Alto and not another city with a much less built out and interesting downtown. If I wasn't interested in a neat, walkable community where I could spend time shopping and meeting friends for meals then I wouldn't live here. I can get quiet, boring, with nothing to do there in a lot of other places.


1 person likes this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 11, 2014 at 5:41 pm

trees is a registered user.

I'll also add for anyone who says that "Palo Alto used to be a nice place" that your sentiments are completely unsupported by the market. If it were a terrible place to live, as you claim, it wouldn't be one of the most expensive markets in the country. Lots of people want to live here exactly because it's great and the growth of the downtown is a huge contributor to this city's appeal. It's what sets us apart from other cities.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm

> Indeed they do and in such high numbers that you're finding
> it hard to park sometimes!

Amazing that this poster can tell the difference between cars owned by Palo Altans, and people working downtown who live in other cities!

With burgers now pushing $10 -- not a place I want to spend my lunch hours.


1 person likes this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm

trees is a registered user.

@ Joe - I don't need to tell the difference between cars. I meet my own friends and neighbors there all the time, so by definition I'm not the only going! And I often run into people I know walking up and down University.

I'll also add that $10 for a burger says very little about people's desire to eat on university when you consider that all the homes sold in the last few years went for well over a million dollars and that a studio here rents for close to 2k. Lots of Palo Altans who mustered up more than a million for their house can find $10 for a burger.


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

We need zero more offices downtown. As a matter of fact, we need to reduce the number of offices downtown and make it again into a real small town downtown instead of a tacky, horrid and outrageously expensive office park.


6 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 6:31 pm

> I don't need to tell the difference between cars

Then your comments probably are likely to reflect much reality.

> Lots of Palo Altans who mustered up more than a million for
> their house can find $10 for a burger.

And lots can't. It probably doesn't seem likely that you know many older PA residents, who have lived here for decades, and remember a very different downtown--with many quaint shops and quite a few not-all-that-expensive restaurants.

It's very hard to find much of interest in downtown these days. It's just not the funky, attractive, place it was not all that long ago.

Henry's, 42nd Street, Rudy's, the Gatehouse..just to name a few places that are now gone and mostly forgotten.


1 person likes this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Does anyone know what the existing parking laws are? For instance, if I wanted to visit Pampas, Philz or Spot A Pizza along Alma, are there rules about parking there?


2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2014 at 6:46 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ joe

I live downtown and have worked downtown for more than 40 years. Before that I was a student at Stanford. I see friends and young families with their kids every day downtown. Virtually none work downtown.

I remember downtown in the 1960s when it was a pretty happening place--not as much as now but pretty nice.

I remember the 25 years or so when downtown was much more empty--before it became a destination place. Do you notice that all the restaurants are full at night, after most office workers have gone home? Have you walked by the Apple store at night or on the weekend?

Have you noticed the surge in home prices downtown?

That you don't like it is outvoted regularly by people buying, renting, dining, walking around and enjoying themselves.

If you don't like downtown, cool, just stay away.

But no need to put down the many people who do like "trees" and me and countless others.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm

There is nothing interesting downtown anymore. It's a big office park with massive amounts of restaurants. The retail is dying and the cities charm is gone.


1 person likes this
Posted by Vibrancy Supporter
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2014 at 7:57 pm

[Portion removed.] I'm proud of our commission for thinking about the future. I would encourage them to push harder to accommodate more housing in a more mixed use centric downtown. Levy spoke the truth when he said that every day people are voting with their dollars and cents when they want to buy and rent in Palo Alto. We can either continue fighting over our existing space or we can build and accommodate more. I for one favor that inclusive approach. I favor the many restaurants and boutiques that fill our downtown retail space. I can't for the life me understand why those who oppose the potential growth are so quick to judge. I agree with commissioner Michael and would like to see five story buildings that could accommodate a taller ground floor. I agree with the studies that show that taller ceilings in retail and in office are more pleasant. And by the way, I was at that meeting in Los Altos where commissioner Alcheck spoke. His comments on encouraging redevelopment on the property accross the street from the office where he works where there currently is an eye sore of a building were so misinterpreted. Had most of you been there, I think you would have agreed with his sentiments. The failure by one of their commissioners to understand him was far more telling of that commission's sheer lack of common sense. They have been supporting growth in downtown Los Altos for five years trying desperately to create the magic we have in downtown Palo Alto. For them to pretend otherwise made them look silly.


1 person likes this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I live in Palo Alto and go downtown often and love the vibrancy. I'll bet that goes for at least 80% of Palo Altan's (just not the anti change group here. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Jana
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:29 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:56 pm

> Do you notice that all the restaurants are full at night,
> after most office workers have gone home? Have you walked
> by the Apple store at night or on the weekend?

Walking by the Apple Store at night? Are you for real? Yes, it’s true that 25 years ago downtown closed fairly early at night. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t much before that that alcohol was illegal in the downtown. There wasn’t much restaurants could do to attract night traffic. The overturning of this ban set the stage for more night time activity, for certain.

There was a time when people actually met in the downtown bars, and solid friendships were formed. Most of these places had music, which varied from place to place. The New Varsity was a central fixture in downtown PA—with food, music, movies, beverages, and lots of room for people to mingle. It’s very hard for me to envision much going on outside the Apple Store—certainly nothing like the gatherings at the old New Varsity.

Downtown PA took a real hit back in 1955, when the Stanford Shopping Center opened. Key anchor stores moved to Stanford, leaving big holes in the downtown area. It’s hard not to admit that some of the redevelopment that went on in the late 1970s helped to bring focus/vitality to downtown. Drugs and transients caused people to not want to let their children go down town at night. Generally, we don’t see a lot of high school aged kids downtown, so maybe today’s parents have a similar sense of forboding as those in the 1970s.

But whatever the charm of the downtown area that was .. is now gone—as so many people have opined in this thread, and the many other threads that have dealt with growth in Palo Alto.

As to the increased prices of housing in downtown—the monthly flyer I get from the real estate people hasn’t focused on downtown. There are generally about fifty homes a month changing hands in Palo Alto, and that number hasn’t changed too much of late. Will have to look at the sales lists to see if there are any spikes in prices in that area. If some people are driving up the prices, is this corporate money? Or is it some people selling off their vested shares? Or is it foreign money, looking to park money here for a while, or a quick flip-over?

I don’t see a lot of value of hanging around the outside of the Apple store at night or looking into restaurant windows, so I’ll take your advice and just stay away! It’s not the same place it was not that long ago.


1 person likes this
Posted by tired in Palo Alto
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Love you Libs
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by If You Want San Jose, Then Please Move to San Jose
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:05 am

Palo Alto was a very desirable place to live over 50 years ago, it didn't just become so in the last 10 years. Stanford University brought educated and affluent people, who were smart enough to create a town whose core values were based on families, education, and community. And TREES! As City leaders continued to embrace core values, particularly education, community, and livability, Palo Alto continued to be a very desirable place to live, and home prices have kept pace with (meaning, have continued to be higher than) the surrounding cities, all of whom have seen tremendous increase in value.

Palo Alto did not become a desirable place to live because of David Packard's garage, he just happened to live in Palo Alto, so that's where his garage was.

Palo Alto did not become a desirable place to live because Silicon Valley was founded here, Silicon Valley was founded here because Palo Alto was already a desirable place to live!

Technology did not put Palo Alto on the map, Stanford and family-oriented town leaders did. People who cared about maintaining tree-lined streets and neighborhoods with good schools made Palo Alto a great place to live.

I am sick to death of all of the new people flocking to Palo Alto who somehow think Palo Alto's designation as "the home of Silicon Valley" made it a high-priced place to live.

Palo Alto's desirability has never had *anything* to do with technology! Until now, when people with money come here because "it's the place to have an address."

Stupid city leaders over the past decade or two have ruined this town, sold out to a Walmart mentality, and think becoming the next San Jose is the way to "go."

Palo Alto became a highly desirable place to live because of education, community, tree-lined streets (i.e. environmental respect), and family values. The current government is killing every aspect of that.

Bravo to Los Altos for telling Michael Alcheck to pound sand. I'm betting Los Altos would not appoint a two- year, 20-something to one of it's boards.

There is "new and fresh," and there is "ignorant." The current city government has gone with the latter.


3 people like this
Posted by What is the proper adjective here:
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:57 am

Here is a blip from a meeting of the Los Altos Planning Commission meeting last Thursday night which came anomalously my way!

The applicant wanted to put up a 3-story building on the small triangle of land he owns at Loyola Corners. (The commission essentially denied the application after about 20 people spoke, all but 2 opposed. One of the commissioners said, “Design review trumps zoning!”)

One member of the public who spoke was Palo Alto Commissioner Michael Alcheck, whose law office is in Loyola corners. You might want to hear his 2-minute speech and then jump to the “nastygram” delivered to Alchek by one of the Los Altos commissioners, Ken Lorell.

Video of the meeting at:
Web Link

Alcheck starts speaking at 01:17:03. This is roughly what he says:

I grew up here. My office is across the street. My wife & I and 2 children live in Palo Alto where I have the distinct honor of serving on the planning commission. Planning commissioners serve a role greater than greasing the squeaky wheel. In this case you’re empowered to guide improvement of all commercial assets in this town.

Too many of tonight’s comments fail to address a vision of the future. As my father said (his father spoke earlier) the Specific Plan is too old.

The real assets of Loyola Corners are failing us. …The fact that project looks nothing like other buildings is reason to support it – to run towards it. The Opposition is exaggerating every angle because they oppose change. They didn’t say it, but they do. They hear the word “developer” and they start picketing. A little dust is not reason to fail to encourage reinvestment. It’s a growing pain. It’s minor.

What vision are you going to apply this project? Mixed use development is only way Los Altos will meagerly satisfy any of its ABAG requirements. I hope, for the love of god, I live long enough to see the excellent work you’ve done downtown continue in this spot. Anyone who opposes this work is opposing work you’ve supported.

You’ve been here six years. I’m very proud of your progress, as a planning commissioner in a neighboring town.

Everyone – EVERYONE – in my demographic (32 years old) is talking about the wonderful transformation that has taken place downtown. (He means downtown Los Altos, with humongous new buildings along First Street, which most people hate.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Commissioner Ken Lorell speaks at 1:34:40. This is roughly what he says:

And lastly, this is a Nastygram to our neighboring city. It’s really Amusing to me that a member of the PA planning commission would come here & lecture us on how to we should build our buildings when the stuff that’s been happening in PA is absolutely amazing.

In case you don’t read the newspapers or listen to what the residents say, I can’t believe you come here and tell us how we should build our buildings.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A map of Loyola Corners presented at the meeting showed that several other owners want to redevelop their properties, so the 3-story building discussed at the meeting (at 999 Fremont Ave.) would have set a precedent. When I got home, I wondered who owned the other properties. And here’s what I found:
Web Link
Corporate Ownership for 1000 FREMONT AVE

LOYOLA PROFESSIONAL BUILDING, L.P.
Address: 1000 FREMONT AVE., STE. G
Agent: ELIE M. ALCHECK
Partner1: THE 1996 ALCHECK FAMILY TRUST
Address: 1000 FREMONT AVE., STE. G

See more at: Web Link

No wonder Michael Alcheck and his father wanted 999 approved. It would grease the skids for development of their property!

Call me naïve, but shouldn’t people making public comments about a project be required to state that they have a financial interest in the outcome? Surely that should make a difference to the staff and commissioners weighing the comments. And surely a planning commissioner from Palo Alto would know that.


7 people like this
Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:12 am

Another wrinkle not mentioned elsewhere in this thread is the spread of Fake Retail. Zoning laws require first floor retail in our downtown areas. But more and more businesses get around this with setups that apparently meet the letter of the law for what constitutes "retail" without actually being so.

Check out the place at Emerson and Hamilton across the street from Peninsula Creamery. How is that retail? And that's not the only one.

I hope that our new city council will be able to stop the further erosion of Palo Alto's retail business by putting an end to this practice.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

Suggesting or advocating violence is disgusting.


6 people like this
Posted by frustrated
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:07 am

Michael, please remember some of us who have lived here and raised our kids in Palo Alto do not benefit from your pro developement quest which profits your families properties. Please, please refrain from remodeling California Ave. after University Ave and what has happened to downtown Los Altos. And "very few" in your demographic cannot afford to live here so your "n" must be very limited.

Stephen, yes the restaurants were not so plentiful and the streets were not so crowed, but residents could frequent service businesses, shop in small, unique stores, buy candy @ See's, anything at Woolworth's, and have a burger for less than $10.00.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:30 am

Yes Palo Alto has changed, but so have we.

I tend to think that a large number of people in downtown restaurants at night are workers socializing together before going home. That's what young people tend to do all over the Bay Area.

I also think that as families, we are a lot more busy than 25 years ago. The average family back then used to eat out a lot more than they do now, it was a regular weekly happening. Not so much nowadays, picking up take out called ahead is much more the norm than eating out as a family unless it is a birthday or something. The reasons are far beyond lack of family style restaurants, but more homework, more time spent with sports and more hours needed to be spent at work.

We can't put the clock back on family lifestyles just the same way we can't reinvent a Woolworths in downtown that everybody would use. We have Amazon and Costco, and a different perception of what we want from retail.

A live performance theater would help in downtown, Castro has one, Redwood City has the Fox.

We also need a school/office supplies Office Depot type place. In our house, homework needs are now much harder to find particularly at short notice which is often the kids fault just as much as the schools. Making a poster presentation and the local drugstore sells out after the 3rd child from the class comes in looking for poster board and there are no more left is a common complaint. However, downtown is probably not the right place for such retail.


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Contrary to what development worshipers claim, downtown was more pleasant and resident friendly in the past, despite downtown closing earlier(obviously a great tragedy in the eyes of some). It was a wonderful, semi-funky place to hang out with friends, with far less pan handlers and drug deals. It was a place where real, exciting cultural event took place, with real retail shopping. Parking was a cinch, even on saturday nights.

Palo Alto does not own its greatness to Silicon Valley or the inflated, speculation-driven housing prices. Palo Alto was a great, highly desirable town a long time before the Valley. It does not owe its former greatness to the Valley. No one who managed to buy a house here did it in order to see it go up in price at unimaginable pace. People flocked to palo Alto because it was unique-highly educated, environmentally friendly population, tree lined pleasant streets, space, tranquility. It was never the "in" place to move to in order to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. It is astonishing that the pro development crowed thinks that Palo Alto greatness will be preserved by turning it into another San Jose and that University Ave should be a hybrid of Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue.


1 person likes this
Posted by trees
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

trees is a registered user.

The point is that there are people in this town who aren't retired seniors. People who weren't even alive to see a Woolworth's. There are people here who DO like what it is. People who have moved in in the last 15 years instead of the last 50 years and absolutely love all the restaurants downtown and don't need certain forms of retail because they shop online. And when you say broad things like "no one likes this" or "no one goes there" or "the people have spoken" you're dismissing and silencing a large portion of your neighbors. Neighbors, who I might add, work very hard and spend lots of time on their kids and can't regularly show up to City Council meetings like retired people can. Your comments don't represent them. Maybe if you did go downtown, you'd actually meet some of them and talk to them.


4 people like this
Posted by If You Want San Jose, Then Please Move to San Jose
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

@trees: There is no age demographic that defines the "let's keep Palo Alto, Palo Alto" versus the "let's turn Palo Alto into another San Jose" camps. Assuming people who don't want to turn Palo Alto into another San Jose are all retired seniors shows a lack of awareness of the entire debate.

Personally, I am not a retiree, and in fact have pre-teens at home. But I grew up here, and know more about Palo Alto's charm and history than just the last 15 years of awful city leadership and over-growth. I also know seniors who want to see the city keep getting bigger and more "vibrant."

Please don't stereotype people into categories that are non-existent. I know it's easy to just say the old folks don't want change and we cool young people are hip and cool and know better, but that is simply not the actual demographic difference.

And, you're not cool. You just have no appreciation for what made Palo Alto an awesome place to live, and would continue to make Palo Alto an awesome place to live, because you are a newbie, probably brought here by the tech boom (that's conjecture, for sure). I don't see Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills changing their character to accomodate all of these people who want to have acool address, when the lifestyle they desire is really Santana Row.

I'd love to see all of these young, pro-growth residents choose a place to make their own. Milpitas? East Palo Alto? Alviso? All places that would truly appreciate your innovation, education, and desire to develop the community.

Why come to an extremely established town and decide the long-time residents, old and young, need to accept the change you desire? Just go where there are like-minded people and we can all be happy. I mean, it's not just about the prestigious address, right?


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:58 am

If you want San Jose......, thanks for your excellent post above. Since there was no way to link specifically to your post, I've copied it to the Palo Alto Forward topic.

Thanks again.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2014 at 10:00 pm

If you want San Jose.....

Great post! and I agree!

The tech workers could purchase or rent in East Palo Alto and then easily commute by bike over to work in Palo Alto. They don't actually have to live here to work here.


3 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of University South
on Dec 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I have no sympathy for longtime Palo Altans who are nostalgic for pre-growth times. If you bought property here decades ago, then you are now very wealthy, and you can easily afford to relocate to a place that better suits your values (just like the tech workers moving here are doing). The source of all that wealth is the very development you decry.

If you miss Woolworth's and cheap burger joints, then you might as well leave now, since no amount of elections or city council meetings is going to bring them back. The simple fact is that those businesses, along with people who feel the same way as you, can no longer afford to be in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Narrow view of wealth. My friends are here. I'd be immeasurably poorer if I moved away.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2014 at 8:41 pm

@Jeff - Fine don't cry for the cheap burger, but where are you going to eat when $20 burger goes out of business, and reopens are office space for doorknobbers.com? If downtown retail was just getting nicer, that's one thing, but the reality is the downtown retail is being converted in large chunks to startup space. That's hurting sales tax revenue,that's causing parking problems, that's hurting the community base of downtown.


1 person likes this
Posted by Higher Taxes + Higher Rents
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Jeff, you wrote "I have no sympathy for longtime Palo Altans who are nostalgic for pre-growth times. If you bought property here decades ago, then you are now very wealthy, and you can easily afford to relocate to a place that better suits your values ..."

You do realize what would happen if you succeed in push out those horrible longtime residents and rents?

Say someone who bought a $450,000 property 30 years ago is paying more than $9,000 in property taxes. Today they'd have to pay around $3,000,000 for the same property and pay roughly $54,000 in annual property taxes.

Guess who could rent to you at the lower rate? Longtime residents or new residents?

Do the math. Divide $9,000 by 12. Now divide $54,000 by 12, How much would the new vs old owners have to charge in monthly rent JUST to cover the property taxes? No insurance, no maintenance, no profit, just taxes???

Still so eager to push out those longtime residents?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Sorry Jeff, but the long timers aren't going anywhere and that's why the new young tech workers have no place to live.


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

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