News

Palo Alto moves ahead with 'urgency' law to protect retail

Interim ordinance would ban conversions from retail to office

With Palo Alto's shopping centers thriving, its sales-tax revenues rising and its downtown vacancies virtually nonexistent, a visitor might be startled to learn that the city is going through a retail crisis.

But with several local retail establishments recently shutting down to make way for offices, city leaders agreed on Monday night that the problem of retail loss demands an urgent response. To that end, the council voted 7-0 to pursue an "urgency ordinance" that would immediately prohibit the conversion of ground-floor retail to offices in all commercial districts.

In addition, council members agreed on Monday to pursue a more long-lasting solution in the coming months, including new ground-floor requirements at peripheral downtown blocks, a revised definition of "retail" and a limit on chain stores around California Avenue.

If things go as planned, the council will vote on the urgency ordinance on May 11. If the ordinance gets support from eight of the nine council members, it would go in effect immediately and remain active for 45 days, with an option to extend it for up to 22 months. Unlike normal ordinances, it does not require a hearing in front of the Planning and Transportation Commission, an environmental review or a 30-day waiting period to give opposition a chance to challenge the new law.

The unanimous vote on Monday all but assures that the council will be able to meet the high threshold for passing the urgency measure.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, who was present for most of the discussion but left before the vote, said she would support the emergency ordinance that was later embraced by her seven colleagues.

Councilman Tom DuBois, who was absent, has often talked about protecting retail and is also expected to support it.

Ironically, the loss of retail is a symptom of downtown's economic success. Rising rents have pushed several restaurants and shops out of downtown and California Avenue, with the roster of the recently departed retail operations now including Shady Lane, University Art, Jungle Copy, Bargain Box and Avenue Florist.

Councilman Greg Scharff, a leading proponent of requiring more sections of the city to have ground-floor retail, cited the example of Zibibbo, a Mediterranean restaurant on Kipling Street that shuttered exactly a year ago and was replaced by offices. The block, he said, used to be much more lively when the restaurant operated. Scharff argued that the city should've had laws in place to require retail to replace the large space Zibibbo formerly occupied.

"That whole corner lost vibrancy because of loss of Zibibbo," Scharff said. "We have the wrong ordinances about where retail should go."

According to data from the Planning Department, the city lost about 70,514 square feet of retail between 2008 and 2014, even as it added 537,144 square feet of office and research-and-development space.

The retail-protection ordinance is the second "urgency" measure that the city is now pursuing in response to this trend. Last month, the council voted to move ahead with an interim law that sets an annual cap of 50,000 square feet for offices around University Avenue, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

Like the office cap, the retail-preservation officer moved ahead with no dissent. Staff will draft the ordinance and bring it back to the council for adoption on May 11. The law would apply to all commercial zones in the city and to all establishments that operated as retail as of March 2.

The proposal has its skeptics. Susan Graf, who owns a clothing boutique on Hamilton Avenue and High Street, urged the council to tread carefully in deciding which locations are suitable for retail and which are not.

"You cannot simply design a location and call it retail," Graf said. "It does not make it so."

Former Mayor Judy Kleinberg, who now serves as CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, also urged caution. She recalled a similar effort the city undertook in 2001, when she was on the council. The trend often comes in cycles, she said.

"If you're thinking about expanding commercial zones, do it with incredible care," Kleinberg said. "The more you dilute retail, the harder it is to create a pedestrian-friendly commercial zone."

Others argued that the action is long overdue. The group Palo Alto Neighborhoods has come out in favor of the retail-preservation ordinance and land-use watchdog Bob Moss advocated for it on Monday night.

"If you just say the economy will do what the economy wants, you'll hurt retail vitality and you'll hurt walkability and the ability of people who live in Palo Alto to shop in Palo Alto," Moss said.

Most council members agreed with Moss. Councilman Pat Burt said the city's problem is that locations that have supported retail for a long while are being driven out by offices, which can command higher rent. If left to market forces, downtown's peripheral blocks would be "hollowed out," with retail leaving and offices coming in.

Currently, the city has zoning laws in place that require University Avenue establishments to have retail on the ground floor. That rule, however, only applies to downtown's commercial core. Many of downtown's peripheral blocks, including areas around Hamilton and Forest avenues, don't have such ground-floor-retail protections and are vulnerable to office conversions.

The urgency ordinance would fix that in the short term. In the longer term, the city plans to move ahead with a regular "permanent" ordinance. In addition to having all the requirements that the urgency measure has, the permanent law would consider a host of other issues relating to retail preservation. This includes revisions to the definition of "retail" and possibly new ground-floor-retail requirements in the California Avenue Business District, including possibly on Cambridge Avenue.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid was one of several members to lobby in favor of revising the definition of "retail" so that it includes functions that promote walking and socializing while excluding businesses like banks, which are currently classified as retail but that are not seen as particularly condusive to downtown vibrancy.

"We're trying to create a downtown or center that attracts people, that attracts walkability, that has people stop, socialize, gather ideas," Schmid said. "It doesn't even have to be a place where they're selling goods or selling services, just areas that attract and hold people, where you can go walk and experience that."

Despite the 7-0 vote, there were some disagreements. Scharff and Councilman Eric Filseth argued that the new rules should apply to proposed developments that are currently going through the city's application process.

Councilman Marc Berman disagreed and said it would be inappropriate to change the rules at the "last minute." And while Liz Kniss said she would support the short-term ordinance, she was more measured in her enthusiasm than her colleagues.

Kniss called the decision to move ahead with the urgency measure a "real test case" and said she was concerned about where the city will end up with these various changes. It's extremely rare, she said, for an urgency ordinance to apply to the entire city.

'We're covering A to Z in our city by doing this," Kniss said.

Comments

39 people like this
Posted by Carla
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:12 am

Carla is a registered user.

If you truly want walkability in the commercial district, close University Ave to the insanity of cars that pass through it and make it a place where people really want to commune. That would really make downtown fabulous.

Is there an urgency law that could be applied here?


13 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 8:33 am

Carla, that's an interesting idea. University probably has the vibrancy to be able to do that. The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is a great example where this has worked well.

Also, most of the traffic on University seems to be cut-through traffic to El Camino, Page Mill, or Stanford - a lot of it goes right through and doesn't really service the neighborhood. The downtown workers are more likely to bike or take the train, according to surveys. The residents aren't taking University Ave. through the downtown area.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of obvious routes where the traffic could go otherwise. Still, it would be interesting to do a traffic study.


Like this comment
Posted by margaret
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:18 am

why does everything lead to shopping mall?

what are we missing?


5 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:54 am

Carla,
Closing University Ave. to through traffic would be a recipe for killing the vibrancy of the downtown. Pedestrian malls are one of the significant failures of 60's and 70's urban renewal efforts. They had good intentions but rarely ever worked.

It seems counterintuitive but all those failures revealed the obvious: we may not like vehicular traffic but it is a critical component of practically every vibrant downtown district. People don't feel safe when they don't see other people around and then they avoid the area.

Think about what it would like to be on University Ave. after hours if it was a pedestrian mall. Ever visit the Palo Alto Transit Center (bus station) after hours? If so you will get the idea.

Even the most ardent pedestrian, bicycle and transit advocates (including New Urbanists) recognize cars and vehicular access as one of those "necessary evils" in effective urban design.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2015 at 11:35 am

Closing University to car traffic would be a disaster since it's one of the 3 exits from 101. Where would all the traffic go? Onto residential streets.

I regularly use University when I'm near Town & Country and find Embarcadero -- one of the 3 exits to/from 101 -- so gridlocked it's quicker to go north to University than to try to get home via Embarcadero even though it's much much closer in distance.


11 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I watched the PACC meeting last night. The idea of retail is to have interesting retail along the walk which draws people in. The absolute best was Border's Books at the theatre which was always full of people, if even to pick up a pastry and café. I was there every week - just to stop in and get a pastry - check out the latest in books and buy some for the children.
That was such a loss to the community. E-books just do not compare.


2 people like this
Posted by Jean
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Closing University to auto traffic is an excellent idea. It works very well in Boulder, Colorado and gives the stores and restaurants a chance to survive. I am all for proceeding with the closure!!!!


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 1:19 pm

The problem with retail on University is that unless I have a reason to go downtown, I will not visit the retail. What is the draw for downtown for those of us who live here? Do we go downtown to visit City Hall, an existing business for a meeting, a movie, to meet a friend at a restaurant?

I certainly don't go there just to wander around. Unless there are some draws then I am most likely to go elsewhere to browse.

Sorry.


15 people like this
Posted by Shops in MV
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 1:32 pm

"you'll hurt retail vitality and you'll hurt walkability and the ability of people who live in Palo Alto to shop in Palo Alto"
Sorry, Bob, but I have lived in Palo Alto for almost 20 years. And in that time, I have done little to no shopping in Palo Alto. Why?? Even 20 years ago there was little in the way of everyday shopping for a local resident like myself--small undersized grocery stores, pretentious boutique stores and an overpriced mall.
When I wanted real shopping, I go to Mountain View and points beyond--large grocery stores (ethnic grocery as well). Target, Wal Mart etc
There once was a Ross in downtown. I remember the owner of one of the boutique stores commenting how Ross did not belong in downtown PA. Well, there you have it.

And , Jean, closing University Avenue will never happen. Once people realize where the traffic from University will end up, there will be such an outcry that the council will never even consider that option.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:17 pm

I agree with @Shops in MV. We live in Midtown. We rarely go downtown because there is so little diversity in the stores and restaurants. This has become worse as offices have crowded out many of old merchants. Mountain View is so much more interesting and easier to find parking as well.


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2015 at 2:24 pm

I moved here from Back East in 1985; I used to shop downtown, browse downtown, hear music downtown, run into friends downtown and make meal dates to meet downtown or just spontaneously decide to eat downtown. We'd go on pub crawls from The GateHouse to Henry's, the oldest bar on the Peninsula where the computer folks hung out. (It's now Pluto's, an anywhere-type sandwich place.)

The big Antiques Unlimited store-- now the Institute for the Future -- used to have wine parties with spotlights on Friday nights. Great for browsing; great for meeting people. There used to be open art gallery nights to get people browsing downtown until the ABC decided that unlicensed wine was a no-no so that stopped.

I'd go downtown at least once a week. Now if it's once every few months.

A group of about 12 of us from all over the Peninsula meet for dinner every Tuesday night. Some work at Stanford but I can't remember the last time we met downtown. Tonight we're in Menlo Park; last week it was Redwood City, the week before Mountain View.

The current Verizon store was once a fantastic Stacey's Books and then, when Amazon did it in, it became a decent enough housewares/kitchen place. Spirals was a unique garden and home store similar to Shady Lane but with larger goods. There were other stores I'd regularly browse -- Bell's Books, J Ferrari's Italian Grocery, Border's, etc. -- and I'd often find something unexpected.

You could hear jazz at the former Gatehouse on Lytton and get a fine meal inside or on the patio or just a drink while soaking up the wonderful old architecture. Then it became Stars and Wolfgang Puck (or similar upscale chain); now it's offices.

Where can you go to hear live music in Palo Alto now? Nowhere. You have to go to Redwood City or SF/Oakland/Berkeley.

"They paved Paradise to put up a parking lot. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

And we don't even have the parking lots! FEH.


4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm

I think the people that go downtown are the people who come in for events at SU or high school games. They are the parents of the students that want to have time with their kids for something to eat. Given the amount of traffic generated by SU and its events that is a lot of people.

Also people who are visiting for business purposes. Those people do not live here so they do not have places to go in other towns.
They do have favorite places to go because of the limit of choices.

I also see a lot of people at the theatre on Emerson - lot of long lines there - and then go out to dinner. There is a lot of foot traffic downtown just to eat and hang out - don't see a lot of shopping going on.
People who live here go to Walmart, Cosco, Target, etc. Those are in other cities.


17 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:08 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I actually don't know any Palo Alto resident, with the exception of those who catch a movie at the Aquarius once and while who goes downtown anymore. Everybody I know gives downtown a big thumbs down. I stopped going downtown at least 20 years ago, and so did many of my friends. The vast majority of downtown visitors come from outside of Palo Alto. The bars attract rowdy elements from various parts of the peninsula, east bay, even the Sacramento area. Downtown has become attractive to criminals because of Palo Alto's reputation as a very wealthy community. There are no places downtown that are attractive anymore to people who enjoy art, books, live music, etc. It's tacky, pretentious, overpriced, dangerous. Downtown was practically ruined at the altar of greed and vibrancy.


11 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm

The Aquarius is closed for some time for renovations.

The problem with people who don't like the shopping in Palo Alto seem to like to go to MV for big box stores. Also, more and more shopping has gone online. The amount of retail (as previously defined) square footage is declining in general, not just in Palo Alto.

Both sides of this issue are tilting at windmills. A big increase in office space in Palo Alto has been occurring in recent years. If healthy retail is desired in downtown Palo Alto, increased housing density downtown and shuttle service throughout Palo Alto is required.

Encouraging more people to drive downtown is no solution at all.


3 people like this
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

"Nobody goes there any more; it's too crowded. {Yogi Berra}


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 7, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Amen, Midtowner!


9 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Mauricio-- there are 60000+ palo,alto residents -- how many do you actually know. Downtown is crowded in the evenings. Restauarnts are booked solid. On thread after thread you repeat the same downtown is "tacky, pretentious, overpriced, dangerous." Obviously a large number of people disagree with you.people flock downtown and they enjoy themselves. You have nit been downtown for 20+ years, so how would your really know personally know what is going on downtown!!!!


10 people like this
Posted by jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Retail may be declining overall but in downtown Los Alto it is thriving on Main Street, State Street, and the side streets. They have a policy to protect retail. It's a delightful place to shop. Although some shops couldn't survive the relandscaping and closed, they have been replaced. Now Palo Alto is going to protect retail on the street level so it doesn't have to compete with rent that only offices perhaps there will be an increase in retail if existing offices that have been converted from retail revert to retail when the existing tenant leaves.

For 40 years I have made a point of shopping in Palo Alto whenever possible, both to keep retail here and so my tax dollars go to the city. Even if the trade off cost me slightly more I value not having to drive any further than necessary.

Council member Kniss, while trying to appear reasonable, is predictably negative about protecting retail since she advocated for developers and building owners when she was on the council in the 1990's. Of course the big money wants to continue to convert retail to offices. Wondering why Susan Graf's council address last night and at the previous council discussion wondering why she is so negative I have come to the conclusion that consciously or unconsciously she doesn't want the competition.


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:41 pm

We spend an evening downtown about every other week. I go there to workout at a gym 4 mornings a week and will grab breakfast or coffee now and then. I get my haircut downtown. We go to the Stanford Theater often. Stop by Letter Perfect at least once a month. One of our kids hits the beauty store on the corner of Uni and Ramona. The kids also go to NOLA and the Old Pro. Just bought some gifts at Lululemon and toy/Sport. Bought shoes at Vans. We enjoy many different restaurants as well. And did I mention that my spouse works downtown? She can run errands and shop as well.

Sorry to blow a hole in your statement...but here's at least one long-time resident that still goes downtown often.


18 people like this
Posted by Woops
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Downtown thrives at night because of bars and restaurants, not retail. Most of the people one sees downtown day or night either work there or are visiting ( or partying). Or are Stanford students ( and partying)

I have lived here since childhood and have not seen a neighbor or friend ( resident of PA) downtown since the early 90's. Up until two years ago, I would run into them on Cal Ave, but not even there, now!

Downtown is no longer for residents. Soon, Cal Ave won't be, either.

We need to reclaim what is ours--our city!


5 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Do what Los Gatos does... 15mph limit on University.... Maybe from Caltrain to Middlefield.


10 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2015 at 6:59 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

The last time I shopped downtown, it was at Borders. I rode my bike.

Shopping multiple stores is an invitation to the meter maid. You can't take your time and browse


7 people like this
Posted by ME
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm

I'm a 52 year resident and boy, have I seen changes in downtown PA...both University Ave. area and California Ave. areas...most not all that good for residents. I stopped doing any shopping in the University area when those darned 2 or 3 hour color-coded parking restrictions started...and stayed despite many complaints. I am not the only one that now frequents and the San Antonio Road area shops almost exclusively. I do miss the mom and pop, local run shops in both places..I am glad to see some of them now located in Los Altos!


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 7, 2015 at 8:06 pm

I recently walked into The Institute for the Future. I asked an employee what they sell in the store. The employee said, "yes, I know we are supposed to be a retail store, but we really aren't a retail store." The employee gave me a wink and a nod.
I have also spotted another non retail store downtown, on the historic part of Ramona Street. The non retail store is down a quaint alley like area, across the street from Nolas Restaurant. There used to be a children's bookstore down that walkway, several years ago. Instead of being a shop, there are lots of portable chairs lined up in the ground floor room. Obviously it is a conference room for some company, that probably occupies an upper story of the incredibly charming building. It appears they are pretending the area is just a lobby area for their office. But they are using it as a conference room for their company. That beautiful block of Ramona now has nail salons and a sex toy shop as its retail.


19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2015 at 8:27 pm

1) Being able to drive down University at 15 mph would be fast.

2) Calling Institute For The Future retail is an absolute joke, a sad one considering the desirability of its location. Does anyone know the history of that?


17 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Palo Alto City Hall doesn't care about the real residents of Palo Alto. The homeowners. City staff only wants to cater to developers, companies and commuter office employees. Palo Alto is becoming an office park designed by the Hayes Architectural Group. Someone needs to do an investigative report on the Hayes Group. I bet there is corruption between Hayes and some high ranking employee at city hall. It needs to be investigated. Hayes needs to be run out of town. Hayes is no Birge Clark!


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 8, 2015 at 7:28 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad-very few Palo Altans go downtown anymore. There are tens of thousands of non residents who work in Palo Alto/Stanford, so obviously you will find them downtown. The restaurants/bars attract a large, young, sometimes quite rowdy crowd from all over the Bay area and beyond. The real and perceived wealth of Palo Alto attracts a significant criminal element. There is absolutely nothing in downtown that would attract Palo Altans. No more local small retail, no more cool book stores, no more Varsity theatre, no more good affordable restaurants, no more live music. It's is now an office park during the day, and its tacky and dangerous at night.


Like this comment
Posted by Shops in MV
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:36 am

Maurucio--I find your comments hard to believe. Yes, we get plenty of workers coming to town, but most of them do not go downtown, I am not sure how you know where all the downtown patrons come from, since you state that they are from all over the Bay area and beyond. You claim to not have been downtown for 20+ years, so most of your comments are not based on any facts whatsoever. FYI--there are plenty of good affordable restaurants downtown and they are patronized by plenty of palo altoans. I know. I go there to eat quite often.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:47 am

1) Resident, you've inspired me with your comment about Institute For The Future. We should all go in there and ask for a gallon of multi-client studies.

2) One can figure out where many of the downtown patrons come from by reading the police blotter. Who knew that "possession of a milk crate not his/her own" was our city's biggest crime? There are about 6 citations for that every week.

[Portion removed.]

Ah, priorities. But what are they doing about putting security cameras in garages or doing something about all the lurkers in the garages?


Like this comment
Posted by Shops in MV
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2015 at 9:04 am

"One can figure out where many of the downtown patrons come from by reading the police blotter."

That would be assuming that many of the downtown patrons commit crimes, which they do not. The overwhelming majority are just there to shop, eat or stroll. Claims about the origin of those that frequent downtown establishments are not based on any facts


1 person likes this
Posted by Good to know
a resident of University South
on Apr 8, 2015 at 10:39 am

I believe I have learned from this thread that no one over 65 shops downtown anymore.

But there are many other residents, some in their 40s, 30s, and 20s. I think being in Palo Alto five years counts as a long-time resident. Many people just like restaurants, bars, and coffee houses more than antique shops.

I think downtown retail is doing pretty well. I don't think we're going to get back all these commenters who stopped going downtown in the 1990s - so let's focus on keeping retail that's popular with the people who do shop downtown.


6 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

"Calling Institute For The Future retail is an absolute joke, a sad one considering the desirability of its location. Does anyone know the history of that?"

They were willing to move in and pay rent. The spot was vacant for a long time before that. Apparently they saw a future there.


4 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Palo Altan,
Whether Hayes is "a Birge Clark" or not is completely irrelevant. Just remember that Birge Clark's later work was modernist in nature. If it was hypothetically possible for Birge Clark to be still alive and practicing architecture I can pretty much bet you he would not be designing the same sort of Spanish colonial revival stuff people like Douglas Smith have been idolizing. Like any capable and talented architect Birge Clark would of considered that "been there done that" territory.

No one can say whether Birge Clark would of approved Hayes work but all architect's work evolves over time. I find it just as likely Birge Clark would find Hayes work to be too timid and not modernist enough. Remember overall Hayes work is typically defined as contemporary and the only place it seems to be defined as "modernist" is in the pages of the Palo Alto Weekly.

For truly modernist commercial architecture you usually need to look beyond what's built in this area. Do some Googling and look what's being designed and built in Europe these days (and the past 75 years). Those people definitely know how to design good modernist architecture.


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:18 pm

curmudgeon, they may be willing to pay the higher rents that offices command but they are the perfect example of the "fake retail" loophole that's being discussed.


12 people like this
Posted by debacle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

@Online Name
We lost not only Stacey's the bookstore but the beautiful tile work
on the exterior. When Verizon redeveloped the site the ARB should have
required this architectural feature be preserved and the facade not turned
into a non-descript corporate look alike on University Ave destroying what was there to start with. Time and time again the ARB has failed in their job, in terms of color, scale, design, etc. The ARB in PA is a joke. I travel and this City is going in the opposite direction of other places I visit. What is taking place in Palo Alto is an absolute debacle, some kind of ugly time warp or regression into another time and another place, the City turning its back on itself in the process.


9 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 9, 2015 at 7:55 am

SteveU is a registered user.

@curmudgeon
Places remain vacant because Landlords are holding out for BIGGER rents.
When a place remains vacant:
1)The county loses property Tax on the tenants Business Property (the contents)
2)The city loses the Business License and other fees
3)The landlord writes off his loses on his Federal Taxes
4)The Public loses diverse shopping experiences

The obvious solution. Get your congress critter to change the Tax Laws and get rid of ability to claim #3 once a property is occupied (Allows new construction speculation)

Make the landlord make up the lost (prior tenant) property tax until the property is lease-occupied by a new business property taxpayer.


13 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 9, 2015 at 8:23 am


The Institute for the Future at 201 Hamilton is a good example of how the city has allowed non-retail operations to take over ground floor retail space.

The city considers the Institute a "trade school" (I kid you not), even though it's not registered with the State of California as a trade school. Rather the city defines "trade school" so loosely that just about anything offering some education in "business, commerce, language, or other similar activity or pursuit" qualifies. So if a software developer or venture capital firm offers occasional classes or seminars, it's (abracadabra) a trade school and can push out ground floor retail.

But it gets worse. The city actually isn't supposed to let trade schools and the like take over every bit of Downtown ground floor retail. Rather, the municipal code says that this can only happen when the city finds that "the location, access or design of the ground floor space of the existing building housing the proposed use, creates exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved that do not apply generally to property in the same district." In other words, the city had to find that there was something hopelessly unsuitable about 201 Hamilton for regular retail.

So what was that? It's a perfectly good retail location with lots of successful stores and restaurants nearby. Diddams and the Waterworks were long-time retail tenants. A woman even told the City Council this Monday night she tried to rent part of the building recently for her retail operation but the owner turned her down. No one can honestly claim it's unsuitable for retail. But city staff did so anyway and thus failed to follow the law. Let's hope our newspapers investigate who approved this and why.


6 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 9, 2015 at 10:01 am

I think the older architecture on University is an extension of the architecture you would see on SU campus. SU is the drawing card for this specific town. Putting up a bunch of buildings that have no consistency with the overall point of this city is just a mish mash and looks ridiculous. It is not "progress" - it is poor planning and lack of focus. It is about a few people exercising their egos VS so they can say they are "progressive" - but no style points.

I went into FRY's yesterday and that place is a treasure trove of "stuff" of every imaginable type - a person could just walk through there and look at all of the products available. If we lose FRY's the people will be driving to every where else but here. They are selling what the techies are making - it is techy treasure and other stuff you Just NEED.


Like this comment
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:37 pm

resident 1,
If you enjoy homogeneity and a "paint by numbers" approach to architecture I suggest you move to Santa Barbara. Palo Alto is no Santa Barbara and it should be damn proud of that. Who wants to live in escapist Leisure Town U.S.A.? Don't you want to live in a real place that understands the proper roles of the past, present and future?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 9, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Gee Southbay resident - I want to live in a town that looks like it reflects a good educational and financial status - that is what we pay for in our homes. Don't know where you live but we know how much our homes our worth and we want our town to look like it is recognizing the value of the whole scene. That takes good planning and focus. So what does your town look like?


6 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Okay resident 1 unless I've misunderstood you I think you've confirmed my suspicions. Palo Alto is becoming more about money, property values and perceived financial status above and beyond all other issues. Palo Alto is my hometown where I spent my first 18 years and where my parents still live in same south Palo Alto house. The real dangers I see facing the city are it's growing protectionism and conservatism.

Maybe I am just another person bemoaning the "new Palo Alto" vs. the "old Palo Alto" but I remember the city as a diverse highly educated community with people that generally had a sophisticated understanding of design and architecture and could appreciate the fact Palo Alto was not another Santa Barbara, Carmel, or collection of anonymous Orange County style gated subdivisions.

From my perspective I actually see the "residentialist" as a greater threat to the future of the city. They are the ones that spent an exorbitant amount of money on their homes, now have a chip on their shoulder and are allowing their obsession with money and property values to shape the city into something it never was. These are the people so focused on their insular objectives they lose sight of issues facing the greater community beyond Palo Alto. They fight the construction of new housing in the city which means more people need to drive to jobs in the city and then they complain about all the traffic. They complain about traffic and then cripple all attempts to improve mass transit whether by Bus Rapid Transit or Caltrain. It's a never ending cycle and there is no solution until these people learn to recognize their city is not an island.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2015 at 8:51 pm

South Bay - your parents are as concerned about what is going on as everyone else. South Palo Alto is under threat of too much traffic, Cubberley not being put back into the school system to relieve the pressure on the other schools, and overloading of students in the school system.

We are remapping our lawns like everyone else out there and trying to work with the county the same as every other town. Your parents s need to speak to this issue - you don't say where you are located.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm

@resident 1

Obviously you can ignore the concerns of anyone growing up in Palo Alto; they're not homeowners and wont be able to afford to live here when they move out, so their own thoughts are irrelevant.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 11, 2015 at 10:19 am

I am noting that Robert and South Bay do not identify the city they are living in - only making comments about what other people who live here think. If you can't say where you live then there is no validity to what you are saying. You are trying to discredit people who live here and have a valid point of view while you just lurk around somewhere poking at other peoples' point of view.
You have to step up to the plate if you want to offer a constructive point of view that is yours alone.


3 people like this
Posted by Black kettle
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2015 at 10:44 am

Resident 1-- the kettle is calling their black, considering your comments of those PA residents that disagree with you on the airplane noise threads. Robert has right to his,opinion.


8 people like this
Posted by Onine Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Speaking of non-residents, the office of the City Manager put out a bulletin inviting people who "Live OR Work in Palo Alto" to attend the all-day meeting in May on the comprehensive plan.

One of the city council members has urged all residents to try to register for this session because the deck is being stacked with outsiders who will outnumber those of us who live here and pay taxes here.

Remember the Health Care town meetings with Eshoo where all the outsiders who opposed health care reform were bussed in and shouted down residents trying to get straight answers? Expect more of the same!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 12, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Robert merely pecks at other people's opinions.
Guess what - it is the residents who pay the property taxes, PAUSD Parcel Tax, Flood Insurance, and all other measures that promote the city governance. Land use is one of the hottest topics.

I do not go on other city on-line systems and poke at other city actions - I read about them in the Daily News but I do not feel compelled to remark because I do not live there. I do not undersatnd people who feel compelled to comment on other city actions if they are not paying the tab for entry.

However - Menlo Park is about to approve a beautiful downtown set of buildings - brick and mortar - so I will make the effort to tell them they are doing a great job. Come the next earthquake those buildings will still be there.


2 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2015 at 11:19 pm

Sorry resident 1 but I have no obligation to tell you where I live. You can choose to believe what you want to believe and dismiss any other points of view as lacking in credibility if it makes you feel better about yourself and your point of view. That's 100% your choice. It's the freedom of the internet.

Sure by your standards I have no justification for giving a damn about Palo Alto as I am not a "dues paying member of the organization" as you might like to say. Sorry for having the naivety to think the Palo Alto is a community and not just just a glorified home owner's association akin to a massive gated community or condominium complex.

From what I detect it wouldn't be too far a stretch to predict the next thing you are going to say is renters living in Palo Alto shouldn't be allowed to comment here either. I assume you would expect the same restraint regarding issues concerning San Francisco, San Jose or Oakland.

How dare a former resident that just happened to spend the first 20 years of their life in a place and still has family living there 20 years after that dare to comment on an issue that concerns them! Who cares about what someone with 40 years collective knowledge thinks when all we really care about is the person that purchased their home last year for 2 to 5 million! Those are the only people with credibility! The true stakeholders!

Just so you know my parents who still live in Palo Alto are constantly harassed by real estate agents and other unsolicited offers to purchase their property. What those people want to do with the property is obvious: tear down the house and replace it with a nasty oversized McMansion designed by and for people with no architectural taste. Are my parents not allowed to live out their retirement in peace or do they need to be harassed like this? Sorry for finding reason to be concerned when I guess I should keep my mouth shut.

You might be pleased to know people like my parents are on the losing side and you will fInd yourself surrounded by more and more "bonafide Palo Altans" who properly payed their way into the community and didn't just happen to buy a house in the 60's and pay it off. I guess it really is a shame we don't hear more from those people. To repeat what I said before money really is the most important concern in Palo Alto not culture or community.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 13, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Newsflash: Every homeowner in PA is besieged by Realtor inquiries and unsolicited offers.


2 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Yes I know. It's swarming in Real Estate Whores.


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Posted by Unconstitutional Nonsense
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2015 at 7:23 am

Clearly, most of these comments are made by people who have no ownership interest in the properties at issue. My family owns property in the area. The property was purchased more than 40 years ago. The property was purchased with specific rights. These rights are constitutionally protected.

No rational property owner would ever approve PA's unconstitutional attempt to change the rules decades after the owners relied on the rules, in place at the time, when the buyers agreed to pay the price they paid for property located in PA.

This is intended, in no way, to suggest renters don't have a voice about many issues in PA. Renters, however, don't have and should not have a say in current land use inconsistent with the land use that applied - and relied on - when the buyers of the properties bought the properties.

Remarkably, no one has yet mentioned that there is a simple solution. IF PA (or any of those who want to take away the property owners' rights to use the property in a way that is consistent with the rights they secured when they bought the property) wants to control my family's protected use of our property - and the properties of other owners in the town - then PA (or one of you people who think it acceptable to significantly destroy our property values) must buy the property. PA and/or you proponents can then use it for any purpose whatsoever.

For instance, if PA (or any of those of you who want to restrict the property owners' constitutional rights) wants to now demand that a property has to have a restaurant in it - go for it - but only after PA (or one of you) buys the property. PA (and its taxpayers) can even subsidize the rent by reducing the rent far below the market value of the property. This will be the only way for you people to choose to use the properties for business that could not economically survive without you subsidizing the rent. This approach - tax and revenue concessions - will negatively impact all tax paying property owners - even those who are against this nonsense.

Of course, the people supporting this Ordinance probably won't care about the loss of tax revenue and loss of income from the property by limiting the rent it will receive as a result of its decision to pick and choose the businesses to be located in each property.

Want a new bookstore, buy it and lease it for a bookstore. Pay market value for the property and then take tremendous losses each month and year, through below market rent. Again, this will only hurt the tax paying property owners. Unless - hold your breath - the people who claim they frequent the businesses in PA (and don't want the property owners to use the properties as they have a right to use the properties) are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Here is another solution for you. After the city buys all the properties it seeks to inappropriately control, it can add a use tax to all patrons of these businesses to offset the loss of revenue that PA will otherwise be forcing on its property owners. The use tax, that can be added to each purchase/receipt, will fairly reflect the loss of revenue and the willingness of those who want to control the property rights of others. If you want an art boutique in a specific location - so be it - but it is not the obligations of tax paying property owners (who don't care about your desired boutique) to subsidize your desires to have a business that is not economically viable in a property of your choosing. Let's see how many of you are willing to step up and pay for this nonsense. Please chime in and let us know about your willingness to pay for all of this. Or, are you comfortable with putting all of this burden on PA's tax paying property owners? I am looking forward to learning about this.

Some of you will understand. Sadly, some of you never will.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2015 at 2:05 am

@Unconstitutional Nonsense,
We can all feel fortunate (yourself included) to acknowledge that property owner's DO NOT have a constitutional right to do whatever they want with their property. The logical extension of your argument would be to claim you could stockpile stacks of old tires on your property in the middle of town and set them on fire if you like because "it's your property".

Remember this is the United States we live in not Guatemala. If you want 100% pure capitalism and unfettered "property rights" move to a 3rd world country. It's not always understood that the United States was in fact founded on the principles of Socialized Capitalism, not pure Capitalism. That's what's nice about living in a 1st world nation with (relatively) modern infrastructure and planning regulations where we don't have to worry about polluted air and groundwater contamination from our neighbors setting their stacks of tires on fire. Regulations against those things improve everyone's property values and standard of living.

I don't agree with everyone's decisions particularly on aesthetics and I think many of the traditionalists that want to legislate architectural style in the downtown will actually make it an uglier place but this is a democracy and it's their mistake to make. If Palo Alto becomes known as "that place with boring prescriptive architecture" so be it. The explanation will be simple: "the general population was uninformed on the decisions before them". Whether that ultimately helps or harms the city we don't know but you have to accept it will be the consequence of a community decision, just like in "olden days" when the U.S. Constitution was written.


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Posted by Unconstitutional Nonsense
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 6:50 am

@Southbay resident -

Nowhere did I ever say we should be able to take any action we wish. Your claimed "logical extension" is anything but logical and makes clear you failed to grasp the simple statements that led to your post.

We, as property owners, completely understand that our use of the property must comply with the "zoning" rights and restrictions in place when we purchased the property. The applicable zoning did NOT allow us to do such ignorant things nor would we have ever wanted to do so.

What you failed to comprehend is the clear constitutional rights property owners acquire when they buy property. Those zoning rights and limitations travel on with the property. PA cannot take away those vested rights because some people later decide they would like to exercise greater control over the property without regard to the attendant devaluation of the property. There is nothing about anything here that would support burning tires in downtown Palo Alto, through a "logical extension" or otherwise.

The logical extension of your argument is, because this is not a third world country, the local PA commission can nilly willy decide someone's property must be used for a theatre, boutique shop, or a bookstore because they would like one of those to be located there.

It is not surprising that you failed to let us know if you are willing to pay a use tax if you ever shop in the properties forced to lose money due to the desires and whims of the few who own no property in downtown. As I explained, this tax revenue would be passed on to these property owners to help overcome the losses the property owners will otherwise suffer. Are you willing to accept this obligation?

And, you never attempted to address the option of Palo Alto, or someone like you, buying the property and using it for whatever purposes zoning allows. You can lower the rent to a level that will ensure significant losses to you, if you wish, so Palo Alto can be something it will never be. What Palo Alto cannot do is force these problems on the property owners.

The present modification to the zoning ordinance is unconstitutional.

Palo Alto is not alone. Other areas in California have tried to unreasonably control the rights of property owners. These towns are learning very expensive lessons. The laws are routinely struck down as unconstitutional. This is a lose - lose for the towns. They lose the zoning they attempted to enforce AND they loose tens of thousands of dollars through attorneys' fees and expenses. Ironically, guess who is actually straddled with payment of these unnecessary fees and expenses. The taxpaying property owners. Total BS.

Another result is possible. The town wins the constitutional argument but still looses. "Eminent domain" is powerful "United States'" law that protects property owners from the very actions Palo Alto is attempting to take. This law likely doesn't exist in 3rd world countries but I don't know. You may have the answer to this but it matters not for this discussion. The decisions being made in Palo Alto have nothing to do with 3rd world countries.

The simple explanation of eminent domain is that it is a rule of law that prohibits governments from exercising control over property to an extent that it has a material negative impact (economic or otherwise) on the property. If the government chooses to exercise its right of eminent domain, the government MUST fairly compensate the owners of the property. Granted, this is a gross simplification but I have neither the time nor desire to fully explain the powerful protections provided under the laws relating to eminent domain.

IF you owned property in the area, you would not want the government taking away your vested property rights. If it wouldn't bother you, we have a piece of property we will sell to you at full market value. Please let me know if you want to put your money where your keyboard is :-)


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2015 at 10:23 am

@Unconstitutional Nonsense

To be honest I have not specifically checked Palo Alto's ordinance to confirm whether or not the stockpiling and burning of tires on your downtown property would be an "approved use" but it would be safe bet to assume it's not. So if I understand you correctly you are saying that if burning of tires was an approved use at the time you bought your property it would be your constitutional right to burn tires there unless the city bought the property from you? I guess that's one argument you could make.


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Posted by Unconstitutional Nonsense
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 11:20 am

@ southbayresident Once again, you just don't get it and likely never will.

Buy some property and then evaluate what is fair when you have relied on zoning laws and a town chooses to take away your rights.

The zoning laws applicable when we bought the property would have never allowed us to burn tires just like our Constitution will not allow a few non-property owners on a city commission or council to tell us we can't use the property within the zoning rights, which vested when we purchased the property.

Your continued burning tire claims further demonstrates a lack of understanding of zoning and property rights. If an ordinance seeks to make clear that property owners cannot burn tires on their property and this change has no material impact on the property owner's rights, the change is permissible. BUT, if a proposed change to an ordinance will have a material negative impact (economic and otherwise) the change is not permitted.

To use your example to try to help you understand, hopeless as it will likely be. Farmer Joe lives on a 600 acres out in a very low population area. When farmer Joe bought his property he was allowed to burn rubbish without a permit or other inconvenience. The government later seeks to take away his rights to burn rubbish because some people don't like seeing the smoke rising into the sky for two hours when farmer Joe burns his rubbish 2 times each year. The ordinance would be totally unconstitutional.

BUT, if, as we have had in California, a terrible drought and the chance of burning rubbish now has a high probability of setting off an uncontrollable fire and burning thousands of acres and destroying other people's property, then an ordinance designed to limit this activity would be permissible because the government may have a "legitimate government purpose" for passing the ordinance. Even then, the actions of the government must be weighed against the rights of the property owner.

Moving ahead . . . Joe is in the business of burning rubbish. His property was zoned to allow this when he bought the property and his intended use of the property was known and approved. This is how Joe supported his family. And ordinance that shut down Joe's business and caused him significant losses, would be impermissible. In this instance, the government action would be considered "condemnation" and the rules of "eminent domain" would apply. The ordinance would be struck down as unconstitutional or the government would have to buy Joe's property and compensate him for his losses.

There is no "legitimate government interest" in deciding some would rather see what they perceive to be a cute little boutique when the ordinance required to make this change will destroy the property owner's right to use the property for office space, retail space or any other permissible use within the zoning rules applicable to that property when the property was purchased.

Still see you are not interested in paying your fair share of the losses property owners will suffer under this ignorant amendment to the ordinance. This is anything but surprising.

Sure . . . no non-property owners should ever worry about passing laws that significantly impair the property rights of property owners and drives down the value of their property. Buy property and see how that works for you.

I am sure you feel the same way about the loss of your rights when you buy a car - if you have ever done so - and the manufacturer changes its mind about honoring its warranty and refuses to honor the rules in place when you bought the car.

Heck, maybe you could even buy a time-share for a limited amount of money somewhere in a 3rd world country. A few years later some government group decides to pass an ordinance that you can no longer use the property as vacation property during your limited time there. You can only now use it as a lovely boutique because they no longer want tourist in their quaint little down. The value of your little time share is greatly reduced as a result. And, I suppose you will be happy with that.

Or, perhaps you have a bank account. You have specific rights with your bank. You deposit $500,000 into the bank based on the existing rights and obligations. Part of those rights include the right to withdraw 100% of your money at any time and on any day between M-F. Then, the bank later decides to change the rules to only allow you to withdraw $10,000 each year and you can only make withdrawals between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. BUT, you have the opportunity to use this money to purchase a piece of property in Palo Alto that you believe will help you increase your rate of return on your money. The bank, however, doesn't care because a limited few officers in the bank have decided they prefer that your money be used as they prefer as opposed to you being able to use the money (property) as you are entitled. So . . . you suffer great loss and you are okay with that because you learn that the bank intends to use your money to help fund a park for a while. Sounds fair doesn't it.

Maybe you are in love with the place you rent. You plan to live there for many years. You are happy there and don't won't to more. But, along comes an ignorant ordinance requiring that the place you have been renting can only continue as rental property so long as you do not abandon (leave) the property for more than 7 consecutive days. BUT, you've been invited to go on an all expense paid trip to Europe for 3 weeks. You have dreamed about a trip like this for years. If you go on the trip, you will have to move and the owner will have to change the property to an animal shelter (a laudable idea) because some people believe that would be a more desirable use of the property. So, you lose and the property owner looses. And somehow people who don't own property simply don't get it.

As the old adage goes, a scar is only insignificant when it is on someone else face. History has proven that people who don't lose anything as a result of the actions of others, rarely care about the harms to the others. That is especially true when they have the misplaced perception that the person supporting the change will somehow benefit. It matters not to such people that others will suffer the consequences.

I hope you get it now. If you don't, you surely never will.

Please excuse typos, I was rushed.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Unconstitutional Nonsense - No, not really. Zoning changes happen all the time and are not unconstitutional. Palo Alto could impose a single story zone on downtown right now with no issues. They couldn't then force two story buildings to be torn down. But the existing owners of one story buildings would not be allowed to build a second story. You don't get a grandfathered right based on previous zoning.

Long story short: cities are allowed to change zoning ordinances.


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Posted by Unconstitutional Nonsense
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm

@ slow down

If the owner bought the property based on the value when the zoning allowed 2 stories and that right increased the value of the property and increased the purchase price paid for the property, this would be an impermissible taking. No government can take away property owners' rights that result in losses to them without fairly compensating them.

Go buy property and get back with me.

If the government decides to try to pass ignorant laws that cause you to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars I'd like to hear back from you.

Otherwise, you probably won't understand there is no legitimate government interest in deciding to prohibit two-story buildings in a town where there are already two-story buildings among the one story buildings with the right to add an additional story. This means it cannot be done.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Ok, so banning conversion from retail space to offices is going to decrease the rents and fix the parking problem? Who is going to go to Palo Alto to dine in mediocre restaurants with high prices and have problems finding parking? With the anti-development folks on the rampage, new developments are likely to be even more restricted than at present, pushing rents ever higher. And the solution to the parking problem? Why, we will just have permit only parking around downtown neighborhoods, further exacerbating the problem.

What we need is to lift the height restrictions on new buildings and require them to provide enough parking for the people they will attract. As it stands, Palo Alto is doing everything in its power to drive retail businesses and their customers out. Their efforts in this regard are bearing fruit, however bitter to some. Restricting growth helps keep rents and housing prices sky high, which is very good for some.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm

@southbayresident wrote:

"Just so you know my parents who still live in Palo Alto are constantly harassed by real estate agents and other unsolicited offers to purchase their property. What those people want to do with the property is obvious: tear down the house and replace it with a nasty oversized McMansion designed by and for people with no architectural taste."

They aren't replacing those nice old homes with McMansions, they are replacing them with two no-yard, no parking townhouses. Some of the townhouses are butt ugly, a few are quite nice. The problem is that it is transforming the residential neighborhoods into much less desirable places to live, a nouveau riche ghettoization of sorts. The same thing was done ages ago in Naglee Park, once San Jose's nicest neighborhood. It is now nice only for the rats and the cockroaches. That is not to say it will happen to the same extent in Palo Alto, but screwing up our Mr. Rogers neighborhoods with ill-advised growth models is not a good idea. Better to leave the hoods as they are and build high-rise housing or mixed use towers near the Caltrain depot. Ten or fifteen stories would be nice.

Perhaps it is too late. Downtown Mountain View is the new downtown Palo Alto. Quite a few PA retailers have moved there or to downtown Los Altos.

"You might be pleased to know people like my parents are on the losing side and you will fInd yourself surrounded by more and more "bonafide Palo Altans" who properly payed their way into the community and didn't just happen to buy a house in the 60's and pay it off."

The Palo Altans who have been here since the 60s are the bona fide Palo Altans. The people who flooded in later and trashed the place, not so much. We were here first, back in the days when PA was well run (yes boys and girls, there really was such a time).


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm

@resident 1 wrote:

"Gee Southbay resident - I want to live in a town that looks like it reflects a good educational and financial status - that is what we pay for in our homes. Don't know where you live but we know how much our homes our worth and we want our town to look like it is recognizing the value of the whole scene. That takes good planning and focus. So what does your town look like?"

Those comments seem to indicate a very tenuous connection to Palo Alto. By good educational and financial status, do you mean awash in aesthetically challenged postmodern architecture and poor growth patterns? While it is true that Spanish Colonial Revival homogeneity is not feasible or even desirable, our city does need to show some class and perhaps a little taste. *That* is good planning and proper focus, and will result in the greatest property value appreciation over time. Of course, those intent on being short term residents will care only about short term profitability, even if it is harmful in the long run. I hope such sentiments will not prevail and residents will be able to find a sense of grounding and of place.



And who is this "we" of whom you speak? It certainly does not include me or many other Palo Alto residents.


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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Unconstitutional Nonsense - Changing zoning is obviously not unconstitutional. Otherwise downton Palo Alto would be lined with 15 story buildings. Thankfully, zoning was changed. You used to be able to build a two story guest houses in your backyard in Palo Alto, but zoning changed, and it wasn't unconstitutional.

When you buy property, you buy the property, not the future building rights. If you want to be a speculator, go for it, but don't cry when zoning changes.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2015 at 5:14 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

@Kazu says "They aren't replacing those nice old homes with McMansions, they are replacing them with two no-yard, no parking townhouses."

Um, much of the residential stock in Palo Alto is R-1, so no, they can't do that.


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Posted by Unconstitutional Nonsense
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

@ slowdown

All zoning is not illegal and no one every claimed that to be the case. You are one of those who will clearly never get it.

Go buy property and let the government do whatever it wants to do with it.

Good luck to you and those like you.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 29, 2015 at 12:36 am

It has been done on seven lots in a one and a half block area through which I walk regularly. There are several more nearby. Four were done within the last five years. One of the original houses was particularly beautiful, now replaced by a duplex that looks like it was ordered out of a J.C. Penney catalog.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2015 at 2:04 am

Dear Unconstitutional Nonsense,

You sound like a real barrel of laughs! I wish you best of luck in finding a piece of property where you can burn your stacks of tires. The last I heard it's still legal on the outskirts of Livermore (or maybe that was Tracy).

In any case it's called an ANALOGY but then again to borrow your favorite expression maybe "you will never get it".


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

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