News

Edgewood Plaza developer could face penalties for vacant grocery store

Palo Alto looks to put pressure on Sand Hill Property Company to replace Fresh Market

The developer of Edgewood Plaza will face a fine of $500 per day if the vacant grocery store formerly occupied by Fresh Market isn't filled by the end of September, City Manager James Keene said Monday night.

Keene made the announcement at a City Council meeting that was packed with residents who live near Edgewood Plaza and who came to demand action against Sand Hill Property Company.

In 2012, Sand Hill secured the city's approval to redevelop the once-dilapidated plaza at 2080 Channing Ave. The development included 10 homes, restoration of two commercial buildings and the grocery store, which constituted the main "public benefit" under the "planned-community" zone change granted by the city. That benefit dissolved on March 31, when Fresh Market departed.

Palo Alto's planning department has already send several warnings to Sand Hill, notifying the company of the requirement to keep the grocery store occupied. The planned-community ordinance specifies that the property owner "shall ensure the continued use of the 20,000-square-foot building as a grocery store for the life of the project."

Sand Hill's John Tze did not respond to questions from the Weekly, but in a letter to the city earlier this year, he provided a list of 14 different grocers his company has contacted. Most of the national grocers, Tze wrote, "are already in the area or desire a larger space, so we are focusing on others, including local grocers."

This week, Tze responded to an inquiry from neighborhood resident Diana Nemet by providing a list of 40 grocers that have been contacted to date, a roster that includes Trader Joe's, Mollie Stones, Roberts Market, Piazza's, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Berkeley Bowl, Zanotto's, Country Sun, Bi-Rite and Bristol Farm's. He also noted in his response that of all the grocery chains that were contacted, all but two rejected the site because the store is smaller than their 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot minimum.

Only Target Express and one other prospect have not rejected because of insufficient size, Tze wrote. As for the independent grocers, many liked the space but simply weren't looking to expand at this time, he wrote.

Most of the national chains and a few independent ones were contacted by DTZ, Fresh Market's broker. Tze himself contacted every other grocer on the list (with the exception of Nijiya, which responded by email to a neighbor). DTZ, he said, is "highly motivated to find a replacement grocer."

Tze also noted that rent has not been an issue as "conversations with prospects have generally not gotten far enough along to discuss economics."

"And of the few prospects who asked about rent, they were told that the asking rent was very flexible and should not dissuade any interest," Tze wrote.

By choosing to apply the $500-per-day fine, the city hopes to add more pressure to this search. Keene said staff has received about 150 emails about Edgewood from residents concerned about the vacancy. More than 50 residents also attended Monday's meeting to demand action. Starting on Sept. 30, Keene said, daily fines of $500 will be assessed to the property owner.

"That figure is the fee that is currently set by code," Keene said. "It's the current maximum allowed by the code at this time."

Keene also raised the possibility of further penalties in the future. There are potentially "different remedies and options that the council can pursue," he said, adding that staff will return with these options at a future date, if needed.

The council does have one recent precedent that could guide its decision on Edgewood. Last year, the council responded to the departure of JJ&F Market at the College Terrace Centre development on El Camino Real by approving a new grocer and specifying that the property owner will be charged a daily fine of $2,000 a day if the store becomes vacant.

Many residents argued that a larger penalty is exactly what's needed at Edgewood. Carla Carvalho, who lives on Edgewood Drive, near the plaza, called for "swift action." She called the grocery store formerly occupied by Fresh Market an "important resource to our community."

"Fines need to be increased immediately to be on parity with other projects," Carvalho said.

Deborah Baldwin, who also lives near the plaza, asked the council to institute an "appropriate penalty" for the developer's violation of the agreement with the city.

"I believe the developer has to be held accountable for the contract they signed, even if they have to pay for a grocery store to be there," Baldwin said.

Tze, for his part, disputes the idea that fining the company would speed up the search for the grocer.

"I'm not sure why fining us would motivate us more than we already are," Tze wrote in an email to the Weekly.

Neighbors have also expressed some anxiety over the past week about the prospect of Target Express filling the grocery-store space. Keene clarified that under the city's agreement with Sand Hill, this would not be appropriate.

"That would not be consistent with the requirement for a grocery store and would not be permitted," Keene said.

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by The facts
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Thank you, Mr. Sheyner, for finally bringing the facts to this discussion. Many people in my neighborhood have been extremely upset without considering what is actually going on here and make accusations that this article shows to be entirely false. Of course, we need a grocery store there, and we need it now. But notice that ALL BUT TWO of FORTY grocers rejected the site because of space, NOT rent. Nobody's changing the size of that grocery store.

If Sand Hill pays Safeway $10,000 a month to move in there, Safeway isn't going to do it: they just don't want a store that small. So to all the people complaining about rent: you're barking up the wrong tree. Even if Sand Hill subsidizes it, it's not going to happen with the existing list of chain grocers (note that only chain grocers rejected the store because of size, while the local ones rejected it because they are not looking to expand). Clearly, they are working hard to find a grocer and are not being unreasonable.

Having said this, I personally support the $500/day fine. When Sand Hill signed the agreement, they knew what they were buying into. This fine is what happens when the store doesn't get built. But we don't need to berate the developer over it.

As a community resident, you are destructive, unhelpful, and disingenuous if you accuse Sand Hill of being dishonest and scream for punishment without offering solutions. This article makes it clear that 1) they have violated the terms of their contract, but 2) they're doing the best they can. Do they deserve the fine? As I said, personally, I think yes, but only because that's what the contract stated.

If you want a grocery store, stop yelling, and get together with other neighbors to try and motivate a local grocer not concerned about space to move in. Rent is not a problem: the article says so. Interest in the space is the problem. Get a market interested and you solve the problem. That's something that needs to be done on a community-wide basis.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Seems they could rent it out as office space and easily cover $500/day.


3 people like this
Posted by The facts
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm

@musical: interesting idea, but violates the zoning agreement, which is why that won't happen. Also, who wants an office in a grocery store?


20 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Very well stated, the facts. Clearly many of the neighbors are our for blood-- they seem to be driven by some misguided desire for revenge on the supposed acts of malfeasance by the developer. The most ridiculous calls are those for increased penalties, while disregarding the fact that national chains do not want to do business in palo,alto. Palo,alto,has been anti- business for years. I am sure that has not escaped notice by national companies.
It is very clear that the developer has tried to find a replacement. So, so much for the claims that the developer is not trying to find a replacement.
And what does it boil down to-- the hole that palo,alto has dug for themselves-- the fact that palo,alto does not want a normal sized grocery store in its borders. It is not the rent-- it is the fact that most grocers do not want a 20k square foot space.
Good luck finding a replacement. Where do these suggest the developer find one? What is not mentioned in the article is whether these neighbors that are clamoring for a store will gurantee that the whole neighborhood will do all their shopping at this store.
What will happen if a new store moves in and there is no public support ( a la mikis market)?
Finally, what I find really amusing is that palo,alto,has a reputation for being anti- chain store ( in fact the council are falling all over themselves to,craft anti chain store regulations) but seem to have no,problem with a chain store moving into Edgewood.
The optimal,solution would be a mom and pop grocery or better yet, the neighbors would get together and form a coop and take over the site


7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Agenda - speaking of Palo Alto being anti-business, Grocers, especially small grocers, will be even more reluctant to take a chance on the space with the newly increased minimum wage.


13 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Good point, slow down. However that will not matter to some of the neighbors. I suggest the developer procure a magic wand , wave it around, say abracadabra and a full service grocer will appear in the location.


5 people like this
Posted by thsnk you
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2015 at 5:11 pm

let's all give a big shout out and thank you to college terrace for making sure that we would have no decent sized grocery stores in Palo Alto, in order to protect their beloved jj&f.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm

@The facts: I thought the $500/day pays off the zoning violation.
That's under a dollar per square foot per month.
As long as it's just sitting empty, let's make it a homeless shelter.
I suspect a majority of Palo Altons would vote for that.


Posted by Reader
a resident of another community

on Aug 25, 2015 at 8:59 pm


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15 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 8:05 am

Yeah, right......$500/day to Sand Hill Properties is like 50 cents a day to you and I. It would be cheaper to pay the daily fine than to find a replacement for Fresh Market.

Sand Hill Properties needs a fine that is WAAAAAAAY more punitive than $500/day. Fifty thousand a day might make them take notice.


9 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2015 at 10:43 am

New Leaf would make a worthy market. I'd even drive the distance for what I've seen at their other markets.


4 people like this
Posted by eileen stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:07 am

Thsnk you, (spelling?) just to refresh your memory.... The original developer of the College Terrace Center came up with the idea of including a small market in order to get a PC zone change. This allowed him to increase square footage from 50,277 to 66,000. In today's real-estate market, that's about $1,344,000 extra a month! Many residents were against this zone change because even then, they knew a small market might fail. The developer kept pulling the heart strings of JJ&F lovers with a promise that there would always be a market. Smoking mirrors to get increased square footage that is worth MILLIONS for the developer. Developers are very shrewd businessmen!!
Don't blame College Terrace residents. Do your research!!
Web Link
Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Former Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

Has anyone explored a food co-op? Here's a website that explains the start-up process and has a lot of resources: Web Link





1 person likes this
Posted by Don
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:26 am

99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Nijiya could probably make a go of it.

They'd have better luck in that location than would a traditional grocery store or a pseudo Whole Foods like Fresh Market or Sprouts.


1 person likes this
Posted by Angie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:30 am

I remember the Palo Alto co-op market in Midtown that closed because of not enough business. Could there be a farmer's market or something similar? What do the locals want? New Leaf is better than any current local market for produce, but it's not cheap.


2 people like this
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

"Sand Hill Properties needs a fine that is WAAAAAAAY more punitive than $500/day. Fifty thousand a day might make them take notice"
Have you read the story? Do you think that contacting 40 retailers is not taking notice??

"99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Nijiya could probably make a go of it."
Problem is that Palo Alto has never really had any ethnic stores. Mountain View, Sunnyvale etc seem to do well with them. Not sure why Palo Alto does not have any ethnic stores.

"Don't blame College Terrace residents. Do your research!!"
I believe the comment by thank you had nothing to do with College Terrace Center. I think it referred to the fact that Palo Alto had an unwritten rule that stores could not be bigger than 20K square feet, in part to protect JJ&F from real competition all those years
In fact when they wanted a large grocery store at Alma Plaza, Piazza's chimed in with a claim that 20K square feet is big enough. That is until they decided that they wanted to be over 20K square feet--which they are now.
In all honesty, I can not see any chain really wanting such a small place for a grocery store--especially with no gurantee from the neighbors that they will shop there


3 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

You are all wrong! Every grocery store from the old Lucky's on were primarily used by residents of East Palo Alto coming over because no stores in East Palo Alto would develop in their own locale because of crime. This influx trashed every grocery store that tried to succeed in Edgewood. The locals were never a factor in this mess. Therefore the only type of store that has a chance of success would be one that would cater to the people and income of East Palo Alto residents. It is all location. At the moment the only type of store to have a chance there would be one like the business at Alma and East Meadow. Any specialty market would be doomed from the start.


6 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Dennis,

No. The Fresh Market wasn't failing--it was the most successful Fresh Market in California. Fresh Market chose to pull out of California. The Palo Alto site was not the problem.

Now, the problem is that Fresh Market has the lease and wants to sublet the space with a steep hike attached. Sounds like Sand Hill may have blown the lease agreement if it allows Fresh Market to do that.

Re: Ranch 99--parking lot's way too small for Ranch 99--or any weekend destination supermarket. Edgewood just isn't that big a location--particularly now that a chunk of it has become housing. Piazza's, Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, Trader Joe's and Safeway all seem to manage here without being huge--so I don't buy that a smaller grocer is unfeasible at Edgewood.

But only if the lease is reasonable--grocery stores are a low-margin business. So pressure on Sand Hill and Fresh Market are worthwhile activities from my perspective. Drop the lease and someone will want the space. It's that simple.


9 people like this
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Goodness, the pro-developer faction is out in force on this thread!

"As a community resident, you are destructive, unhelpful, and disingenuous if you accuse Sand Hill of being dishonest and scream for punishment without offering solutions." Really, The Facts?

Destructive to ask that the terms of the contract be enforced? And, since the developer is selling multiple houses at close to $3 million a pop (or maybe more?) to ask that the fine be increased in line with the College Terrace figures?

And WE need to find solutions? We're doing our best--contacting markets ourselves, trying to get information on how much Sand Hill is being paid for a vacant building as it pockets enormous profits at the expense of the community, trying to find out how serious Sand Hill is about finding a market.

Just because they say they're trying just super hard and it's not their fault does not mean it's true! Sand Hill found a market when they stood to make big profits--did they subsidize Fresh Market? We don't know. But we do suspect that when a market needs to be found, a good developer could probably find it--given the encouragement of a $5000 a day fineā€¦

Sure, let's blame it on market square footage. Anything to let the developer off the hook!


1 person likes this
Posted by meemee
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2015 at 1:28 pm

dennis is absolutely right. whatever market goes in there must be assured of security 24/7 and we all know why. let's stop beating around the bush and worrying about being pc.


Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm

It seems that other comma ivies have had problems with this developer!

This is from a posting on A website called "Better Cupertino"

MAY
1
Main Street Project - "Community Benefits" or NOT
Main Street Project - "Community Benefits" or NOT

(facebook post)

The Main Street Project gives a glimpse of what the so-called Community Benefits program will be like if implemented by Cupertino City Council. The fact is that the developer got one extra floor (almost 60,000 extra square feet of office) in exchange for ground floor retail of 3,200 square feet. A fair trade or not?



After multiple neighborhood meetings, the Main Street Project was finally approved by the residents and the city council. It promised senior housing with no students generated and it promised a park.
After the residents went back to their lives, Sand Hill, the developer came back to the city council and the project gets "modified" again and again without notifying any resident who attended the numerous neighborhood outreach meetings.

One important modification is the conversion of senior housing to market-rate housing. Many residents said that they finally approved the project because senior housing generates no students. They wouldn't have accepted the project otherwise.

Not much information is given on how or why the senior housing got converted to market-rate housing. This article in San Jose Mercury News provides some clue (see reference):

"While we believe that age-restricted housing is a fine use, our partners do not have the experience with age-restricted projects and therefore not comfortable with moving forward with that particular part of the project today," Dare [the project applicant for Sand Hill] said to the council.

A reputed company like Sand Hill uses such an excuse of "I don't know how" and our City Council gladly accepted it (Sep. 4, 2012 City Council Meeting). And then Peter Pau of Sand Hill said during a Vallco Open House event in March 2015, "The City Council wants me to convert them to market-rate housing." This perhaps gives a clue on how things will play out when Vallco redevelopment project comes before the City Council.

The addition of one extra floor for both of the office buildings is another notable modification that many residents are surprised to find out and many other residents still haven't found out about. The two office buildings become 4-story high (60 feet) from 3-story high (45 feet) in exchange for "ground floor retail," approved in May 15, 2012 City Council Meeting. The developer gets 60,742 square feet more office space in exchange for 3,200 square feet of retail.
The extra office space is nineteen times more than the retail space provided. And the retail space is located inside the office building, not easily accessible for any community member who does not work in the building.

While providing almost zero benefits to the surrounding community, the developer does not need to pay for the additional impact caused by additional 300-400 employees from the extra office space.
Such exchange of building height for ground floor retail is a version of Community Benefits program already exists in the 2005 General Plan. Such program has been abused again and again to provide developer tremendous benefits in exchange for something that provides almost zero value for the surrounding community. Yet, in the GPA, Community Vision 2040, the city council still intends to expand it to allow even more height exception in exchange for various so-called "benefits". Yet, nothing is in place in the GPA to ensure that the community does benefit at least as much as the developers. Nothing is in place to hold the developers responsible for their promises. Nothing is in place to ensure that the impact induced by additional building height is properly mitigated or compensated.

Another very loose Community Benefits program would only ensure that the developers will push the envelope to the limit and gain the maximum profit while the community suffers the consequences of its impact with zero actual community benefits. A fair trade or not?

Reference: Cupertino Council Approves Housing Modifications to Main Street Project, Sep. 6, 2012 (
Web Link)

CRSZaction.org and BetterCupertino.org
Paid for by Cupertino Residents for Sensible Zoning Action Committee, PO Box 1132, Cupertino, CA 95015, FPPC #1376003
Posted 1st May by Better Cupertino
Labels: Community Benefits GPA Main Street


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@six of one - check the article again, you are confusing two numbers. The first is the number that Sand Hill has contacted, which is 14, not 40. The second is the number of grocers that have been contacted "to date", which can mean going back to before the development, and by anyone, including the Fresh Market broker who is trying to jack up the price and make some money on the deal.

If there are no fines, Sand Hill is less motivated to find a new renter, because they already have one and are collecting money from them.


7 people like this
Posted by six of one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm

14 or 40. Six of one or half dozen of another. As the article also states all but two rejected the small location due to size. Do you think a grocer who was contacted a couple of years ago and said no due to the size will suddenly decide a small venue is what they want.
Anyway, slow down, there will be a fine. $500 per day as the article states


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:49 pm

"The facts"
>> Many people in my neighborhood have been extremely upset
>> without considering what is actually going on here and make
>> accusations that this article shows to be entirely false.

No, it's not the people's fault, they just a grocery store as was planned and put in place per contract. Sand Hill Property Company did not need to sign the contract.

>> Clearly, they are working hard to find a grocer and are not
>> being unreasonable.

I think it is you here that is jumping to a conclusion. That may or
may not be, but just because they have contacted some grocery
companies does not mean they are "working hard". And does it
matter?

People are not unhappy for foolish reasons, they are unhappy
because it has been over a year now.

--

"musical"
>> Seems they could rent it out as office space and easily cover $500/day.

Kind of a pointless comment, they and we want and need a grocery
story. Would it be allowed for them to pay the fine by another use of
the story? Seems like not an intent to follow the contract, and liable
for a lawsuit if they don't.

--

"agenda"
>> Clearly many of the neighbors are our for blood-- they seem to be
>> driven by some misguided desire for revenge on the supposed acts
>> of malfeasance by the developer.

Why blame this on the neighbors? Clearly at least once out of nowhere a grocer, Fresh Market, decided to open this store and was profitable. The reason SHPC may not be moving fast enough is economics. With a $15K per month penalty and a $32K they are probably not as motivated as they could be. The thing that we can do is to put the fine in place to make it real.

Perhaps all the companies that SHPC contacted are waiting to see what kind of favorable terms they can get. If anyone shows any interest the will have to pay a higher rent.

--

"dennis"

Sorry, I don't buy that they only way their is a market there is to cater to those from East Palo Alto who used to go to Lucky's. Fresh Market did not have discount prices and they were profitable in this location. We also do not need a market that will attract too many people because of the parking logistics of that stupid parking lot. Fresh Market would still be there if they were a stand alone business and were not shut down by their parent company.

--

If we want to get mad at someone let's get mad at the City and SHPC for not taking a more realiistic approach to what to build in this space. A larger store would be better, but when they weighed the factors the City weighed keeping the old building in place despite that it was not well situated on the lot and we have a small weird parking lot here with a small weird building here now - PERMANENTLY. I think most people in Palo Alto knew that these Eichler style buildings were almost utility buildings, like Eichler houses were utility budget houses. Tearing down the building and creating something new might have worked better.

--

The only sensible course of action ... the only real lever we the people,
and the City has now is to activate the fine and see what happens. It's not
like that will even hurt SHPC since they are still making a net $15,000 a month
on this property, but it may force them to be realistic about the rent and be
more serious.

We cannot say they are doing the best they can, the best they can is to
live up to their contract, or show the contract is somehow legally flawed
or unfair.

Just get it done. The details are probably in whatever rent discount SHPC
can offer for how long. They are in a bit of a bind, but not much. Put the
fine in place.


2 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2015 at 5:22 pm

"If we want to get mad at someone let's get mad at the City and SHPC for not taking a more realiistic approach to what to build in this space. A larger store would be better, but when they weighed the factors the City weighed keeping the old building in place despite that it was not well situated on the lot and we have a small weird parking lot here with a small weird building here now - PERMANENTLY. I think most people in Palo Alto knew that these Eichler style buildings were almost utility buildings, like Eichler houses were utility budget houses. Tearing down the building and creating something new might have worked better."

You are quite correct in your assessment, CPA. However SHPCs hands were tied. Remember this was an eichler shopping center. So the eichler worshippers and " everything is historic" crowd ( including a prominent city council member) made sure that most of the center would be maintained as is.
Big mistake. Building such a small market, given the current climate for large, full service stores has come back to haunt the city. Too late now, but the proper thing would have been to raze the entire dump and started from scratch.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Agenda and others,

The community is not asking "what will we really use". In my opinion, people don't really want to shop very seriously at a small, neighborhood grocery, but it is something that they will lobby for having in a center.

People want to drive to Mountain View and shop at the big stores, and for the most part that is what they do. Other new options such as Trader Joes and even on-line grocery shopping (look at what Amazon will deliver to your door with free shipping!) are also getting a lot of actual usage.

The city has 3 PC projects with grocery stores. It is hard for me to imagine that there will still be groceries at these locations in 50 years, which might be the life of the projects. Yet, in all three cases, residents lobbied for the project.


3 people like this
Posted by Jim Colton
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 26, 2015 at 7:03 pm

This is exactly the problem with PC zoning. There is no guarantee the "benefit" will actually be there.


4 people like this
Posted by Kick the bums out
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2015 at 8:52 pm

If grocers need 30,000 plus square feet for a viable grocery store, then why did the city allocate the small space to be a grocery store as the PC. The city should have done their homework and known the 20,000 space was not suitable as a grocery store/PC. The city was outsmarted, yet again, by shrewd developers. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 27, 2015 at 8:12 am

Rather than open a grocery store in that location,rent it as offices and use the excess rent to run a shuttle service to the nearest grocery (with additional subsidy from that grocer).


2 people like this
Posted by la
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Fine the developer $500 a day and he will put his shiftless brother-in-law in the space with 2 gallons of milk and 3 cans of corn and call it a grocery store.


7 people like this
Posted by Paloma
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2015 at 6:44 pm

I don't think the neighbors are out for blood; I think that they're finally ready to stand up to the Bully who has hoodwinked his way into filling his pockets while duping the neighborhood. First, Sand hill defied the neighborhood's CC & Rs and the neighbors had to sue in order to "control" the number of $$$ homes that were built. Instead of recanting, he counter-sued, knowing that the neighbors would need to use their own funds to defend themselves. It was the neighbors who had to back down and acquiesce to 10 homes being built (in this space that was designated as commercial only.) The neighbors agreed to allow the homes too be built provided that there was a GROCERY STORE built there, as this was determined to be of best use. Then, despite the agreement with the neighborhood, Sand Hill tore down a building that was meant to stay for historical reasons. Sand Hill paid their $94,000 and carried on. Now, Sand Hill asserts that it is Fresh Market that bares the burden of subletting the market (at a Ridiculous $2.75/sq ft.)

While it's great that all the neighborhood do-gooders make their little lists of grocery stores that AREN'T interested, it would be even better if they understood WHY the stores are refusing. Poor Sand Hill! Cry us a river that no reasonable Grocery Store wants in.

Sand Hill is going to package that center up and sell it for a small fortune.

Neighbors will be left hanging again.


Like this comment
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2015 at 6:50 pm

OMG TEN homes? But I suppose its the principal of the matter, it always is...


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 28, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Yes, Todd, ten homes. I'm recalling the big neighborhood meeting at Lucie Stern discussing this proposed development. I have a vivid memory of Steven Levy crying, pleading for those houses, he said we need housing. Yes, real tears. He lived in this neighborhood at the time, he influenced a lot of people.

Seems quite a few people understand the tricks SandHill is playing.

Then again, wouldn't it be nice if the city began enforcing its contracts and its zoning?
What a concept.


Like this comment
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 28, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Todd, who do you think the principal is?


5 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Oh, yes, the ten townhouses--were any of them bought by local families who were, say, trying to move out of a rental? Were any of them anywhere near the median home price for Palo Alto? Or were they sold at a premium to overseas investors like much of Palo Alto real estate these days?

We have a huge issue with affordable housing--but townhouses offered at $3 million doesn't solve it.

Those same townhouses, I'll add, means that no larger grocer will ever go in there--parking is now very limited as a result.

So, yeah, Sand Hill and Fresh Market can quit playing games here. Lower the rent so that a smaller store has a chance of making it. It's that simple.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 28, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Wow. I was under a grossly mistaken impression. I thought for sure that Palo Alto was required to revoke the occupancy permits for those ten residences if the grocery store ceased to exist. Wasn't that written into the agreement? I'm shocked. ;-)

There's always next time...


4 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2015 at 10:27 pm

I agree with the first poster. The community should try to get together to convince a grocer that it will be profitable to open a smaller scaled down store at this location.
I put Mr Tze in contact with people in the real estate offices at Raley's Headquarters many years ago (before the new homes were built). They asked me right away what the approximate square footage of the property was. I know that many years ago, Sandhill would have loved it if Raley's / Nobhill would open there.
They would have maintained the property nicely too.
What we need to do is somehow convince grocers that they don't need the extras like a floral dept / bank / Peets / full stock liquor & wine dept., to be profitable.

We should emphasize the easy on / off rear loading dock of the store, and convenient freeway access.
Additionally, that the location serves as a way of advertising for the store - since it is at a key entrance point to Palo Alto / Stanford.

If we don't get a solid grocer in there, our city and the residents, may be faced with bigger problems in the future.

Rodents / odors / vandalism and blight.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2015 at 8:22 am

The end of September isn't very long.

I can't see it happening in such a short time. Even if a grocery store said yes right now, it would take them much longer than that to get their personalized signage, staff, delivery set ups, etc.

What will the city do with the $500 per day?

I suggest they start by increasing a shuttle service along Embarcadero from the Baylands Athletic parking lot to enable those parkers who can't park because of the RPP to park and get into downtown to their jobs.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

on Aug 30, 2015 at 10:56 pm


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2 people like this
Posted by rainbow38
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:11 am

A Felipe's would be a good fit for this location. The one in Sunnyvale on El Camino Real is in a very small space (formerly Sunnymount Produce). While there's no soap, hardware, etc., there's an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, many varieties of breads, crackers, dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir), pickled veggies, cold cuts, jellies/preserves, honey, candies, bins with grains/nuts, and an fascinating collection of frozen foods. The foods come from many countries (Russia, Poland, Israel to name a few - some wrappers/containers don't have English translations....). Shopping there is like taking a trip around the world and the many customers are fun to meet. The staff is hard-working and friendly and the prices are lower than just about any other market.

There's a Felipe's in Los Altos and a new one opening in Cupertino.


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