News

First Baptist Church wins council's blessing

City Council votes to grant church permit to retain tenants, operate as a 'community center'

UPDATE: In an email to the San Francisco Chronicle, reported May 19, Rev. Gregory Stevens -- who on Twitter in late March called Palo Alto "disgusting" and "elitist" and used vulgar, scatological allusions -- announced that he has resigned from First Baptist Church.

In doing so, he hoped to "help minimize the negativity focused on the good community work being done at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto."

"I tweeted to vent my frustration," the email to SFGate.com stated, "and I acknowledge that I did so in an unprofessional and often hurtful way."

However, he also criticized Palo Altans, saying, "I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn't translate into action."

-----------------------

Seeking to end the bitter feud between an Old Palo Alto church and its neighbors, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday to grant First Baptist Church a permit to operate as a community center.

By a 7-2 vote, with Councilwoman Karen Holman and Councilwoman Lydia Kou dissenting, the City Council gave its blessing to a conditional use permit that will allow First Baptist to legally rent its space to secular tenants and to retain its current tenants, including a therapist and iSing, a singing school for girls. And in a nod to neighborhood complaints, the city also included in the permit limits on the hours of operation and the occupancy levels at the church, along with a provision that would nullify the permit if the property ceases to be a church.

The council's vote brings a measure of resolution to a conflict that has now been simmering for several years. With congregation numbers dipping, First Baptist has been increasingly renting out rooms to nonprofits, dance groups and therapists and using the rent revenues to maintain its building at 305 N. California Ave. After neighbors complained about excessive noise, increased traffic and insufficient parking, the city began hitting the church with notices of violation. Last year, code enforcement officers required several tenants, including the New Mozart School of Music, to move its operations out of First Baptist. Others, including iSing, have remained in planning purgatory until late Monday night, when after four hours of debate the council finally approved the conditional use permit that effectively legalizes their church operation.

More than 100 people attended the emotional hearing, with about 50 directly addressing the council and dozens more sending emails. iSing singers wore pink shirts and carried pink signs with the words "CUP for FBC." Their parents, joined by First Baptist parishioners and supporters of the church, encouraged the council to give the church the latitude it needs to retain its existing uses.

Some talked about the challenge of finding free community space in Palo Alto, while others praised iSing and lauded First Baptist Church as a benign and responsible force in the community.

The Rev. Rick Mixon, pastor at First Baptist, told the council that the church has no desire to become a "mega community center" or to have a "larger commercial enterprise" operate on its site.

"We simply want to make it possible for a few worthwhile organizations and activities that provide for the welfare of the city to share our space," Mixon said.

Neighbors of the church also turned out in droves to describe the various hazards and inconveniences they've had to endure as a result of the increased commercialization. Some accused First Baptist of being little more than a commercial landlord, masquerading as a church. Many of them asked the council Monday to uphold the sanctity of zoning by prohibiting disruptive tenants from setting up operations in a single-family neighborhood.

Judith Schwartz, who lives several buildings away from the church, said she was amazed by how loud the church activity has gotten. Forcing neighbors to listen to multiple groups, hour after hour, effectively deprives them of the "peaceful sanctuary" of their own homes, she said.

"To me it sounds more like torture than a public benefit," Schwartz said.

In trying to thread the needle between the two camps, the council hewed fairly closely to the recommendation from planning staff, which drafted a list of conditions that the church would have to follow to retain its legal status and its tenants. As such, the council strayed from the advice of its Planning and Transportation Commission, which advocated a far more permissive approach that largely deferred to all church requests. The planning commission had proposed an occupancy limit of 120 people; planning staff had suggested 50.

Spurred by Councilman Greg Scharff, the council settled on 70. The permit will also allow the church to seat up to 280 people for six special events per year. The council also agreed to set the hours of operations to 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., in accordance with staff's recommendation, and raised the number of individual therapists that the church can rent space to from three to five, as suggested by Holman.

The discussion underscored the growing tensions between the church's tenants and neighbors. Kou said that she had recently attended an iSing performance at the church. At the performance, iSing's artistic director accused neighbors of being hateful toward the nonprofit, Kou said.

"When somebody says the neighbors are full of hate and are nasty, that is not acceptable," Kou said, calling the director's behavior "very appalling."

Other council members voiced displeasure at the social-media antics of Gregory Stevens, an associate pastor at First Baptist since 2015. In a series of tweets, which were drafted in late March and which were collected and circulated to the council before the Monday meeting, Stevens targets the police, makes fun of seniors in the congregation and takes shots at Palo Alto, which he calls "disgusting" and "elitist" (the page associated with the Twitter account has since been taken down).

Stevens also made a series of vulgar, scatological allusions and, at one point, wrote, "In the nicest way possible: I hate Palo Alto."

For some council members, the tweets had little to do with the application and, as such, could be easily ignored. But Vice Mayor Eric Filseth called them "disturbing" and said he wouldn't let his children attend any services at the church where a staff member publicly expresses such views.

Holman also found them alarming and asked Mixon to explain what the church plans to do about them. The messages, she said, are "nothing I would expect to come out of a minister's mouth or a minister's fingertips."

"These are quite frankly vile comments, using expletives and defaming of people, including our Police Department," Holman said.

Mixon said he had just learned of the tweets on Monday morning and said "they clearly have to be dealt with." The church's board will consider a response, Mixon said.

Mixon said Stevens is under a three-year contract with the church which will end in August and suggested that the tweets will likely play a role in the church's decision about Stevens' future.

After an extensive debate and a long sequence of amendments, the council voted to approve the permit and agreed to revisit it in five years. Calling it a compromise, Scharff said he hopes the new permit will "cut down on the noise and the annoyance and all of that."

"Hopefully, it's a compromise that works -- that makes life better and gets rid of all of these issues," Scharff said.

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Comments

72 people like this
Posted by Bad Outcome
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2018 at 5:42 am

The moral is clear: if enough people show up who want to destroy your street's peace and quiet, you lose.

The permit law requires there be no negative impact on neighbors. That only two Council members voted to uphold the law shows how our city is sinking into the abyss.


35 people like this
Posted by Bad Outcome for Community Groups
a resident of Addison School
on May 15, 2018 at 7:33 am

This is a bad outcome for community groups or anyone who wants to start any interesting community activity. Neighbors will run you out of town and try to do anything to prevent you from being successful and operating Palo Alto used to be a kind and nurturing place. The vitriol in the room last night toward community uses was shocking. I do not recognize this city anymore.


31 people like this
Posted by Sorry kou
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 15, 2018 at 7:59 am

I find kou's comments to be appalling. I guess she believes that when a small group of neighbors make " hateful" comments regarding the church and its tenants ( and believeme they have), it is okay. However when theyare called out on those comments, it is wrong? Sorry, kou. The extreme negativity and over exaggerations were started by your side.


74 people like this
Posted by Bad Outcome
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2018 at 8:14 am

What a bizarre and phony claim above! No one is trying to run community groups out of city. No one is trying to prevent them from being successful. I know of one community group that meets regularly in a Palo Alto church on evenings and no neighbor has ever even complained. The difference is that attendees park in the church's parking lot and are quiet.


17 people like this
Posted by Joyce
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2018 at 8:21 am

This has been a difficult conversation, and I'm grateful to the neighbors on both sides that approached it with civility. With property values soaring, it's difficult for community groups to find the space to engage, and losing FBCPA would have made Palo Alto a less engaged place to live. I have two daughters in iSing, and to me a youth choir seems exactly the reason we moved back to Palo Alto a few years ago instead of one of the less vibrant neighboring communities.


67 people like this
Posted by Judith Schwartz
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 8:47 am

The neighbors concerned about the CUP are supportive of the First Baptist Church thriving with revenue producing tenants that do not disrupt the neighborhood. We are supportive of iSing and its mission. We just think there are other locations in Palo Alto with setbacks and large parking lots that are more suitable alternatives for such a successful and popular program. iSing has done a fabulous job and has outgrown their space. The good news is there IS space available at existing low cost community centers. Last night I learned, the group doesn't want to move to any of them because the hours don't run late enough. Wouldn't it make more sense to just extend the hours at Cubberley to accommodate them? A WIN-WIN-WIN is our goal.


17 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Professorville
on May 15, 2018 at 9:28 am

[Post removed.]


57 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 10:14 am

@ Sorry kou.....I'll believe you when you produce and specifically cite the "hateful" comments that you accuse FBC neighbors of making.

Lydia reported on specific rhetoric from the musical director of a youth iSing group on Saturday, an event which she attended, in which he turned to the audience, asked for their support for the Monday council meeting and told them that the neighbors were mean spirited and hateful people. [Portion removed.]


83 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 10:33 am

That was a bizarre City Council meeting where Greg Scharff is setting terms for iSing, not the church CUP. He was obviously swayed by the ploy by iSing to make this an emotional issue about children. Just like Castilleja is making their obscene expansion plans about women's education.

R1 neighborhoods are under attack.


42 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 10:38 am

@ JCP....Bingo !!!


11 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2018 at 10:45 am

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

I know the Director of iSing. She is lovely and provides an extremely high-quality opportunity for our Palo Alto kids/teens who need a way to express themselves through singing. I can only conclude the excerpt taken from her statement was either taken out of context or she's been pushed to the edge. Either way, bygones....


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 10:45 am

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Dromaius
a resident of Ventura
on May 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

Dromaius is a registered user.

What a disappointment that over FIVE hours of City Council time was taken to mediate these types of conflicts between small numbers of residents in our town!

The very important topic of Rail grade separations was postponed and this issue will impact thousands of residents and could involve taking many homes through eminent domain.

City Council needs to stay FOCUSED on your stated TOP PRIORITIES and not get "derailed" by squeaky wheels!



52 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2018 at 10:59 am

What an unfortunate situation. First Baptist Church is suppose to be a CHURCH and not a money-making business. Ministers are not very CHRISTIAN. Keep pushing neighbors and the "church" will be gone in a few years.


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

@ Dromaius....because of support shown by neighbors not right near the church and including some affected by the grade separation consideration, you now have added support for your cause.

We understand your dilemma and are concerned for you and your neighbors. We happened to be first on the agenda and view our cause as important as you view yours.

We appreciate those who came from other neighborhood groups concerned with protecting the quality and serenity of the places they chose to live and showing their support for us. While not perfect, there are things in place that will protect us moving forward.


34 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on May 15, 2018 at 11:16 am

It was deja vu all over again.
Greg Scharff taking over the discussion with an aggressive motion. And the Mayor letting him. Kniss as usual bowing to the development forces and to Scharff.

It actually felt like an attack, with the bully demanding that he get his way and the gang members enabling him.


11 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 11:22 am

I have been asked by other parents how to view the portion of the City Council packet containing the tweets that were referred to at the meeting. If you navigate to the City Council agenda for the May 14 meeting, scroll down to agenda item #9 for the CUP and then click on the tiny word "memo" to the left of the agenda item.

Be aware that the screenshots of the assistant minister's tweets in the City Council packet contain very graphic language and are not appropriate for children to view.


5 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

What I thought was lost in the discussion was how much the church is doing to make the activities less disruptive for the neighbors. I talked to the minister a few months ago and he really wanted to do the right thing. His problem was there was no air conditioner and old single pane windows so everything was left open when there were a lot of people in there. I understand that he got his air conditioner and is working on the double pane windows. That should make a huge difference in the noise level.

I was unclear if the church would be allowed to host a Christmas concert. It would be a shame if that was limited to a 7:30 or 8:30 finish time (I lost track of what finish time the council settled on). I know they are allowed six special events a year but what a shame that only one can be in December.

I was also struck at the degree the council was micro managing the church. There was actually debate if the start times needed to be staggered by 15 minutes as staff suggested or 30 minutes.

I think the outcome is a compromise but my vote would have been with the Planning Commission which favored keeping the city our of the business of micro managing the church.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 11:57 am

I was at the concert where the director made those comments and that is NOT what was said. Kou twisted the director's words to fit her own conclusion. NOT what was said at all. Kou should correct the record! I know the directors and they have bent over backward to accommodate and be civil with the neighbors at all times. Sorry, Kou, you got it wrong.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm

@Allen...Non of the Church activities will be governed by the Conditional Use permit which Governs the
Community Center uses.

@Mom...Important to note that the full Twitter Account for the Asst. Pastor was much longer and contained many offensive language, attitudes often racist, sexist, scatological, anarchist, judgmental, anti democratic, anti-old people,
anti-family, etc...etc...
Of course his twitter account was closed yesterday afternoon.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2018 at 12:09 pm

My concerns about how this leaves other churches and faith based facilities will be affected. Presumably amid weekchoir practice for the church choir or a mid week youth activity for church members and their friends are not going to be subject to neighborhood scrutiny by those who have moved beside a church that has been having these types of meetings regularly for many years


10 people like this
Posted by Sorry kou
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Resident- thanks for clarifying the details made by the director. I had a feeling that kuo was not being completely honest. This isthe kind of rhetoric we hear from a very small number of residents and their anti everything council member supports.


45 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Good for Kou and Hollman for standing up for residents and their quality of life, The city could have thought a little harder about where else the activities taking place at the church could move.


27 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm

To Anon:
Thanks for sharing that First Baptist Church Assistant Minister Gregory Steven's Twitter account was full of even more disgusting comments that the ones I saw in the City Council packet. It was unsettling enough for me to read what was provided to the City Council as samples. As a parent, I do not want my daughters near a person like that. Everyone else will decide for their own families, but they should make an informed decision after looking at the screenshots.


1 person likes this
Posted by Seelam Prabhakar Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Seelam Prabhakar Reddy is a registered user.

Thank you council and citizens.
Palo Alto is a top ten places to live.
Noise is an issue for residents. Faith based organizations help build moral compass of our next generation. I strongly believe they add value.

We have what we have. We need the commitment from the church to not go overboard with the conditional use permit and we expect they meet the obligation to be a good value added community and a great Baptist Church.

Outsourcing the building for being cash positive is a ok but not building businesses to make excessive money. That can be done in a different zoned areas not here. Also, hope FBC can increase their membership to 150, a stretch goal. 17-40 sound kind of low.

FBC must take responsibility for their actions and be careful about traffic management when they have events and dropping off picking up children. .

We expect these good deeds with promise to enhanced quality of life.

Every child with faith based training is a child from God.

By the way, I am a parent of three children 38, 36, 30.

Respectfully


33 people like this
Posted by Please fire Gregory Stevens asap
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Please fire Gregory Stevens asap is a registered user.

I cannot believe these tweets he made (from City Council letter): Web Link

I am very upset that the City is upending R1 zoning with this kind of action.

I am even more upset that we are upending it for this kind of person.


4 people like this
Posted by Sorry kou
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Please fire-- from reading the link you sent itis quite obvious what the goal ofthe sender was-- to prevent the church from having any tenants. Fortunately only kuo and Holman ( surprise, surprise) fell for his ploy


19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Please fire, thanks for posting the links to those disgusting and divisive tweets. The language and the ad hominem attacks are truly disgusting. What, pray tell, do Obama and Hillary and socialism have do with protecting RI zoning.

Just think what could have happened at Embarcadero and Newell is the 13-bedroom house with no parking was approved for that other ministry. The same thing could happen in YOUR neighborhood without adequate protectiobs,.

Not every "faith-based" leader is moral or just or inclusive or a child from one of the gods or worthy of their tax exemptions.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Sorry kuo, so you're saying he bears no responsibility for his own words?


7 people like this
Posted by Sorry kou
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 15, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Online name- I was referring to the person who copied the tweets and sent them to city hall, not the minister ( he was exercising his rights to say whathe wanted, which does not mean that he will not be held accountable).
Fortunately the vast majority of the council did not see his comments ade a reason to deny the permit.


2 people like this
Posted by Deborah Goldeen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 15, 2018 at 1:15 pm

I am so happy that the council granted the CPUC!!! Judith - if iSing had any other options, they'd be using them. I'm sick to death of people making excuses to drive when they could bike or not taking the time and trouble to car pool, but I'd bet my horses (all six of them) that every single neighbor who is complaining drives to almost every errand they make, compromising the "peace and quiet" of other people.

Nurturing our youth with quality programs is so very important. It's called building community.

As to the people claiming that iSing is for profit, I've got some land in Florida you might be interested in buying.


38 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2018 at 1:17 pm

"Hopefully, it's a compromise that works -- that makes life better and gets rid of all of these issues," Scharff said.

Yet, Scharff kept asking iSing if it suited their needs. To be fair he could have asked the same question to the residents who were there. It was so one sided. How many times the council kept saying it was not about iSing while at the same time kept asking them if it will work for iSing. Never once did he call the residents to answer any questions they had. So wrong. It was not really a negotiation. It was actually a CUP for iSing. This even after it was proven beyond doubt at the council meeting that iSing can operate elsewhere in the city. Jenna,the director of iSing,and Aalami clearly do not want to move away from this church and have cited frivolous reasons to remain behind. When their success reaches to a point that they become too big for the church, they will move. I am sure their rationale for moving will be different then - we are too big.

Events to end by 8:30 from M-Th with cleanup by 9:00 and to end by 7:30 from Fri-Sun with cleanup by 8:00. How is this even going to get rid of any of the noise, quality-of-life, parking etc. issues? Many of us are home by 7, how about some peace and quiet? No your peace and quiet does not matter, iSing education is far more important. Increasing the number of people every hour at the church for community activities from 50 to 70 with unsafe drop-offs and pickups. How is it going to get rid of safety issues? Value of iSing education and community services at church is far more important than the bikers.

Clearly every permit law was broken yesterday. Lydia and Holman were the only ones who kept up the law. Most of the other council members were on the fence with regards to this issue. Some like Scharff were clearly with the church or rather iSing. The neighbors who stay next to the church are the ones directly impacted by these decisions. But at the end of the day it is a pure politics. 41% of votes from iSing at the next election vs a handful of directly impacted residents. Anyone can do the math.

Also it was ridiculous when Fine asked the question to the pastor about Stevens's (whose posted vile comments on twitter) had any role in the CUP. Obviously the pastor(who said he was the CEO of the church) is going to say no. Well the CEO of the church failed to answer how he perceived the comments. How can anyone let their children in this church? Thanks to the Vice Mayor for saying this aloud.


Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on May 15, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Would someone please post the Twitter remarks instead of

having a silly argument about what it said.


18 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 1:35 pm

@ resident....so if you were at the concert, then what exactly did the music director say ? Why should anyone believe you ? Lydia Kou reported on what she heard. And you didn't. You left that important part out. And by the way, several others who were there have reported the same as did Kou, but not publicly.

@ Sorry kou....are your "feelings" about what the director said based on your bias ? Are residents' comments based on his/her biases ? Think about it.....


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Could someone post the link so I can read the Assistant Ministers Tweets. Thanks.


Like this comment
Posted by Dromaius
a resident of Ventura
on May 15, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Dromaius is a registered user.

@ Concerned Observer: I am referring to the COUNCIL's defined top priorities for 2018 (not my personal priorities) and the significant amount of time Council spends on much lower priority issues.

Council top priorities for 2018 are: transportation, housing, finance and grade separation (Web Link)

The grade separation project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, require mitigating the massive gridlock that is coming from Caltrain's electrification, and possibly involve years of construction for a trench, berm or viaduct.

I think neighborhood disagreements should be handled by City Staff trained in mediation, and not take hours of Council time away from larger issues.


10 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 1:55 pm

@ Resident....scroll up to "Please fire Gregory Stevens ASAP" and click on the web link.


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2018 at 2:13 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Interesting that no one has mentioned the neighbor who said the church might rent to the Klan or the many speakers who spread a mistruth that the church has 40 tenants or the even larger number of speakers who referred to the church as a rental business.

The remarks by Stevens are inappropriate but so were the comments of residents who made crazy false accusations against the church and pastor.


29 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on May 15, 2018 at 2:23 pm

[Portion removed.]
Note to Levy: The person who said the church rented to a long list of renters sent the list of names in a letter to the Council. Please look at it before you post more nonsense.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re the front page PA Post story, it quotes Eric Filseth calling the tweets "vile" and said he'd have second thoughts abut sending his kids to any event there. Shame on Adrian Fine for saying the tweets don't matter.

Words and hate speech DO matter. Or they should. Don't shoot the messengers.


2 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Neighbor

the point is they are not current tenants

so what if they had other tenants in the past

it was an attempt to misrepresent what is going on now or would be allowed under the CUP.

When asked how many families live in my building, should I say 17, the number of families who live here now (we have 17 units) or should i count all the people who lived in those units over the past ten years.


14 people like this
Posted by Please fire Gregory Stevens asap
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Please fire Gregory Stevens asap is a registered user.

"When asked how many families live in my building"

And just what does that have to do with the issue at hand?

The list of tenants using the church is clearly and prominently prefaced by this statement, which you can read for yourself if you care to look at the notes that are widely available. "Here is a list of over 40 organizations that are currently housed at, or have recently been housed at the Baptist Church, and meet on a weekly or multi weekly basis. "


10 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Marie is a registered user.

There are many churches with much larger parking lots that rent space to community organizations. I personally know of Grace Lutheran on Loma Verde, Unity on Middlefield and St. Marks on Colorado. I just attended a training for election officers and Chinese Church of Christ in Mountain View. None of these churches have neighborhood opposition that I know about as they have sufficient parking for their customers. I think churches, like any other building, need to provide an appropriate amount of parking for their users. If I remember correctly, First Baptist has only 12 parking spaces, and those are largely reserved for church employees.

If the city was serious about improving the situation, they would restore the parking on the streets around the church that they eliminated in one of their ill-fated attempt to "slow" traffic. That would go a long way to making the situation better for the neighbors.


15 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 15, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Filseth got it right when he called the tweets vile; they read like an under-the-influence rant. Clergy men and women are seen as representatives of their church. In many ways they function like ambassadors. FBC is not well represented by this pastor. At the very least he needs to attend some remedial pastoring classes. Congregants beware!


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 15, 2018 at 7:26 pm

I was unimpressed by this church - which is not near my residence and which I would be neutral about - upon reading in the Daily Post this morning the nasty comments/Tweets of this church’s associate pastor, and cannot think of any justification for them. I would take such attitudes and statements into consideration about what kind of “neighbor” this church is in this city!!
Nonprofys have their challenges, but the problems cited by neighbors outweigh those in this case.


23 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 8:17 pm

August 14th, March 7th, and April 11th were meetings during which I watched, increasingly baffled, as the coalition for reason and compromise was almost overrun by a bombardment of fictitious statements from a small group of individuals.

I am proud to be from Palo Alto, but deeply frightened by a trend that I see rewarding a handful of disgruntled residents at the cost of the overwhelming majority. Six households have lodged 3/4ths of the complaints to the city. On the other hand, the FBC CUP with revisions has received overwhelming support—40 families in the direct vicinity of the church (94301), and 109 more across greater Palo Alto, along with a petition signed by 263 Palo Alto residents.

First Baptist and its current tenants have made every effort to mend fences, addressing concerns with costly fixes and displaying willingness to do more. In stark contrast, neighbors have exhibited open animosity towards the church and its tenants in comments online and in person.

In fact, a police report was filed recently detailing an incident wherein a neighbor illegally approached and took video of young girls singing in the churchyard in broad daylight, resulting in tears and a swift retreat indoors. Elementary-school girls have been yelled at for playing tag after their choir rehearsal.

What does this harassment say about the power of being a squeaky wheel to bend Palo Alto rules and regulations even if those complaints require no evidence and are rife with misinformation? The opposition merely has to show a picture of a car turning illegally to claim traffic danger. The actual traffic study conducted by the city approximately two years ago (prior to the eviction of the largest tenants) assigned an “A” grade to the intersection in question.

It is astounding to me that people can malign a church that has served the community for over 70 years as “noisy” without a single sound assessment. A recent decibel study conducted during rehearsals proved that background noise was louder than the barely audible singers, even prior to the sound-proof windows to be installed in the next several weeks.

Another oft-repeated falsehood is that the church is renting for commercial purposes to “more than 40 tenants.” In reality, there are 3 current tenants. This piece of shocking misinformation is derived from an incorrect google search, and does not represent fact.

The issue of parking: the continually-cited figure of 8 available parking spaces completely disregards the ample parking opportunities on surrounding streets. These spots are PUBLIC, LEGAL, and not the exclusive property of any one individual.

The council was also barely exposed to the perspectives of actual members of the young bike-riding population—-who neighbors claim to be acting on behalf of— and were instead subjected to those exploiting that narrative to serve their own interests. It was stated by city staff themselves at the council meeting on the 14th that there were just 2 minor accidents in the vicinity of the church in the past several years. Am I to understand that this is a significantly elevated rate compared to other intersections in Palo Alto?

St. Marks, First Lutheran, All Saints, and First United Methodist, along with every other church in Palo Alto, have and continue to rent to non-profits just like iSing. iSing was adopted 5 years ago as a mission of First Baptist, not paying a single dollar in rent for their first year. To claim that this is a commercial enterprise is not only false, but draws a line between what is secular and what is religious— an impossible and ethically ill-advised undertaking. The latter three of the aforementioned churches do not have adequate parking when evaluated with the metrics utilized in this CUP process, and all but one are located in R1 zones. If we are to interpret the code as law, then why is enforcement limited to the FBCPA?

I continually hear that “yes, community centers are valuable, and these organizations are wonderful, but we just don’t want them here.” There are claims that there are plenty of other quote-unquote “underused” community centers in Palo Alto where non-profit organizations such as iSing could reside. This is simply untrue. iSing has looked at countless other venues: Cubberly does not have free space for a group of our size, Mitchell Park does not rent to recurring tenants, schools like Jordan and PALY are in use by school activities and are therefore challenged in availability, and Lucie Stern has no storage, no office, and is almost entirely occupied by Palo Alto Children’s theater. To say that iSing should move is in reality to say that they should cease to serve the girls of Palo Alto in Palo Alto.

Evidence-based reasoning is a cornerstone of democratic society. I don’t consider vague statements such as “many near misses” and noise “at all hours of the night” to be evidence. Let’s not succumb to the idea that a city should be silent and still and immune to growth, or that its inhabitants should have to look elsewhere for opportunities to nurture their children and form community-wide connections. As a 17-year-old learning some very difficult lessons about civics, I implore all involved in this situation to understand how damaging it is to make it clear to girls that their presence is unwelcome. You can say you support iSing and other community service nonprofits like it all you want, but your actions speak far louder on your behalf. I want nothing more than a neighborhood which values peace and harmony, but not at the expense of a sense of community.



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Posted by Shallow Alto
a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2018 at 9:34 pm

I am noticing that many of our regular posters are referencing a "report" from the Palo Alto Daily Post (aka the Daily Compost) in their opposition to the First Baptist Church.

Never mind that the Daily Compost's standards of journalism have been far from stellar through the history of the publication, and have frequently gone into full-blown tabloid mode when they find a target to attack.

But I guess when you don't have an actual argument to make, you use whatever is available...


11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 15, 2018 at 9:45 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Shallow, someone above asked for links and pointers to the tweets> Because the pastor had removed his posts from Twitter, people provided summaries, links and pointers to the screen shots in the CC package since i's not available online.

Two other cc members -- Filseth and Fine -- were quoted because some people seemed so eager to divert the discussing to placing the blame on Kuo rather than where it belonged -- with the author of those tweets.

As for actual arguments, the "vile" tweets speak for themselves.


23 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 9:53 pm

@Lauren-Are you the daughter of Ising's board chair? Heard you speak last night. Didn't know you lived in the neighborhood. I would argue that the rule of law is the founding principle of a democratic society. FBC is zoned R1; Ising was not a permitted use under the zoning law. As for evidence, your evidence is no less anecdotal, and no less biased than the neighbors.


7 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 10:47 pm

@Neighbor I am! As I stated last night, I live right by the church in question on the Bryant side, biked past it to school, and walk to it on rehearsal days. I agree that the rule of law is integral to maintaining the integrity of our society--it was actually my understanding that under section 18.12.030 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code churches and religious institutions are included among the permitted and conditionally permitted R-1 residential uses. As I stated above, iSing is a non-profit adopted as a mission of First Baptist about five years ago— and most certainly not as a “money-making” or “commercial” ploy of the church as has been previously (and incorrectly) stated in order to discredit the church. I personally would not define a petition, police report, city-conducted traffic study, decibel assessment, the verbatim statements of city staff (incidentally from last night's meeting), or easily-obtainable and self-reported facts about Palo Alto religious institutions and community centers as "anecdotal." I do freely admit my bias as a close neighbor of the church and as a partaker in a program it provides. I also, however, make an effort to ensure that my evidence is fact--something that can not be said for those propagating the misinformation I alluded to previously.


29 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2018 at 8:11 am

@Lauren, lets state the facts correctly. Do you live in the immediate vicinity of the church? No. If I understand correctly you live more than 2000 ft away from the church. Anyone can say they live on Bryant and claim to be close to the church. So please do not misrepresent facts.

People living within 100 ft of the church are the most affected due to the activities there. Since the church is very close to homes there, infact many homes are within 50ft of the church, they will be the most affected. Lets not disrepect the neighbors by saying only 6 complain. 6 complain because they live bang there. when music plays in the church it is as if it plays in their living room.

BTW, no one called iSing a money making institution. Yes, its a non-profit but so was NFL and so are many other institutions. Castilleja, Harker are also non profits. We know the difference between non profits and for profits. non profits still collect fees from the members. We can read about the non profit statements as you all have to file taxes. It is publicly available. If you havent seen it, you can go here:
Web Link
In the search box put "ising silicon valley". iSing organization has about $194,000 in assets and its gross receipts are $502,000
Lets keep the facts straight about non profits especially iSing.

Try to look at the perspective of the other side and listen to them instead of going on and on about iSing. Neighbors have been listening to everyone and have been respectful. You should realize that this is not only about iSing but the other tenants at the church too who make noise. In the last few months after the CUP for new mozart was denied, many tenants left and the neighbors have acknowledged it. Also the pastor said, it has 3 full time tenants and he did not disclose how many occasional tenants he has. Great move by the pastor.

Regarding accommodations, other centers can accommodate large groups including Cubberly. St. Marks has space and acoustics and so do many other places. There are youth orchestras with over 130+ people who have had their concerts there. The city staff clearly said they do not see any reason why iSing couldn't move elsewhere. Jenna, did not mention accommodation, she mentioned space for storing instruments was an issue. Many places can store your instruments, many of them have piano's in there.

I realize iSing is highly successful, once you hit the limit at the church you will go to a different venue as another poster mentioned above. Then the CUP remains at the church. The church can rent it out to 70 bagpipe players as one of the members said in the meeting. Given your distance from the church, you will still not be affected. So lets keep the facts straight.





24 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 8:14 am

@Lauren. Congratulations on founding Ising. It’s an impressive accomplishment.

Now, let’s start to unpack your arguments.

First, I’m a “close neighbor, too”. At 1/3 of a mile away, you are outside the noise, traffic and parking zone. Yes, you are close but you are not effected.

As for the “money-making” argument, it was Reverend Mixon himself who said that the church needed to rent its space to make ends meet. "We're a small congregation with a very large public building that we're responsible for keeping up," Mixon said. "We don't have the resources to do that without renting our space or sharing our space.” (Palo Alto Weekly, 6/22/17).

And, last, the good of the many trumps the rights of the few. I believe that people who live in an R1 zone have a reasonable expectation of a generally peaceful neighborhood. Even if it is only one neighbor who frequently can’t sleep or study because of loud music, I would argue that her complaint is still valid. (We aren’t talking about the occasional wedding, funeral, church event. I think it’s important to note that neighbors started to complain when the activities at the church began to take on a more commercial scale.) Let's take your argument to the extreme. Five worthy people need organs. By killing one less worthy person, you can save all five. Is the good of the five more important than the rights of the one?

In this case, of course, nothing so drastic is needed. We could all work cooperatively toward compromise. A good start would be to tone done the rhetoric.


26 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 8:23 am

@ Lauren.....you use the same tactic that Castilleja growth supporters use. Demonize people who want the law followed and their neighborhoods safeguarded from increased traffic, parking, noise and safety issues, by saying they are "damaging" girls or are opposed to the education of young women.

It's simply a false argument. This issue is not about iSing. I know that it is difficult for you to understand. iSing supporters want to frame it that way to gain sympathy for their cause.

Part of growing up is learning to deal with not always getting everything you want, and trying to understand and respect the views of others who may not always agree with you or want what you want. Life is like that.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 10:14 am

ISing has a responsibility to keep their students in a safe environment. The vile tweets from the Assistant Pastor at the Baptist Church should be troubling to all Palo Altans. As a parent, I agree with the comments of council member Filseth, “ I wouldn’t let my child go to any event at that church.”


8 people like this
Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 10:44 am

Puzzled is a registered user.

What about what Council member Lydia Kou said at the recent Council meeting she heard when she attended iSing's concert last Saturday night? She mentioned the iSing conductor asked everyone to come to the City Council meeting [portion removed.]

The church got its CUP. iSing got what it wanted. They should stop complaining.


18 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 16, 2018 at 11:12 am

@ puzzled...

You are 100% correct about what the Ising conductor said at the concert of little children last Saturday.
Council member Kou reported what he said 100% accurately.

Anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful, period.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on May 16, 2018 at 11:14 am

I am confused by a poster saying that Adrian Fine asked Pastor Mixon whether the vile comments by his Assistant Pastor are relevant to the discussion. Did Fine really say that?
Aside from the discussion about their actual relevance, why would a council member ask the pastor to determine whether they are relevant to the debate? Did Fine genuinely think that Mixon would say that the comments were relevant?


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 16, 2018 at 11:33 am

Online Name is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 11:46 am

@ Puzzled...iSing actually didn't get what they wanted, nor did the church. They wanted groups of up to 120 people per event or rehearsal. They got 70. They wanted the time for facility availability to go to 10 PM weekdays and 11 PM weekends. They have until 7:30 PM. They wanted amplification of music and din't get it.

The headline in this article is misleading. Basically, the council granted neighbors and the church a forced compromise. Most neighbors are looking at it as a less than optimal win. We didn't get everything we requested and the church got a lot less than what they were hoping for and will have to be very careful about violations of the CUP.


3 people like this
Posted by A Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 6:16 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 6:23 pm

The conductor/owner of ISing did indeed say what Lydia Kou put into the record at the May 14 council meeting. People saying the conductor/owner didn’t say those hateful words are just trying to confuse readers. Period.


2 people like this
Posted by A Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 6:27 pm

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

> it was ridiculous when Fine asked the question to the pastor about Stevens's (whose posted vile comments on twitter) had any role in the CUP.<

Yes Councilman Fine asked that strange question, giving the applicant an opportunity to look better than he did by not condemning the juvenile, noxious tweets.

Mr. Fine and other developement advocates often ask a developer if he would accept a restriction. If the developer says no, they don't propose it. You might wonder who works for whom.


6 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2018 at 10:24 am

This conflict highlights the very real need we have in Palo Alto for community space. In planning the future of the Fry’s site, I hope people will keep that in mind. We desperately need to attend to the needs of civic life. The Fry’s site is accessible by bike from almost all of South Palo Alto all the way to Los Altos via the bike path that runs from the Sweet Shop almost unbroken to Stanford, easily accessible from the Bryant bike boulevard, and easily accessible from the north via train because of proximity to the Cal Ave stop. It would be a huge lost opportunity to squander the opportunity crowding in apartments that won’t meet the endless demand instead of creating a community space in that most central of places for all Palo Altans. We need a community pool on the South side of town, community performance space, a maker space for all of Palo Alto, available community rooms that can pick up the slack from Cubberley when it becomes a school again, or even a space comparable to Mountain View’s CSMA that can provide controvery-free spaces for youth groups like this, or health-oriented groups like the macrobiotic dinners or even host a Stanfor health library site. This is a creative community, and we need more spaces for civic life, especially now that most of the amenities in town have become so inaccessible to residents in the South because of overdevelopment. The Council wants us out if our cars, this is a big way to do it.

More essential, we need a walkable center of gravity for youth in this town, and that site is by far the best location for it. The CC mostly represents the north where they have no idea how the overdevelopment has negatively impacted access to community/youth amenities on the south side of town.

Even if Cubberley is resurrected including community uses, the need is still so great. To everyone who spoke out in this controversy, the City is seeking input on the use of the Fry’s site. Please add your voice to the need for it to become a desperately-needed accessible space of multi-community uses.


11 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2018 at 12:07 pm

@ Civic Life....one of the speakers at the Monday City Council meeting works for the city and deals with availability of community center space. She clearly stated that community center space is underutilized at Cubberley, Lucie Stern and some of the schools that allow groups to meet. She showed photos of the large rooms available for a very low fee,some with pianos.

Space is not the problem for groups like iSing and others, nor is space for community and civic groups according to her.

I agree that South Palo Alto may be underserved regarding a community swimming pool, although I think Cubberley has one that may not be available for public use.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 18, 2018 at 1:09 am

^ Cubberley pool was filled in decades ago, paved over and striped for parking.
Unsure whether reversible if school is ever resurrected.
I'm CHS '72 and recall it fondly through rose-colored glasses.

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna take a sentimental journey
To renew old memories

( probably not part of iSing repertoire, but what do I know ... )


2 people like this
Posted by So many comments!
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

A huge quantity of comments.
Obviously issue raised concerns from many people on both sides.
Church and iSing clearly didn’t have successful outreach to neighbors.
It would be good if now all got together to go forward in spirit of cooperation instead of contention.
Better to turn swords into plowshares.
Lessons to be learned by other churches who want to expand use by non-religious groups:
Reach out to neighbors early and often.
Share your plans so neighbors can understand what you will be happening.
Listen to your neighbors concerns and be proactive in mitigating valid ones.
A religious leaders should be professionals at outreach.
They should be better at taking the first steps.



11 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2018 at 6:32 pm

At Monday night's council meeting, Reverend Mixon scoffed at the idea that the church would ever rent to anything or one who did not align with its values. Today the Chinese Rifle Association hosted a fundraiser for Travis Allen, a republican running for Governor, at the church. See link: Web Link#


5 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on May 19, 2018 at 7:34 pm

This is hilarious!
Web Link#

With leadership like this, no wonder they have lost membership.


3 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 19, 2018 at 9:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

And in related news, Web Link

The comments on Facebook re the above article are worth the read.


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 20, 2018 at 8:44 am

Check out today’s sfgate.com website (San Francisco Chronicle): most popular item, when I went to their front page, was the resignation of the associate pastor!
The cursory article about this regrettable situation that led to this outcome neglects context and implies neighbors were objecting to prospective or future tenants. In reality, it’s been an ongoing/existing problem in a residential neighborhood....
Don’t expect the S.F. Press to care enough about PA to produce the full story. Interesting anyway.


7 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 10:29 am

@Concerned Observer,
"@ Civic Life....one of the speakers at the Monday City Council meeting works for the city and deals with availability of community center space. She clearly stated that community center space is underutilized at Cubberley, Lucie Stern and some of the schools that allow groups to meet. She showed photos of the large rooms available for a very low fee,some with pianos."

If you have a group that needs a REGULAR space, one that you don't have to constantly re-reserve and plan for, there is NOT free or low cost easily available empty space. If there were empty rooms available, that is a problem of planning or a mismatch for what people need, because I regularly have to try to find space for youth and educational purposes, and what you have represented above is just plain misleading. I'm sure the person who brought it up was well-meaning but they clearly do not understand. It's like saying we don't need more train cars at rush hour despite the packed standing-room only cars because you have pictures of an empty car or two at 2am. Or, better example: You can walk into Lucie Stern Theater at most times of the day and find it empty, but if you wanted to reserve it for a few weeks every year for an educational activity, it would not be possible because the theater is reserved by existing groups almost the entire year. They are in fact using the theater that whole time, in ways that would be seriously disrupted if other groups used the theater at the same time. Given HOW the theater is used, it's not possible to schedule different uses.

Every time there is a discussion of the school district taking back Cubberley, there is an outcry because of the many groups using Cubberley (a dilapidated and unhealthy old space).

If you are intent on making it look like there is open space, you could do it as the person you mentioned above did. But if you are an actual group with a need, including a need to keep supplies in the space for educational reasons, your suggestion that we are swimming in available community space is just false. One the South side of town in particular, the community has no performance space anything like Lucie Stern, NO community pool like Rinconada, no open space recreation areas like the Golf Course, etc etc.

Our church is also the site of community groups who need low-cost community space, and it is a ministry, the church does not make money from those in fact one of them is hard on the facilities and requires a subsidy from church members just to keep the space nice. The spaces you mentioned are not an alternative. They are not an alternative for artist studios or many regular educational purposes.

We had a parent and baby activity that the City of Mountain View made possible, but when that space was unavailable, I made an enormous effort to try to get space at Lucie Stern, but it was too expensive and not regularly available to meet the need we had. We have asked about using the youth center at Mitchell Park for other youth needs, because it is only being used for very short hours during the school year and empty the rest of the day, but could not even get that.

Schools have a very complicated formula of priorities for the use of their spaces, and they require outside groups to pay for their employees to be present -- having rented school spaces myself, again, it is a complete misrepresentation to claim that those spaces are just waiting to be used by the community. The community has last priority at schools, hence almost no community activities are held at any of the many local schools in my neighborhood.

If the Fry's site were converted to much needed community space, space designed to meet the need, it would be filled with a long waiting list from the start.


6 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 10:36 am

"The community has last priority at schools, hence almost no community activities are held at any of the many local schools in my neighborhood.
"

I found that creating after school activities at some of the local elementary schools was next to impossible, even though the spaces were empty after school. Depending on the principal, they have all kinds of reasons the activities would be inconvenient for the school employees. It's certainly possible to point to the empty spaces, but the barriers to achieving a higher use for those spaces after school hours are legion and not easy to overcome despite significant effort when I have tried.


2 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 10:38 am

(Please no one spam me to say that there are after school activities at some schools - there are. But they are extremely limited, and the ability to create new ones, even languages, is very very constrained. One principal said they didn't want things to get "dirty", it was too much trouble.)


3 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 10:47 am

@Concerned Observer,
I do have a challenge for you, though, since you think this is easy. Independent learners in the area (by many different means: various online schools, early community college down to age 11, private and public programs, charters, homeschoolers,etc) desperately need a nice space they can count on meeting for educational purposes, theater and presentation purposes, and just having a place they can count on to meet for social reasons with other independent learners. It can't require a giant negotiation summit on a constant basis in order to retain the space. Please find me the empty space that meets that purpose, and provide the information here. It must be specific, though, not an effective dead end or major project almost certain to not actually result in success like calling the person who manages the space for the City.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 11:02 am

From my experience when looking for community space (not very exhaustive I agree) I discovered that there is a lot of space available at unpopular times or unpopular days of the week. Yes, if you want to have space at say 2 pm it can be found provided you are cleared out by 4.30 and also Friday evenings tend to be less busy. But are those the times that an after school program would find convenient, I doubt it.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 11:10 am

@Palo Alto Weekly Editor

I would say that the updated information at the top of this article about the Associate Pastor's resignation warranted a fresh article and thread. Hiding this information on this seems a little strange.


6 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 11:35 am

@Resident,
Thank you for weighing in.

Additionally, organizing a group use of a space, organizers have to be able to count on that use over an extended period of time, you can't just go onto Liquid Space right beforehand week in and week out and hope for the best, which is what is currently the situation for the empty space. We also found that if your group was even a little bit late, they give the space to someone else on the spot.

I saw an empty classroom in one community center that went empty for a very long time because of all the messy implications of choosing one group over another. There was, if anything, too much need and no one wanted to make Solomon's choice on behalf of the City. That situation makes the prospect of obtaining the space for any given group extremely daunting or next to impossible (I know from experience).


3 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Sounds like @Civic Life needs to adjust his/her financial model. If you're expecting cheap or free space to make what you want to do work, then maybe you need to rethink how you're doing it.

Sorry. What we need on the Fry's site is market rate housing.


9 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 20, 2018 at 4:39 pm

@Me 2,
We only need more market rate housing at Fry's site if your vision of Palo Alto is to continue to serve the selfish interests of companies that want to grow beyond reasonable size locally instead of moving where they can grow. Putting in more housing will only create the need for more housing, as companies decide they can expand even more. They should have to move like Facebook, rather than taking over downtown and ruining it like Palantir.

The City's own evaluation found that areas on the south side were impacted by development and the recommendation was to buy space in order to provide the amenities for citizens, who (unlike companies) are paying the bills for the city government (and their pensions).

My response about the free and low-cost space was directly to the claim made by another poster that a city official gave a presentation about all the empty free space available. It's not real. We need spaces to conduct civic life. My side of town doesn't even have a civic space to hold meetings. The fact that we have so few people from the south side of town ever represented on City Council has in part to do with the way the north side is so much better resourced in terms of civic life. The City Council chose densification and cutting off of traffic circulation for the benefit of companies' expansions (companies who don't pay their way). But now half the population of Palo Alto, who pay almost as much and often as much per square foot in property taxes, cannot use those civic amenities.

We need the Fry's site as civic space. It is a central place where youth can travel from all over town autonomously and that is priceless. We do not currently have that, especially not on the South side of town, where we need a public pool more than in the north where mostly people can afford the private clubs. We need to support the youth maker space in something that isn't an old moldy fire trap. We need places the kids can congregate after school, we need gathering and performance space, artist spaces, educational spaces for organizations like Kidizens.

The solution to the housing jobs imbalance is to balance the jobs against the infrastructure and encourage companies to move where they can grow, just as Facebook did. We will always have a job generator in Stanford so it makes no sense to keep enduring all these ills and ignoring all the negative environmental, human, quality of life, affordability, and other costs of this densification. The companies that take over won't ever pay their fare share anyway. We do not need to use up one of the most central sites that could serve the need for civic space to serve the short-term needs of companies for transient entry-level worker housing. The Fry's site should be turned into civic space.


12 people like this
Posted by no way
a resident of Midtown
on May 20, 2018 at 9:00 pm

What we need on the Fry's site is Fry's. Why should I have to blow all my time driving to Sunnyvale so a real estate developer can increase his personal pile. This city has already lost a great deal of public retail because of this "more building" attitude.


9 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2018 at 9:43 pm

Pastors Mixon and Stevens are just victims. Never mind Mixon misled the City Council. Never mind Stevens' tweets. From today's sermon:

"This has been a tough week. More than once my sighs have been too deep for words, punctuated by a number of guttural groans, for good measure. From the 5.5 hour City Council meeting Monday night, in which we tried to make our case to continue to be the First Baptist Church, operating at this site, to a difficult Church Council meeting Tuesday night to trying to figure out and explain all that is happening to friends and colleagues as well as to myself, it has been a tough week. I am not eager for another like it any time soon, if ever. I am guessing that this is the kind of week when a heavy dose of patience and a cultivated capacity for letting go of fear, distrust, and anxiety comes in handy. God knows I could use some peace today."

At least he got to welcome the Chinese Rifle Association to town.


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 20, 2018 at 10:09 pm

@Civic Life,

Your South-side chip on your shoulder doesn't fly when houses in that area are $2M+. If not more. Exclusive clubs are not a "north side" thing when there happens to be the Eichler club with a pool in, uh, South Palo Alto.

And your south-side neighbors are busy ossifying neighborhoods over 1950's middle class housing that no one in the middle class today can afford. At this rate, there won't be any youth in Palo Alto because no families can afford to live in our Little Atherton. You talk about affordability, but then you don't want housing?

That's some magical thinking you have going on there.


9 people like this
Posted by Civic Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2018 at 12:23 am

@Me 2,
I can’t think of a time in the past thirty years when anyone could walk in off the street and buy a house here. You get into the market through extreme pain and work your way up. I can’t afford my house, neither can most of my neighbors. Renting is worse, because you never develop equity or any ability to be stable. The narrative that people are rich because of the current market in housing - which can and does fluctuate, too - is a pillar in the misleading, negative, selfserving, and community-destroying narrative of developers and companies trying to take over. The rhetoric you are using is nothing new, either. The 80s were worse if anything, with 9% interest rates and new engineers salaries in the $20k range, housing was no more affordable. We heard the same arguments about ossifying blah blah blah. And yet, families continue to move into the Bay Area for the jobs.

Um, the Eichler club is a private pool with a membership cost, it is not a City pool like Rinconada, nor is it nearly as nice. There are NO city pools in the south side. There used to be one but my understanding is that developers built new condos and residents complained about the pool noise so much, the City filled it in and figured the kids in the south could just drive to Rinconada. That’s just not practical with the overdevelopment pressures. The fluctuating market value of people’s homes has zero to do with fairness when half the people in town live South of Oregon and pay just as much per square foot on average for City amenities which are disproportionately located in the north. We do not need to densify Palo Alto anymore for the sake of a few companies’ desires for transient high-cost entry-level tech workers, we need to deal with the problems of the existing overdevelopment for an infrastructure that is already strained. Building more will only help if the number of people stays the same, which will not happen. Just ask Hong Kong. We have a limit on the size of grocery stores here, we need office development and occupancy limits. Companies should move to expand. The City code requires the City to create open space per so much development. The City code does not promise Palantir it can have downtown, in fact, it forbids it. Time for the City to remember why it exists.

No, I don’t want more densification, it is a false and misleading developercentric narrative that has never worked out here. Densification and more housing will accelerate displacement of lower income people as it already has and drive up land costs. If companies like Facebook decide to move where they can grow, or where there is abundant housing stock, then demand locally across different housing types will subside some, which will help affordability provided some of the older housing stock is left. Affordability in the new place can be a given, if the company chooses wisely. These wealthy companies could decide to start their own towns, but they won’t, because they want the public to pay for the amenities they use to attract workers, and they want the public to pay for the negative impacts on the community and environment, and they just want big tax breaks and never to pay back to the community. At least the community can have more evenly distributed civic amenities. The City’s own report identified many southern neighborhoods as deserving even if purchased space for those. I think around the last election, the City owed residents 22acres of open space ? Someone should sue on behalf of residents.


17 people like this
Posted by Another Voice
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 21, 2018 at 8:02 am

Agree with resident that the Palo Alto Weekly/Online needs a separate thread to discuss the resignation of the associate pastor and his hateful message to Palo Altans.

Linking his vile rhetoric to the church efforts to get a Community Center designation doesn't pass the smell test. And for Pastor Mixon to state at the city council meeting that "I can understand where he's coming from" (paraphrased) raises questions about Mixons' leadership. After all, he hired him.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2018 at 10:42 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Given all the regional tv and print media coverage, they sure don't think his remarks are "irrelevant."


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on May 21, 2018 at 11:22 am

I saw Pastor Mixon interviewed on the local TV news last night. I was taken back to hear him say to the effect that if his Assistant Pastor has phrased his comments differently, then Mixon might not disagreed with them. Perhaps someone can find and post the actual interview.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 21, 2018 at 11:52 am

"Densification and more housing will accelerate displacement of lower income people as it already has and drive up land costs."

Please pass around what you're smoking.

"Displacement of lower income people" - a.k.a. gentrification - happens when there's not enough *market rate housing* to soak up demand, which drives money into lower income neighborhoods.

That's right. When there's *not enough housing*. Densification has nothing to do with gentrification. In fact, the statement you just made is really quite hilarious.

Your ossificiationist approach to housing is the reason why we've gentrified from being a middle class suburb in the 1950's to Little Atherton/Baby Hillsborough of the 2010s.

In fact, where has then been large scale densification in the R1 neighborhoods? In fact what I see is the opposite (see: Larry Page assembling his compound from 4 lots or Mark Zuckerberg buying the houses around his lot).


5 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on May 21, 2018 at 8:32 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

" Densification " could apply to that pastor. How dense could he get?
Remember, Separation of Church and State in the original Constitution of the United States also applies as well. Compromises MUST be made. If not, the Feds will order the change. Palo Alto is in the OCR scrutiny, adding this problem and the sanctuary issue just might pull all Federal monies from Palo Alto until " Palo Alto gets it's act together ". Breaking Federal laws has consequences both in monetary and self government damages. A dysfunctional city behavior makes everyone in the US " see the problem " and no one wants that kind of publicity. Getting tried in the " Court of Public Opinion " only creates losers and no one wins.

In a Democracy, The good of the Many outweighs the good of the Few. These complainers would be better off selling their inflated cost properties and move to other Eastern States, where the have all the privacy they desire. Or buy a houseboat or motorhome in search of peace and quiet. Freedom FROM Religion does not allow people to complain about it. You do have the freedom to move away from it..as many in this New Country have done in the past.


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

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