News

Palo Alto weighs clashing visions in choosing bike bridge design

Environmentalists call for low-key solution; architects favor 'iconic' structure

Should Palo Alto's new bike bridge preen proudly over Highway 101 like a welcoming landmark or accept a supporting role as a gentle backdrop to the marshy Baylands ecosystem east of the highway?

That's the question the City Council will wrestle with on Monday night, when it considers the design options for the new bridge, a $10-million structure that would go up at Adobe Creek and offer residents of south Palo Alto a new year-round pathway to the Baylands. The bridge, which is one of the most ambitious components of the city's 2012 bike and pedestrian plan, was the subject of a design competition that netted three finalists and, ultimately, one winner: a design team consisting of HNTB Corporation, 64 North, Bionic Landscape Architecture and Ned Kahn.

In reviewing the HNTB design, members of both the jury and architectural review board lauded its sweeping arched design, which they felt was most consistent with the council's appetite for an "iconic" structure. Judith Wasserman, a former architectural board member who chaired the jury, voted for the HNTB bridge, though the decision several minutes of anguished soul-searching.

Like others, Wasserman said she was torn between the arched bridge and a slimmer, less showy structure proposed by the team of Moffatt & Nichol; Steven Grover & Associates; Lutsko Associates; Jiri Strasky and Mark Thomas and Company. With its lower profile, a ribbon shape and a self-supporting design, the bridge won plaudits from every board that reviewed the finalists and finished second only to the HNTB proposal. Looking at the options on the table, Wasserman said one can "throw darts and it would come out good." She said she was "torn between the iconic business and the Baylands-flowing business," before finally choosing the former over the latter.

Her colleagues on the jury faced a similar struggle and went through several rounds of deliberation before voting for the HNTB design over the Moffatt & Nichol one. Jury member Sam Lubell, West Coast editor of The Architect's Newspaper, called both designs "excellent" and said "either one would be a good choice." It was only after Robert Gooyer, vice chair of the architectural board, pressured him to make a decision that Lubell went with the arched design.

"I love the span, I love the floating element," Lubell said. "I love how it connects to the environment. If I have to go with my gut and what's going to really answer all the questions, I'm going with the arch one."

Gooyer also said he favors the arch, as did ARB Chair Randy Popp, who had a chance to weigh in on the subject during the board's Jan. 15 discussion of the topic. Popp expressed some misgivings about the subtler design from Moffatt and Nichol. Though he called it "slender and sleek," he wondered whether it will be uncomfortable and "move all over the place."

The Planning and Transportation Commission, which reviewed the finalists from the design competition, was full of praise for the three designs (in addition to the arched and ribbon designs, the group also included a structure shaped like a kayak that finished third in the rankings) but largely agnostic when it came to making an actual choice. Commissioner Michael Alcheck said it's "hard to go wrong with either of the choices" and Vice Chair Adrian Fine said Palo Alto "would be lucky to have any of them."

But if the architects are leaning toward the arch, the environmentalists are pulling for the ribbon. The Santa Clara Audubon Society and the local chapter of the Sierra Club co-signed a letter this week calling for the council to select the less showy alternative. The arched design, they wrote, "prioritized an approach likely to harm birds in flight, emphasizing visual drama rather than a graceful transition to the low scale and open space of the Baylands." Both groups endorsed the Moffatt & Nichol proposal.

Shani Kleinhaus, an environmental advocate with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, expanded on these concerns in her January comments to the Parks and Recreation Commission. She called the ambitious HNTB proposal "the most hazardous to birds because of its size" and because of its "incompatibility with nature." She suggested that the reflective disks that HNTB proposed to install on the cables of its bridge may not be effective at night.

Alex Von Feldt of Acterra struck a similar note when she argued that the ribbon design best reflect's Palo Alto's ethic of "respecting the land, where man-made structures should be sub-serving, especially in a setting lit this with the beautiful Baylands around." Former Councilwoman Emily Renzel also threw her support firmly behind the lower-profile proposal. Renzel called the other designs "exciting" but said they would be a "huge distraction from the beautiful natural areas that we have there."

"Also, they're not consistent with the idea of just enjoying that natural area rather than to be distracted by being in the McDonald's arch or whatever," Renzel told the Parks and Recreation Commission on Jan. 15.

Renzel also said she was concerned that placing sparkling disks on the bridge cables (as proposed in the arch design) would distract drivers and make the highway less safe.

"It's secondary to my concern about having a profile that fits with the concept of Baylands which are low and flat," she said.

Officials from the environmental groups Acterra and the Committee for Greeg Foothills co-signed also criticized arched design, which they argued is "not in keeping with this locality."

"While the dramatic arched cable suspension system would provide a striking architectural statement in a more urbanized area, it is out of place out next to the Bay and as a gateway to the tidal marsh preserve," Joanne McFarlin, a senior ecologist at Acterra, and Alice Kaufman, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills, wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to the council.

Though the two groups didn't endorse any of the options in their letter, they requested that the council is in keeping with the Baylands and "will not pose potential hazards to the birds for which the Baylands Preserve is famous."

On Monday night, the council will weigh these arguments against the recommendation from Public Works staff and the jury to proceed with the arched bridge. In a new Public Works report, staff noted that the HNTB proposal "has been designed to give the users an experience of looking up at the arch, artwork and sky before drawing their attention to the Baylands natural setting or Adobe/Barron Creek confluence and the congruent touch-downs of the trail systems."

"Based on community, board, and commission feedback, this design is an identifiable landmark optimizing artistic expression and the separation of cyclists and pedestrians along their route to work, school and to recreational destinations," the report states.

Related content:

Art commissioners favor arch design for new bike bridge

Bike bridge designs wow Palo Alto commissioners

Jury takes a bold stance on new Palo Alto bike bridge

Comments

34 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:37 am

You have to be realistic. This bridge is spanning an ugly, smelly, noisy freeway. People are not going to linger, they want to cross it as soon as possible to get to their destination. Just build whatever can be finished the soonest. The city badly needs a family-safe pedestrian/bicycle freeway crossing at this location now, not 5 years from now.


47 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

A bridge over a highway is a bridge over a highway. It is not Sydney Harbor, the Golden Gate, or London Bridge. It is a bridge over a highway which should be invisible to the occupants of the traffic underneath.

Make it as simple as possible, with separations for pedestrians and bikes, and suicide nets.


32 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:52 am

Take a look at the ped/bike bridge that spans 101 near Foster City / Redwood Shores. The bridge construction is simple and utilitarian. However the fence design has a wave pattern (and a bright blue color) that makes the bridge look fancy without wasting tax dollars on a design that is over the top.

Please just do that and get on with it.


5 people like this
Posted by larry
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

This is Palo Alto. We are a special beautiful city, not the average. This is another chance to make Palo Alto more beautiful. Go for the arch!!


2 people like this
Posted by Archie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

Love the arch!

There is a precedent: Berkeley has a nice arch over 80 that has become a bit of an icon in its own small way.

And something Cal can do, Stanford can always do better.





42 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:52 am

Architects used to follow the rule that "Form follows Function". Now it appears that our ARB and Judging jury are reversing that rule. I agree with posters above who support a bridge that gets people across the freeway simply and safely. There were four criteria and two of them related to being compatible with the baylands environment and wildlife. The "Arch" proposal is neither. And, in my opinion, it's a major traffic safety hazard. I hope the City Council will reject that grandiose proposal and adopt proposal C which is low key and much more in keeping with the Baylands environment. Remember, the "Arch" bridge will not only be seen by commuters and bike riders...it will be seen from all over the Baylands -- a very urban artifact intruding visually on a natural open space.


13 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

I think you are wasting money if you use the super arch - and it will take too long and involve too many agencies. It is like employing a whole lot of people that will also require some approval by the Caltran people.

I am on the Stevens Creek trail a lot and there is one bridge after another. That is the busiest bike trail ever - Lots of apartments along the way with people biking to work in Shoreline Park. It is almost a bike speedway in the morning. All of those bridges are bike bridges.

Suggest you create a nice bridge as suggested above with a colorful wave siding and then put a separate bridge further down between Embarcadero and San Francisquito Creek. Have two bridges at each end of the city instead of one.


2 people like this
Posted by Archie
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Totally respect Emily and all she has done for the Baylands. Really awesome.

I guess I just have to respectfully disagree. She refers to it as an "urban artifact", call it what you will, and what I am saying is a bit counterintuitive, but sometimes it is better to celebrate something like that, rather than trying to hide it. No point in trying to deny that it is there and it is a bridge by trying to make it "low key."

Its function is to bridge a natural space and an urban space, and its form actually follows that - the fact that it may be visible from afar provides a visual cue to walkers and riders who are exploring the city and the baylands that there is a way to get from one side to the other and they aren't two separate divided places.


14 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Yay, McDonalds Arch, to go with all our McMansions!
For those against the design, this is a made-to-order derogatory monicker to use.

While it has its merits, I now see the arch design as an attractive nuisance -- inevitably someone on city council will want to hang a big sign on it. And if they don't, someone else will -- we've all seen ad hoc banners hung from overpasses. This web of cables is just too tempting.


2 people like this
Posted by ABridgeIsABeautifulThing
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I will be happy with either - they are both great designs.

But I do differ with other comments:

* Because it is "just a bridge over a freeway" does not mean that it cannot be beautiful and inspiring. Just look at the Mary Street Bridge over I-280 at CA-85. I love seeing it every time I drive under it.

* I also love the blue waving fence on the bridge at Rawlston Avenue and 101. If the flat ribbon bridge is chosen, it will almost certainly require a larger barrier than its current design drawings show. So we know that it is possible to do something attractive.

* IMHO the reflective disks will not interfere with drivers or make US-101 less safe. I do not know, however, if they will be effective at diverting birds. I would like to know some estimates of quantities of birds which fly that low over US-101.

* As to the arch wasting money, both designs had to work within the same budget. The estimated construction costs are quite similar (I had the numbers, but they are not handy now; most likely on the PA City web site)

* As to hanging signs on the web cables, the 'dont jump off' fencing is designed to prevent climbing, which should keep signs off the cables. Regardless of the design chosen, both will be subject to the same kind of sign attachment to the cage wiring as the bridge at Embarcadaro and all the other bridges that have jump barriers.

* I do agree that, once the design is chosen, we should proceed with all due speed. This has taken long enough to get done.


21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Show some restraint - and fiscal responsibility, as well. Certainly an attractive and functional bike bridge can be built for less than $10 million. It makes no sense to have Palo Alto's architectural "statement" be a bridge across highway 101. I'm glad we didn't give Liz Kniss $20 million to play with. I fear what that result would have been.


25 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:37 pm

At the 1-27-15 meeting of the Parks & Recs commission, Commissioner Knopper said, “I think it would be important moving forward to meet with stakeholders like the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, organizations that work, study, live, breathe, eat saving and conserving the creatures that would have the greatest impact for this particular structure. … The bird issue is something that I would have experts in the field really flesh out to figure out what kind of material would work best, so we don't hurt anybody in the process. When I mean anybody, I mean feathered people.” Web Link

Commissioner Crommie said, “25 percent of the criteria has to do with bird safety, integration into the ecosystem. There's no way you can ignore that.”

At that same meeting, Irene Steves, speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club said, “The Conservation Committee unanimously agreed … a signature bridge that incorporates aesthetic design features that pose peril to wildlife is a bridge signature that a progressive city such as Palo Alto should have no part of. We see in Options A … unjustifiable and unmitigable risks to birds.”

And Shani Kleinhaus of the Audubon Society said, “ … those reflective things that are supposed to mitigate the problem, will probably be not effective. During the night, you don't see anything and birds migrate during the night. That's the time they fly. Only the largest birds actually fly during the day. Most of the birds fly at night. … almost all the shore birds fly at night. Those are the birds that will fly through there. This is a real, huge risk to them. The other thing is those disks have not been tried.”

In fact, a member of the bridge design team said of those disks, “There would be many steps to determine their reflectivity and their durability.”

When it comes to bird safety, I put my trust in the opinions of our local experts like Emily Renzel. These folks know the Baylands – and they’re not trying to sell us a bridge.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Re fiscal responsibility:

One of the Design Goals is to “Design a cost-effective project…”

Back in 2011, staff estimated the cost of the overcrossing to be between $5.4 million and $9.4 million. It’s now been rounded up to $10M.

All quotes below from Web Link

“Each team did their own cost estimating. We didn’t look at the cost estimates. We didn’t see actually the cost estimates as they were done. We just got information that they met the budget. I believe I know I felt and I believe most of the other jurors felt that the, that the budget itself was pretty thin. If you think that building a house in Palo Alto costs $1 to $2 million that building a bridge for $10 including the contingency is asking a lot. So we figured if they met the budget that that was good enough for us. And that we didn’t get details on the budget. What we got was assurances that it was within the guidelines.” Judith Wasserman, Chair of Design Competition

“At this conceptual stage, we still asked for cost estimates. All the design teams did that. They were roughly in the $8 million range, which included a 10 percent contingency. The jury also thought that the numbers looked adequate. We don't have engineering drawings, but we did ask for the teams to have design experience. They had to have designed and constructed a bridge in the last ten years. The staff feels and the jury felt that the estimates were okay for now. We'd need to get more cost information later on. Once you do engineering drawings, you know how deep the piles or columns need to be. At 35 percent design roughly is usually when you get a solid estimate and can verify the numbers. At this stage, everybody is saying it's roughly in the $8 million range.” Senior Engineer Elizabeth Ames

“When I was speaking to the VTA Board, I envisioned a very simple bridge that's cost effective, safe, and simple. None of these are. I looked at them, and two of them under the submissions say construction costs are likely to increase. I know that's true. I'm the daughter of a civil engineer. It's not going to be $8 million on any of them.” Parks & Rec Vice Chair Markevitch: “

“All the designs do have a big risk on money. I agree with Pat [Markevich] that it's unlikely that any of the designs could be built for $8 million. I'm not sure if the Council wants to get independent people to look at that and price it out or if they can start the process and make decisions along the way. … If it is only $2 million over, then we are getting some value. I worry that these $8 million bridges will become $16 million by the time they're built.” Parks & Rec Chair Reckdahl


21 people like this
Posted by ironic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm

The same mentality that gave us Lytton Gateway touted as a landmark, statement building at the rail entrance to Palo Alto, likes this similarly out of place, out of balance, overdone, insensitive to it surroundings, arch bridge at the Baylands entrance to Palo Alto. Emily Renzel is right - reject it. At the same time we shouldn't lose sight of the the extreme irony of this sudden concern for design of this bridge in a city which
approved The Cheesecake Factory on University Ave, and in which aesthetic
values have been completely absent.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm

The arch rendering shows a vee of geese(?) that has just flown through.
Maybe it's the perspective. At least they acknowledge the presence of birds.


3 people like this
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm

"Take a look at the ped/bike bridge that spans 101 near Foster City / Redwood Shores. The bridge construction is simple and utilitarian. However the fence design has a wave pattern (and a bright blue color) that makes the bridge look fancy without wasting tax dollars on a design that is over the top. Please just do that and get on with it."

+1. Crescent Park Dad is spot-on.


35 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:52 pm

People need to get over this "we're special because we're Palo Alto" baloney. It's a bike bridge over a freeway. Make it as nondescript as possible and keep to a tight budget. Who are we trying to impress?


25 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Stop giving lip service to the design criteria for bird safety. Pick a design that will impact birds the least as long as it isn't much more expensive. I care much more about birds than another costly "statement" of Palo Alto's leadership.

My impression is, from the discussions above, is that a bird-safe bridge will be simpler and cheaper than the current alternatives.


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Have you folks who love the Belmont pedestrian bridge actually used it? That bridge is awful. It is much narrower than other recently built bridges over the freeway so 2 people cannot walk side-by-side without blocking oncoming traffic. The bridge is curved as it crosses the freeway and the tall solid fencing on both sides creates blind spots so you cannot see if anyone is coming towards you. The only good thing about it is that it is not very steep, so wheelchair and stroller users don't have too much trouble, unlike the existing Palo Alto bridge at Embarcadero Road that is a wheelchair obstacle course and bans bicycle use.

Bridges like this really have to be designed with user safety and functionality in mind, not by asking people who will never use the bridge.


18 people like this
Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Nix the arch. It is as grandiose and nonsensical as the horrible nouveaux riches mansions that are defacing our beautiful Palo Alto. Where was the design review on those outsized and hideous constructions?


15 people like this
Posted by long-time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:34 pm

I like the one that blends in over the one that announces the people riding over are worth robbing.


1 person likes this
Posted by long-time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:36 pm

"unlike the existing Palo Alto bridge at Embarcadero Road that is a wheelchair obstacle course and bans bicycle use."

That's ok, the City has been engaged in building practices so hostile to the disabled in recent years, we won't have any living here soon.


19 people like this
Posted by long-time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:40 pm

"It's now been rounded up to $10M. "

And we didn't have the money to buy a $6M orchard in the middle of an area that has all the schools on that side of town and no community space, really?

Go with the cheap one, and make the Baylands center a new and beautiful place to visit again.


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:18 pm

This being Palo Alto I'm betting on the Arch with LED's flashing to different patterns at night. In the daytime, maybe mirrors to keep the birds off that can spell the words "Palo Alto" from the air.


24 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm

The arch design violates the guidelines for the design competition. The rules stated that the maximum height allowed is 35 feet, while the arch is 89 feet!! The rules also stated no cables, but the arch has cables. How can the judges choose an entry that violates the rules of the competition?? They apparently decided it looks nice and that is more important than integrity, honesty and the safety of birds. If the City Council chooses an entry that breaks the rules and endangers birds I expect lawsuits from the Audubon Society and from the other entrants who complied with the guidelines.

Let's see the City Council show some moral fortitude and respectability and abide by the rules of the competition, and not be swayed by those who make decisions based solely upon appearance.


Like this comment
Posted by Archangel
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Arch!


7 people like this
Posted by Mountian bikier
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:25 pm

JUST MAKE IT WORK, WITHOUT WASTING MY blood/tear/$#*t drenched money...
Wrestle with the Gunn/Paly suicides, not this.


Like this comment
Posted by Yes!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Arch!


7 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:15 am

One comment caught my eye:

>> * As to the arch wasting money, both designs had to
>> work within the same budget. The estimated construction
>> costs are quite similar (I had the numbers, but they are not
>> handy now; most likely on the PA City web site)

If the costs are all the same, that is a way to rig the game.
In REALITY, the plain bridge has got to cost less, so the
builder is probably making more money.

The more "engineered" bridge HAS to be more expensive
with individual metal parts as compared to the cookie cutter
approach, so it's hard not to intuit that the different companies
are making different profits on the different designs.

If that is the case, I suggest that all the builders now should
have to submit their own cost estimates and that we choose
the lowest one!

This RFB, "request for bridge" process was thought out
very carefully with a destination in mind before it hit builders,
and tit was not the Baylands, it was taxpayer money.

A generation ago I probably would not have minded that,
except that now the political-economics of all these things
is regressive, and the wrong taxpayers are paying the brunt
of costs, and when those costs are not minimized the
average person is who is dinged for that.

STOP THIS PROCESS .... GO BACK AND GET BIDS ON ALL
THESE BRIDGES, AND CHOOSE THE LOWEST BID!


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

@Donald -- the most comprehensive design guideline document I've found is at Web Link --
95 pages; 8.4 megabytes. Includes all the maps, geology, seismic hazards, liquifaction potential, and the kitchen sink.

On page 33, first paragraph, there is the item: "Due to the sensitivity of the project to impact on nearby bird populations, a cable-stay steel structure is discouraged."

But I found nothing about maximum allowed bridge height, other than not conflicting with the overhead power lines, which are sufficiently south of the proposed bridge span. Any pointers? Just curious.


9 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:55 am

musical, look at page 34 of that document, at the bottom:

"Limit unnecessary vertical elements east of Highway 101 near the Baylands by maintaining a maximum height of 35 ft from ground level to the top of the east ramp structure, which is consistent with the average height of adjacent tree canopies and buildings. Limit potential vertical towers associated with a signature bridge design to West Bayshore Road, and to a maximum height of 65 ft (consistent with highest allowable building elements according to adjacent zoning)."


5 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

@Recycle

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) report 12/10/14 under "Cost" for Submission A:
"This is an efficient structure and requires a structural model for a cable-stay bridge. This adds considerable cost to the design assuming that the bridge is approximately 95 feet by scale..."

Design Guidelines:
“near the Baylands…a maximum height of 35 ft from ground level…consistent with the average height of adjacent tree canopies and buildings.

Limit potential vertical towers associated with a signature bridge design to West Bayshore Road, and to a maximum height of 65 ft (consistent with highest allowable building elements according to adjacent zoning)”


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:56 am

Wow -Donald and Musical - you are doing a great job. When a city puts out a bid and defines the parameters of the job then that is the criteria with which the job gets awarded. If we do a "regular" bridge then I think we could get two bridges at each end of the city. Some design work on side - waves to show birds that the bridge is there.

If you walk the Stevens Creek Trail you will encounter every type bridge going over highways, streams, railroad tracks, etc that are all super bike friendly with curving ramps going up / down or stairs.

Mountain View is moving all of the young techs by bike from one end of the city to the other - that is a bike freeway with plenty of space for walkers
and I do not think it took much time for them to put this all together.

At the end of September is the Stevens Creek Run which starts at Microsoft in Shoreline so it is all part of the restoration of the creek - a goal we are trying to accomplish here. The Trail is supported by the city when more people use it and the creek is maintained better with higher use.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:46 am

Yikes. Good eye, guys. Thanks. Makes me wonder whether the Planning and Transportation Commission read the guidelines. But I didn't offer myself to serve on the PTC, so I can't really throw rocks at them. Who is volunteering to help city council "wrestle" (Gennady's word) with the design options on Monday night? A few emails are probably insufficient. If I got more sleep I'd be having dreams about herding cats.


4 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

The Title of the story should have been" "A bridge divides Palo Alto design selection from the community"


7 people like this
Posted by Vasundhara Kandpal
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:23 am

100 millions of birds in USA die each year due to collision with buildings.

Aren't the buildings enough or now you want to raise the bird killing bridges tooooo!!!!




5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:00 am

Imagine being a raptor searching intently for a mouse while floating over the open hills on a gentle updraft, when suddenly a 200-foot turbine blade comes out of nowhere. Even more fun is finding yourself over a solar furnace farm, and getting fricasseed. "Streamers", is the evocative word for that "green" collateral damage.


23 people like this
Posted by Stanley Johnsen
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:01 am

One does not have to have a very long memory to recall large public works projects in this City that were seriously delayed and over-budget because of endeavors to make it "extra-special". (Think Mitchell Park Library, California Avenue,...) How about if the city just adopts a reasonably simple design that accomplishes the goal of getting folks over the freeway without trying to out-do every other town around.


17 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

@Stanley....your suggestion just makes too much sense for the people making the decisions on this. Great post !


12 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I also "vote" for a functional, non-unattractive yet simple, bridge design and I would prefer two bridges as I reside near Embarcadero Rd and would use a bridge nearby to the Baylands. I think an overly grandiose, arched design may have unintended negative consequences as a distraction to drivers on 101, too.


14 people like this
Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 4:40 pm

I've lived here (Menlo Park five years and Palo Alto almost fifty) for a long time, and this may be one of the craziest ideas Palo Alto ever considered. This is a bridge from A to B - the Baylands. How many people will actually use it- daily or monthly or yearly? No, it is not Sydney Harbor, it is not in competition for an international design contest, it is not fiscally prudent, and it may very well be a hazard to birds. It will be an 'eye catcher' to motorists which is not a a good-driving safety idea. Please, go back to the drawing board and find one design that is already acceptable and sensible. ....and use some money to FIX UP the deteriorating Baylands. Spend $10M?? Ridiculous. Fix the Boardwalk. Fix the Interpretive Center. Dump this over-the-top bridge idea.


12 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm

>> use some money to FIX UP the deteriorating Baylands.
>> Spend $10M?? Ridiculous.
>> Fix the Boardwalk.
>> Fix the Interpretive Center.
>> Dump this over-the-top bridge idea.

I agree with Mary. If this city's leadership was thinking
practically we would probably not be having this discussion.

It is not like Palo Alto is in such great condition that we can
afford to toss money away on things. If some totally
private entities want to dress up their town, if people agree
then fine; but in whatever proportions and from whatever
sources this is public money and needs to be managed
more wisely and less whimsically.

Some Palo Altans may love to spend like Palo Altans,
but our City government should be spending like a city
government.


9 people like this
Posted by ironic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:48 pm

This concern for design of a bridge is a slap in the face of every
resident. Our City government has methodically and knowingly destroyed our neighborhood character and streetscapes with signs, paint, cut-through traffic, parking overflow from underparked buildings in giveaways to developers, created traffic gridlock, transformed the Downtown into
an office park with loss of local business, and on and on. The City has been
oblivious to all of this and kept piling on with more and more of the
same, never even calling a time-out to assess the situation. But the design of this bridge is hugely important.


12 people like this
Posted by Misplaced Priorities
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:02 am

Where are the priorities in this town?

To all the people who still want to make a landmark out of this bridge... who do you imagine is going to derive enjoyment and use out of an "iconic" design over a basic one? Definitely not me: if I'm going to the Baylands, I want to be there as fast as I can, not waste my time admiring a man-made structure over a noisy freeway.

And for the drivers who love looking at other "iconic" designs while they're driving: in 5-20 years, everyone in a car is going to be looking down at his or her smartphone as their self-driving car goes down 101. No one is going to be taking in the "sights" between Embarcadero and San Antonio Road.

How can the council and so many citizens still be focused on these artsy pet projects when there are real 21st century issues that need to be addressed?
Why aren't we working to attract Google Fiber or other ISP's? The fastest land speed I can get is less than 10Mb/s for over $50.
What are we doing about the congestion that will only increase as the living and working populations on the Peninsula increase? For example, the dangerous twice-daily bottlenecks in front of Challenger School and First Christian across from Midtown Safeway, just to name two cases out of hundreds, could be ameliorated by good old fashioned engineering with a turnout, a traffic light, or any number of other practical ideas.
What are we doing about affordable housing for the thousands upon thousands who work in low-wage service industries to support rich residents?
What are we doing to ensure that these improvements are going to actually take people out of cars and onto bikes to go to the Baylands?
What are we doing about suicides? Evidently the combination of actions taken since 2002 have been very ineffective.

Instead, residents and council members love to waste all of our limited time and money by engaging in silly debates about essentially-utilitarian structures that they want to transform into landmarks and by getting their knickers in a twist when a Chinese family builds a two-story house next to their decrepit, 60's era relic Eichler.

There are other real issues of import that will affect how well Palo Alto attracts and retains residents in the next decade than these incredibly worthless non-issues.

This town and its economic success were built on substantive ideas and endeavors: technology and education. Now, people seem to have grown fat and lazy and focus their priorities on making pretty concrete by adoring it with glass shards.

Stop trying to make Palo Alto look good and start trying to maintain the real edge we have over neighboring communities that are hard at work trying to funnel our success to their jurisdictions.


3 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:44 am

What are we doing about WATER?

From a friend at Stanford: "Thinking outside the box is what made Stanford and Silicon Valley what they are today: arrogant, pretentious, overachieving, overcrowded, and overpriced."


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Posted by Arthur
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm

We need a bridge across the freeway that is safe for pedestrians and bicycles. Whether a design competition for this bridge was a good use of time and money is last year's debate. The bridge design was decided, so why are we taking this back to the City Council?

Is it because the architects of the losing design(s) are having sour grapes and still trying to win? MOVE ON! Get this lovely bridge built. They've already agreed to lower it to fit the guidelines, they've already addressed the bird safety issue.

Just. Move. On.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

It is Gorgeous.
The problem is it is over a major freeway which is already plagued with distracted drivers

We need a river to span with it, not a roadway


2 people like this
Posted by Archangel
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2015 at 5:21 pm

A remarkably designed structure is what made Sydney Harbor picturesque and famous, not vice-versa.

God gave us a highway,not a river. Building a river so we can put a bridge over it costs way too much, so we have to make the best of the road we got.

A pedestrian bridge does not necessitate a pedestrian design. We got much too much of that kind in this town already.

If arches were good enough for the Romans, they're good enough for Palo Alto.

Go Arch!


3 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Re lowering the bridge: The wires and cables would still be a danger to birds.

Then there’s a cost issue. From 12-17-14 ARB meeting, page 57:
Steve Burrows, one of the jurors, said, “On the cost, … I think less might be more in that if you think about spanning 300 feet and you use a height of 60 feet, you have a ratio of 1:5. If you try to do it with a low rise structure that's 15 feet, you have a ratio of 1:20. You will find that that ratio is really important. You'll have to put a lot of structure in that 1:20 to make it work. Just because it looks bigger doesn't mean it costs more.”


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Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 9:14 pm

SteveU,

The bridge over 280 just south of 85 is beautiful and eye-catching, and I have not heard of a disproportionate number of distracted drivers/accidents there, have you?

Pat,

Glad you agree that the already-chosen design does not necessarily mean higher coast. Steve Burrows is right that the cost is not obvious based on the design.

The bird issue is a red-herring. The chosen design is not dangerous to birds.

Lets. Move. On.

I think enough experts have weighed in now to say the design will not negatively impact birds - read the thread and links.


5 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2015 at 9:40 pm

musical, Thanks for the work with Donald to expose the Arch plans busting height limits and for the chuckle from your "Yay, McDonalds Arch, to go with all our McMansions! For those against the design, this is a made-to-order derogatory monicker to use. "

I'm thinking if the Arch is built with the flashy disks on the architect's plans thanks to proximity to the Baylands and need for wildlife mitigation, we'll have a disco party on the old Bloody Bayshore every "dawn and dusk"... just when "driver's vision" is the worst and "distracted drivers" become "aggresive drivers" in our "gridlock" leading to "road rage".

Yep.... those eight hours I had to do of traffic school thia month are paying off.

City Council, please vote for something within budget and without hazards to drivers or wildlife. Or even better, stockpile the money to restore the natural creekbeds and build bike/pedestrian tunnels at each one across Highway 101 so we can we older folks need not climb up and over cars. San Jose is doing that at Guadalupe River and Mountain View for Stevens Creek. What are we waiting for?!


8 people like this
Posted by Aleks
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Another vote for the simpler bridge. 2 for 1 would be ideal. I'd be happy with something I could ride over without getting off my bike.

My personal preference would have been to make the existing tunnel more usable. If it was closed for 4 weeks a year, and there was a web site displaying tunnel status, I would not even need the bridge. My lack of desire to head to Baylands coincides with the rainy weather.

As is, the tunnel has been closed since December, and we've barely had any rain. Every time I ride over the Page Mill bridge, I get mad at the city for not letting me through a safe tunnel for 4 months. Then I thank them for the extra exercise.


4 people like this
Posted by Aleks
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm

PS: wish the extra money would be spent on better connection between Meadow and bridge entrance. Getting to the bridge on Fabian is not very nice, or kid-friendly.


9 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:14 pm

I went up 101 today to look at other bridges. 3rd in San Mateo - straight forward type bridge - you barely see it which is good. Willow street bridge and Foster City Bridge - a little bit more fancy. The Bottom line is that a straight forward bridge is all that is needed - them the remaining budget can be spent to fix up the Baylands facilities.
Our job should be to get the best bang for buck.


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Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

The decision on the new Adobe Creek Bridge has already been made. I must question why the already-made decision is being put before the City Council, unless City Council believes Staff has erred in their process.

Come to think of it, it's a pretty sure bet that staff made mistakes - they always do. It's the Palo Alto way!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:26 am

Abbreviated preview of this evening's City Council meeting schedule:
6:00-6:40 usual preliminary stuff
6:40-6:45 Consent Calendar
6:45-8:30 Comp Plan Update Status/Discussion
8:30-9:45 BRIDGE REVIEW and AUTHORIZATION TO PROCEED
... this is Action Item 6, with about a dozen attachments -- Web Link

Committees and Commissions and Boards have already made their comments.
Public comments are "on-going". I guess that's us, but we are late to the party.

The following is HNTB's rebuttal to the height and cable issues:

"A concern has been raised regarding the competition’s desire for a solution that is not cable-stayed and minimizes height, specifically as it related to towers, in the Baylands. Our arch is in fact the only proposal that is not cable stayed, with no cables in the Baylands, with a maximum height of 18’ in the Baylands, well under the prescribed 35’. Importantly, the design is the only proposal that avoids towers in the Baylands, eliminating roosts for raptors which prey on the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and other related species."


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Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 8:46 am

I wonder how much due diligence has been put into validating the structural integrity of the designs, and the actual cost of building each. At first glance, the Moffatt & Nichol design (flat ribbon) looks awfully light on structural support, and I wonder if the design would have to change (and require more $$$) when it was time to actually build it. I'm much more confident in the HNTB design's (Arch) structural integrity.

How are we guaranteed that these designs are cost-efficient and final? Do we have any construction bids to accompany these designs? Palo Alto does not have a good track record of thinking through projects before plowing into them...


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:25 am

There are bike / people bridges all up and down the 101 corridor. How hard is it for the "staff" to call those cities - and their supposed counterparts - in the respective Transportation Committees and ask how much their bridges cost. This is not rocket science and that information should be easy to obtain - if it is a city to city call.

I suspect that there are a number of local companies that construct the bike bridges on a regular basis. That information should be publically available - city to city.

Possibly Caltran has that data but suspect that it needs a city call from a city official since this is a competitive in-process bid process. We should request that information so that we all know how this stacks up with existing bridges.

Possibly the Weekly could call Mountain View / Sunnyvale / Menlo Park, Foster City since they are a recognized paper.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2015 at 11:24 am

@Move On -- I believe your questions are exactly where we are at. Council's decision tonight is how and where and who to proceed with the more detailed "due diligence", design confirmation, and basis of cost estimates.

We'll see. Rest assured that no shovels will come out before 2017.


5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm

I've not followed this issue closely but reading this article I was reminded of the California Avenue fountain competition. I sometimes wonder why the decision makers solicit opinions. If stakeholders like the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Conservation Committee were consulted on this design and advised against it and on top of that it is much more costly than anticipated, why is it still under consideration?

If you won't accept the answer, why ask the question?


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:10 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

The bird issue is a

Red Heron

:)


8 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm

@resident1 - yes, there are other pedestrian bridges over the highway, but most of them are awful. Don't use them as guidelines. Most have dangerous or difficult access points (eg, crossing busy streets that most parents won't let their kids do by themselves). Most are too steep or narrow for wheelchairs or are full of dangerous obstacles and blind curves. Apparently because it is so dangerous, Palo Alto explicitly bans bicycling on the Embaracadero bridge (including children), which is currently the only safe non-car route from the city to the Baylands.

I am shocked that all these news articles only talk about how pretty the new bridge is supposed to be without talking at all about usability. How can we design a bridge so it can be safe and usable by all of the city's residents?


12 people like this
Posted by Annie S.
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2015 at 3:49 pm

The bridge is needed, no question. Costs for capital improvements projects usually go up, again I get it. BUT, we need to protect the flyway that this area serves for the many birds that commute as well.
I have lived in Santa Clara county for decades since 1983 and our area since 1989. What I have learned is that according to the Bay Area Open Space Council, there now remain only two large "urban" open spaces for nature, the Palo Alto Baylands and MV Shoreline Park. That's it for the bay side of Santa Clara County. ( I am not referring to the hills.) Let's not make life harder for the birds flying through.
Alternative A ain't it. It actually reminds me of a wannabe tilted Golden Gate bridge but that's just me. Let's be bird safe. We need nature.


1 person likes this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 16, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Keep it simple and as reasonably priced as possible. Creating a extravagant landmark over a freeway is both stupid and dangerous.


2 people like this
Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Design "A" was chosen for many reasons other than it's visual appeal. "A" has the best utilitarian use being wide enough to comfortably accommodate pedestrians and bicycles in physically separate pathways. "A" is a tried and true structure - unlike the "innovative" mixture of two other structural types that have never been used before. "A" will not add more fill to the Baylands (removing wildlife area). "A" is safe for birds.

Design "A" won the competition 4-1. This discussion is only being had because the Design "C" team didn't like losing and is raising a bunch of hogwash and noise to try and re-open the competition THEY ALREADY LOST.

Typical Palo Alto - if you can't win on merit, then lie, cheat, steal until you "win."


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:04 pm

> Typical Palo Alto - if you can't win on merit, then lie, cheat, steal until you "win."

Is that what it is you are doing?


2 people like this
Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

@CrescentParkAnon.:

LOL! "I Know you you are but what am I?"

Wow, seriously sore losers in this town!


4 people like this
Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:43 pm

@parent:

Exactly. Design "A" is the best option for people who will actually use it. It provides separation between pedestrian and bicycles, with plenty of room for both. Anyone who studies the details of the designs, and the feedback from the "jurors" tasked with choosing the best design, knows that the right choice was made with "A."

I suspect most people commenting on this "story" have not idea of the facts, they are just responding to the "article." Look at the first paragraph:

"Should Palo Alto's new bike bridge preen proudly over Highway 101 like a welcoming landmark or accept a supporting role as a gentle backdrop to the marshy Baylands ecosystem east of the highway?"

The first paragraph alone sets this discussion up to be about looks, and not cost, safety, utilization, or anything else.

"A" is the best design when taking ALL things into consideration, but unfortunately, most people reading and commenting are only commenting on "preen proudly over Highway 101 like a welcoming landmark or accept a supporting role as a gentle backdrop to the marshy Baylands ecosystem east of the highway?"

What a disservice to our community that we can't have actual "news" articles rather than polarizing opinion pieces. But the latter sells more advertising than the former.


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Posted by Move On
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Um, where did CrescentParkAnon.'s comment go? They must know someone to call at the PAWeekly to delete comments they wish they'd never made...


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:14 am

Took 3 hours to make the decision.
Lots of interesting discussions.
I'll let Gennady write it up.


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

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