News

Plans advance for new Cubberley Community Center

Residents weigh in with proposals on programs, layout for sprawling center

After years of delays and uncertainty, Palo Alto's vision for an improved Cubberley Community Center is now coming into focus, with a new health center, expanded art facilities, a swimming pool and space for a new school all included in a plan for the eclectic but dilapidated campus in south Palo Alto.

The city and the Palo Alto Unified School District are in the midst of a master planning process for the 34.7-acre campus at 4000 Middlefield Road, an effort that is being spearheaded by the Louisiana-based consulting group Concordia LLC. Over a series of three meetings that collectively attracted more than 400 residents and representatives from both the city and the district, Concordia has been soliciting opinions about what programs the new Cubberley should include and what the center should look like once rebuilt.

While opinions range widely, participants have reached a consensus on several key points. One is that the 60-year old center should be completely rebuilt rather than renovated — an endeavor that will take years and that will likely require voter approval. Residents also generally agreed that many of the center's existing uses — including art studios, martial art classes, theaters, playing fields and spaces for nonprofits — should remain at the center.

Residents have also proposed a plethora of new ideas, including a skate park, a swimming pool, culinary kitchen, a café, a playground and pickleball courts. Earlier this month, Concordia released a "program document" based on the first two community meetings that identifies all these programs as "truly new additions" to the campus.

Crucially, the plan also includes about 125,000 square feet of space to accommodate a future middle or high school, a key requirement for the school district. The site for the new school would be located at the south side of the campus, in close proximity to Greendell School and the site at 525 San Antonio Road. Both the Greendell and San Antonio sites were recently added to the master planning process, raising the total area that the city and the district are planning for to 43.1 acres.

In addition to laying out the proposed programs that would fill the new Cubberley, the document makes a case for replacing all the buildings at the site, which it notes "are reaching the end of their functional lifespan" and are inefficient in both their energy use and their layout.

All but one of the buildings at Cubberley are single-story structures. The new plan calls for having more multistory structures at the center of the campus and smaller buildings at the periphery to respect the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

"A reconfigured site with new multi-story buildings will provide far more options for indoor and outdoor program use and will create the possibility of increased interior area to accommodate the long-term vision of a new school and community center."

The planning effort advanced on Thursday, when more than 150 residents came to Cubberley for the third of four meetings spearheaded by Concordia. Unlike the prior two, which focused on what programs should be included in the plan, the Thursday event at the Cubberley center considered the actual layout of the new Cubberley.

Gathered in tables scattered around the Cubberley pavilion, residents debated site plans, architectural styles and traffic circulation. Just prior to the exercises, Steven Bingler, a principal at Concordia, reiterated the feedback that residents had given at prior meetings.

"You said you want to maximize green space, preserve fields and use underground and structure parking," Bingler said.

One way to achieve that, he said, is to consider buildings that are two- or three-stories tall (though nothing higher than that).

"This probably means that one story probably isn't the best use of property," he said, alluding to status quo.

To solicit opinions about the new layout at Cubberley, Concordia had previously presented attendees with three options: one, known as "independent campus" in which the city and school facilities occupy distinct portions of Cubberley; another, known as "shared village" in which city and school facilities are linked by buildings with shared uses, including classrooms and gyms; and a third, known as "building in a park" that creates a dense, compact building in the middle of Cubberley, surrounded by fields and landscaping.

After tallying up the votes and the notes, Concordia found that residents preferred the "shared village" concept by a wide margin.

The discussion of where to place what continued Thursday, when residents debated the layouts proposed by Concordia and jotted down their observations and opinions on the map. One group suggested that the new day care facilities be consolidated with the classrooms. Another observed that the proposed swimming pool location, close to Nelson Drive, is too close to an existing pool at Greenmeadow Community Center (notwithstanding the fact that the Greenmeadow pool is not open to the general public).

Residents also had a chance Thursday to debate architecture styles for the new facilities. Faced with four options, most groups favored either midcentury modern style, which is consistent with the Eichler-style character of surrounding neighborhoods, or the "high-tech/contemporary" style with features such as glass walls and solar-paneled roofs ("Arts and Crafts" and "Mission" styles proved less popular).

The planning process is set to continue on May 7, when Concordia holds its fourth and final meeting. Both the school board and the City Council will then have a chance to consider the planning document and decide on the next steps for reconstructing the jointly owned center.

More information about the Cubberley master plan is available here.

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Rosewood
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Good ideas, but consider how many years beyond schedule it took to build the Mitchell Park library and how much the costs overran the budget. I'm afraid any plan for Cubberly is surely doomed to the same complications, and I don't have faith that the City government is capable of better management. Yet it sounds like residents will be asked to support a bond or taxes for this project.


11 people like this
Posted by bg
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 26, 2019 at 11:30 pm

Most high school kids live in south palo alto.

Yet, the two high schools are located in the west and north end of town, forcing hundreds of kids to take dangerous bike routes across railroad tracks and exceedingly over-crowded streets to get to school.

In order to cut-down on traffic, make the school commute safer, and provide equity to south palo alto, Cubberley needs to be converted to a high school, with all the features of gunn or paly.

Anything less is an unjustifiable slap in the face to the residents of south palo alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Addressing PA Diversity
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2019 at 1:23 pm

A Chinese cultural center to accommodate the interests of our newly arrived neighbors from overseas would be a nice addition. There are many Chinese seniors who would welcome further recreational outlets and an expanded senior lunch program.

The Mountain View Senior Center has been very successful in meeting these needs and Palo Alto might consider doing the same as its population is now 40% Asian.




12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2019 at 1:58 pm

A senior center is a fine idea, but it has to be for all. I would be against anything that was for one demographic group over another. I don't think the activities should be in any language other than English. Perhaps it could help seniors from overseas learn English and American culture.


5 people like this
Posted by Accomodate All Newcomers To Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2019 at 3:22 pm

> I don't think the activities should be in any language other than English. Perhaps it could help seniors from overseas learn English and American culture.

As there is seemingly minimal interest on their part (especially among the elders), to learn English or American culture, Mandarin translations and/or volunteer interpreter services might be necessary to further enhance their community center experiences.

These services are provided at social service agencies and the DMV...Palo Alto being a progressive city that welcomes diversity could easily do the same.


5 people like this
Posted by Tahir
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2019 at 9:58 pm

> A Chinese cultural center to accommodate the interests of our newly arrived neighbors from overseas would be a nice addition.

I would also like to see some activites that embrace our Middle Eastern and Arabic heritages as well. Since Palo Alto seemingly promotes diversity, why not open the door to all interested parties?

> I don't think the activities should be in any language other than English. Perhaps it could help seniors from overseas learn English and American culture.

Why so? Most American seniors do not bother to learn Farsi or Mandarin when they go abroad. Besides, ethnic intermingling in Palo Alto is rare.

Just offer a broad variety of activities and people from abroad will simply gravitate toards the ones they are most comfortable.

Do not discriminate with the program of events.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2019 at 10:05 pm

American culture is very cosmopolitan and activities around town should be able to reflect that and so accommodate a variety to make our patchwork tapestry a true image of those cultures that are part of our make up. Over the next few months we have Lunar New Year, St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Passover, Easter, and so on. These should be a good reflection of our diverse backgrounds.

If there are any I have forgotten, please forgive me. I think a comprehensive list would be educational for all of us.


2 people like this
Posted by Tahir
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2019 at 10:14 pm

> Over the next few months we have Lunar New Year, St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Passover, Easter, and so on. These should be a good reflection of our diverse backgrounds.

With the exception of the Lunar New Year, all of the others are Judeo-Christian. So much for your idea of diversity. What about Hindu and Islamic celebrations in Palo Alto? Name one.

Or is going to the Obon festival & drinking sake considered an example of Palo Alto diversity? Last time I checked, most go there for the sushi and teriyaki.

Big joke.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2019 at 10:40 pm

@ Tahir

Please add your suggestions to my list. I obviously know little of what you are suggesting and feel that you could help us learn. The ones I listed were the ones that are usually called the Hallmark card calendar. It is probably time to work on adding to their selection.


2 people like this
Posted by Barry Wong
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2019 at 9:42 am

> The ones I listed were the ones that are usually called the Hallmark card calendar.

The Hallmark card calendar is reflective of traditional American values and celebrations.

Only when their marketing department acknowledges other diverse groups will awareness arise. This awareness will have to be 'sale'driven' to expand any form of enlightenment.

Until then, most Palo Altans will celebrate their acceptance of diversity as Tahir mentioned...by drinking sake and eating sushi at the Obon festival.

As aforementioned, awareness is sales driven.


Like this comment
Posted by Hindu/Islamic celebrations
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 28, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Hindu/Islamic celebrations is a registered user.

Tahir asks about Hindu/Islamic celebrations

I'd encourage you to reach out to the City and offer to help sponsor or run one. That will go a long way. In my experience, active participation helps.

FWIW, I've gotten invited to many Holi and Diwali celebrations in Palo Alto over the years, and our schools certainly recognize them. My workplace is respectful of Ramadan, but I don't see much else in the way of Islamic celebrations. I hope the Islamic community will step up and organize some!

These things don't happen by themselves. Cubberley wasn't considering a wood shop until a bunch of people spoke up in a constructive way and made a difference. Consider doing the same.


Like this comment
Posted by Ellwood
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 30, 2019 at 1:57 pm

THe process sounds like a good one.

As I read the comments, I find myself mentally deleting "They should..." and inserting "I will volunteer to lead..." That's how community activities at a community center get started.


Like this comment
Posted by Simple Diversity Solution
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2019 at 8:36 am

Make the Cubberley Community Center open and available to various non-western cultures and celebrations including weddings, births, coming of age rituals and etc.

Simply rent gathering halls at Cubberley for such events.

'Open to the public' gatherings and festivals can come later.


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