News

Palo Alto looks to limit chain stores on California Avenue

Proposed law aims to preserve charm of city's 'second downtown'

Days after they celebrated the dramatic renovation of California Avenue, Palo Alto officials are bracing for their next challenge: to save the eclectic business strip from its own success.

With property values rising and construction booming in the city's "second downtown," members of the City Council and some merchants are getting flustered about the prospect of mom-and-pop businesses getting priced out and replaced with chain stores. On Monday night, the council will consider a new law that would curtail this trend and create a limit on what is known as "formula retail."

If the council supports a recommendation from city planners, chain stores would not be banned from California Avenue but they would be required to take out conditional-use permits before setting up shop. The city would also revise the zoning code to define formula retail, a subject on which local law is currently mum.

The permit would need approval from the city's director of Planning and Community Environment. Anyone who isn't satisfied with the director's decision would be able to request a hearing in front of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which would then forward a recommendation to the City Council.

The relatively cautious approach reflects the feedback staff received during two community meetings and through a survey that elicited 348 responses. Respondents expressed a strong preference for having more shops on California Avenue (72 percent said there aren't enough of them, while 26 percent said the amount is "just right" and 1.2 percent said there are "too many") and more restaurants (while 59 percent voted for "just right," 34 percent said there aren't enough and 7 percent said there are too many).

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The three types of establishments that respondents said are too plentiful on California Avenue are offices, chain stores, and hair and nail salons. On the topic of salons, 48 percent of the respondents said there are too many of them, while 48 percent said the balance is "just right."

The survey also showed most respondents favoring independent businesses, with 48 percent saying there aren't enough of them and 47 percent saying the mix is just right (4 percent said there are too many). For chain businesses, the results were markedly different. While 55 percent said the current number of chain restaurants is just right, 38 percent said there are too many of them and 7 percent there aren't enough. On the topic of chain stores, meanwhile, 58 percent lauded the current mix, 27 percent said there are too many of them, and 15 percent said there aren't enough.

A city employee also solicited feedback from residents at the weekend farmers market and spoke with pedestrians in the area on several occasions, according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. There was a general consensus, according to the report, with most people wanting to "reinforce the retail environment with unique stores, allowing for some formula retail, and supported by a mix of restaurants."

According to staff, the street currently has eight establishments defined as "formula retail": Subway, Starbucks, The Counter, FedEx, Pure Barre, Aveda Salon, Benjamin Moore Paints and Pizza Studio. These operations would not be impacted by the new law, which would only apply to new shops.

The staff report notes that during community meetings, there was "very little to no support" for an outright prohibition on chain stores. While some advocated for a limit on how many new "formula retail" shops would be allowed, others called these shops valuable because of their capacity to draw more customers to California Avenue. The report noted that there was "some tension between those who advocated for more regulation to protect neighborhood character and those that favored market forces to determine appropriate businesses based on existing regulations."

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Jessica Roth, whose shop European Cobblery is celebrating its 75th year on California Avenue, has been among the leading proponents of restricting chain stores. Last year, hundreds of retailers and residents signed her petition in support of a limit, a measure that she argued would help California Avenue "keep its local flavor and charm."

"The biggest question from people is: Is it too late already?" Roth told the council last September. "My plea to you is: Let's not make it too late."

The goal of preserving local retail has emerged as a hot-button issue in City Hall over the past year, with numerous downtown businesses (Shady Lane, Zibibbo and Jungle Copy) recently shuttering or relocating. The trend is similar on California Avenue, where Cho's Dim Sum, Bargain Box and Avenue Florist have recently shut down because of rent increases. Last week, the council took one step toward reversing this trend when it approved a temporary ordinance prohibiting the conversion of ground-floor retail space to office use. And in March, the council adopted an annual cap of 50,000 square feet on new office development in downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

While those two decisions focused on the broader topic of retail preservation, the May 18 discussion will zoom in on protecting mom-and-pop shops on California Avenue, which has just gone through a $7 million renovation that includes wider sidewalks, two new plazas and a prominent new fountain. The street is widely viewed as the quainter, artsier counterpart to the cosmopolitan hustle-and-bustle of University Avenue.

"Residents and business owners cherish its uniqueness and are proud that it is distinguished from other commercial centers in the community," the report states. "However, many believe that California Avenue is losing its character as more tenant spaces display signs of national chain stores. ... Many have seen an evolution on California Avenue that is less neighborhood-serving and increasingly focused on serving workers in nearby office buildings."

A survey of other cities showed that there is no magic formula for restricting, or even defining, formula retail. San Francisco considers formula retail as chains with at least 11 other establishments in the United States and requires such businesses to get permits in most areas of the city. The city's Planning Commission approves these permits on a case-by-case basis. In Los Gatos, by contrast, a business needs only seven other locations to qualify for the definition of formula retail. The city also requires permits for these businesses to open shop.

In Malibu, formula retail is a business with 10 locations besides the one being proposed. Local law requires them to get permits if they are looking to open in the central commercial district, though it also exempts uses such as grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and medical offices.

Once the Palo Alto council decides whether and how to restrict chain stores, staff will draft a law that would be reviewed by the Planning and Transportation Commission before returning to the council for adoption this fall.

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Palo Alto looks to limit chain stores on California Avenue

Proposed law aims to preserve charm of city's 'second downtown'

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 15, 2015, 7:40 am

Days after they celebrated the dramatic renovation of California Avenue, Palo Alto officials are bracing for their next challenge: to save the eclectic business strip from its own success.

With property values rising and construction booming in the city's "second downtown," members of the City Council and some merchants are getting flustered about the prospect of mom-and-pop businesses getting priced out and replaced with chain stores. On Monday night, the council will consider a new law that would curtail this trend and create a limit on what is known as "formula retail."

If the council supports a recommendation from city planners, chain stores would not be banned from California Avenue but they would be required to take out conditional-use permits before setting up shop. The city would also revise the zoning code to define formula retail, a subject on which local law is currently mum.

The permit would need approval from the city's director of Planning and Community Environment. Anyone who isn't satisfied with the director's decision would be able to request a hearing in front of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which would then forward a recommendation to the City Council.

The relatively cautious approach reflects the feedback staff received during two community meetings and through a survey that elicited 348 responses. Respondents expressed a strong preference for having more shops on California Avenue (72 percent said there aren't enough of them, while 26 percent said the amount is "just right" and 1.2 percent said there are "too many") and more restaurants (while 59 percent voted for "just right," 34 percent said there aren't enough and 7 percent said there are too many).

The three types of establishments that respondents said are too plentiful on California Avenue are offices, chain stores, and hair and nail salons. On the topic of salons, 48 percent of the respondents said there are too many of them, while 48 percent said the balance is "just right."

The survey also showed most respondents favoring independent businesses, with 48 percent saying there aren't enough of them and 47 percent saying the mix is just right (4 percent said there are too many). For chain businesses, the results were markedly different. While 55 percent said the current number of chain restaurants is just right, 38 percent said there are too many of them and 7 percent there aren't enough. On the topic of chain stores, meanwhile, 58 percent lauded the current mix, 27 percent said there are too many of them, and 15 percent said there aren't enough.

A city employee also solicited feedback from residents at the weekend farmers market and spoke with pedestrians in the area on several occasions, according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. There was a general consensus, according to the report, with most people wanting to "reinforce the retail environment with unique stores, allowing for some formula retail, and supported by a mix of restaurants."

According to staff, the street currently has eight establishments defined as "formula retail": Subway, Starbucks, The Counter, FedEx, Pure Barre, Aveda Salon, Benjamin Moore Paints and Pizza Studio. These operations would not be impacted by the new law, which would only apply to new shops.

The staff report notes that during community meetings, there was "very little to no support" for an outright prohibition on chain stores. While some advocated for a limit on how many new "formula retail" shops would be allowed, others called these shops valuable because of their capacity to draw more customers to California Avenue. The report noted that there was "some tension between those who advocated for more regulation to protect neighborhood character and those that favored market forces to determine appropriate businesses based on existing regulations."

Jessica Roth, whose shop European Cobblery is celebrating its 75th year on California Avenue, has been among the leading proponents of restricting chain stores. Last year, hundreds of retailers and residents signed her petition in support of a limit, a measure that she argued would help California Avenue "keep its local flavor and charm."

"The biggest question from people is: Is it too late already?" Roth told the council last September. "My plea to you is: Let's not make it too late."

The goal of preserving local retail has emerged as a hot-button issue in City Hall over the past year, with numerous downtown businesses (Shady Lane, Zibibbo and Jungle Copy) recently shuttering or relocating. The trend is similar on California Avenue, where Cho's Dim Sum, Bargain Box and Avenue Florist have recently shut down because of rent increases. Last week, the council took one step toward reversing this trend when it approved a temporary ordinance prohibiting the conversion of ground-floor retail space to office use. And in March, the council adopted an annual cap of 50,000 square feet on new office development in downtown, California Avenue and El Camino Real.

While those two decisions focused on the broader topic of retail preservation, the May 18 discussion will zoom in on protecting mom-and-pop shops on California Avenue, which has just gone through a $7 million renovation that includes wider sidewalks, two new plazas and a prominent new fountain. The street is widely viewed as the quainter, artsier counterpart to the cosmopolitan hustle-and-bustle of University Avenue.

"Residents and business owners cherish its uniqueness and are proud that it is distinguished from other commercial centers in the community," the report states. "However, many believe that California Avenue is losing its character as more tenant spaces display signs of national chain stores. ... Many have seen an evolution on California Avenue that is less neighborhood-serving and increasingly focused on serving workers in nearby office buildings."

A survey of other cities showed that there is no magic formula for restricting, or even defining, formula retail. San Francisco considers formula retail as chains with at least 11 other establishments in the United States and requires such businesses to get permits in most areas of the city. The city's Planning Commission approves these permits on a case-by-case basis. In Los Gatos, by contrast, a business needs only seven other locations to qualify for the definition of formula retail. The city also requires permits for these businesses to open shop.

In Malibu, formula retail is a business with 10 locations besides the one being proposed. Local law requires them to get permits if they are looking to open in the central commercial district, though it also exempts uses such as grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and medical offices.

Once the Palo Alto council decides whether and how to restrict chain stores, staff will draft a law that would be reviewed by the Planning and Transportation Commission before returning to the council for adoption this fall.

Comments

Abitarian
Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 8:11 am
Abitarian, Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 8:11 am
26 people like this

Why is this policy restricted to California? This should apply to University as well.


Resident
Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 8:29 am
Resident, Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 8:29 am
15 people like this

100% agree with Arbitarian!

Each downtown should have some quaintness, art, shopping, and a mix of retail that benefits all residents that live here.


Sparty
Registered user
another community
on May 15, 2015 at 8:43 am
Sparty, another community
Registered user
on May 15, 2015 at 8:43 am
12 people like this

So... more nail salons?


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 9:11 am
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 9:11 am
1 person likes this

Boo hoo, boo hoo! Where will I go to get my nails done. BTW, I'm a guy. lol!


Sally-Ann Rudd
Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 9:29 am
Sally-Ann Rudd, Downtown North
on May 15, 2015 at 9:29 am
24 people like this

I wish they would do this for University Ave too, which is overrun by mediocre restaurants and has lost virtually all independent retail.


Wondering?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 10:11 am
Wondering?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 10:11 am
13 people like this

Wonder how many of those "hating" chain stores read this blog item that appeared just recently in the Weekly?

---

Chez Franc calls it quits in Palo Alto [on California Ave]
Uploaded: May 11, 2015

Palo Alto's only high-end hot dog eatery, Chez Franc, closed its doors for good after dinner on Saturday evening, owner Jacquetta Lannan announced in an email to the restaurant's Kickstarter backers on Monday.
----

Small stores with inexperienced management/dreamers are not going to make it in this town. Before getting all Ga-Ga about running chain stores out of Palo Alto, maybe someone should take an inventory of the stores that have exited over the past five years, and determine why they have left. If the prime reason is increasing rents--how will restricting chain stores that can pay the rents actually increase the number of local businesses that can't?



musical
Palo Verde
on May 15, 2015 at 10:59 am
musical, Palo Verde
on May 15, 2015 at 10:59 am
7 people like this

Still wondering why my favorite KFC left the Cal Ave area.
Site is sitting empty again.


38 year resident
Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:03 am
38 year resident, Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:03 am
7 people like this

@ Wondering....you're just too logical !!!


38 year resident
Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:05 am
38 year resident, Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:05 am
Like this comment

@ musical...I remember Annie, the little lady that ran the front end. She was great. Try Popeye's in Sunnyvale. Much better chucken.


38
Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:06 am
38, Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 11:06 am
Like this comment

OOPS...Chicken.


YSK
Community Center
on May 15, 2015 at 11:18 am
YSK, Community Center
on May 15, 2015 at 11:18 am
13 people like this

Since the battle was lost on University Avenue. Don't worry, many know about the meetings between the retailers and the schills brought into the meetings by the owner's of the buildings, real estate speculators and chain store reps. Palo Alto screwed up downtown, and California Ave is next. Most people I know, and I know many after four decades in PA, don't ever go to downtown PA...no reason to go, no parking anyway. It's been given over to the young, wealthy and generic...and tourists.


Chairman Mao
Charleston Gardens
on May 15, 2015 at 11:47 am
Chairman Mao, Charleston Gardens
on May 15, 2015 at 11:47 am
4 people like this

[Post removed.]


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 12:24 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 12:24 pm
9 people like this

[Post removed.]


John
Barron Park
on May 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm
John, Barron Park
on May 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm
1 person likes this

I will be interested to see how the criteria are decided on "too few," "too many," etc.


Rita
Palo Alto Hills
on May 15, 2015 at 12:52 pm
Rita, Palo Alto Hills
on May 15, 2015 at 12:52 pm
Like this comment

Bring back the Chinese meat market on California Avenue.


Young but not generic
University South
on May 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm
Young but not generic, University South
on May 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm
7 people like this

@YSK - I may be young (30s) but I hope not generic. I do like University Ave. It also sounds like a lot of the people surveyed by the city want a California Ave with more restaurants... in other words like University Ave. There's a tremendous amount of foot traffic every day, lots of residents of the downtown apartments - it's a very desirable place to live and a very desirable place to shop. California Avenue could do worse.

Yes, there's fewer places to buy clothes than there were 15 years ago. (I was here frequently, then). But it's not a hardship with Stanford Mall and Town and Country so close. I'd rather be able to walk to restaurants and bars than clothing stores or antique shops any day. Shady Lane is doing just fine in Menlo Park, and it's a short drive.

Frankly, it's hard to understand why so many people are complaining rather than celebrating. Palo Alto has two downtown areas that any other city on the Peninsula would kill to have.

Surely, it's not a "lost battle" on University Ave if it's incredibly popular with residents, just because they are young?


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 2:10 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 2:10 pm
5 people like this

Okay, I'll get serious now. Just had to get my (boo hoo, boo hoo comment in, tongue was in my cheek when I wrote it) re my first comment. And, yes, I know I'll never have to worry about a place to get my nails done. The choices of salons in the California Ave area is amazing. They must be smart business people...able to charge exorbitant prices to pay rent, but with a rich/affluent clientele...customers who come out of the Hills or from PA North who have so much money that they don't know what to do with it, or that money doesn't have any meaning/value anymore. Enough on that, but in other late breaking news....

Good points @ Wondering! and @ Rita.

If you read my comments on the University retail article, you could just add my "ditto" to the California article as well. Same thing applies there. The small independent retail, mom and pops, are gone forever, never to return. Thank goodness I had decades of enjoying and patronizing them. These new highly paid techies who can't afford to live here missed out on a wonderful era and experience. I was the lucky NIMBY guy.

Prohibiting chains doesn't in any way solve a problem or equate to bringing small retail back. They're not coming back, but thanks for the good fight by the European Cobblery where I had shoes resoled many times.

So, my advice is, CC stop struggling with this issue, you've wasted so many, too many, hours of your underpaid but valuable time at meetings dealing with all this stuff. Just stop it...it's over. Get on with the other important issues. This should be put in your history file. I've already put it in mine and have written a Life Stories class story (Avenidas) about it. If you are interested in reading it just email me at ggandglj@yahoo.com and ask me to send it. The title is "My Town Has Changed...And It's Still Achangin"


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Like this comment

Oops, sorry Rita, I forgot about you. Yes, of course I remember that market and you could buy big bags of rice there also. You could ask him how you wanted it cut, etc. Very accommodating owner. You must be older than dirt, kinda like me, to remember that store. Memories...but that's all we have now.


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm
13 people like this

Nothing to see here folks. Just move along, and let the real-estate developers turn your city into a nouveau-kitch disneyland for fun and profit.


Nayeli
Midtown
on May 15, 2015 at 5:34 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on May 15, 2015 at 5:34 pm
7 people like this

I would be happy with something AFFORDABLE. Unfortunately, mom and pop restaurants have higher overhead costs. This, coupled with astronomical rent and purchase prices on California Avenue, makes it difficult for independent restaurants to succeed.

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a good local sandwich shop on California Ave. I used to go to Ike's at Stanford with my sister. The Driftwood Deli and Market makes some great sandwiches too. I've heard good reviews of Ace of Sandwiches. It would be nice to have something like these (or The Sandwich Spot in Redwood City) open on California Ave.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 6:02 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2015 at 6:02 pm
7 people like this

Palo Alto has become an office park. Ugly oversized buildings being built with fake retail. The techies roam downtown and eat at the mediocre University Ave restaurants. They whine because they can't afford to buy or rent a house in PA. They secretly want rent control. They are snobs who refuse to buy an affordable house in nearby East Palo Alto. They all think they will become the next Steve Jobs. When they decide to get married and have kids they will pack up and leave town.


Johnny
Midtown
on May 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm
Johnny, Midtown
on May 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm
6 people like this

Every day when I open up paloaltoonline.com I keep seeing disturbing articles "Palo Alto looks to do so-and-so" through some new law.

The sickening aspect to this is that no amount of laws would achieve what they intend. They only serve to further paralyze our society.

Can't they leave well enough alone?

It seems city council members have too much time on their hands and too much money. How do they expect independent restaurants to succeed while at the same time raising minimum wage... and while they tax their small business to death so they can sit around their table debating over more of this frivolous nonsense???

I suspect that we're going to end up with empty, unused buildings that no one will be willing to rent like the decrepit husk of Borders that sat downtown for years... until a bizarre, useless "paid study space/cafe" came along to replace it.

New laws are almost never the right solution. They create one-size-fits-all policies and pointlessly interfere with the natural flow of the market. Worse, rent control is being blamed here when the true culprit is taxes... I mean, all these politicians should be fired and do a real day's work because they aren't actually being productive; they have a parasitic effect on society and it seems that most good people are completely blind to this fact.
What Palo Alto needs more than anything is a heavy dose of laissez-faire.


Agenda
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 6:44 pm
Agenda, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 6:44 pm
8 people like this

Johnny is right. The council, with a new residential its majority, is clearly clueless and in over their heads. And , of course, the weekly tries to stir the pit with provocative headlines, that are not representative of what is going on ( as an aside, I know that the weekly won some sort of awards recently, but a quick check of the entity that gave out the awards shows that hundreds of awards were given out and it seemed that every newspaper won awards!!!).
Based n the poll that the weekly reported on, a vast majority of,people feel that there is the right amount of chain stores/ restaurants , so what is the council in a lather about? And what exactly is a " chain" establishment? Is Mollie stones and fancy burger place? What about the pizza place next door?
And as wondering pointed out the overpriced hot dog place folded rather quickly. We need a free market in Palo Alto, without the council trying to,tell us who can do business on certain streets.
Anyway, there is little real shopping opportunities in palo alto


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on May 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm
4 people like this

Thank you, Resident and Johnny.
That's what I was alluding to in my earlier comment. It's over...done...a fruitless effort by our CC to save it. I only have good memories of how it was. Memories the new high income kids who can't afford to live here will never be able to experience. It's sad, but stop blaming it on us falsely accused NIMBY's.


Sparty
Registered user
another community
on May 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm
Sparty, another community
Registered user
on May 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm
6 people like this

If there is any sign that the PA powers that be doesn't do much for "small/local" businesses it's that Chez Franc lasted 20 months empty and unused and only 4 months once they opened.


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm
5 people like this

Gale Johnson,

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks".


Merry
Palo Alto Hills
on May 15, 2015 at 7:34 pm
Merry, Palo Alto Hills
on May 15, 2015 at 7:34 pm
4 people like this

Why don't we see what the market (customers) want?


Slow Down
Registered user
Community Center
on May 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm
Slow Down, Community Center
Registered user
on May 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm
2 people like this

@Young but not generic - I don't think Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Mateo, or Burlingame would trade their downtown for California Ave. And they all have their own charm that rivals University. There are definitely better food options on Castro or downtown San Mateo.


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 8:22 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2015 at 8:22 pm
7 people like this

Merry,

"Why don't we see what the market (customers) want?"

Because the free market has already been perverted by the use of $8.5M of taxpayer funds to convert hundreds-of-millions worth of public property over to largely private use by a handful of people who own most of the commercial real-estate along California Avenue.


R Wray
Palo Verde
on May 16, 2015 at 10:29 am
R Wray, Palo Verde
on May 16, 2015 at 10:29 am
15 people like this

I like chain stores. But I guess the elite CC knows better than I.


SteveU
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 17, 2015 at 6:36 pm
SteveU, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2015 at 6:36 pm
8 people like this

Do franchises = chains?

Oh wait!
KFC gone
The Cheesesteak shop Gone
Round Table ?
Noahs Bagels ?
Subway ?
Mollie Stones is a 6 store chain... Outa here
US Post Office is a nationwide chain... History
Fedex Kinkos .. don't let the door hitcha
Walgreens
RiteAid
Bank of the West
Wells Fargo
BofA
State Farm

Pretty soon, Fry's will be gone for mandated high density housing (without water)



Absolutely ABSURD


Casa de Cerveza
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2015 at 10:07 am
Casa de Cerveza, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 18, 2015 at 10:07 am
9 people like this

Live music, book store, pet store, hardware store...all these are missing from when I first moved into the California Avenue neighborhood. The mix of restaurants is great -- from the relatively low cost (Tacqueria Azteca) to high-end (Baume); from traditional American food to various Asian, Cuban, Italian, Mexican. The shopping is good as well -- Keeble and Shuchat and Gryphon Stringed Instruments are the best in the Bay Area for what they sell. As a man, it appears there are too many hair and nail salons but, hey, I'm not their demographic. Personally, I greatly miss The Edge. Other than events at Stanford University, Palo Alto has no live music venue. This simply amazes me given that we live in a university town and we have many residents interested in arts and culture.


Crescent Park Dad
Crescent Park
on May 18, 2015 at 10:20 am
Crescent Park Dad, Crescent Park
on May 18, 2015 at 10:20 am
4 people like this

Live music venues can't afford the rent. Same goes for book stores, pet stores, etc.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 11:21 am
musical, Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 11:21 am
2 people like this

Some live music does exist around University Avenue, on weekends at Lytton Plaza or at the wide part of the alley-way that goes behind Nola's. There's also the occasional busker on various streetcorners. Bigger tips would probably draw more into town, but I don't know anything about the permits or protocol of performing in public places, or even in private places.


EmmaB
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 18, 2015 at 11:38 am
EmmaB, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 18, 2015 at 11:38 am
1 person likes this

On a related note, let's all stop going to the nearby Chipotle -- as well as any store or restaurant that is strongly anti-science. As per the Washington Post's recent article, "Corporate irresponsibility over GMOs,"

"Chipotle, Whole Foods and those who follow their examples are doing real social harm. They are polluting public discourse on scientific matters. They are legitimizing an approach to science that elevates Internet medical diagnosis, social media technological consensus and discredited studies in obscure journals. They are contributing to a political atmosphere in which people pick their scientific views to fit their ideologies, predispositions and obsessions. And they are undermining public trust in legitimate scientific authority, which undermines the possibility of rational public policy on a range of issues."


Worked well before
Community Center
on May 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm
Worked well before, Community Center
on May 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm
2 people like this

Worked well with plans to limit grocery store size to save JJ&F years ago. I wish CC would stop trying to mettle in natural progression of cities as most of my grocery shopping is now done in Menlo Park or Mt. View since the grocery stores in PA are too small and antiquated.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm
Like this comment

@Emma, at $636 today, Chipotle's share price is higher than Google.


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm
4 people like this

WWB,

The gentrification of California Avenue is anything but "natural", and never would have happened if not for government funding. These redevelopment projects are socialized real-estate development.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on May 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on May 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm
5 people like this

The Palo Alto City Council should have as much to do with the store composition on California Avenue as it does with the racial composition of the neighborhood nearby. That is to say: nothing whatsoever.


Holmanknowsbest
Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm
Holmanknowsbest, Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm
1 person likes this

You are correct Joseph but that will not stop Karen Holman from telling us where we need to shop


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 4:28 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 4:28 pm
4 people like this

JED,

The previous pro-development PACC's meddling in the composition of California with the approval of $8.5M of public funds to gentrify the street, and the transfer of public property to largely private use, had a much more profound effect on the "free market" than the current councils "talk" of disguising these profound changes to the economic playing field, with half-hearted limits on "chain stores".


Abitarian
Downtown North
on May 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm
Abitarian, Downtown North
on May 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm
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A few people have mentioned the "transfer of public property to private use" in the California Avenue district. Can someone explain?

Please note that this measure is not a "ban". It just requires prospective chains to apply for a permit.

In theory, this would allow the Planning Department to do some actual planning. It would be a win-win if residents and visitors got their needs met by locally-owned small businesses.

In practice, well, we'll just have the wait and see. At least in recent years, the Planning Department has been very reluctant to use the word "no". It is hard to imagine this will change.


Robert
another community
on May 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm
Robert, another community
on May 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm
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@Abitarian

I have a feeling that "Ahem" is suggesting that the main contribution to rising rents on Cal Avenue is somehow due to the street reconfiguration or some other work done by the city?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm
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Popular chains in Palo Alto include Starbucks, Peets, Philz, Piazzas, Sanchos, Hobees, Grocery Outlet, as well as the defunct Fresh Market, amongst many others. We also have Supercuts, Great Clips, Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Subway, Baskin Robbins, Sprouts (the restaurant), Chipotle, the Counter, Apple Store, Microsoft Store, Verizon, T Mobile, AT & T, Macys, Bloomingdales, American Apparel, and so on, all popular chains that we consider staples of Palo Alto retail and restaurants.


Dastardly Deeds
Barron Park
on May 18, 2015 at 6:05 pm
Dastardly Deeds, Barron Park
on May 18, 2015 at 6:05 pm
4 people like this

They limit chain stores, but not the unwanted business developments? hmmmmmmm.....


Sparty
Registered user
another community
on May 18, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Sparty, another community
Registered user
on May 18, 2015 at 7:30 pm
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Chipotle? GMO?

Come one folks, don't live up to the stereotype of old school Palo Alto people.

Those of you who are able to get on the internet should look things up...

Boycott Chipotle over GMO? really now.


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm
7 people like this

Arbitarian,

Once upon a time there were a handful of people who owned most of the commercial real-estate along California Avenue. This handful of people were very, very sad. They were sad because they couldn't charge as much rent for their property, as their friends who owned commercial real-estate along University Avenue.

So the handful of people got together, and their leader came up with a plan... "why don't me make California Avenue into a mini version of University Avenue!"

The handful of people were so happy, but the more they thought about the plan, the more they started to worry.

One of the worried members of the group asked the leader, "your plan sounds very expensive, where will we ever get the money for your plan". The leader said "no problem, our friends who work for the state of California collect taxes from all of the people who live around California Avenue, and they put it into a big gold pot for people like us. We won't have to pay for anything"!

Another worried, "getting money from that pot of gold sounds very complicated, how will we ever get the money from the pot"? The leader said "no problem, our friends on the city council will direct the city staff to get the money from the pot for us. We won't even have to do any work"!

Yet another worried, "even if we get the money from the pot how will the restauranteurs ever be able to pay more rent, unless they have more tables"? The leader said "no problem, California Avenue doesn't need four lanes and all of that diagonal parking, our friends in city hall can use the money from the pot of gold, to convert two lanes of California Avenue to sidewalks, that the restauranteurs can use for extra seating"!

But yet another worried "how will our tenants who are not restauranteurs ever be able to pay more rent"? The leader said "no problem, they won't, but when their lease expires you can kick them out, and replace them with a chain restaurants or coffee shops... problem solved"!

And that, dear Arbitarian, is how socialized real-estate development works!


musical
Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 9:26 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 9:26 pm
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... and everyone lived happily ever after.


kabig
Midtown
on May 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm
kabig, Midtown
on May 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm
3 people like this

Check out the Fillmore Street neighborhood in Pacific Heights. They have such a well balanced mix of retail and restaurants. Cool brands like Rag and Bone, Alice and Olivia mix with locally owned restaurants like Dino's and Val Veneetos, and large chains like Peets and Starbucks. We should probably learn from them on how they balanced the retail space so well and made it an interesting neighborhood for locals and visitors alike. It's not about limiting who can join your party, but how do you get the interesting guests there to make sure you have a lively party.


chains
College Terrace
on May 18, 2015 at 11:42 pm
chains, College Terrace
on May 18, 2015 at 11:42 pm
3 people like this

There's a difference between small Bay Area "chains" like Philz, The Counter, etc and generic chains like Walgreens, Starbucks, etc. I don't think anyone has a problem with the interesting Bay Area stores, just the boring generic ones.


Robert
another community
on May 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm
Robert, another community
on May 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm
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@Ahem

So the whole purpose of this was to be able to charge more rent because restaurants can now put tables on the sidewalk? Your theory seems a little far fetched as well as disorganized. I mean, what if a landlord wanted to kick out and replace a tenant with a chain store, couldn't they do that with 4 lanes and no diagonal parking?


EmmaB
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2015 at 7:01 am
EmmaB, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2015 at 7:01 am
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@musical - Not sure what share price has to do with Chipotle sponsoring the anti-science movement...

@Sparty - Yes! Anyone who is intelligent and educated should be very concerned that Chipotle is propagating harmful and anti-scientific views about GMOs. I refuse to buy anything from an organization that is so adamantly (and stupidly) GMO free.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2015 at 7:27 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2015 at 7:27 am
Like this comment

A chain is a chain unless it is one you think is uninteresting then.

I actually think a drugstore on Cal Ave would be an asset for those who live, work or lunch in the area. There are two in Midtown and both seem to do well. Drugstores are at least useful retail selling things any of us may need in a hurry. They are also a draw as someone may grab lunch next door if they need to get some toothpaste or a passport photo.

But our City Council think that chains on Cal Ave are not welcome! Any Mom and Pop feel like starting their own drugstore out there?


A.T.
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2015 at 7:38 am
A.T., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2015 at 7:38 am
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Chains commented:
"small Bay Area "chains" like Philz, The Counter,"

I think the Counter is really an Los Angeles chain as it started in the Los Angeles area before coming to the SF Bay Area. Only seven of the 40 locations are in the Bay Area, 14 or so in SoCal, and 19 location outside of Calif., including the following:
Dublin, (Ireland)
Kuala Lumpur
Jeddah
Dubai

I think it is now beyond being just a local chain.


Casa de Cerveza
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 19, 2015 at 8:42 am
Casa de Cerveza, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2015 at 8:42 am
4 people like this

@Resident -- The California Avenue neighborhood already has a drug store called Maximart Pharmacy at 240 Cambridge Avenue...It is locally-owned and staffed by professionals with excellent customer service skills. I've been a customer for 25 years and endorse them wholeheartedly.


Johnny
Midtown
on May 19, 2015 at 8:59 am
Johnny, Midtown
on May 19, 2015 at 8:59 am
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Why are we having all this drama over shopping? There's got to be more to life.
Shopping. For the love of god.
I avoid Chipotle because I hate it. Horrible, generic tasting food. I'm not doing it out of some wild-eyed activist fervor.
Let's find something more worthwhile to argue about.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 19, 2015 at 9:45 am
musical, Palo Verde
on May 19, 2015 at 9:45 am
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@Emma, just an indication that Chipotle has plenty of customers and business sense.


Quoi?
Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2015 at 11:30 am
Quoi?, Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2015 at 11:30 am
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


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