News

City opts for lighter touch in new Baylands bridge

City Council rejects jury's recommendation, picks slender design

Palo Alto's design competition for an iconic bike bridge leading to the Baylands reached a dramatic and surprising conclusion Monday night when the City Council overruled a jury of architects and selected a subtle, slender structure over a prominent span with a red arch and an indisputable "Wow!" factor.

After a long discussion, hundreds of submitted comments and nearly 20 speakers, the council voted 7-0 to choose a design favored by local environmentalists over the one that was chosen as the winner by an architectural panel during the city's design competition.

With Mayor Karen Holman and Councilman Greg Scharff absent, the council directed staff to begin negotiations with a design team consisting of Moffatt & Nichol, Steven Grover & Associates, Lutsko Associates, Jiri Strasky and Mark Thomas and Company to build the new bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

With an estimated price tag of $10 million, the bike bridge at Adobe Creek will provide south Palo Alto residents with year-round access to the Baylands.

In deciding to move ahead with a design contest for the new bridge last year, council members made it clear that they were looking for an "iconic" structure that would proudly announce to passing vehicles that they are now passing Palo Alto. Yet in its Monday deliberation, respect for nature trumped the desire to dazzle. With its earth tones, a slender shape and a lack of supporting cables, the Moffatt & Nichol bridge was the darling of the environmental community, with members of the the Sierra Club, Acterra and the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society all favoring it over the more dramatic design proposed by the HNTB Corporation, 64 North, Bionic Landscape Architecture and Ned Kahn.

The HNTB bridge, a curvy span with a prominent arch and a lattice-work of shimmering cables, was widely acknowledged as the most dramatic and eye-catching of the two. That helped it win the design competition in December, when a jury of architects chose it over two other finals (the Moffat & Nichol structure and a third design inspired by a kayak). Members of the city's Architectural Review Board and Planning and Transportation Commission also gushed ecstatically about the arch, arguing that it comes closer than the other designs to meeting City Council's "iconic" criteria.

But even though Moffat & Nichol didn't prevail in the contest, it ended up winning the council's support. With the overwhelming majority of public speakers supporting the Moffat & Nichol bridge, the council debated the merits of both designs before choosing the subtler approach. Once built, the span will stand out as one of the most dramatic and expensive components of the bike and pedestrian plan that the council approved in 2012. The city has already received $8.3 million in grant funds for the project, with city funds making up the balance.

Councilman Eric Filseth acknowledged that the arch design is "more dramatic" and makes for a "stronger statement" when considered outside the context. But for him, much like for most of his colleagues, context was paramount. He pointed to the commercial development happening in neighboring communities and predicted that in 20 to 30 years "what will be really distinctive in this part of Palo Alto is not the architecture, but the absence of it." The gem here, he said, is "the Baylands and not the bridge itself."

"What's unique is open space," Filseth said. "Our natural landscape will be more dramatic and iconic than anything you can make out of glass and steel."

Councilman Tom DuBois said the decision boiled down to "whether the bridge should be the hallmark, or the Baylands."

"I tend to think it's the Baylands," DuBois said.

Many of the speakers from the environmentalist community focused on the issue of bird safety. HNTB maintained that the metal disks installed in the bridge's cables would divert birds away from the structure, thereby mitigating any danger.

Shani Kleinhaus, environmental advocate with the Audubon Society, said she wasn't convinced. While the disks work well for power lines, allowing birds to fly over the lines when they see the disk, they may be less effective on a bridge, where the disks are surrounded by a lattice of cables.

"We're asking you not to do something with a bridge that divides the community instead of bringing it together," Kleinhaus said. "It doesn't have to be a bridge that imposes such a huge urban presence on our Baylands."

The issue of bird safety got the council's attention, with Councilman Pat Burt initially proposing having staff conduct an independent analysis to see if HNTB's mitigation is adequate. Yet, in the end, it was not the decisive factor. What swayed the council was an overarching sense that the real draw should be the Baylands, not the bridge leading up to it.

Councilman Cory Wolbach noted that the jury's decision followed what was largely an "architecture contest." The council, he said, also has "other criteria it has to consider." Councilman Marc Berman made a similar point and said the Moffatt & Nichol design "fits better" and is "more respectful" of the environment.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid agreed, saying that while bird safety is a big issue, it is "not the most important for me."

"The place is," he said. "We are proud of the Baylands. It is one of three, at most four, spots on Bayshore Highway where you actually have a full view of the Baylands and beyond them and it is a valuable resource. And I think the towering arch bridge is a distraction from the openness."

Not everyone favored the lighter touch. Judith Wasserman, a former chair of the Architectural Review Board and the chair of the jury that picked HNTB's design, urged the council to go along with the jury's recommendation.

The city's process is "strange" and "nonstandard," she said, in that it didn't conclude with the jury's recommendation. Instead, both the winning team and the runner-up ended up making their case directly to the council after all the reviews were conducted.

Palo Alto's process with the bridge is "extremely unusual" and possibly "unprecedented," Wasserman said, in that in requires two teams to "come out here and duke it out in public." She said she was "appalled" by the turn the process has taken.

"What you have is these two teams trying to sell you a bridge," Wasserman said.

Several other speakers also urged the council to respect the process and the jury's recommendation. Local resident Kirsten Daehler said she liked "the beauty" of the HNTB bridge.

"It looks like DNA. It looks like innovation and inspiration," Daehler said.

But Dierdre Crommie, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, took the opposite stance. Speaking for herself and not the commission, she said she does not believe the bridge should be a "destination."

"I think it should be a mean of access to the Baylands that integrates into the Baylands" Crommie said "That's true to our heritage as a city."

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, a leading proponent of having a "landmark" bridge leading to the Baylands, initially went with Wasserman's recommendation and proposed accepting the HNTB design. But after receiving no support from her colleagues, she ended up voting with the majority on the Moffatt & Nichol proposal.

Though the council ultimately reached a different conclusion than the jury, council members were quick to defend the extensive process that got them to the finish line.

Proposed by Holman, the contest drew interest from 60 teams and culminated in 20 submissions, which the jury ultimately narrowed down to three before choosing HNTB. Burt credited the process for netting "at least two exceptional designs," with the one more sensitive to the context ultimately prevailing.

"I think the community was provided two exceptional designs, and I think the process in that sense did work very well and it will benefit the community greatly over what we might have had as an alternative over the process," Burt said.

Comments

19 people like this
Posted by Seth
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:08 am

There was n data offered about any danger to birds though there was plenty of time to get info on whether this was a real problem or not. And why is it a good thing for freeway drivers to look at the bay lands instead of where they are going on this crowded freeway? We lost a rare opportunity to have a terrific bridge because of the irrationality of environmentalists and anill informed council. what a shame. And it would have cost the same as the far less interesting choice. We think we are so smart - not.


50 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:13 am

The design competition resulted in the selection of a beautiful bridge that is better suited for the location. Thank you City Council for focusing on the true Palo Alto gem - the natural environment of the Baylands.


50 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:45 am

Time for debate is over. Now lets get this bridge built as soon as possible! I would really like to have a safe family-friendly bicycle route over the freeway before the tunnel under the freeway closes for next winter.


10 people like this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:01 am

If truly respecting the baylands were a priority, then we'd do something about Highway 101's ever-expanding girth. Pollution, noise and runoff from automobiles does far more to damage the baylands' health and our enjoyment of it than a tall bridge vs a squat one.

I used to commute on E Bayshore bike path daily. Now, with the extra lane on 101 I'm glad to be out of that even noisier corridor. I can imagine the birds and other marsh creatures enjoy it any more than I do.


43 people like this
Posted by context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:15 am

A major breakthrough occurred at last night's Council meeting - the notion
of "context" in rejecting the arch bridge. That is exacty what has been missing these last years in Palo Alto. That is why our residential streets are signed and painted like commercial zones, and residential collector streets are turned into cut-through arterials, and neighborhoods turned into parking lots and our Downtown has been treated like an industrial park on 101, and the ARB approves a Cheesecake Factory on University Ave, and
Shady Lane is forced out by yet another proposed four story underparked building. Filseth in using the word "context" as a guiding principle just did the new Comp Plan for the City. This concept now has to be extended to every aspect of decision making in zoning, design review, and the new Council majority needs to keep the momentum of last night going. Finally a City Council,sensitive, responsive,looking at the big picture, listening to the public. What the Council said was as important as what they did.


30 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:20 am

I agree with context; it is refreshing to see them make a decision that went beyond just appearances. Now let's get it built, with careful planning of the entrances and exits.


27 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:20 am

Seth:
There was overwhelming evidence that the arched bridge would be a hazard to birds. Dr. Christine Sheppard of the American Bird Conservancy, provided an expert opinion letter and even wrote to the designers:

"I do think you have reason for concern. Birds have poorer contrast sensitivity than people, and those narrow cables could be as good as invisible to them – which means that even if they avoid the reflectors, they could well simply avoid a reflector and fly into the adjacent cable.

"Without knowing more specifics about habitat and bird populations and movements in the area, it is hard to be more specific, but just knowing it is in Palo Alto makes me think you could have a problem with waterbirds and shorebirds during the day."

An expert from the local Audubon Society wrote several letters to the council, which you can find online in the council packets.


15 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:45 am

Typical
egomaniacal bloviations of elected officials circumventing a process they themselves established.
Why advertise design criteria, form a selection committee to judge the concepts just to shoot them down after the selection had been made?
At least establish a re-compete with your new "enlightened" criteria.


15 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

Another illustration of the futility of participating in any city "engagement" process. The council appointed the jury. Its members gave their time and diligently fulfilled their task.

Then the council abruptly and casually trashed it all.

I had hoped the new members on that dais would bring a new, citizen-oriented perspective. I want my votes back.


Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:27 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:55 am

All this discussion about the process, iconic bridges, context, and the Baylands, but what about the users? I have always thought that Google employees would be the main users of this bridge since the bridge connects Google properties on East Meadow Circle and West Bayshore Road with Google's headquarters and campus in Mountain View. Google wrote a letter to the City Council that was received by the City Clerk less than an hour before the meeting that said Google preferred the bridge design the Council ultimately selected "based on the user's point of view ... due to its smoother flow for bikes and the way it combines separation of bike and pedestrian uses with pedestrian stairs on the west side [that] allow a convenient shortcut for those who choose to use them." There is one other reason why Google's preference is important: All three bicycle bridge options cross the parking lot of Google's property at 3600 West Bayshore Road and require Google granting an easement for the project to use Google's property.


4 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

"There was overwhelming evidence that the arched bridge would be a hazard to birds. ... Birds have poorer contrast sensitivity than people, and those narrow cables could be as good as invisible to them..."

Geez, and for years I've marveled at how nimbly birds fly among all those slender little twigs in treetops. Somebody needs to give them the official word.

The irony, the irony. While we tenderly twitter over our local birds, we effusively congratulate ourselves over the "green" killerwattage we import from certified bird-slaughtering windmill farms. But those unfortunate mangled birds, the collateral damage of our studiously blind narcissism, are far away and out of sight.


6 people like this
Posted by Building Bridges
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

Isn't it bad process to pick a bridge design before understanding the cost of building it? Wouldn't it make more sense to put both, or all three designs, out to bid, and pick the least expensive option?


12 people like this
Posted by Midtown MarthaLee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:25 am

c'mon, jeeez, build it already! We've been waiting TOOOO LONG!!


6 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

I watched the CC meeting last night and I was impressed by the presentations and the Q&A. As to questions about the process, Berman and others clarified that it was known from the start that Council would choose which bridge would be built so the debate last night was not a case of Council ignoring the effort put into the process by the jury, staff, and the design teams.

Another observation: there were only 7 Council members on the dais last night and the meeting ended at 11:30. That's still late, but the meeting would have lasted longer with 2 more speakers.


24 people like this
Posted by Gail
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

I agree with Context. If only the city would pay as much time and attention deliberating the worthiness of all the hideous buildings being proposed and built in other parts is PA. The ARB is one of the city entities that is destroying the beauty of PA.


9 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm

If the City Council is truly concerned about the Baylands, it will take immediate action to clean it up. The new and recently beautiful landscaping along outer Embarcadero and the water treatment plants is already choked with tall grass and weeds. It was bound to happen if the wrong dirt was put in. Then there is the outer Baylands and the so-called park with the hideous centerpiece - piles of concrete. Is that a monument, and if so - to what?? The iconic Boardwalk is falling in the water, and the "Interpretive Center" needs a lot of help. Foothill Park has decent public facilities e.g restrooms.The Baylands facilities are dreadful and an embarrassment. And yet MILLIONS of dollars were put into glamorizing City Haul and the Council Chambers. Fix up the Baylands and do it now. Ten million for a bridge?


4 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Are the side rails open (as appears in picture 3)? Please, are there some kind of enclosures or barriers to ensure safety?


1 person likes this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:08 pm

"Berman and others clarified that it was known from the start that Council would choose which bridge would be built so the debate last night was not a case of Council ignoring the effort put into the process by the jury, staff, and the design teams."

Yes it was a case of Council ignoring the effort put into the process by the jury, staff, and the design teams, and our inimitable Berman was crowing over it. The guy's got no tact, but he's refreshingly upfront. [Portion removed]

Council's attitude as expounded by Berman and citizen participation are mutually exclusive. If city hall wants meaningful citizen participation then it has to keep its end of the bargain and respect the efforts that citizens put forth at its request, give up at least some of its ego, and delegate a modicum of authority.

Yeah, I know the council has sole legal legislative power. But it can choose to exercise that power by ratifying the reasonable outcome of the hard work that willing citizens performed at its request, or it can flaunt its ego directly in the gullible volunteers' face and diss them as it did last night.

I want my votes back.


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Question - why is the ramp leading to the east side of the bridge facing only south? If a bicyclist is heading south on West Bayshore, do they have to bike past the bridge then make some kind of U-turn to get on to the bridge? If they are heading north on West Bayshore, will there be a stop light or something to allow them to cross the street to get to the bridge? Speeding cars are a big problem on West Bayshore, so we need a safe family-friendly route to get to this bridge.


6 people like this
Posted by Cubberley Neighbor
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:13 pm

No mention of the structural engineering design/integrity, or lack thereof? Much of the pedestrian bridge budget will dictated by an adequate structural design.
Agree on cleaning up, funding and staffing the Baylands as a real park and asset to the community. Unbelievably neglected.


1 person likes this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm

"the council directed staff to begin negotiations with a design team consisting of Moffatt & Nichol, Steven Grover & Associates, Lutsko Associates, Jiri Strasky and Mark Thomas and Company to build the new bridge over U.S. Highway 101"

Did they really begin negotiations to build a bridge? Didn't they really begin negotiations to complete a design?


6 people like this
Posted by Pay Better Attention
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

@ Deep Throat;

Sorry to pop the balloon you have invested so much energy into but the letter from Google supported Option C - the Option supported by the Council last night.


22 people like this
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 12:54 pm

News flash: Palo Alto stops construction of huge bird net over freeway.


19 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I am marveling at what a better-functioning City Council we have now. Thanks to all, including Shani Kleinhaus, for hashing out the best solution.


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Last night - When the process to get to the jury selection was described I had to wonder how much has been spent already - all of those world wide judges are compensated for their time. This sounded like a huge vanity project. I had to gasp at the grandiose description of this process - like we were building a major museum project. We are not the Presidio Trust.

How much has already spent to get to this point?

And thank you to the PACC for taking charge of this situation.
Corey - elected to make decisions - not rubber stamp what unelected people are doing - look at the bigger picture.

Marc - good for you - appreciate your dogging this through.

Yes - there is a process which the participants should be thanked for - a lot of work went into this - but I suspect that the participants had a great time.

Thankfully the right decision was made - the birds are happy, the people all ages on bikes are happy, the hikers and walkers are happy. Can't wait until the bridge is started.


33 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I guess Council must read the posts written by residents on this forum. Opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of a scaled down utilitarian bridge in place of a "statement." Good for them (for a change).


1 person likes this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Tell me again why we had all of these design teams go through a "competition" if seven city council members were going to completely change the criteria and award the bridge contract to the team that did NOT meet the initial criteria. So much for ethics - I am ashamed and embarrassed by this city "process."

What a ridiculous waste of time and effort. I wouldn't be surprised if someone sues.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:19 pm

This is the bridge design I liked from the beginning and of course I am pleased that it won.


However, that is not the reason for my comment.

I think that next time we need a bridge or a fountain or something similar, we should get away from a "competition" with votes from the public on which we like unless we (a) take into account the actual cost of the project (b) how long the actual project will take to come into fruition and (c) any other information that is actually relevant to the project.

I really do not remember any mention of bird safety until this last week.

The competition was announced some time ago and with all the voting, debating, various groups having their say, we have had a long period of inactivity.

I would like to see some urgency to necessary projects and a realistic time frame for things to happen. Mitchell Park was long overdue. El Camino Park is still not completed. How about getting things done in a timely manner become a priority on our next project?


15 people like this
Posted by Adobe Meadower
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:24 pm

I'm glad the council took responsibility for the decision. The contest generated great ideas, but ultimately the council must decide on expenditures like this. And the impact to palo altos reputation as thoughtful environmental advocates.

Thanks to shani klienhaus for helping to get this in front of our council and making sure we all understand the responsibility we have as stewards of the baylands.


21 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

20 submissions were narrowed to 3. Of these 3, the runner up was selected last night by the City Council. As pointed out by some council members, the final decision is the councils, and the design competition provided ideas and beautiful designs.

yes, the jury made a recommendation (which was not unanimous). But this recommendation proposed to mitigate bird safety instead of designing for bird safety. The council selected a project that embraced all the design principles, rather than focus on some and mitigate the adverse impacts on others.

As a result of the competition, Palo Alto will have a beautiful bridge that will be safe for humans and for birds.

Thank you City Council for insightful deliberations and a wise decision.


10 people like this
Posted by Pay Better Attention
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

@ Ridiculous

The "recommendation" by the "jury" was presented as a "close call" so the Council''s decision was between two meritorious project designs. So what is the big upset that would lead to a lawsuit? If anything, the Council's choice is less likely to face legal hurdles through the CEQA and NEPA processes and thereby more likely to to completed in a timely manner.


16 people like this
Posted by margaret
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm

the review committee produced the set of finalists...congratulations to them...

then the public had the final say in which one is best for everybody...

well done, all!


Like this comment
Posted by Truthseeker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Truthseeker is a registered user.

While I prefer the low-profile design ultimately selected (don't really care, actually), I have a problem with the process. It appears to me that the council did not make their criteria clear; until this meeting, the council members did not really know what they wanted. The designers who won the competition but lost the vote obviously met the criteria they were handed. They may have done things differently, if the requirements were different. Since it is a reality that customers usually don't know what they want until they see something concrete, software development has gone Agile/Scrum with iterative design. Our city should have followed a similar process here before all this time and money was spent by the competitors and the jury.


19 people like this
Posted by margaret
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm

an interesting question is why the city managers office dropped the ball and allowed the bird killer through in the first place, given that bird friendly was a criteria in our baylands bridge requirements...

would have saved everybody a lot of effort if city manager paid more attention


19 people like this
Posted by birdloverPA
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I am SO glad that they chose to prioritize the community over the architects. I only wish that this has been part of the original design requirements - might have saved some hard feelings - but I'm thrilled that they woke up to the fact that our Baylands are the special place that we want to highlight, not another man-made structure. A win for nature and wildlife!!


20 people like this
Posted by nicechoice
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I think the city made a good choice. It goes better with the history of Palo Alto and emphasizes the Baylands natural beauty. The real standout for me was the fact that this design had a separation between pedestrians and bicyclists.


11 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:09 pm

It became clear last night that the "jury" had been advised numerous times by the various environmental agencies on the bird concern but they did not pursue it. Audubon, Sierra Club, etc. This topic did not just appear last night - it was always there and not discussed. Remember - birds will win every time, as well as salt water march mouse so pay attention if you cross them.


22 people like this
Posted by Well done
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm

The recommendation of the "jury" is consistent with all the other incompatible, grandiose, oversized structures they consistently approve.
Wasserman was on the ARB for years and tended to praise those big inappropriate buildings, and vote for them. Now she did it again.
The speakers and the council itself were a pleasure to watch. Erudite and concise.
Congratulations, City Council and bravo to citizen speakers!


14 people like this
Posted by Pleased
a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Fantastic decision and a surprising one too. The city council is to be commended for leaning toward the true star of the show--our carefully preserved and cherished natural spaces. Well done!


Like this comment
Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:07 pm

What ever the bridge, I suppose they will ruin it with those ridiculous bike barriers.


Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

@Paly parent,
"Are the side rails open (as appears in picture 3)? Please, are there some kind of enclosures or barriers to ensure safety?"

You're right -- thanks for pointing that out.

Please send your comment to the City Council. If that aspect needs to be fixed, it will need to happen soon. I agree with you, there should be enough of an enclosure so people don't go off the edge into traffic, particularly where momentum would carry them that way. (Speaking as one who was in an accident and went over the handlebars.)

city.council@cityofpaloalto.org


8 people like this
Posted by I ride a bike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:50 pm

After they build the bridge I plan on riding over it on my bike.


11 people like this
Posted by Aleks
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Go Council! Love the design chosen, and the idea of "context".


2 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

The last time the Bay Area wanted a signature design, we ended up with the disaster that is the East Span of the Bay Bridge.

Not sure how this will end up any better.


6 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:38 pm

While I am pleased that the City Council selected an appropriate design, it does not escape me that the City Council started the fiasco by requesting an "iconic" design in the first place.

There were a lot of mistakes in terms of setting priorities, defining requirements, determining process, and selecting reviewers. Hopefully, some lessons were learned.


15 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:57 pm

There are hundreds of pages of documents available that would answer many of the questions posed here, though I understand why most people don’t have time to read them.

> “Why advertise design criteria, form a selection committee to judge the concepts just to shoot them down after the selection had been made?”

From Design Guidelines: Web Link
Design Principle 4: Conservation - incorporate state-of-the-art bird-friendly design science and guidelines and develop innovative approaches to management of native and non-native predator species.

“Due to the sensitivity of the project to impact on nearby bird populations, a cable (supported) steel structure is discouraged…. The potential for birds to fly into the cables is a concern.”

> “The council appointed the jury. Its members gave their time … “

Council did not appoint the jury. They contracted with AIA to manage to “draft design criteria addressing cost, site constraints, design type and vision; and … recommend and recruit potential jurists.” Web Link=

> Council “can choose to exercise that power by ratifying the reasonable outcome of the hard work that willing citizens performed at its request …”

There were no citizens on the jury. Press release on jury selection:
Web Link

> “Wouldn't it make more sense to put both, or all three designs, out to bid, and pick the least expensive option?”

Of course! If you tell bidders you have $10M to spend, the odds are they won’t come in with something cheaper.

> “… why the city managers office dropped the ball and allowed the bird killer through in the first place, … “

The city manager had nothing to do with the selection process.

> “are there some kind of enclosures or barriers to ensure safety?"

Yes. Of course. See Web Link

"Although the preferred outcome would be for the Council to agree with the jury's determination of the design competition winner, Council will have the option of selecting any of the three designers, or of deciding that the City should move forward with a solicitation for design services independent of the design competition results.” Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm

I agree with the choice, and with Council's rationale in making it. I think the process was very effective in generating interesting, effective designs, and presenting them in a way that made it possible for people to share informed opinions about them.

It's not surprising that Council's focus changed somewhat. The competition was launched by the previous Council.


14 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Loved listening to all the speakers from the jury and bridge top two finalist teams to the public speakers and even the Council, too. That was some high entertainment. Kudos to the all the environmental advocates. My favorite comment of the night was from the lady in the yellow jacket from the public who deadpanned for the best laugh of the night, as I recall, Palo Alto has enough "ego" already and doesn't need a big landmark bridge like the jury winner arch to puff it up more. Second favorite was Council Member Filseth arguing the Baylands will be more important to the future than what any bridge to it looks like. Whowza! A paradigm shift - with a unanimous Council vote! - for the old town last night.

Now, let's tackle the sinking walkway to the Bay at the Baylands..... and it can be just a repair, not a new design.... please?


8 people like this
Posted by Bambi Lynn Ware
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:27 pm

As a resident of PV neighborhood, I am thrilled to hear that the PA City Council choose a simpler bridge structure. Palo Alto always has enough "buzz" going on as it is without developing a lavish structure that would mimic the Taj Mahal. More important is that we now have a City Council who is LISTENING to the majority of people who live here. What a refreshing change. It's great to see the civic process working the way it should be. With the way things had been the past few years, I had lost hope in my ability to influence anything in this town. Thank you for making a sound rational choice for our neighborhood.


2 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:36 pm

pat,
Thanks for your comments.

I'm afraid my service is just too slow and the boards don't load - can you please describe the safety measures so bike riders are protected? I don't want to bu council with a letter if it's a non issue. Thanks


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2015 at 6:34 am

Yes, Greenacres, much of the design presentation was developed for large format lobby posters, very large files not really suitable for display on a computer monitor.

Safety measures dictated by the State and Feds are more worried about the effect that falling objects would have on motorists below. Here's an item from the City's design criteria: "Minimum fence (missile barrier) height (over Highway 101 and the frontage roads) 8 feet".

Not sure what's planned for the ramps outside the frontage roads, but State regulations I've run across require a minimum 42-inch railing height.

More problematic is the separation of pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge. The arch design had two paths at different heights completely separated by a fence. An attractive concept. But the rendering showed a jogger on the bike path, and may well have shown toddlers on tricycles on the pedestrian side. Our spectrum of users is not a strict dichotomy. The selected design offers a softer solution of a two-inch height difference between pedestrian and bike paths, with a sloped transition, not a vertical curb. This allows continuous accessibility of the entire 16 to 19-foot width by all users, while discouraging mindless wandering. No matter what we do, some reliance must be placed on user courtesy. This concept apparently has been successful on several other overpass projects.


3 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 7:37 am

Typical PA whiners. It's a bridge, get over it. I don't want people to have a say. The council are representatives, make a decision and get it done. Too many people think they have a right to comment about everything. Case in point. Democracy paralysis.


4 people like this
Posted by sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 8:13 am

It is a great decision.

Respectfully


16 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:09 am

City Council, thank you for thoughtfully listening to residents and for selecting the more modest design. It will protect birds and provide safe access to the Baylands. I look forward to riding my bike to the Baylands.


7 people like this
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:27 pm

A beautiful, appropriate choice. Thank you City Council.


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Posted by gentrifieddeadbirds
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Palo Alto builds statement bridge for Google, birds hit bridge, fall, and cause accidents on freeway below... nice job city council!


6 people like this
Posted by Lori Hobson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Thank you to our neighbors in Palo Alto for selecting the bridge that would be safer for the birds. I am grateful. The "rejected" bridge was more beautiful than the "selected" one, but nature's design of a bird is spectacular. Thank you, thank you.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 12:57 am

This looks good, it is low-key, yet still graceful and easy to negotiate.

I am still concerned about the process of putting a given price out there for a bridge and then getting proposals? That just seems to have no connection to the money that is being spent. Who thought of that and why? Was there an actual reason ... and is there any way to know how much the bridge is going to cost to the builder and how much is profit, and is it exorbitant. That is not the way any of the government entities I've ever worked for did business.

I'm not a stickler for "low-bidder", but how do we know if we over-paid, how much, or doesn't anyone in Palo Alto worry about that any more? When the California budget crisis hit us all, this kind of extravagent living was one of the reasons. Is it too much to ask the City to be frugal, if not parsimonious with our money. We should have people smart enough to save money and get great results. Instead we seem to have the opposite and no one has learned from the recent past.

I assume we are keeping the old bridge at Oregon? Maybe for the price of that one bridge if we had been cheap we could have gotten that one renovated as well.

Oh well, get on with it!


1 person likes this
Posted by judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:21 am

@CrescentParkAnon: The bridge at Oregon is not code-compliant. It is not accessible to wheelchairs, which means also not for strollers or other wheeled objects wider than a bicycle. It is technically not a "bike bridge" either, since cyclists have to dismount and walk around the barriers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Well done
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2015 at 3:12 pm

>cyclists have to dismount and walk around the barriers.
This is an inconvenience but hardly a reason to dismiss that bridge. Red lights make motorists stop and sit around, very inconvenient. Should we advocate getting rid of traffic lights?


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Judith, I am not crazy about the Oregon "foot" bridge. It is much better than nothing, or trying to ride or walk one's bike over 101 at any of the overpasses. It was built at a time when we did not have all of the thoughtful regulations to assist the handicapped.

In case you did not get the gist of my comment I was implying that it would have been nice to upgrade that bridge as well, meaning that spending too much money on this bridge makes that less unlikely.

When I look at the bridges over busy arteries in Mountain View, I have ridden over all of them all a lot and think they all look nice and appear to be done at a reasonable cost. All of them are wheelchair accessible and work well. I don't know why we could not have something like that ... surely 20 million or whatever this cost could have, maybe should have gotten us at least 2 bridges so bicyclists do not have to ride all across Palo Alto to get to the Baylands ... which is really the other direction from this bridge. Apparently this is a Google bridge as someone said. I hope Google paid for some of it?

I was trying to refrain from my usually critical take and look on the bright side, but the bright side of the City of Palo Alto's decisions tends to be a little dim. But this is a nice looking bridge, even if the fluff around the sides is a little foo-foo! ;-) Being in Crescent Park, it will take me a while to get over there to cross if I want to use it, but I look forward to it. There is the bridge spanning 85 for the Stevens Creek Trail ... I wonder how much that one cost? Anyone know?


4 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I am glad the City Council overruled the jury's decision. I think history will show that the council ultimately chose the more interesting and innovative design. I think the Architectural Review Board was out to lunch on this one if they couldn't appreciate the subtle elegance and sophistication of the more slender design.

Palo Alto doesn't need phony landmarks to proclaim itself another "innovation economy city" and whatever other hyperbolic TED Talk catchphrases it likes to lather itself in. Palo Alto is supposed to be above and beyond that. Think about the designs Palo Alto is most famous for such as the Eichlers and you will find restrained, elegant and somewhat introverted designs. Yes technology is wonderful and bridges can do the darnedest things but at the end of the day so what!

I like the way the more slender bridge is designed as an extension of the Baylands. Who cares what people see as the drive along the 101. The purpose of the bridge as it serves the park should provide the most advantageous means of experiencing the park and it's relation to the rest of our built environment. It feels like a natural extension of the environmental art of Byxbee Park from the 1990's.

It's encouraging that the city was willing to consider 20 submissions for the design of this one pedestrian bridge. It shows what can be achieved when you open your minds and don't close them to forgone conclusions about what is possible. In contrast look at the approach the city took to the design of grade separations and bridges along the Caltrain / future HSR right of way.

Palo Alto concluded no berms or elevated structures could possibly be considered because everything will look like a "Berlin Wall". I know the engineering demands of an elevated 4-track ROW and pedestrian bridge are significantly different but they all present their own unique design challenges and opportunities for creative and beautiful solutions. At the very least Palo Alto should open this up as an international design competition to actually learn what is possible vs. listening to just one group of people bribe them that if they "can't afford the tunnel they will be cursed with a Berlin Wall".


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Posted by brian marsh
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2015 at 8:55 am

I think they are both great designs and either one would be a joy to have in this location. They are very different I'll grant you that, one being cable stay and the other being a giant cantilevered beam, but both are innovative in design and engineering. In fact, all three were innovative and had value. Having seen the three options I think its a matter of personal preference as they were all better than expected.

The winning design will be a wonderful experience for bicycle traffic with its curving plan and low key approach. The arch was designed to impress motorists, and who needs that in a bicycle bridge!


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Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

The objection to the cable bridge design on grounds of being a bird flight hazard is quite the stretch. Birds have very good vision and avoid wires whether wires are on a bridge or overhead electric wires. The environmental alarmists made a bigger deal out of this, more for their own recognition than any thing (my opinion).


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

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