Palo Alto still struggling to find site for new police station

Even with money at hand, land options look scarce

Palo Alto's long search for a place where it can build a new police building remains hampered by a shortage of options, though officials have about five possible locations in mind, City Manager James Keene said last week.

At a discussion with reporters last Thursday, Keene said staff has identified a handful of sites that are either on the market already or are expected to be on the market soon. Yet none of these sites staff has identified hits what he called "the sweet spot" in terms of location, price, context and neighborhood support.

"As you can imagine, the availability of potential sites is really quite limited," Keene said in response to the Weekly's question about a possible location for a new public-safety building.

He said staff plans to bring the city's options to the council in late February for a discussion of "pros and cons," though he warned that he expects some of these sites to generate concerns.

"There will be many folks who will say, 'Jeez, that's too far away,' or 'It's too far outside the central part of the city.'"

Though he plans to present to the council the "available sites," it does not mean these options will be "viable, acceptable or reasonable, even."

"I think we'll have some narrow choices," Keene said.

The police building remains one of the city's top infrastructure priorities. An infrastructure plan that the council approved last June allocates $57 million for the project, which includes the cost of land acquisition.

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11 people like this
Posted by solutions?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

Why not a smaller station with a few satellite stations around the City? It might make more sense than one central station, especially with all the traffic around town and could provide needed redundancy in a major disaster. Plus, we could make a plan and implement it in stages, it wouldn't take one $60 mil commitment.

If smaller stations were at issue, I'd like to suggest taking a look at that Midas (?) shop on the corner of Arastradero and El Camino next to the brand new out-of-place giant hotel that went up recently. It already has garage and office space, and the weird thing is, I don't think it's been operating as a business for many years. Not really sure what is happening there -- is it for sale?

15 people like this
Posted by Surly
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Get the Police Station out of downtown so parking opens up. Maybe put it on El Camino across from Stanford Shopping Center?

And/or maybe the City could stop approving high-density buildings so there might be some land left.

And who approved the $57 million plan? The voters? If it's $57,000,000 now, figure on at least twice that given the city's pathetic track record for cost-overruns, lawsuits, etc.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

The replacement for the police building has been an ongoing saga now for over 25 years now.

Chop Keenan proposed developing the building himself back in 2005, at the site of the downtown farmers market, for $30 - $40 million. What a bargin that would have been if the city council back then hadn't dithered on the proposal.

Instead the city purchased an option for a building site on Park Blvd, which they let lapse in 2009/2010.

Most recently, they last city council put on the ballot a tax increase for hotels, which they advertised for infrastructure, (but there is no language in the ballot measure which restricts the money to be spent on infrastructure); the ballot measure passed.

I hope the new council can treat this as a serious, high priority issue; previous councils and leading civic leaders would always say it was important, but when it came time to prioritize spending, they would always find pet projects more important to budget for.

2 people like this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I support "solutions?" idea 100%

BTW, anyone knows what's gonna happen to the downtown Post office building

11 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Why can't a new building be built on the existing site?

15 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Another vote for the idea above of multiple smaller distributed police facilities.

Maybe co-locate/integrate new police facilities with fire stations (which are really more like medical dispatch sites anyway) -- they also have a significant part of the infrastructure budget (as I recall, to upgrade/rebuild multiple fire stations).

Part of changing the facilities could be eliminating the living/eating/sleeping quarters at fire stations, and changing our whole approach to fire/medical response staffing -- there is no other organization (including police) where 24/7 coverage is needed where we pay people to sleep/eat/workout/etc.

Put firefighters (again, primarily medical response) on a four-shift schedule like police (and every other organization that requires round-the clock staffing), and we'll need much less physical space and we'll get much greater personnel utilization at lower cost.

18 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm

How about building it on the City Hall's front lawn facing Hamilton?

The city already owns the land and it will be emblematic of the type of density increasingly cropping up elsewhere in the city.

The disappearance of City Hall's lawn and setback will be thematically consistent with other developments on Alma, around Cal Ave, on Page Mill, etc.

How tall is City Hall? 4 stories? Adding a big blocky 4-story building on its present site should allow for all future growth of police and govt. officials.

5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 26, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Since USPS wants to sell the downtown post office...

Great location, great site. The interior of the building can be retrofitted to meet the needs of the PAPD.

10 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Have we as a city really decided to proceed with a new police headquarters? I thought we were still going to vote on it.

If we're going to be stuck with one, I favor Jo Ann's idea of either putting it on the front lawn of the current City Hall or else on the Olive Garden site conveniently located near the Court House (which also has a big circular driveway suitable for development).

I'd hate to see the beautiful and historic Post Office turned into a cop shop.

7 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2015 at 9:48 pm

@solutions - there aren't enough police on duty at any given time to staff satellite offices - they few we have need to be out on patrol.

@Surly - Downtown needs the police presence that the station provides. Moving it to Park, or somewhere else would be bad for downtown.

@resident - we should count our blessings we dodged another Keenan deal, and still have very pleasant neighborhood street like Gilman to host the farmer's market.

8 people like this
Posted by Jill
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jan 26, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Why does it have to be downtown? Why would moving it be bad for downtown? I've never seen police officers walking a downtown beat, have you?

Our downtown is already so over-crowded, how could it get worse?

Back east police stations were never at the heart of downtown because the land was too valuable; instead they were sited where they had easy access to roads, court houses, parking, etc.

But if it absolutely positively needs to be downtown, let is be on existing City Hall property like the big unused front lawn facing Hamilton where they can stare at the new high-density buildings around them.

2 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Find an old church, like on The Shield

2 people like this
Posted by This isn't that hard
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

There is a sea of asphalt parking around Sherman and Birch. Put the police station over there in a combined parking and police station structure. Add another parking structure in the remaining lot.
Why is this so challenging? Right next to the courthouse makes sense. The only disappointment might be overpolicing at Antonio's nuthouse. Make a decision. Don't think too hard.

4 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:53 pm

I saw nothing in the article saying the building had to be downtown, only that it should be "central". The Park Blvd site met that criterion.

Any public safety building has to meet extra seismic safety codes, so building precincts only increases the cost. The "lawn" in front of city hall (an 8 story bldg, BTW) is on top of the garage and the structure of that deck precludes the addition or removal of any weight. Building there would be impossible.

The old post office, an historical building, is so far from meeting the required seismic safety requirements that it would have to be demolished to be used.

I think the idea of using the "sea of asphalt" may be workable, but I'd like to see what the city comes up with, too.

2 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2015 at 2:04 pm

I know a car dealer who would love to trade some land.

4 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Since the motivation for a new police building largely stems from claims that the existing building is not safe, and is too small, has the city considered relocating the police department to a temporary location for a year, or so, tear down the existing police building, and build a new police station with more capacity right where it is now?

Like this comment
Posted by solutions?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:32 am

Love the way the police station at Los Altos community center is right there and so low key.

What about the small satellite station idea: We buy the Fry's site. Put up a community space and park, maybe including a municipal pool... Then convert the nearby park tucked away there kind of off Lambert into a police satellite station. Buy that weirdly unused Midas next to the Hilton garden court into a police station (at least they'll have an incentive to solve the traffic problems there). Temporarily house the remainder of police needs for downtown at City Hall while the existing site is renovated or sold to pay for the other two and a smaller downtown site.

4 people like this
Posted by Ross
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:49 am

I love the idea of turning a few of the larger fire stations into satellite police stations. I'm sure there is room for a few police officers, police car with the firefighters. Good for the community too.

4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm

The Redwood City Police Headquarters is in a new building east of 101 behind KMART. I think the area on East Bayshore near San Antonio Road would be a great place to put a new headquarters. Those existing buildings are very old and not up to spec. The occupancy keeps turning over. It is also in proximity of the PA Services location so that increases the value as to parking and storage of police vehicles, etc. Of course the buildings would have to be raised up for potential flood control.

3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Put it out by the Baylands, then when people actually go out there they will realize how loud and stinky it is and do something about it. Plus there are other City facilities out there, and it is cheaper.

Then ... instead of a bicycle bridge, build an actual bridge over to the developed part of the Baylands with bicycle lanes on it and help everyone.

Maybe keep a small satellite station downtown, maybe in the Post Office.

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

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