News

Editorial: Slowing development, one project at a time

'New' Palo Alto council pursues painful process of creating policy through individual project decisions

It's probably no one's idea of how to best craft new policies and expectations for commercial developers in Palo Alto, but the City Council is making clear it is serious about no longer being loose with discretionary approvals that allow buildings to exceed one or more zoning requirements.

With a new majority coming out of last November's election, the council is in the midst of a number of initiatives to respond to community concerns over development, traffic and parking, but most will take months if not years to implement. They include adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan, creating a cap on development, tightening zoning and building restrictions, and new transportation and parking programs.

In the meantime, individual projects approved by the city's Architectural Review Board (ARB) or Planning and Transportation Commission, and discretionary approvals by the planning staff of "design enhancement exceptions," are showing up on council agendas for debate and action due to once-rare appeals by residents.

And the council is taking full advantage.

One example of this opportunistic approach is Monday's review of the ARB's earlier unanimous approval of an exception to the 37-foot height limit for a proposed new three-story building at 2555 Park Blvd., a block off California Avenue between Sherman and Grant avenues.

The developer sought approval of a 50-foot height in order to include a roof-top terrace and two stairwells required for access. Under the current zoning and building code, only mechanical equipment such as air conditioning or elevator apparatus is allowed to protrude beyond the official height limit of a building, so special approval was needed.

Both the ARB and the planning staff supported the request, even though approval of a design-enhancement exception requires a finding that there are "exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions" that require a waiver of the normal restrictions.

No one argued there were any such extraordinary circumstances in this case, only that it would be a nice amenity to make use of the roof of the building for a terrace that could be enjoyed by employees.

Opponents, who turned out in large numbers wearing "Stop 2555 Park Boulevard" stickers, argued this kind of exception is exactly what is infuriating many residents and, in part, led to the election of candidates who promised to stop such developer tactics.

There were lots of other concerns expressed by neighbors and others about the project, especially relating to parking, traffic and building mass, but the height exception was the council's only real way to impact the project. (The other would have been not to allow the demolition of the current building because of its eligibility for "historic" designation on the state's historic registry, but its unattractive design -- called ugly by Councilman Greg Scharff -- made that a nonstarter.)

One problem is that the design-enhancement exception has become so routinely utilized that developers, the ARB, planning commission and city staff all embrace it as a way to make minor zoning exceptions that don't hurt anyone yet add to the aesthetics or functionality of a building.

While there are some design exceptions for which this is true, the City Council voted unanimously to reject this one, an action that would not likely have happened two years ago.

The message a majority of council members is sending is that zoning limits are not the starting point for negotiations over how developments can exceed them, but are actual rules to be followed.

One might call this new mindset "development by the rules," instead of a more collaborative review process that resulted in developers and city staff working through design issues and agreeing on what exceptions would supposedly achieve a more attractive or better building without obvious harm to neighbors.

That process, however, has been taken too far and is under a cloud of public suspicion that serves neither developers nor the community. We're glad to see the council shift to more literal rules of development, especially while other development policies are being reviewed and likely strengthened. It's a painfully time-consuming process for the council to get into the details of individual projects, but until the ARB and staff decisions begin reflecting the council majority's views, there is no alternative but to take action through these individual reviews. Creative design can and should be achieved within our zoning laws, not in exchange for desired zoning exceptions.

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Comments

64 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2015 at 6:15 am

"It's a painfully time-consuming process for the council to get into the details of individual projects, but until the ARB and staff decisions begin reflecting the council majority's views, there is no alternative but to take action through these individual reviews."

The alternative is to communicate clear direction to the ARB and staff, and if the ARB & Staff continue to approve these type of exceptions, they should be replaced. Don't wait until the ARB member's terms expire. Communicate what the expectations are, and if they continue to approve these type of projects, replace them before their term expires. Same with staff - start with City Manager Keene.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2015 at 6:21 am

1x.


12 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 5, 2015 at 9:12 am

Making policy, project by project is not new.

The Councils in recent past were engaging in the exact same process. They were just deciding what they thought the policies should be in the future and making exceptions consistent with their vision of the future. They did not enforce current municipal codes or zoning guidelines.

It's ridiculous to now blame this current Council for following the law and the will of the voters!


14 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 9:53 am

Staff has so much power in all of this -- How long have we had this City Manager?....


33 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 5, 2015 at 10:49 am

The council has told the ARB that it is not up to them to play fast and loose with zoning or code exceptions. Unfortunately, under the city manager James Keene there is a culture of helping developers get what they want outside of the the intent of the city's regulations. Every exception sets a new standard. Staff actively advocate for the developers, as does the city manager. After all, he was the one secretly negotiating the with the huge developer Arrillaga proposing to put a 19 story office block next to the train station with three other office blocks also exceeding the height limit. This went on for over a year without alerting the council or the public that this was going on behind their backs. Keene even worked out a deal with Arrillaga to sell him 7 acres of Foothills Park which abutted his house for a pittance! Keene's assistant manager was the scapegoat and he resigned [portion removed.] The new director of Planning and Transportation last year, Hillary Gitalman, walked right into this. Having watched almost all the new council's discussions pertaining to development I believe she is working very hard to reflect the new direction, but with so many years of entrenched bias toward developers I think she has her work cut out for her in trying to steer the ship in a different direction. Caught in the middle between the city manager and the new council.


26 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2015 at 10:55 am

It is my understanding that City Staff and Council are planning a Council Study Session in mid-August to review the constellation of issues that befuddle decision-making. I hope that RPP, TMA, PAD, exceptions, exemptions, enforcement, impacted intersection et al are high on that agenda. Solutions will not evolve without a integrated solutions to these long-standing problems.


14 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2015 at 11:17 am

Exceptions were a "a way to make minor zoning exceptions that don't hurt anyone yet add to the aesthetics or functionality of a building."

Wait - so we are praising council for stopping changes that add aesthetics or functionality and don't hurt anyone? I thought the purpose of zoning was to make buildings better, not worse.

And it doesn't sound like "following the rules". It sounds like "looking for reasons to stop any development the council can legally stop." As we saw with 429 University, that's very different from simply applying the rules in a common sense way.

If we are a city that won't allow four-story buildings on University anymore, let's make that decision outright and make Council take responsibility for it, rather than backdooring it through appeals. Eliminating the rooftop garden from that three-story building on Cal Ave was at least a consistent application of the rules, albeit one that resulted in a worse building for everyone concerned.


40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 11:46 am

Having spent another day in the south bay recently, where they don't have our beautiful proximity to the hills, the views, etc. I am just dumbfounded that Palo Altans would even consider selling out like this. We don't need more jobs here, we don't need more density, we don't need to compromise the quality of life or strain resources like water. There are HUGE swaths of San Jose that are ugly, flat, no views, spread out, and in desperate need of urban-village renewal, and where tall buildings would IMPROVE the landscape, and building them in the context of urban-village planning is a tremendous opportunity for the region. The only reason we are getting pressure to allow all this development in Palo Alto is because developers get the marginal benefits to themselves and it's easier in many ways because everything else is here already. San Jose wants the additional development. It's time to take a stand for quality of life in Palo Alto -- the region will benefit.

The trouble with making concession to people who have no trouble turning Palo Alto into Manhattan is that it IS a slippery slope, it's like being a little bit pregnant. They get what they want by claiming their for "options" but then they move in more people who want their "options" and they have no trouble taking away the options of people who want to retain a quality of life and the natural environment. They destroy the place all for their short-term profits. Look at what's happening on the East Coast now with all the once booming cities falling apart (there's a new documentary about Baltimore, Newark, etc)

We've been through this before with the yuppies in the '80s. They want to change Palo Alto, but then they move on as they grow up and want families and schools, too.

W


29 people like this
Posted by DGN
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I would like a full review and re-evaluation of the criteria for selecting people to be on the Architectural Review Board. One criteria should be that the members of the ARB are current residents of Palo Alto. It's jaw dropping that residency is not a criteria at this time. The current ARB should be pushed out, i.e., pressured to resign, for failure to follow the building codes in Palo Alto. They have done a disservice to this community with their flawed approval interpretations. As a result, the ARB's incompetence has wasted the valuable time of the city council, who has been forced to spend time correcting the ARB's incompetence.


31 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

We are an incredibly wealthy small town. We don't need more jobs here, we don't need more companies moving in, we need to preserve our natural beauty and our way of life of treelined streets, space and manageable traffic, which we used to have. Any concession to the pro development crowd will create precedences that will turn into avalanches and our beautiful town will become another Manhattan. How more selfish can we get that we crave more jobs in a town with so many billionaires and multi millionaires, while so many other regions are in a deep recession and need economic development just to stay afloat.


30 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm

@downtown worker

A good architect can make a building attractive within the constraints of the codes.

The council works within constraints and can't get involved until there is an appeal on their agenda that they can rule on. And then only allowed to rule on exactly the wording on the agenda. Staff report directly to the city manager so individual council members cannot just go over his head and directly instruct staff on how to conduct their jobs.

Since the last comprehensive plan update in the mid 1990’s, city staff have increasingly exercised discretionary judgement calls in favor of developers. What should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances according to the city guidelines have become the norm. It appears it has become the planning staffs' role to help developers in exploiting every possible angle, whatever be can got away with, pointing out loopholes, making rulings that don’t even comply with our city codes. Studies required from and provided by developers for the EIR’s (Environmental Impact Reports) are rubber stamped when often a more careful look at the circumstances and facts would be at odds with the figures and conclusions submitted. Especially where traffic impacts are involved.

At council meetings staff have openly advocated on behalf of the developers, sometimes looking more like they are their employees rather than city employees. At the same time the majority of the members of past city councils have tacitly if not overtly looked the other way, and have made rulings that have appeared to be less than objective.

Which takes us to the mess we are now in where as far as developers are concerned the goal posts are a moving target.


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 5, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Thanks mauricio.

Why can't we be and remain the unique city that we are? And historically have been. We don't need neighboring cities to be models for for us to follow. Let them build as many office buildings and as high as they want. And I hear so many growthers talking about how vibrant our downtown area has become with all the startups locating there. I' m not sure what that means...maybe the young workers going to the many restaurants to eat drink and party. How many of those workers have families to go home to? And we, so called NIMBYs, get called down for trying to impede progress, that it is inevitable and should be accepted. I'm confused about that word progress. I don't see how more offices with no provision for housing the workers is a sign of progress. So build those affordable housing units. Go for it. Are we NIMBYs getting blamed for that too?


20 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

Rainer is a registered user.

Jane wrote above:
““Studies required from and provided by developers for the EIR's (Environmental Impact Reports) are rubber stamped when often a more careful look at the circumstances and facts would be at odds with the figures and conclusions submitted. Especially where traffic impacts are involved.””

I agree with every word.

But it is worse! Of all the City’s Commissions, ARB, PCT, and Historical Resource Board, only the latter is independent because it is not subject to the Revolving Door economic pressure.

So what does the City do? HRB does not have a direct email address and the committee members do not have individual emails. They have a Planning Staff member installed as gate keeper who filters everything you send to HRB.
God only knows what gets through.

On the level of worse (LOW) we are now going from “D” to “F”.

The published “Verbal Comments Received at Historic Resources Board Hearing, November 19, 2014” (all 2 pages worth of it, Web Link) available for the PTC meeting on April 29, 2015 were heavily edited to make it look that in their meeting on November 2014 the HRB only had lukewarm support for the historic preservation option. Look it up at Web Link , page 73-75.

In contrast a complete transcript is in Web Link , pp 195-209 (Attachment I), a document which was made available just before the June 1, 2015 City Council session. It shows that a majority of HRB was in full support of the historic preservation option; they said many worthwhile conceptual things about what to do. But they were forcefully prevented by their City Minder from voting; an astonishing thing to read. In fact their effort to be professional about it was ridiculed. Again, read the verbal transcript.

Council Member Eric Filseth mused in the June 1st Council session that the council was being played by the developers. That may be, and that is what you expect, but what you not expect is being played by the City Staff.

Read the minutes and form your ownopinion which City Staff should be fired.

As to the traffic impacts (Jane observed “at odds with the figures and conclusions” = lying), my favorite go-to place for information and conceptual understanding is the City of San Carlos’ work on the Caltrain Transit Village.

In the Palo Alto Traffic Impact Report Web Link you find weasel words like (p.17, e.g.):
““As indicated in Table 7, the study intersections operate from LOS B to LOS E during the AM and PM peakhours. The analysis worksheets for this scenario are provided in Appendix C.””

Then if you actually do look at Appendix C you feel like a Java Programmer must feel when, after breezing through 20 pages of Java, he is confronted with analyzing by hand 50 pages of Assembler.

In the San Carlos Report Web Link , in contrast, we simply find (for the “Palo Alto Medical Foundation in San Carlos traffic study”) on page 20:

“The project is said to create a significant adverse impact on traffic conditions at an intersection if, for either peak hour, the level of service at the intersection degrades from an acceptable mid-level LOS D (V/C = 0.85) or better under future conditions to an “”unacceptable”” high LOS D, LOS E or F under project conditions.”

“Unacceptable””, for the residents that is; a concept the City of Palo Alto Planning Department does not know.




2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 6, 2015 at 10:50 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The famous downtown vibrancy the growths are so proud of:drunken brawls, drug deals in dark alleyways and corners, aggressive beggars, noise, congestion, offices replacing retail, ridiculously expensive eateries serving mostly below medicore food. How could we have ever survived without that wonderful vibrancy? iffthis is progress than I long for regress.


8 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Mauricio continueswith his gross over exaggerations as to what is happening downtown. Go downtown some evening and you will see if-- full of people, enjoying the wide variety of restaurants and retail. Yes, there is an occasional issue, but to suggest that drunken brawls, drug deals, mediocre food etc I s not supported with any facts whatsoever. One would love to see where Mauricio is getting his information from, but that would not fit for n with the " doom and gloom" scenario being pitched by some


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

@Agenda (that's a very apt name for yourself, based on your post)

I've lived here a longtime and think Rainer and Mauricio have it right. I used to go downtown in the evening frequently and now go only if I have to, a few times a year. There's a reason the Cal Ave farmer's market is so much more vibrant than the one downtown, and it gets more uneven by the year.


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

"@Agenda (that's a very apt name for yourself, based on your post)"

Thank you . I am glad that you recognize my genius
You are using the farmers market as an indicator of vibrancy? So what is s the reason that the california avenue farmers market is more vibrant. They are both on weekends, during daylight hours.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 7:12 pm

@Agenda,
I recognized only that you have an agenda, based on your post. I did not recognize any "genius" in that, that would be a "gross over exaggeration" for you to call yourself a genius based on appropriately labeling yourself.

But, if you are so smart, perhaps you will re-read the posts above for the answer to your question.


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Resident-- based on my comment Mauricio's posting you determined that I have an " agenda" ? Pray tell, what is that agenda?
Are we not allowed to disagree with other posters comments. Also please explain why you think the California avenue farmers market is more vibrant. That was your comment and has nothing to do with other comments.
Maybe you. Can also explain why downturn PA is full of people at this moment, if it is such a terrible place.
Times change, people change and cities change. Palo Alto and its residents have benefitted greatly from these changes. And obviously the comments on this forum may not reflect the feelings of most residents, despite the efforts of the editors.


15 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@Agenda, downtowns of some of the most dangerous, violent, crime ridden cities in the world are also crowded with people. What has this got to do with our topic? Please provide one example that will show us that Palo Alto residents have benefited from the development and urbanization of this town. Has traffic calmed down? Has the crime rate gone down? Has the air quality improved? Is it less noisy? Is it easier to park? Are there less drug deals downtown? Are the panhandlers less egressive? Is there less harassment of women? Are people more polite and nice to each other than say, 30 years ago? Is downtown safer? The answer to all is a definite NO.

Yes, there are more places downtown for young people to get drunk and get into brawls, and restaurants are much more expensive than in the past, but I don't see the benefits in that.


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 7:51 am

"@Agenda, downtowns of some of the most dangerous, violent, crime ridden cities in the world are also crowded with people. What has this got to do with our topic? "
Well, Mauricio, are you suggesting that Palo Alto is dangerous, violent and crime ridden?? But what does that have to do with the topic of the park blvd development?

Please provide one example that will show us that Palo Alto residents have benefited from the development and urbanization of this town"
The answer to that would be an opinion . Many people believe that palo,alto,has benefited greatly from the increased business, visitors and workers. Shall we discuss the tax dollars that have been put into city coffers?

" Has the crime rate gone down?"
When did the crime rate climb as high as you would like us to think. Numbers, please

" Has the air quality improved? Is it less noisy? Is it easier to park? Are there less drug deals downtown? "
Numbers for air quality claims, please. Parking downturnwn wn has always been an issue, the city has not been willing to,address issue properly. Please provide numbers for your claims about drug deals downtown. You seem to constantly harp on that. I have looked at the police blotter and do not see any size able increase in drug deals as you claim. Let's see some facts.

"Are the panhandlers less egressive? "
The city tried to address the issue, but residents opposed the measures. Nothing to do with development

"Is there less harassment of women? "
What does this have to do with development? Do you have any facts to back this claim

"Are people more polite and nice to each other than say, 30 years ago? "
Once again, you provide no facts to back your claim.

"Is downtown safer? The answer to all is a definite NO."
Downtown is safe. As for your answer, it is not an answer, but an opinion.
Downtown is just fine. People enjoy downtown. The food is good, with many choices. There is a nice choice of shopping downtown. Stanford theatre does well.
There is no documented crime, drug, drinking problem downtown.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2015 at 9:51 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Actually, you failed to refute any of my points. You say that "many people" believe that PA has benefited from development, which is not an answer, just words. The last council elections show that very few people think so, and I have yet to meet one person who thinks that the development and increased density have benefitted PA, but I know plenty who think just the opposite. As someone who has lived here for decades, I know that downtown is far less safe. I can compare it to my do the comparison based on my experience, while you are just repeating the growthers mantra that more development and more density are beneficial, but are unable to point how. They are certainly beneficial to the developers and their enablers, but that's where the benefits stop. By the way, i never claimed that downtown was crime ridden-everything is relative. it's safer than downtown Detroit, Caracas or Chicago. I compare it to the past.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 7, 2015 at 10:29 am

Honey, the Bickerson's are at it again!

@Agenda

Yes, please give some good factual information on the taxes put into our coffers!


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:06 am

mauricio is a registered user.

"There is no documented crime, drug, drinking problem downtown."

Yes, there is. Check the police reports of the last 10 years or so. Again, you are just saying things, as if saying them often enough will make them a reality.

There are theaters, restaurants and bars in some of the most dangerous cities in the world who do very well. What has it got to do with the fact that those cities are very dangerous?


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:51 am

"ords. The last council elections show that very few people think so, and I have yet to meet one person who thinks that the development and increased density have benefitted PA, but I know plenty who think just the opposite. "
The last council election ended as 3-2 victory for the residentialists. Hardly a mandate. You should have attended last weeks summit- you would have seen that people like you are in the minority.

"Honey, the Bickerson's are at it again!
@Agenda
Yes, please give some good factual information on the taxes put into our coffers!"
Do you need t be snarky, gale. We are having a discussion
As to your tax question follow the link below
Web Link

Click on the last quarter report. Scroll down and you can see the increase in the in tax revenue from 2011 until now.
Let me know if you need more clarifications.

Mauricio-- in one post you u claim that downtown iscrime ridden. You claim drug deals, fights, drunkedness etc. in fact you say that on thread after thread. Then you say that our downtown is not crime rates seen. Then above you say that there are theaters, restaurants and bars in dangerous cities downtowns. And then you ask what that has to do with cities being dangerous. So which is it, Mauricio? There are of course incidents in our downturnwn wn, but those are few and far between. Downtown is full of,people . People are not afraid to go downtown. But how would you know. You have stated in other threads that you never go downtown. Palo alt has very little crime in general. Downtown is safe. People flock downtown.

BTW, I did say how more development and density are beneficial-- more tax revenue. Also jobs ( remember when not too long ago we were bemoaning the loss of jobs). More residents and visitors in town, means more money for the city ( remember destination palo,alto?)
I think I have clarified my position.


5 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Agenda & Maurico,

The revenue from sales taxes & hotels would be a reflection of the growth of office space (from City of PA budget documents, 2014 is last year available with complete data):

2007 - sales tax $22.2 million, hotel tax 6.7 million
2014 - sales tax $29.4 million, hotel tax 12.2 million

Hotel tax increase is partially based on an increase from 10% to 12%.

However, while the revenues have gone up, the services the city provides have been reduced (eg. street sweeping is now charged on the utilty bill, instead of being paid out the general fund, animal services, etc).

Staffing of the police department went from 167.5 FTE to 153 FTE.


Like this comment
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Common sense-- regarding the increase in tax revenue and decrease in services, remember the major commitment the city has towards their pension plans. A few years back our financial situation was very bad, but in recent years we have had a surplus. In fact, our officials have been quite vocal in talking about our great financial situation. This great financial situation stems from an increase in tax revenue and we know where that money comes from.


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@agenda, again you just say stuff. I said that even some of the worst crime ridden cities have their downtowns teeming with people. i know, I have visited many of them over the years:Caracas, Rio, Tegucigalpa, Sao Paulo, Cape Town, and many others. I never claimed that Palo Alto was on their level or that it's crime ridden. A steady increase in our downtown crime rate doesn't qualify it as crime ridden, but it's a direct result of unnecessary policies heavily biased in favor of development and growth.

The increase from tax revenues is due to the increase in property values. The tax revenues from increased development is offset by the damage to the infrastructure (it's extremely expensive to repair roads and streets frequently), to our environment and air quality, as well as other services the city must provide. In other words, it's mostly fool's gold.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Agenda, my apology for snarky attitude/behavior. I'll try to reign that in.

Thanks also for the web link re taxes. I scanned thru it and made some observations but need to go back and study it more. I don't think there is a good case that office space growth is the way to prosperity from taxes (increased revenues). I noted specific segments. Sales tax revenue up for restaurants, (bolstered by tech workers for sure), but sales tax revenue down for some of the retail areas, and will probably continue with losing so many stores. So there is some offsetting there. And there is also the inflation factor to be accounted for. Yes, tax revenue dollars will increase simply by the price of goods and hotel room rates going up. Let's just use caution and not get too excited about the tax revenue benefit. We're going thru a good economic period. We've had those before....and then....


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Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Mauricio-- please note common senses post.. Tax revenue from hotel and sales tax has increased significantly since 2007. Add in property tax revenue and the city coffers are doing quite well. Which is what our city leaders want

Regarding downtown. Nite the following quotations:

"We needed, and had, a wonderful downtown, we have lost it and now we have one that is creepy at night, dangerous, and sometime deadly."
"Downtown has attracted enough dangerous and unruly people to make it unsafe. There are now drug deals on streets corners and alleyways, muggings, harassment of females, even in broad daylights. Downtown is now dirty and creepy and isn't made any more pleasant by the ridiculously overpriced boutique stores."
"but I don't need to have statistics to know that downtown PA is now a place to avoid."
"There is probably more crime in downtown Chicago than in downtown Palo Alto. That doesn't change the fact that downtown PA, especially at night, has become rowdy, seedy and dangerous."

The above quotes are from you, Mauricio on this thread:
Web Link

So downtown palo,alto is not crime ridden, yet it is seedy, rowdy and dangerous and unsafe. So which is it?


8 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Agenda - you've started to highlight what this is all about with all the development & zoning exceptions - it's about money to fund pensions and pet projects at the cost of the residents (manifesting itself in traffic congestion, and a change in the quality of living in the city through less services). The formula for pension payouts was done in 2006, which greatly increased the liability and happened before a wave a retirements that happened from 2007 - 2012.

The revenue from the all this development went to enrich the retirement of senior managers, not to benefit the city.


4 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:03 am

I spend much of my time downtown. Both during the day and in the evening. Clearly the notion that downtown is a crime risen, seedy place is a figment of Maurico's imagination. Also, as I recall, downtown provides the second highest level of sales tax revenue to the cit coffers. Comparing our downtown to even our neighbors I sees cleaner, more attractive downtown. The sidewalks are kept tidy by the steam cleaning I see early in the morning along with the efforts to the Downtown Streets Team. I see more police officers walking the beat. I see the beautiful twinkle lights other trees. I see the umbrellas and foliage of both Lytton Plaza and Cogswell Park. I would suggest, trashier than say, "I don;t go downtown anymore." You get off your whining butt and check it out. It's a pretty darn good place to be.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:05 am

Yikes, sorry for all the typos in the last post. Typing fast and not reviewing. My apologies.


3 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:22 am

@common sense

Thanks for addressing the pension liability. Also, going back to the sales tax and TOT revenues and comparing 2007 and 2014 numbers. The sales tax revenue increase was 32 per cent over that 7 year period, not too surprising since inflation was happening and the prices of goods would naturally produce more sales tax revenue. Bear in mind also, sales tax revenues cover a pretty small portion of the budget. How much did our budget go up in those 7 years? Sorry I asked!

Yes, of course the daily influx of workers has some affect. I don't know how that could be measured tho. If they're sticking around after work to eat and drink at the dozens of restaurants, that's one thing. But are they also shopping here or do they do that at malls near where they live?


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:41 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I never said downtown was crime ridden. I said that even crime ridden downtowns around the world are often crowded in response to a poster who claimed that the fact PA downtown gets crowded is an indication there's no crime in and it's a great place. Don't twist my words. Downtown is not a nice place anymore. If you think it is ,your standards must be pretty low. It used to be a nice place, but the word 'used' indicates the past, not the present. fake retail, ridiculously overpriced, no more places to hear live music or poetry reading. very expensive restaurants serving mediocre food, rowdy bars, agressive panhandlers, etc. it is dirty compared to neighboring downtowns. A ridiculous place to be avoided, even if bob likes it.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:54 am

@mauricio

Odd, when I go downtown its more crowded than ever. I suppose all those people haven't gotten the memo that its not a nice place to be.


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Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Maurucio--you are correct. You never said downtown Palo Alto is crime ridden.
You said that downtown palo alto is creepy, dangerous, deadly, dirty, rowdy, seedy and other things. If that is not the same as saying it is crime ridden....
As to your complaints about the retail and eateries, that is a matter of opinion--one that puts you in a minority
My advise, avoid downtown palo alto if you hate it so much.
and palo alto being what it is, if there really was a crime problem downtown, you would definitely be hearing about it from residents


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Re downtown, and especially at night.

I've read and heard from both sides on the issues of crime, panhandling, etc. Some love it because of the crowds of people and the vibrancy and busyness of it, with people bustling about, going in and out of restaurants/bars, laughing, high fiving, and having a good time. I have a hunch most of them are single young folks with no families to go home to. Others have seen the darker side, and it's real I think, and it's not new.

Years ago my wife and I used to go downtown and just walk up U on one side of the street and back down the other. We loved it. We would bump into people we knew. We could hear musicians and vocalists performing at Lytton Plaza...and sidewalk performers with guitar cases open for contributions.

Then when my wife took trips to visit our daughter and I stayed in town, I'd occasionally go downtown for a cocktail and dinner. One time, and this was about 25 years ago, I was approached by a very stoned young lady who wanted a ride to EPA in exchange for a sexual favor. I couldn't be lured into that deal. I gave her $5 and walked away to my car parked in a lot just a short distance off U. Within a minute a car sped up and she hopped in. Obviously a setup.

We've read about the brutal beating of a young man on the short street where the Farmer's Market is located. He died. And more recently a fight outside a bar that resulted in a man hitting his head on the sidedwalk and dying.

Public drunkeness and panhandling is common. I'm a 78 year old widower and have thought about going downtown and enjoying that nightlife excitement again. Would I be safe is the question in the back of my mind. I think not. I think I might be an easy target if I parked a couple blocks away from U on one of the cross streets or parking lots. Am I paranoid? The young folks go in pairs or groups and that provides safety. So maybe it's time for this old man to just stay home or hire a bodyguard.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:19 am

mauricio is a registered user.

1. Many residents complain about downtown.
2.There is quite a lot of crime downtown, even a fatality once and awhile.
3.you never conducted a poll about the retail and eateries.
4. Many downtown visitors are not residents. Just like Rodeo Drive, the now legendary wealth of PA attracts many visitors who want to rub shoulders with the new billionaires and see how the other half lives. Quite a few are petty criminals, drug dealers and hustlers. The crowds downtown mean absolutely nothing-junk food places are also very popular.


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Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:43 am

"1. Many residents complain about downtown."
How many 10, 100, 1000? Or is it just you?

"2.There is quite a lot of crime downtown, even a fatality once and awhile."
You make this claim over and over and over. Provide us some data to back up your claim. As i said earlier, if crime was a real problem in downtown, you would hear about it from residents of Palo Alto.

"3.you never conducted a poll about the retail and eateries."
You must have, given your claims over and over and over. Please provide us with the results of your poll

"4. Many downtown visitors are not residents."
First of all, so what??? Does it matter where the visitors come from. Second how do you know where all the visitors are from?

"Quite a few are petty criminals, drug dealers and hustlers."
How many? How do you know? Do you profile all downtown visitors?

"The crowds downtown mean absolutely nothing-junk food places are also very popular."
So what???? People are visiting downtown. It is bustling. People shop and eat? ARe you going to tell them where they should shop and where they should eat. Are you concerned that people are eating at junk food like restaurants and shopping at fake retail (according to your opinion)?
Seems like you have issues with downtown> A bad experience perhaps????


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Posted by Stats
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

Interesting view of crime at Web Link. Look at Palo Alto by zip code, otherwise if just shows you 94306 or something. Palo Alto's downtown certainly looks a lot worse than Mountain View's or Menlo Park's.


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Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

50 incidents in over a month and a half at the 94301 zip code, which encompasses downtown. Of course we should probably wait and find out the outcome of all these incidents before they are labelled crimes. Yes, our downtown is just infested with crime. Best to avoid it at all costs.,


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Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Thanks stats. It was revealing.

Just count the handcuffs. The Daly Post has the Police Blotter. Daily reports of arrests for public drunkenness or being under the influence of a controlled substance in the downtown area. Unpleasant to be in the bustling vibrant crowds with that going on, speaking only for myself. All Los Altos could muster up were 3 reports of "suspicious circumstances reported" and 1 "disturbance". Pikers!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm

On weekends I often hang around near Lytton Plaza when the bars close.
Strangely fitting to see someone ralph on Emerson.


Get it? Oh well. :-/


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

We have unnecessarily, by pretending Palo Alto, a small college town, must become big bustling city, injected downtown with the blight of big cities:crime, violence, drunkenness, drug dealing, aggressive panhandling, etc, so Liz Kniss and her followers can brag about downtown's vibrancy.


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Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm

"a small college town"
Palo Alto stopped being a small college town decades ago.

" injected downtown with the blight of big cities:crime, violence, drunkenness, drug dealing, aggressive panhandling, etc,"
So you finally admit that you have been saying that our downtown is crime ridden? Hardly true, though.
People enjoy coming downtown. Why do you begrudge them their shopping, eating and fun experience. If you do not want to come downtown, then don't.
Do you know ANY downtown that does not have the issues you claim exist in downtown Palo Alto. Not sure why you keep harping on the non-existant situation downtown.
Come by on a friday or saturday night., you will see thousands of people have a good time, enjoying themselves. Why does that rub you the wrong way?


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Got it Waldo.


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