News


Large chunk of concrete falls from historic Palo Alto building

Possible risk to pedestrians from falling debris at corner of Ramona Street and University Avenue

A concrete cornice from an ornate historic Palo Alto building fell to the pavement on busy University Avenue over the weekend, breaking into two pieces but apparently not striking anyone.

The concrete, which fell from about 15 feet, was discovered on the sidewalk by a passerby on Sunday at about noon. The chunks apparently first struck a ledge on the building about five feet above the sidewalk, where plaster and concrete residue were still visible on Monday morning. The damaged cornice is at the corner of Ramona Street and University Avenue at 251 University.

Ornate eagle-motif cornices surround the top of the building, and it is currently unknown what hazard the damaged cornice or the others might pose to pedestrians. City of Palo Alto spokeswoman Catherine Elvert said building inspectors are connecting with the building owner and contractor to ensure its structural integrity and that the area will be safe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

The city has placed cones directly beneath the area where the cornice fell and will take necessary further precautions to keep the area safe, she said.

The historic building was originally the First National Bank of Palo Alto, which was built in 1906 and was renovated in 1992, according to a plaque attached to the structure. The building is on the City of Palo Alto's Historic Inventory Master List. It now houses Fidelity Investments.

An employee at the investment firm said that the building owner has been notified and is looking into the problem. King Asset Management, which is listed in Santa Clara County public records as the contact for the building, did not return a request for comment.

More information will be posted to this story as it becomes available regarding safety related to this building.

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Bhodi
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Buddhists believe that anything compound is transitory. Trying to preserve historic buildings is a losing battle against nature.


36 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:30 am

Midlander is a registered user.

> Buddhists believe that anything compound is transitory.

A nice excuse for not doing anything.

Yes, the Sun will eventually expand and destroy the earth. But we can enjoy our fine historic buildings for many millenia if we are willing to look after them. Maintenance is not merely passive, but active.


9 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:08 am

"But we can enjoy our fine historic buildings "

It's not historic. It's just an old building with a facade that wouldn't pass code today.


4 people like this
Posted by BalancedCarefulConsideration
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:09 am

BalancedCarefulConsideration is a registered user.

...more evidence that it's "the end of the world as we know it"... but I'm not sure I feel fine. (Thanks for the lyrics borrow, R.E.M.)


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:11 am

Compared to other ancient, historic buildings in other parts of the world, this is quite a youngster. Since this was made of concrete, it was obviously not expected to last hundreds of years as others in Europe or Asia, or even on the west coast.

The moral must be if you want something to last, build it right in the first place.


22 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:41 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

If we don't save 100 year old buildings, they will never be 400 years old.
There is plenty of Roman concrete still around - as long as the rebar doesn't rust, concrete haas a very long life.


8 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I question Bohdi's comment ...
Buddhists certainly didn't appreciate the Muslims in Afghanistan dynamiting their 1700 year old Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2000 that were carved into the mountain and have been working to restore them.

From the Telegraph.Co : Web Link

After failing to destroy the 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha with anti-aircraft and tank fire, the Taliban brought a lorryload of dynamite from Kabul. A Western observer said: "They drilled holes into the torsos of the two statues and then placed dynamite charges inside the holes to blow them up."

Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, had pleaded with the Taliban's foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in Islamabad yesterday to save Afghanistan's cultural heritage. He was told that all other "moveable statues" - including more than a dozen smaller Buddha statues in the Kabul Museum - had also been destroyed.

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On a more contemporary note, I remember marching into that bank building as a teen in 1970 and opening my first bank account at Bank of America.


1 person likes this
Posted by Hope for speedy repair
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

King Asset Management is right nearby, at 265 Lytton Ave
Shouldn't be a problem getting a speedy and _competent_ repair.


3 people like this
Posted by Hadleyburg
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:57 pm

No one will ever be injuried by a cornice piece falling off an Eichler.
Burned beyond recogmition perhaps, but never a crushed skull.
There is always a cost to historic preseration.


1 person likes this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 9, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Hmm. I see in the future a plan to raze this dangerous, not up to code building and replacing it with an exorbitantly expensive office building.


4 people like this
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:31 pm

One can always tell who came from out of town and doesn't care about local history by how off- hand they are concerning local history. I offer as reef nice the fight to retain the blimp hanger at Moffett. Outlanders said, "So what!". The US isn't as old as Europe. We need to save what we can.


5 people like this
Posted by GbConstruction
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:29 pm

The building will be fixed and restored with its historic charm. But these things don't happen overnight. We are bidding the job and the owners want to keep the historic aspects intact. Additionally, the city inspector deemed it unnecessary to cordon off the sidewalk- report should contact the city for correct details on this.


1 person likes this
Posted by Flash
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:31 am

@Resident: "The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures ensured that many survive to the present day. The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are just one example." -- Wikipedia. The Romans, however, avoided the modern mistake of leaving ugly bare concrete exposed (Watkins, IIRC)


1 person likes this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:13 am

"One can always tell who came from out of town and doesn't care about local history by how off- hand they are concerning local history"

One can always tell who thinks that being a long-time Palo Alto resident who pays very little in property tax and believes they somehow have the right to ossify the city.


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:55 am

@Me: apparently it's not that easy, because I grew up in PA, but moved out in 2003. Way out, to a place that's actually affordable. As to your reference to someone who thinks they can "ossify" the city......what, turn it to bone, harden it? Not sure exactly what you mean. I still don't appreciate newcomers who are willing to trash, demolish or turn to bone the old buildings.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 1:55 pm

"apparently it's not that easy, because I grew up in PA, but moved out in 2003. Way out, to a place that's actually affordable. As to your reference to someone who thinks they can "ossify" the city......what, turn it to bone, harden it? Not sure exactly what you mean. I still don't appreciate newcomers who are willing to trash, demolish or turn to bone the old buildings."

Moved out because it's unaffordable? You can blame the city elders for ossifying it. That's why you can't afford to live here.

As for newcomers, by whose measure is a "newcomer?" Since you have been gone for 13 years, does that reset your clock? Actually maybe that's worse - someone who doesn't live in (or apparently anywhere near by self-admission) our community telling us how we should be doing something.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 2:10 pm

There is obviously concrete and concrete. Some obviously age better than others. - Flash



3 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2016 at 2:54 pm

"Me" apparently has a handle on how much each person posting comments on this page pays in property taxes and feels it is necessary to enter rude comments regarding their qualifications or to preserve anything built prior to "Me" paying $2 million+ for their overpriced Eichler. What a pity! It is nobody's fault except your own for buying what the market can't sustain.
As for city building inspectors inspecting and determining that all is well, nothing to worry about...exactly what qualifications do they have to make such a determination?


2 people like this
Posted by Andreas Ramos
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:19 pm

> Since this was made of concrete, it was obviously not expected to last hundreds of years

Actually... the Romans built buildings, aqueducts, bridges, and ports with concrete 2,000 years ago. They even had underwater concrete. Many of these Roman concrete structures still exist and are in good condition. The Pantheon, which has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, can be visited in Rome.

Roman concrete was made with volcanic ash. They didn't use rebars (embedded steel rods). Modern concrete often includes sand, so it lasts perhaps 50 years.

The Berlin Wall was brittle and easily chipped (I was one of those people with a hammer at the Berlin Wall in 1989) because they used too much sand.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm

As I said above, there is obviously concrete and concrete. The Romans built excellent concrete. Obviously the ones who built this building did not and did not expect it to last as long as Roman architecture. If you want something to last, build it right the first time.


Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2016 at 8:31 am

""Me" apparently has a handle on how much each person posting comments on this page pays in property taxes and feels it is necessary to enter rude comments regarding their qualifications or to preserve anything built prior to "Me" paying $2 million+ for their overpriced Eichler. "

Haha. There are no Eichlers in Old Palo Alto. We actually have an interesting diversity of homes, which is more interesting than a neighborhood of ossified sameness.

Since you live in our neighborhood ostensibly, you would know that. Or maybe you don't.

It's usually the old folks who want to "preserve" Palo Alto. And they're the ones that have been here 30+ years. You can do the math on how much folks who bought even 10+ later are subsidizing these people.

And this is not just a Palo Alto problem. This is a California problem. It's just more acute here.


2 people like this
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Me seems to be singing one note: dislike of those who don't pay as much property tax as he/she, and using the word ossify in many strange and usually inappropriate ways. Haha


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

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