California Avenue construction now set for 2017 completion

City prepares to replace glass shards with 'injury-free' rubber surface

Editor's note: Happy April Fools' Day!

In what some might call a Public Works mea culpa, Palo Alto officials are embarking on a new $7.2 million streetscape project to transform California from a loud, bustling shard-infested "destination strip" back into a quainter, quieter, kid-friendlier street geared toward local neighborhoods.

The project includes as some of its major components the increase in driving lanes from two to four, a traditional "bird-bath" water fountain, a narrowing of sidewalks and the replacement of recently installed glass shards in the sidewalk with a thick rubber surface billed as "injury-free" by Public Works staff.

"It's a little frustrating starting a new project just after completing the prior one, but our first and foremost concern is the health and safety of the community," said Brett Angles, assistant director of Public Works.

Mayor Karen Holman and the City Council will usher in the new project with a "ground breaking" event on April 7. Business leaders, neighborhood activists and various dignitaries will be on hand to sink a golden shovel into the recently repaved sidewalks on California Avenue and dig up the glass shards that were embedded last year as part of the project.

The new streetscaping project was sparked by growing citizen outrage over what's become known in the community as "Shardgate." The tumbled glass that was installed into the sidewalks last year by the city's contractor, Corona Fish, Tacos and Construction Services, was determined to be defective and has already resulted in four lawsuits against the city. Two of those cases involved bare-footed children who suffered lacerations from playing tag on the recently expanded sidewalks. The other two involved a stumbling rollerblader and a Pomeranian with a bloody paw.

Donna DeVito, a former member of the California Avenue Merchants Association, first flagged the flaws with the shards six months ago, when she brought to a City Council meeting a jar filled with colorful glass bits that had disengaged from the sidewalk. She warned at the Sept. 26 meeting that the tumbled glass fragments will result in injuries and lawsuits.

"I don't know who thought it was a good idea to install sharp pointy objects into the sidewalks, but this is a scandal! We're literally walking on broken glass!" DeVito told the council.

The city responded to her complaints by applying a slurry solution to the damaged glass bits, hoping that the cement mixture would neutralize the jagged glass edges. That, however, did not have the intended effect. After the slurry settled, the shards continued to protrude, prompting the council to undertake a more radical solution.

In approving the new streetscape project, the City Council acknowledged that things haven't gone as planned on California Avenue since 2009, when the city first began its ill-fated quest to turn the strip into another University Avenue.

"The message from the residents has been loud and clear," said Councilman Pat Burt, a frequent shopper at California Avenue. "The city is changing too fast – there too much construction, too much activity. This is a rare chance for us to restore order and turn one of our most cherished business districts into the whimsical, eclectic and painless street that it was two years ago, before we dug it all up the first time."

Mayor Karen Holman agreed and quoted one of her favorite German writers, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.

"In the wise words of Goethe, 'Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.' " Holman said. "Our foremothers and forefathers decreed many decades ago that California Avenue should be a scaled down, neighborhood-serving, shard-free strip and I think it's incumbent on us to honor this decision."


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1 person likes this
Posted by Itoldyouso
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

[Portion removed.]

Hah! What did I tell you -- in this very space, just last year. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Who needed wider sidewalks, no birdbath fountain and a narrower street with slower traffic? Not us.

23 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:23 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

Joke today, could become truth tomorrow! (^_^)

5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:39 am

I was just down on Cal Ave. and the jackhammers are already breaking up the glass chard sidewalks. This must one of the first times in City history that it actually started a job early...maybe it will even finish on time!

One of the workers had a picture of a hot babe in a bikini taped to his jackhammer. How are these workers vetted?

Just another example of boutique projects gone wild. Who cares about $7M here and there?


10 people like this
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:50 am

California Street, which we have walked and shopped on for thirty years, was never, ever a "crowded,loud, shard-infested destination" until the Palo Alt0 City Council decided to get involved. It was a peaceful, sleepy, charming residential tree-lined street, with small businesses, cafes, retail and thrift shops, a florist, bookstores - walkable, restful and unspoiled. First came the cutting down of the old trees, to be replaced with skimpy little bits of green that have yet to provide any shade - then, the ongoing closure of small, beloved businesses and restaurants which could no longer renew their leases, the constant din and upheaval of drills, machinery, barricades, lack of parking spaces near the merchants, noise, dust --- an absolute disaster for all concerned. Merchants have lost business, residents have been deprived of a pleasant, peaceful place to walk and shop, and now we are told that -- "sorry, unforeseeably, this must continue for another year or two". Shame on the City Council for being so blind as to think that they could "improve" on something that was quite alright as it was. It is quite obvious that some people are benefiting from all this, but it certainly is neither the merchants or businesses or the residents who used to enjoy California Street before this madness began.

5 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:10 am

The way things are going, the 2017 completion date may be pretty close to reality.

3 people like this
Posted by Tax Lady
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:20 am

This must be what was named, The Palo Alto Way!

10 people like this
Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:28 am

Chill folks. It's April Fool's Day.

4 people like this
Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:38 am

LOL! You had me for a second-- hahahaha

4 people like this
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Though an April Fool's Day ruse, 2 pieces of truth are in this article:

1) The statement attributed to the fictitiously named "Donna DeVito" who told the council: "We're literally walking on broken glass!" is TRUE. I know, because she is me. That stuff is not tumbled & polished; it's sharp.

2) The quotes by Goethe & Mayor Karen Holman in the closing paragraph are wise concepts, no matter if it was they that actually wrote or said each. Council needs to hear that wisdom, as The Elected Body where The Buck Stops.

I read into this article thinking it true, right up until the mention of the April 7th groundbreaking for the new and improved Streetscape, before realizing today is April 1 and that this was a joke.

But only because there was no news of an entirely new project and I know the city could never act that fast. So on the one hand, mine is a funny testimony about this article. On the other hand, it's pathetic.

For the record, rubber sidewalks do exist. Let's hope THE DATE on the headline to this Spoof Article does not come true.

7 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I know it's April Fools Day but the glass shards are no laughing matter. Cal Avenue looks awful. Ugly little trees offering no shade, mismatched pavement, less diagonal parking and ugly new light fixtures. Even the width of the sidewalks looks out of scale. Poor quality of workmanship, too. It's all wrong Someone at city hall needs to be fired over this debacle.

10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:02 pm

The funny thing is... this is actually a good idea, and probably the only thing that would prevent Cal Ave from turning into another chain-store infested strip-mall over the next 5-10 years.

2 people like this
Posted by catmomleonorilda
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Yes, it IS April Fools' stuff, but... let us remember that this fiasco was never the brainchild of the current city council. Place the blame squarely where the blame is due.

All California Ave. ever needed were a few more trees and some benches, not a colossal waste of $7 million putting in place sparkling shard-filled sidewalks, narrowing traffic down to 0 mph, creating levels of noise and dust pollution that are intolerable, and driving the long-held independent businesses in the area into the ground.

Why not use $7 million where it is REALLY needed? We can all think of those needs right off the bat, and "beautifying California Ave." surely does not come to mind.

2 people like this
Posted by MM
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Working in this neighborhood, I was appalled by the headline--and then remembered today's date about one paragraph into the article. Happy April Fool's!

7 people like this
Posted by sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm

One could only wistfully hope that this was a true story...

Like this comment
Posted by Rena
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 9:07 am

Really, this reads like an April Fools joke.

Like this comment
Posted by Rena
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 9:59 am

Aha - yes, part April Fool's, part true. Meanwhile, I'll defend the right of construction workers to put stickers on their jackhammers. Are we about to "vet" construction workers on their sticker preferences in order to have feminist-friendly guys tearing up our streets?

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

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