News


Palo Alto seeks a new vision for Fry's site

City Council prepares to move ahead with major planning effort for 15-acre property

In an area marked by rapid change, rising rents and a flood of anxiety about growth and traffic, the 15-acre campus off El Camino Real sprawls like a sleeping giant.

Often referred to as "the Fry's site" for its largest and best-known tenant, Fry's Electronics, the area at 340 Portage Ave. stands out as both a glaring wild card and the place considered most ripe for transformation. A new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment calls it "one of the city's largest underdeveloped sites" and notes that it provides a "unique opportunity" to plan for a variety of uses. On Monday night, the City Council is set to approve an intense planning effort that will survey these opportunities and culminate in a new vision for the area.

For the council, adding housing to the Fry's site tops the priority list. While Palo Alto officials often describe the city as "built out" and agonize over locations for future housing, the Fry's campus is one of the few locations that is widely considered suitable for residences. The city's recently adopted Housing Element, a state-mandated document that lays out the city's vision for housing, allocates 221 new housing units to the Fry's site, which is bounded by Lambert Avenue, El Camino Real, Park Boulevard and Olive Avenue.

Vice Mayor Greg Schmid, normally one of the staunchest critics of new developments, referred to the site at an April 2014 meeting as "one of the best places in town" for new housing. Councilman Greg Scharff said at the time that he'd like to see the city add rental housing there.

Advocates for new housing, including members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, also support adding multi-family housing to the California Avenue area property. At the April 2014 meeting, when the council first considered a staff proposal for a planning effort funded by grants, several members of the group spoke in support of redevelopment at the site. Mehdi Alhassani, one of the group's co-founders, said the proposals to add housing "align with the pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented development" envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan, the city's land-use bible.

Adding housing to the California Avenue area, he said, is particularly important because of the city's severe jobs-housing imbalance and the existence of transit services in the area. Palo Alto currently has about three jobs for every employed resident, a ratio that is often blamed for exacerbating the city's traffic and parking problems.

"Adding housing where the jobs are will ease regional commutes, traffic, parking and greenhouse gas emissions," Alhassani said.

Talks of revising and revitalizing the Fry's site have been percolating since at least 2006, when the council agreed the city needs to come up with a new vision for the broader 115-acre area around California Avenue. The draft concept plan for the business district states as one of its goals the "transformation of the Fry's subarea into a walkable, human-scale mixed-use neighborhood that includes ample amenities."

The concept plan, which has not been formally adopted by the council, calls for housing to take up no less than 20 percent of the total square footage of the development in the Fry's area. Should the store relocate, the plan calls for a mixture of uses that include single-family residences, multi-family houses, retail and office space. It also calls for smaller housing units, built at a density that's at the higher end of what zoning allows.

The new $300,000 planning effort for the Fry's area is expected to take about 18 months, involve numerous community meetings and result in adoption of development standards, a transportation-demand-management program and design guidelines. The master plan would be funded by a $265,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and $35,000 in local funds. It is modeled on the two South of Forest Area plans that the city adopted in 2000 and 2003, respectively, and that established design guidelines for two sections of downtown. Those planning efforts have been generally accepted as a major success, resulting in new design standards for new houses and the creation of Heritage Park downtown.

The council unanimously authorized pursuit of the grant-funded master plan for the Fry's site in April 2014. At that time, council members Pat Burt and Karen Holman voiced some concerns about the grant and wondered whether the application would commit city to certain policy directions with which the council may not be fully comfortable.

Since then, city staff has obtained the grant and confirmed that the city will have the ability to directly hire the consultants and ensure that the work's product "reflects Palo Alto's planning needs," according to the new staff report.

The city's enthusiasm about redeveloping the Fry's site notwithstanding, the shift in the land's use is far from imminent. Fry's recently extended its lease and is now expected to stay at its current location until 2019, according to city staff. One task that has yet to be accomplished is convincing the property owner, Sobrato Organization, to support the proposed transformation of the site. The report from planners notes that so far the property owner has "expressed hesitation about initiating the planning process right now."

Related content:

Palo Alto planners to zoom in on Fry's site

Comments

42 people like this
Posted by Skydoc
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Traffic in that area is pretty much maxed out. Oregon Expressway is really congested since the 'improvement'. Addition of another 100 - 300 (??) families would make things even worse.

I would vote for a cultural center. It would have spaces for the arts, crafts (like a makers' center) and shops with some park land. We could probably get local high tech firms to sponsor the makers' center. If Cubberley reverts to a school, there will be a number of displaced artists.


45 people like this
Posted by new police station?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm

This seems like an ideal spot for a new police headquarters.


23 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

@new police station?, that makes too much sense.


24 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 7:37 am

This would be an ideal spot for the Police and Emergency services.


25 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

Have technical school teaching trade skills. Give kids around here something to aspire to other than Stanford. We could use good bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, chefs, landscapers etc.... Can't learn that in a four year degree at Stanford.


4 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 10:24 am

One issue is that the parcel belongs to the Sobrato Organization. They'll need to be bought out if the land is to be used for public or city purposes.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

I'm surprised that Frys can afford the lease on that property, unless they are getting some kind of sweetheart deal from a landlord that is stalling in order to put together redevelopment plans of their own. I remember the days when the Frys parking lot was alwas full of customers. Now days, the place is practically empty. Their prices, selection, and customer service are terrible compared to the major internet retailers.


27 people like this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 11:06 am

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

We already have a cultural center on Newell and it's a good one so we don't need another here.

Palo Alto Forward wants more high density housing. Our traffic is already terrible (and getting worse yearly) and no matter what residents of new housing will predominately use automobiles so traffic will just receive another heavy injection of autos. Plus the drought has demonstrated our seemingly infinite resources can be limited. New dense housing will consume more of them despite whatever efficiencies the new complex could have built in.

It seems to me we may have found at last a site to pursue for a new police headquarters. This is not a place for another project that will further strain limited city and regional resources and decrease the quality of Palo Alto life for those who live or work here.


15 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:03 pm

OK, so they tear out Fry's Electronic. Where will this important company go? Yes, we desperately need more housing, AND BETTER TRANSPORTATION. But these needs must also be balanced by a need for stores with a local flavor. Palo Alto has lost some much loved stores on University Blvd. because of the ridiculous cost of rent. Also, it USUALLY takes an hour to go from Stanford to East Menlo Park during rush hour. So, the quality of life is diminishing badly. Please solve that problem.


4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Where is Fry's moving to?


32 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm

The anti-housing people really don't get it. The problem is that the number of jobs in and around Palo Alto far exceeds the number of homes here. This is especially true now that Google is proposing to push northward into Palo Alto. If we don't add home to balance this out, then employees will have to commute longer and longer distances to get to work. Adding homes dramatically shortens commutes and thus dramatically reduces traffic. The Frys location is just a couple of miles from the Google campus and if the proposed Matadero Creek bike path gets built, this commute is just a few car-free minutes by bicycle. Other employers like Groupon, AOL, Palo Alto Square, HP, PARC, and Stanford are also an easy bicycle commute from the Frys site.

For people who can't or won't bike, high-density housing makes corporate shuttles practical. A shuttle from the Frys site to Google is 20 times shorter (in time or distance) than the Google busses to San Francisco.


28 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

"The problem is that the number of jobs in and around Palo Alto far exceeds the number of homes here."

Yes we do. We get that adding housing adds traffic, pollution, and carbon. We should be subtracting jobs.


27 people like this
Posted by unseen palo alto
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:47 pm

@resident.
the only way additional housing is worth it is for us lower income workers who work in palo alto...rent on a two bedroom on ALMA street is now almost $3,500 a month...to afford that one must earn over $42,000 annually JUST to pay the rent. there are many of us unseen workers at jobs in palo alto and surrounding cities that pay less than $15.00 an hour. especially in the service and not-for-profit sectors and one's educational attainment does not make a difference for those jobs. (how do i know? i have a master's degree, i work for a small non profit and i make 28k annually because that is "what the market rate" for my job is...my education and 30 years of experience don't matter...yet the three top employees in my 5 person office make over 100k a year.) increased traffic is, in part, occuring because people like me are being forced out of palo alto housing, so we end up driving further and further for our jobs.


20 people like this
Posted by paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2015 at 4:04 pm

It seems to me that @auntiehousing pretty much sum up the residentialist position. Let's reverse time, get rid of jobs, and return to the bucolic Palo Alto of 50 years ago when everyone knew each other, and shared lemonade over white picket fences... Sounds lovely doesn't it?


6 people like this
Posted by think about it
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 6, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Police and emergency services makes NO SENSE whatsoever. Have you ever seen Oregon in the afternoon? Brief description - TOTALLY packed. Lights and siren won't do a thing, there's simply no room for a vehicle to get by. They can't divert to Churchill or Meadow or Charleston - same problem, plus any of those add lots of travel time.

Those services need to be located where they can quickly reach any part of the city at any time of day.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Think about it - nowhere in Palo Alto can be quickly reached from anywhere else at any time of day!

Perhaps they need hovercars instead of police cars!

Great place for PAPD and PAFD HQ. If only the city owned the land!

The great thing is that if people buy near their jobs, the likelihood is that they will change jobs and then need to commute. Of if their home is near their job, their spouse's job will be further away.

Unfortunately, you cannot mandate that people live near where they work.

We have to improve public transport in the Bay Area - only solution. What we have now is a joke. When people can travel on reliable, comfortable transportation with wifi, at a reasonable price and short first mile/last mile connections, only then will they use it as an alternative to driving a single occupancy car.


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 6:41 pm

For the pro housing people on this thread....where will all of these new families send their kids to school? Please show me where you will build the additional schools and also please show me who is going to pay for the acquisition of the land and the construction of these non-existent facilities.


21 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

The Fry's site is a great place for housing. It's close to the train station, close to jobs, and close to services. It's even currently zoned for medium-density housing - seems like this would be replacing an old zoning exemption for Fry's with something that respects current zoning laws, which I hear is popular around here.

The broader community reaction from the Summit shows that this is something that a wide swathe of people in Palo Alto desire. It's also something we need to be doing more of throughout the Peninsula and in SF.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 7, 2015 at 4:20 am

@Downtown Worker, a nicer spot is the old Sunset 7 acres, with "a plan to build high-density condominium type housing on the site," according to an Almanac story.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 4:41 am

@Paul
-It seems to me that @auntiehousing pretty much sum up the residentialist -position. Let's reverse time, get rid of jobs, and return to the bucolic Palo -Alto of 50 years ago when everyone knew each other, and shared lemonade over -white picket fences... Sounds lovely doesn't it?


Thank you so much for adding something so useful to this discussion


8 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 7, 2015 at 8:34 am

Let's build a utopian paradise, a shopping plaza where everything is free, everything made from sustainable material, free public electric vehicles to drive back and forth to home and back, the weather over that site will always be sunny and moderate.


13 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2015 at 9:44 am

The false assumption is that adding housing will reduce traffic. If the Fry's site is developed into housing, most of the site will be million dollar or multi-million dollar housing - any investor will look to maximize their return. Adding to the cost of the market rate housing, the developer will need to raise their prices by 20% to subsidize BMR housing, and additional amount to support any required amenities like a park.

Most who can afford that price of housing will not be the average worker at AOL, Groupon, Google, HP, VMware, or any of the other tenants in Stanford Industrial park. Those workers joined these companies well past the time where there stock option/restricted stock grants are creating the equity needed to purchase a multi-million dollar home.

And the majority of people who live in Palo Alto who are employed (factor out the retire seniors and school age kids) work outside of Palo Alto. During the massive building boom from 2001 - 2010 there were over 2,100 housing units added, but traffic has only gotten worse, and the price of housing has only become much more expensive.

The housing element, targets 221 housing units for the Fry's site. 20% of those would be BMR units, and the remain 176 units will not be at the price that most of the Palo Alto Forward group could afford (if they could afford the multi-million dollar price, they would have already bought a home).


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2015 at 9:51 am

I didn't realize that the target is 221 units. At 1.5 kids/unit, that's 330 kids - almost the equivalent of a full size K-5 school. Again, where will the school be built and who is going to pay for it?


9 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 7, 2015 at 1:05 pm

It's the math, kiddies. More people = more cars = more traffic = worse traffic jams = more pollution = more carbon emissions. Urban densities and suburban driving necessities = Gridlock.

And where's the open space relief for these people warren inhabitants in all this pipe dreaming?

Paul has the right vision. Shed jobs, bring back a town that's worth livibg in instead of being an investment. Picket fences nice but optional.


11 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2015 at 1:36 pm

@Auntie Housing

I suppose you're going to lead by example and quit your job? It would probably help to encourage your employer to pack up and move out of town as well, both those things would help the traffic situation.


7 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 7, 2015 at 5:11 pm

"I suppose you're going to lead by example and quit your job? It would probably help to encourage your employer to pack up and move out of town as well, both those things would help the traffic situation."

It's nothing short of incredible how quickly these postings get down and personal, especially when someone thinks they're responding to a female [Portion removed].

Anyhow, I've done both things. My employer has no current presence in Palo Alto.

Your turn now. What is the current population of your "another" community? How much are you asking it to increase? How many housing units are you pushing for there? How many of them would be within view of your own dwelling?

Yeah.
Your motivation is clear: If that housing doesn't happen somewhere else (like Palo Alto), it could be your turn.


9 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Sounds like it won't be long till I won't need to enter the city of Palo Alto because all the places I like doing business will be gone.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:51 pm

I go for high density housing. The housing situation in Palo Alto area is absolutely ridiculous. Why people need so much space like front yard, backyard, side yard, LR, FR, Game room, dining room, formal dining room, etc. A typical space of 1000 sq feet is perfectly sufficient for a young family. For people who want open space, I suggest a walk along fantastic Bayland trails just walking distance from Fry's.


2 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:43 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"the only way additional housing is worth it is for us lower income workers who work in palo alto...rent on a two bedroom on ALMA street is now almost $3,500 a month...to afford that one must earn over $42,000 annually JUST to pay the rent."

Is it really that hard to commute from Redwood City or East Palo Alto?

"It's the math, kiddies. More people = more cars = more traffic = worse traffic jams = more pollution = more carbon emissions. Urban densities and suburban driving necessities = Gridlock."

Who let Auntie out of the house again? No. Actually urban density is more environmental friendly.

"At 1.5 kids/unit, that's 330 kids"

We don't even know the size of these units. That's a pretty big assumption.


6 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:04 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Wasn't Frys Grandfathered? That is not an Exemption.

City hall needs to really re-think about the DAILY lost sales tax revenue that will happen when the closed doors hit. Luxury car sales will be the only big ticket sales tax source left in town.

We drove off the common car dealerships. We have no big (ticket) box stores. Can PA live on the sales tax from the Apple store?


Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:47 am

TOT from hotels has been increasing and because it stays in PA can make up for much of the small portion of sales tax lost on retail sales.


14 people like this
Posted by Gnar
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:50 am

Adding housing sounds noble... until you understand that it is just going to be snapped up by foreign investors or C-level tech employees and none of it will help alleviate the housing problem.

Aside from the small percentage of mandatory below-market-rate units set aside by developers to meet City requirements, these overpriced units are going to be inhabited by relatives of Chinese or Russian investors who don't have to work, not by tech employees, and certainly not by blue collar workers who will still have to commute from San Jose to get here.

Can you imagine the backed up line of new residents' cars at the Portage light to get on to that already-burdened strip of El Camino in the morning?


Like this comment
Posted by bill1940
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:56 am

Have any of you ever looked at the work of Paolo Solari?

Web Link

This is a chance to build an environmental community in harmony with our needs: Homes, parks, etc, nicely integrated for those of all incomes. High density housing is a joke, or perhaps even a crime. Reduce the number of homes and create a development with trees, and parks. A place where the inhabitants can walk about ... add a little beauty to everyone's day-to-day living.


11 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:14 am

Fry's is such a great source of income. Why would we want to let that go?! Isn't it possible to have that AND housing?


1 person likes this
Posted by Delusional
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:17 am

Urban density is not environmentally friendly. For example, let's look at Manhattan, which may be the model our city planners envision. True, everything is close together so residents can rely on public transportation and walking vs individual cars. However, Manhattan sucks resources, including food, energy, and water, out of the surrounding area -- tens of thousands of square miles devoted to serving Manhattan.

From an environmental perspective, we'd be much better off encouraging more self-sufficiency. Households generating their own energy and growing more of their own food. You can't do that if you're living in a 200-square-foot unit in a highrise. Is that really our vision for Palo Alto?

Let's not make this all about reducing vehicle trips. Within a few years, we'll all be using driverless vehicles that run on alternative fuels, and traffic jams as we know them will no longer exist. Fear of gridlock should not be our primary focus when we look to the future.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 2
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:43 am

to Resident-- if you want more housing and more traffic and more bottlenecks and more congestion and more useage of water that we currently don't have--move to Shanghai or New York City--we are sure you will fit in just fine. and, make sure you take all your stuff with you.


11 people like this
Posted by marie
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

who cares about housing. Would like to think the city would help Fry's electronic store find another home or something. Its a great store and it would be sad to see it forced out of business. Besides we have lots of new housing going up I would like to see a shopping center instead.


10 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 12:15 pm

How is this a VISION? Bunch of homes and/or offices again ... What is so visionary about that?


9 people like this
Posted by More Losses to Mourn
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Where will the people who live in the "new housing" have a good quality of life?
Palo Alto City Geniuses have taken away so many amenities for the public - We lost our bowling alley.
Wonderful memories of kids birthday parties, etc. for what -- a commercial Hotel to serve business entities!
Yes, more hotel taxes for city coffers, but at the expense of city residents in terms of life style and social
amenities.

Do the new hotels have public meeting rooms or offer public services?
What will new apt and condo complexes offer the current residents (voters) of Palo Alto? More traffic congestion, air pollution, angry drivers.

Let Google solve the housing problem! If they are creating it... They should offer dorms or low cost to their employees - housing.


6 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm

What about doing nothing????


11 people like this
Posted by realist
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2015 at 3:02 pm

I like Fry's right there. Keep it the same. Changing things is not progress. Look at the California Ave. fiasco where we spent all that money and no gain in parking space or good stores. Put the police HQ east of the Bayshore where they won't bother anyone.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joseph Baldwin
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

30+ years ago City Council DID re-zone "Fry's site" FOR housing, at a future date. WSJ Properties (Messrs. Wheatley, Smith & Jacobsen) owned site.
Later, Council denied a permit (OK'd by City Attorney and TWICE recommended by Policy & Services Committee) for 2 card tables in a restaurant on El Camino Real zoned for poker. Mr. Jacobsen stated such activity would make it difficult to rent apartments and sell housing.
Pete McCloskey argued Pojanamat vs. City of Palo Alto. Judge ruled for City
based solely on Jacobsen's testimony, despite fact that activity would occur
at a distance from housing three times greater than that required by law.
Still later, Council fell in love with the revenue from Fry's, reversed itself 180 degrees, and revoked its earlier housing designation.
Housing on Fry's site was percolating many long years before 2006!!!







3 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm

"Who let Auntie out of the house again? No. Actually urban density is more environmental friendly."

There goes that perception of a vulnerable female again. Do we now have Sexists for Palo Alto Urbanization (Portion removed)?

Truth is, I have some difficulty perceiving hard soil-killing pavement chock-a-block with carbon-belching motor vehicles as environmentally friendly. Likewise glass and concrete people warrens. Houses with oxygen-belching shade trees in yards somehow seem more nature friendly. You may of course disagree.


Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2015 at 5:29 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Just checking, not meaning to get into the debate.

You did mean that as a cute way to sign in as anti-housing?

No wonder people made the gender assumption.


3 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 8, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Steve, your perceptivity never ceases to astound me. That's a cute way to point out you miss the point entirely.

Look, when a blog poster asks "Who let Auntie out of the house again," they are implying more than mere gender. I been there before.

Do an experiment: sign your blog as Stephanie Levy, with an appropriate portrait, and note the new tone of the responses.


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Let Fry's move to the DTC outside of Denver; we could use the low prices and the history exhibits.
Just fill the existing buildings with double or even triple BUNK BEDS and a communal kitchen serving " friendly to the Earth " meals, mostly VEGAN. Several of the communal bike racks provide non polluting commutes to local workplaces. ( the pollution will be to other workers in the cubicles who have to smell your stench )You just pay for ( or do not have )belongings in a provided monthly locker. Your bunk and kitchen provided meals will cost you only around $2000/month, including communal showering facilities. Baths cost extra.

No need to tear down the original Fry's building. Have some respect for history!


6 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm

People need to look at any development, anywhere in Palo Alto as one big continuum. There is a 3 to 1 jobs housing imbalance, so obviously we don't need to add any more jobs. Send them out of the state. We don't have enough water anyway and Detroit needs them. Then we either need to reduce the number of jobs slowly or perhaps increase the amount of housing. But if you want to add houses you will have more people driving, more kids in school, at the pools, playing soccer, riding bikes. So where are the new roads going to go? Where are the new schools going up? Where are the new playing fields and pools? So you say there is no money for these items but somehow it is OK for developers to make millions selling homes. Palo Alto needs to let jobs leave and support the housing stock that we have. Density only works if your goal is to warehouse people. If the density is so severe then it might actually force people out of their cars. It will not lower any prices. Think Manhattan or Tokyo. People who want density should send all housing and jobs to our two urban areas - SF and SJ. Leave the rest of the peninsula as a suburb. It will never be dense enough to support mass transit, but it can be destroyed by too much development. The only use for the Fry spot, if it isn't a Fry's, is as a giant park with pools, playing fields, and lots of green open spaces. The amount of park space per resident in Palo Alto is way below what is called for in the current comprehensive plan. Of course the Palo Alto Forward (or is it Upward?) people plan to rewrite the plan to demand high rise pod homes, no green yards, and sending your kids to multilevel schools without any access to green spaces. Cover the world with people! It has worked out so well so far!


3 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Given this:

"Fry's recently extended its lease and is now expected to stay at its current location until 2019, according to city staff. One task that has yet to be accomplished is convincing the property owner, Sobrato Organization, to support the proposed transformation of the site. The report from planners notes that so far the property owner has "expressed hesitation about initiating the planning process right now."

Why on earth is the city council wasting $300,000 and doing this?

"The new $300,000 planning effort for the Fry's area is expected to take about 18 months, involve numerous community meetings and result in adoption of development standards, a transportation-demand-management program and design guidelines."

If they have too much cash on hand and want to get rid of it, why not just buy everyone free beer at The Palo Alto Festival of the Arts? ;-) Seriously folks, planning to develop a parcel whose owner isn't interested doesn't make much sense.


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:39 pm

@CM wrote:

"There is a 3 to 1 jobs housing imbalance, so obviously we don't need to add any more jobs. Send them out of the state."

Wow, talk about a NIMBY approach. Since the other states also took the NIMBY approach and sent the jobs to California, that won't work. If there is a 3-to-1 jobs to housing imbalance, the solution is simple - build more housing. Just don't waste time and money trying to do it where the landowner is reluctant.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:01 am

@paul wrote:

"It seems to me that @auntiehousing pretty much sum up the residentialist position. Let's reverse time, get rid of jobs, and return to the bucolic Palo Alto of 50 years ago when everyone knew each other, and shared lemonade over white picket fences... Sounds lovely doesn't it?"

Much of Palo Alto south of Oregon Expressway used to be agricultural land. So is Auntie Housing proposing that all structures in that area be bulldozed and the farms and orchards restored? Because that is the logical conclusion of the Anti-Growther arguments. Of course, that never seems to apply to their houses and the impact their construction had on Palo Alto.

And yes, everyone knowing their neighbors and sharing lemonade over white picket fences does sound lovely. That is a matter of people valuing a sense of community, and has nothing to do with the the density of development in an area.

@Auntie Housing, the Palo Alto of the 1930s, the 1960s, the 70s, 80s, 90s and today are very different things. As much as some would like to think of the past as one fixed set of conditions, such was never the case and never will be. Whether or not the Anti-Growth set likes it is irrelevant. Given that they themselves contributed to the urbanisation of Palo Alto, their position is hypocritical.


6 people like this
Posted by Vision or Farce?
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:28 am

>"The new $300,000 planning effort for the Fry's area is expected to take about 18 months
Another big dog and pony show by the City Manager who can again pretend he wants to listen to the people. He's really into big spending (of our money).

The much touted Summit last week was the biggest farce. How are 300 unorganized people going to influence planning decisions? He will produce a 100-200 page report with lots of pictures of people eating and having a good time (the food was free), and l-o-n-g lists of what people said. Quotes from the leaders of Palo Alto Upward.
And PR produced conclusions that say people want dense housing near transit.
Anyone doubt that that is what the report will say?


13 people like this
Posted by PA Nerd
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:23 am

Won't somebody think of the electronics/hardware nerds that made this city so wealthy in the first place? Don't make me drive to Sunnyvale!

Fry's has been instrumental in getting local youth interested in technology/ computer hardware / electronics / etc...

How about keeping some of that TECH in Silicon Valley and not replacing it all with sprawling corporate apartment complexes? Or another soulless business like the ironically named "SoulCycle?"

Remember what started the tech boom, in this area. It was NOT Google and Facebook moving in and employing thousands. It was young guys with easy access to electronics, tinkering in their garages, trying new things.

It's OK-- I'm sure the next Wozniak will find all the inspiration he needs at Best Buy.

RIP Fry's-- From my first chemistry kit bought as a child, to the computer components I still buy at Fry's 30 years later.


3 people like this
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:49 am

"Whether or not the Anti-Growth set likes it is irrelevant. Given that they themselves contributed to the urbanisation of Palo Alto, their position is hypocritical."

Try as I might, I cannot understand why people who think they have the answers have so little confidence in the strength of their argument that they have to get shrill.

It would be much preferable if they would try to objectively refute the inconvenient truth I pointed out earlier, viz "More people = more cars = more traffic = worse traffic jams = more pollution = more carbon emissions. Urban densities and suburban driving necessities = Gridlock."

We cannot solve the problems caused by excess by piling on more excess. We have to reverse the excess. Dump jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

@Gnar

Thanks for being bold. I think you're right but I was afraid to speak out because of racial implications.


3 people like this
Posted by Klaus Brandt
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Am I alone in remembering that the Southern Pacific branch line from Los Gatos to California Avenue (Mayfield) used to pass by the north side of the Fry's property. Los Gatos and Los Altos commuters could ride to San Francisco without bucking traffic jams. Those were the days my friend , we thought they'd never end.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Kazu, seems like I've bumped into you before. Well, I think you got it wrong again. You must be fairly new in town. Am I right? We moved here in 1961 and rented a 2 bdrm apartment at 3151 Alma for $125/mo. We then moved to the back apartment at 3153 and paid $130/mo, but it had a small patio out back. Good for BBQing. It was very nice. I'm hearing that units like that are now renting for $3500/mo. Why? And please, oh dear please, don't blame it on NIMBY's. You accusers seem to like to throw that term out all the time. It must make you feel good or give you a subliminal rush.

And to say that us folks in SPA, whose houses were built on pastureland, should have them razed and returned to pastureland/orchards, is a little crazy, don't you think?

We were just common ordinary people, single income families, who were fortunate enough to be able to afford homes back then. But we had no influence or control over what was going to happen to drive up home and rental prices. Believe me, we were not smart enough or organized enough.

And we didn't contribute to urbanization, it was called suburbanization back then. But we were a much friendlier town then. Neighbors knew neighbors and we helped each other out. That's gone. Oh, BTW, I hate white picket fences if that makes you feel any better.

I've commented numerous times that I'm in favor of raising the height limit to build more housing, only housing, not more offices, so that that can catch up to the jobs in the downtown area. Why isn't that happening? And why aren't developers picking up on that and proposing projects for that. That's what PAF is pushing for? Why aren't developers presenting their plans for multi-story affordable housing in the downtown hub area where all the newly created jobs are located? I think I know but won't reveal my answer just yet.

Sometimes I feel like CC is on a stationary bicycle, lots of motion, but not getting anywhere. They appear to tackle all the problems with vigor, and of course a lot of rhetoric, and they sound so sincere, and I'm sure they are, but the problems they're faced with are so enormous and overwhelming. Let's support them in all their deliberations on these very tough issues. They will get things wrong sometimes, but all in all they are doing their best, and don't forget, there was an election last year. Did you vote?


1 person likes this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:45 pm

@ Klaus Brandt,

How long ago was that? I came here in 1959, and there weren't any trains there, but I remember an unused rail line buried under El Camino Real.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I haven't found any primary sources but have seen reference to Los Gatos - Palo Alto passenger operations starting 1913 and ending January 1959. I do remember the El Camino crossing between where McDonalds and Palo Alto Square now stand, but no rail traffic. Southern Pacific filed in March 1962 to abandon 6 miles of the line up to Stevens Creek, where rails onward to Vasona are still present today. Foothill Expressway was built on the right of way in 1965.


2 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:47 pm

@ musical,

Thank you for the history about the rail line.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:20 pm

The really interesting part is when it went all the way into Santa Cruz.
But we're getting off topic, unless we want to go back to better public transit.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:33 pm

I'm not sure any "better" public transport would help those who are ideologically set against using it. El Camino has 8 buses an hour and people still complain about the lack of parking downtown.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm

I'd love to take a train to Santa Cruz this weekend rather than sit in traffic on 17.
I've ridden the Beach Train from Felton a couple times just for fun.

Most of my recent Caltrain experience has been standing room only.
The Giants World Series Parade was the most congested I'd ever seen anywhere.
I have mixed feelings about the bike commuters on board.
Lengthening some station platforms could fit another traincar or two during rush hours.
Back to topic: The Fry's site to Cal Ave is 1/2 mile or 10 minute walk.

I'm fine with the VTA 522 and 22, except a little sketchy in the wee hours.
I've never heard any bus riders complain about downtown parking problems.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:31 pm

@Auntie Housing wrote:

"Try as I might, I cannot understand why people who think they have the answers have so little confidence in the strength of their argument that they have to get shrill."

You were saying?

So it is OK if one set of newcomers develop an area, or move into developments, but not OK if later arrivals do the same? That is inconsistent, to put it benignly.

"It would be much preferable if they would try to objectively refute the inconvenient truth I pointed out earlier, viz "More people = more cars = more traffic = worse traffic jams = more pollution = more carbon emissions. Urban densities and suburban driving necessities = Gridlock."

Remember how folks used to worry about the population bomb in the 1960s? There was a reason for that. Increasing population does bring challenges, but we can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. Ignoring the changes, as the anti-growth crowd wants, will do much more harm than good. Those teeming masses aren't going to disappear simply because we say "Shoo! Scat! Go away!" More traffic? Worse traffic jams? Pollution galore? We already have that. Trying to block development won't stop that. At best, it will leave things in their current dysfunctional state. More realistically, it will make things substantially worse as population and industrial expansion find us woefully unprepared. The same thing happened on a larger scale in the Santa Clara Valley a few decades earlier. An endless sea of urban sprawl shows how well that one worked out.

"We cannot solve the problems caused by excess by piling on more excess. We have to reverse the excess."

Trying to sweep the sea back with a broom works even less well than the not-in-my-backyard approach. It simply won't work in the long run, just as it has not worked in the past.

"Dump jobs."

Because employment is the root of all evil? What do you think pays the bills?


6 people like this
Posted by Idea
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:43 pm

A park/maker space and public pool for this side of town!! Plus a dramatically upgraded crossing. And subsidized spaces for businesses that benefit families, like replacing the bowling alley. That area is easily reached by bike path from Los Altos and almost that whole side of Palo Alto including Barron Park, so it could allow a whole side of town to be far more independent and lead more normal lives. Kids could take their bikes to go swimming, etc.

Despite all the protests, there are places to put the housing, but a 15-acre site to put in community centered businesses and amenities is not to be squandered. In addition, having the public safety building there would be welcome -- it would be similar to Los Altos where they have public safety and community center in the same area.


10 people like this
Posted by Auntie Growth - a Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:43 pm

>> Those teeming masses aren't going to disappear simply because we say "Shoo! Scat! Go away!"

Well, if there is no housing available for them, they will definitely go away. They will go to nearby cities that are more affordable and would like the benefit of more demand. When those cities refuse to grow, companies will have to think about where to hire all the new workers who can't afford to live here. And then, miraculously, companies will start locating jobs in, ta dah, areas with available housing!

It's a win-win!!!

Housing prices are not going to drop in Palo Alto by building one more condo complex. The only thing that will make housing prices come down is if the city is no longer a desirable place to live.

Sorry, I'm not OK with making Palo Alto an undesirable place to live just so some new techies can find more affordable housing, only to relocate when this is no longer the cool place to (infest, change, destroy) live.

And I support BMR housing for current residents that live and work here.


4 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:16 am

@Gale Johnson wrote:

"Kazu, seems like I've bumped into you before. Well, I think you got it wrong again. You must be fairly new in town. Am I right?"

You're almost right. I have been in Palo Alto as long as you have. My parents also grew up in Palo Alto, and my grandparents lived here for much of their adult lives.

"We moved here in 1961 and rented a 2 bdrm apartment at 3151 Alma for $125/mo. We then moved to the back apartment at 3153 and paid $130/mo, but it had a small patio out back. Good for BBQing. It was very nice. I'm hearing that units like that are now renting for $3500/mo. Why?"

Supply vs. demand. It really is that simple. Look at the cost of housing over the decades. There was a meteoric rise in the 20 years before the dot com implosion. Housing prices stayed high for some years afterwards, thanks to the housing bubble. Rents fell like a stone, though.

"And please, oh dear please, don't blame it on NIMBY's. You accusers seem to like to throw that term out all the time. It must make you feel good or give you a subliminal rush."

No, it does not give me a rush of any sort, quite the opposite. The not-in-my-backyard nonsense needs to go the way of the dinosaur. There are a number of people who have made posts to the effect of "stay away, go somewhere else". Why should I avoid calling that kind of bad attitude exactly what it is? And were they willing to do the same long ago? It is not just NIMBY, but shamelessly so. By the way, I was not the first one to apply that term to the anti-growth crowd, and I am far from being the only one.

"And to say that us folks in SPA, whose houses were built on pastureland, should have them razed and returned to pastureland/orchards, is a little crazy, don't you think?"

You weren't willing to turn back the clock when it would impact you negatively, yet you seem to expect others to do so now. By the way, my mother still bemoans the loss of her Mayfield of the 1930s to development, and misses its long-vanished fields and orchards. Anti-growth sentiments are nothing new, only "the invaders" have changed. From a purely anti-growth/anti-development point of view, you are part of the problem and so am I. And yes, I do think the anti-growth point of view is a little crazy.

Do folks who arrived a year or two ago have any less right to live here than you or I? I think not, and do not subscribe to the 'I got mine, now you go away' mentality. If they have to drive to work, then that will increase traffic. Better that their workplaces should be located nearby so they can walk or bike to work.

"We were just common ordinary people, single income families, who were fortunate enough to be able to afford homes back then. But we had no influence or control over what was going to happen to drive up home and rental prices. Believe me, we were not smart enough or organized enough."

No, the Bay Area could not have forseen the changes coming, at least not in my estimation. We could have responded much better, though. We should have rode the wave back then, and had begun to do so even before the high-tech boom. Unfortunately, the region, Palo Alto included, dropped the ball. Also keep in mind that a lot of properties in downtown PA are owned by those common ordinary people or their descendants, many of whom are from families that have been here nearly a century.

"And we didn't contribute to urbanization, it was called suburbanization back then."

That is splitting hairs. Call it what you may, it is all part of the steady progression from pristine wilderness to urban area: wilderness --> farms/ranches --> small towns --> suburbs --> urban areas. It is not a forgone conclusion that "urban" is the endpoint in a given area, but it has already happened in Palo Alto. Population increases in the environs ensure the process will continue.

"But we were a much friendlier town then. Neighbors knew neighbors and we helped each other out. That's gone."

That is the part I miss the most. It is the same with the Bay Area, and seemingly large parts of the US. I blame the people who arrived in the 1980s and 1990s. No, not all of them, but many of them had no sense of community and were very uptight. There was a time not so long ago when people saw their homes as part of the neighborhood. Now they see them as a hideout, a bunker of sorts where they can escape from the community. They grow seven foot tall hedges as a barrier between their abode and the outside world.

Oh, BTW, I hate white picket fences if that makes you feel any better."

"I've commented numerous times that I'm in favor of raising the height limit to build more housing, only housing, not more offices, so that that can catch up to the jobs in the downtown area."

I agree completely that there needs to be a balance between offices and housing, and that they need to be located in close proximity to one another. Otherwise the result will be that our already bad traffic will grow worse. Going up, way up, in sharply defined core areas, is the best solution. Otherwise, we will have 50 foot office buildings continuing to creep out into the neighborhoods, just as they are doing now. Houses --> no-yard townhouses and houses converted to businesses --> three story office buildings --> out to the next block. It is happening now in downtown now.

"Why isn't that happening? And why aren't developers picking up on that and proposing projects for that."

The usual: Maximize profits. So dangle the high-rise office building carrot in front of them and hit them with the high-rise housing stick. They will be willing to swallow the bitter pill if the sugar coating is made thick enough, if not entirely thrilled.

"Sometimes I feel like CC is on a stationary bicycle, lots of motion, but not getting anywhere. They appear to tackle all the problems with vigor, and of course a lot of rhetoric, and they sound so sincere, and I'm sure they are, but the problems they're faced with are so enormous and overwhelming."

Yet neighboring towns and cities seem to handle growth and development much better than we do. Mountain View is a good example. Not perfect, but they have done much better than Palo Alto. Perhaps our city government needs to be reformed. Electing City Council members by district might be a good start.

"Did you vote?"

Of course.


Like this comment
Posted by cultural center
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:24 am

Love the idea, but that's not going to happen. There's too much money to be made with new office complexes and luxury condos


1 person likes this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:11 am

@Kazu

You got an "I like" from me. I was impressed by your thoughtful responses. We may not agree on everything but I think we do on enough items so that we can "bury the hatchet". I have a peace pipe to offer also. Take care.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 9:31 am

As long as the developer fully funds and builds a new grammar school and also funds expansion of the middle school and high school, then go ahead.


8 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2015 at 9:45 am

Question: What do you call something that grows without end? Answer: Cancer. I know this is a simplistic analogy to make to our complex question of whether to add more housing and jobs to Palo Alto, but in a broad sense it fits. We cannot grow ad infinitum. The quality of life for those living and working in Palo Alto is diminished with each new resident and employee just as a growing cancer diminishes the life of the person with it and I challenge anyone to refute this. At what point will we say enough is enough? None of us grows our families continuously, we all say “Ok, I have 1, or 2, or 3 children and that is all I can afford, or that is all I have room for, or that is all I want to raise. So why do some think that cities should grow endlessly?

The City has lost many amenities that made it desirable while the recent increases in housing and jobs are making living in PA miserable. The only ones that truly benefit from more growth are the developers. And, the only way more growth will reduce housing costs is when it becomes so miserable to live in PA that people start leaving. To those that can’t afford to live here I am sorry, but maybe you should ask your employer to locate your job in a place you can afford and you can turn that place into a nice livable place like Palo Alto used to be.


5 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:38 am

In my previous post I did not address the main point of this thread, "What should be done with the Fry's property?" I believe we need to keep Fry's in Palo Alto, it is an asset to not only general electronics consumers, but to up and coming engineers and “makers”. It is even more important to keep Fry’s with the closure of Radio Shack (I know they don’t really compare but if Fry’s goes we won’t even have a Radio Shack). Keeping Fry’s also helps balance the residential/retail mix of property uses.

221 housing units is a drop in the bucket with regard to reducing commuting to jobs. Building these 221 units will likely reduce not more than 250 commutes from out of Palo Alto. And there is no guarantee that it will reduce that many intra Palo Alto trips. I have neighbors in College Terrace that drive to their jobs at Stanford each day, rain or shine, ½ mile away. It will also, likely increase trips from Palo Alto to other cities as spouses will likely work elsewhere. There will also be trips to schools and shopping and etc.

In the end, Fry’s should stay where it is, more housing creates more problems than it solves. It is a fool’s errand to think that you can get out of a hole (too many people) by continuing to dig (adding more people), no matter how clever you think you are as a digger.


Like this comment
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Kazu,

Your logic is flawed--just because something was possible and desirable at one point, doesn't mean it continues to be so forever and ever.

We've been built out on the grid for a while, which makes increases in density problematic.

That said, while I'm on the anti-growth side of things, I do think Fry's is one of the better sites for development--it's in walking distance of the train station and biking distance of Stanford and the industrial park.

Crescent Park Dad,

The Ventura school site is nearby, currently owned by the city and underused as a child-care site. Reopening it as an elementary should be part of any development plants, as things are now, the kids in the Ventura area are stuck having to cross El Camino to get to school. Re-opening Ventura as an elementary would reduce school auto traffic and give Ventura an actual elementary school.

I also think that there should be some sort of regulations that prevents speculators from buying up the properties. Part of our housing shortage stems from properties being snapped up by overseas all-cash buyers--yes, they do tend to rent out the properties, but the overall effect makes for a less stable and less friendly environment. When I moved into my house none of my immediate neighbors were renters, now every single one of them is. The renters are nice enough, but they know and we know that they're not there for the long term.

With the Fry's site, I'd like to see some bonafide apartments (maybe even that senior-housing complex people want) and some townhouses that are owned by the people living in them. Oh and with enough parking for a change.


Like this comment
Posted by Auntie Housing
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:09 pm

"It is not just NIMBY, but shamelessly so. By the way, I was not the first one to apply that term to the anti-growth crowd, and I am far from being the only one."

And this name-calling is the complete pro growrh argument.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I'm not particularly anti growth, but I don't think we have the infrastructure.

Palo Alto is fast losing its ability to serve its residents. We have to leave town to do most of our household shopping, to see a popular movie, to eat at a reasonably priced restaurant with a family, to buy affordable kids' clothes and shoes, to buy a week's worth of affordable groceries, even to go bowling, for the most part.

If we had better infrastructure, even better public transportation, then we could build more housing. Condos designed for couples end up as family homes, complexes designed for seniors, end up with grandchildren living there to attend our schools, and low income housing if it exists is not really affordable for the low income - and many teachers, police officers, etc. don't want to live in the town in which they work.

Frys would make a good site for many things, but do Frys want to move?

As for schools, yes, we are squeezing more and more kids into sites that were designed for half their populations. We can put in more classrooms and more teachers, but we can't put in more playing fields, or places to sit in the shade to eat lunch. At some of the smaller elementary sites there isn't even enough parking space for staff cars, let alone anyone else.

Schools, interesting topic. Before increasing the size of any of them again and again and again, we should be looking into reopening at each level. PAUSD has a site for a high school in Cubberley, four prospective sites at the elementary level if they stop playing real estate games and then there is Churchill. Not sure why it hasn't been thought of as a possible middle school site. It could be big enough to house a new middle school, sharing some of the Paly facilities and then district staff could lease some space elsewhere for administration. If a new police building is ever decided on, perhaps the present pd at City Hall would be suitable. No idea if this could work, but out of the box thinking may make it work. Somebody should start looking into some real innovative ideas.


8 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:38 am

Fry's redevelopment should focus on small single bedroom and studio apartments. Apartments mean that it is easier to move out when you switch jobs and move in if you start working in Palo Alto. Single bedroom means that they will put much less burden on the school system. It also means they will be cheaper than 2 bedroom apartments making them more "affordable". We have numerous folks who work in Palo Alto but cannot live here due to lack of availability of single bedroom apartments. These include: school teachers, city employees, Stanford employees, policeman and firefighters, young tech workers, etc... In terms of traffic, give everyone a GO pass in the apartment and allow carless units at lower cost. Until we have more small apartments in Palo Alto near downtown areas, we cannot move the needle on jobs/housing imbalance. The root cause is so many people have to drive in and out of the city every day. From this location you can walk/bike to Stanford Research Park, walk to California Ave and Caltrains and bike to University Ave.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Any housing at Frys must be comparable to standard PA housing, not cheap warrens for the expendable employees of Facebook and Google and the rest. If those worthies want cookie cutter company housing, let them blight their own campuses at their own expense.


2 people like this
Posted by Klaus Brandt
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Hi William R,
My July 1955 Official Guide of the Railways still showed the SP branch I trefered to. The morning train ook 58 minutes from Los Altos to San Francisco, the evening train took 55 minutes from SF to Los Altos.I don't know how soon after 1055 the SP got permission to abandon the line.


Like this comment
Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:32 am

Let us think outside the "same old routine" which suggests developing an area must include residential, office buildings, and stores. What is badly, in fact desperately, needed in Bay Area is housing (apartments, condos, etc.). Office buildings can wait. In fact, office buildings could go upward to include many stories and built in many other areas where otherwise would not be suitable for residential development. As for stores, we know that small businesses are already hurting, so there is no need to allocate part of the land to making even more stores and add to the competition! Nobody minds driving a few minutes to go to a store outside their immediate neighborhood. That said, I know I am going nowhere with my suggestion as seems like it is so hard for decision makers to see outside the same old routine.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:31 am

FRY's is in a commercial area. The city needs to determine what effect the ECR bus will have on the location in general. The businesses along ECR in that location are going to be changed up for residential apartment buildings.
There has to be a total plan for that area that takes into consideration the impacts of transportation requirements that will be imposed on the peninsula in total.

You will note on the Caltrain / HSR site they - the state of CA plans on using eminent domain to rip out the entire peninsula line and change it up for electrification and a four rail system.

I keep seeing each property isolated in discussion with no recognition that there are major impacts going on in the same immediate area. You can't isolate that property in discussion without making it fit in with the other changes that will occur.

It is time for the city to map out what the overall plan is for the area so time and money is not spent conceiving a project that will not fit in with the other changes going on.

There will be no lack of apartments on ECR in that area so don't waste time bemoaning that topic.


6 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Palo Alto seeks a new vision for Fry's site... which is owned by someone who seemingly has zero interest in selling or changing the status quo. What a freakin' waste of time and resources. If the city council needs something to occupy their time, why don't they formulate a plan to repair our sidewalks instead?


1 person likes this
Posted by Rito Sur
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 25, 2016 at 8:03 am

Affordable startup space.


5 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2016 at 10:40 am

The Fry's site is an opportunity we should not allow to be oaved over. With all due respect to the Crescent Park neighbor who is hppy with the City assets that are conveniently located in his own backyard, we desperately need them on this side of town. We have half the population South if Oregon, and it is no longer practical to drive to thevother side of Palo Alto for everything. Kids and adults need amenities on this side of tiwn, too. The Fry's site is easily reached by bike from all the way to Gunn HS and Stanford and large parts of Southern neighborhoods because of the bike path running from Los Altos.

What was being proposed above is not the same thing as an ordinary cultural center, anyway. A community gathering place, with educational opportunities, retail spaces that could be had for below market by businesses that fill gaps in services that have resulted from past development missteps and costs, maker space, performance spaces and/or public pool very needed on this side of town - this could have a significant beneficial impact on the community. We can always negotiate for transferring development rights to create the housing in places where we don't lose such a rare opportunity to vpcreate a dynamic community space. Why not create a substation for public safety so that seevices are a little distributed, which makes them more robust, along with the unique community asset center (rather than instead of)?


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm

It's a dandy spot for much-needed electronics retail in the Capital of Silicon Valley.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 2:06 am

"return to the bucolic Palo -Alto of 50 years ago when everyone knew each other, and shared lemonade over -white picket fences... Sounds lovely doesn't it?"

... In an era when tormented high-school students didn't walk in front of railroad trains.

How many McMansions do you suppose could be crammed into the Fry's site?


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2016 at 2:31 am

Klaus Brandt:

I remember the S.P. line that went behind Fry's and up near Alta Mesa cemetery and the V.A. hospital on its way to Los Altos and Los Gatos. It was the Vasona branch and became Foothill Expressway. The line was abandoned by S.P. at the beginning of 1964 but vestiges of the crossing hardware were in place by Park Automotive for many years afterward, until at least 1991. Where the track crossed El Camino has been flattened and paved over.

I remember when that building housed Maximart, then the Cable Co-op.


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 6,063 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 931 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 743 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 681 views

Populism: A response to the failure of the elites: Palo Alto edition
By Douglas Moran | 0 comments | 197 views