News


Palo Alto looks to replace cramped fire house

City Council approves design contract for replacement of Fire Station 3

The small wood-framed fire station known as Station 3 made its debut in 1948, the year of the Marshall Plan, Gandhi's assassination, and Dewey's famous non-defeat of Truman for the American presidency.

The intervening 67 years have not been kind to the small station near what is now Rinconada Park, with numerous studies finding the structure to be cramped, seismically deficient and in urgent need of renovations.

This week, the City Council took a big step toward this long deferred task when it approved a design contract for replacing the fire station at 799 Embarcadero Road.

By a unanimous vote, the council approved a $599,052 contract with the firm Shah Kawasaki Architects, Inc. for design services associated with the replacement of Station 3. The project was included last year on the City Council's adopted infrastructure plan, which also includes a new public-safety building, a new downtown garage and a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

While the other projects have faced some complications relating to location, funding and in the case of the garage, necessity, the replacement of Station 3 secured the council's approval on the "consent calendar" with no discussion. The city has been discussing the replacement of the fire station for more than a decade.

A 2002 assessment by consultant Biggs Cardosa Associates of Stations 3 and 4 (near Mitchell Park) found "significant seismic deficiencies and potential for instability of soils due to liquefaction," according to a new report from the Public Works Department. The study concluded that replacement of these two stations "may be necessary to meet essential service standards for fire station buildings."

Other, more recent reports, reached similar conclusions. In 2011, the city commissioned a study of fire resources and appointed a citizen commission to evaluate the city's infrastructure needs. Both the commission and the consultant's report flagged the two fire stations as in urgent need of replacement.

The 2011 report titled, "Fire Services Utilization and Resources Study" noted that Stations 3 and 4 are the oldest facilities in the city's system and are "in the worst shape, structure wise." The report recommends that the city "replace or significantly upgrade Stations 3 and 4 at or near their present location" and review all stations to make sure they meet "earthquake resistance standards and future space needs."

The report from the infrastructure panel noted that both Stations 3 and 4 are "earthquake vulnerable, lack sufficient space for emergency supplies, lack safe separation of living quarters from the fumes of engines and hazardous materials, and can barely hold the two engines located at each as those vital pieces of equipment have grown in size and capacity over the years."

Station 3 has only 12 inches of space between the fire engines and the back wall of the apparatus bay, the report noted.

Now, if things go as planned, a new Station 3

will be in place by fall 2018.

Brad Eggleston, assistant director of Public Works, told the council last week that he expects the construction to take about a year and a half. The city hopes to break ground in early 2017, he said. The project is expected to cost about $7.2 million.

The council also plans to launch in 2018 the design process for its next public-safety project: the replacement of Station 4.

Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2015 at 8:09 am

How about selling the land that fire stations 3 and 4 are on and build one new fire station somewhere in between. Both stations are not that far apart now. One station- less cost.


20 people like this
Posted by AY
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I propose that the City design an iconic fire station!


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2015 at 6:16 pm

"I propose that the City design an iconic fire station!"

With a brass pole!


1 person likes this
Posted by Glulam the wonder material
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2015 at 9:23 pm

"With a brass pole!"

Better yet, a glulam pole!

Web Link


30 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:45 am

[Portion removed.]

Leave it alone for now and live with it, there are other higher
priorities.


11 people like this
Posted by SuperD
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 21, 2015 at 1:21 pm

"The project is expected to cost about $7.2 million."

Really, that seems a bit steep to me....


12 people like this
Posted by Cincy
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Cincy is a registered user.

Since the land is already owned, $7.2 million for a state-of-the-art, oversized two-bay garage with a bunkhouse and a kitchen seems really steep.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2015 at 6:31 pm

I imagine the city will build a hideous, flat roofed monstrosity.


33 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:25 pm

It is past time to change the model for firefighters. No other modern day job pays you to cook, eat and sleep on the job. Firefighters need to transition to shifts just like the police and EMTs. They need to have assigned duties and complete a shift and go home. Tax paying residents get more work out of them, they don't need buildings with sleeping quarters and kitchens and we save money. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2015 at 2:03 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 22, 2015 at 7:27 am

Please just replace these old structures with new. Doesn't need to be iconic. We want this done.

Don't turn it into a three ring flaming fiasco!!!

Con you do that City council? No fiasco?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 22, 2015 at 10:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a three bay station just being completed by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District:

Web Link

Station #2 Project Phase III began during 2013-14, with a $8.34 million construction cost which includes a 100 ft state of the art communication antenna.

The architect would probably be pleased to sell the plans to Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by For cm
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

I think a lot of FF would love to go home at night. Financially it makes no sense for your idea. FF work 56 hour work weeks. If you went to shorter shifts you would have to hire more bodies which in turn would cost more than a 7 million dollar firehouse. 7 million for a building that will last another 60 years is pretty reasonable.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 22, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Putting firefighters on 8 hour shifts would mean 5 times as many trips to and from home for each one of them per week.

That would both put a bigger impact on already crowded roads and it would make it much more difficult to recruit firefighters who live in lower cost communities outside the expensive housing of the Bay Area.


3 people like this
Posted by Ruth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 23, 2015 at 1:27 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Scroughloose
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 4:22 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Ruth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 23, 2015 at 9:09 pm

I agree with cm above. Time to stop paying for firefighters to eat, sleep, watch tv and workout at the fire station. No new station until we can change this 24 hour "work" schedule.


4 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 24, 2015 at 11:15 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

Since most firefighters cannot afford to live anywhere near Palo Alto, their salaries would need to be increased to cover the costs of commuting. After an earthquake, most of our emergency workers will be stuck in their hometowns.

What happens at Fire shift changes when the next shift cannot arrive. The current scheme reduces shift changes. Police officers patrol during their shifts. Do we want engine companies on patrol instead of at Fire Stations?

We pay active duty military to do many of the same things firefighters do. Should we "modernize" that practice also? We should consider going the other way, namely subsidized housing for teachers and public safety first responders. Most of these folks cannot participate in our communities and commute more than 50 miles each way.


4 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Ruth, according to the city website, a 20 year firefighter makes about $29 dollars an hour! No wonder a large percent of the firefighters live in the Sacramento area. I think they are awesome !


24 people like this
Posted by Ruth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Steve, you need to look at the whole picture. Most firefighters with salary, overtime and other incentives make well into the $100,000 range. Google government employee pay (palo alto),San Jose Mercury news. I believe the Palo Alto Daily also posts Palo Alto employee salaries every year. Also, I didn't even touch on the pensions that are out of control. One more thing, I would never compare a firefighter to our military personnel. Yes, I would like to see our firefighters patrolling our streets instead of patrolling the Starbucks and Safeway parking lots. Why do I see a Palo Alto fire truck at the Menlo Park Safeway instead of shopping in their own town?


8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 26, 2015 at 8:56 am

Because you can't park a fire truck (let alone maneuver) in the lots at TJs, Whole Foods, Midtown Safeway, Molly Stones or at Piazza's without blocking the aisles. And if they did, then you'd wise crack about them blocking those parking lots.

Love all of the amateur safety services experts.


6 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Love all the union fire employee apologists.

They shouldn't be at any store when they are paid to be working. They should shop on their own time and bring their food with them when they arrive for work. Union FF's in the Bay area are grossly overpaid and under-worked.


12 people like this
Posted by Joe Commentor
a resident of another community
on Dec 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

MOST calls are for medical aid, not fighting fires thanks to modern building codes and materials.
Most should be called EMTs and paid accordingly with a lesser pension formula as their job does not encounter the significant risk of fire.

State pension benefits should be limited to a amximum 100k in benefits and to not collect until 65, like the rest of the 99%.


17 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 27, 2015 at 10:40 am

Do it "Palo Alto style"....

Hold a design competition,
for an iconic structure,
Then the CC overrides the selection committee and picks a more expensive proposal,
Build it upon the former site of the old Baron Mansion (former home of Sarah Wallis).... irony....,
It goes over budget by a factor of 2 within 6 months,
fire the contractor and start over,
10 years later it's still not done.


12 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 27, 2015 at 10:58 am

The Barron Mansion in Barron Park had been the pride of the neighborhood for many years. Originally constructed in 1857 on Mayfield Farm, it had served as a mansion for Sarah Wallis, one of the most prominent suffragettes in California. <clip...>

But in the late afternoon of November 29th, 1936, a fire began in one of the towers of the 80 year-old wooden house that would change Barron Park forever. <clip...> Writer Joaquin Vienna first saw smoke pouring out of an upper-floor window while driving down the interstate. He turned into the estate, ran into the building and called the fire into three local fire departments.

Soon, fire crews from Redwood City, Menlo Park, San Mateo, County headquarters, and Moffett Naval Air Station were all racing toward the burning mansion. But it would be the reaction of the nearby Palo Alto Fire Department which would linger in the memories of Barron Park residents for decades.

Upon strict orders from the City Council, Palo Alto firefighters were not allowed to cross into other cities to fight fires because they might not be covered by insurance.
Although the nearest station to the fire was less than a mile away in Palo Alto, the fire crew there would only bring their trucks up to the end of the city line. Stopping at the border, 100 feet south of Wilton Avenue and El Camino Real, the Palo Alto firemen watched and waited. Meanwhile, Menlo Park and Redwood City crews, having to travel 7 to 9 miles further through Sunday traffic, crossed over the borders and finally reached the locale.

By the time they did, they found a ferocious raging fire that had begun to eat up the wooden structure. <clip...>

from Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 27, 2015 at 1:24 pm

"...Palo Alto firefighters were not allowed to cross into other cities to fight fires..."

That is not unique to Palo Alto by any means. I know personally of a case in another state where city firemen had to just watch a house burn they could easily have saved because it was a few yards outside the city limits, outside their jurisdiction. We blamed the politicians, not the firemen.


6 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 28, 2015 at 9:12 am

Agreed. Barron Parker blamed the City:

From the article I cited above...

"When the annexation debate was raised in 1947, there was still a great deal of resentment from Barron Park residents toward Palo Alto. Despite support for annexation from the School Board and City Staff, Barron Parkers voted 338 to 261 to remain separate from Palo Alto. By 1949, Barron Park had formed their own volunteer fire department and did not become a part of Palo Alto until newer, younger residents approved in 1975"


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

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