News

Palo Alto to bid for site near Boulware Park

City Council supports buying the 0.64-acre property and adding it to the park

For Jonathan Brown, Boulware Park is a place crammed with memories: birthday parties, neighborhood potlucks and watching his children grow up, play soccer and learn to ride their bikes.

Now, he believes that it's time for the park itself to grow. On Monday, the Ventura resident was part of a group that urged the City Council to make a bid on a parcel at 3350 Birch St., immediately adjacent to Boulware Park. The parcel, owned by the Pacific Bell Telephone Company (and often referred to as the "AT&T site"), went on the market in January, with no listing price attached. Interested parties were asked to submit bids by the end of February.

"The park is our baby. What it becomes will be the legacy of this council," Brown told the council on Monday, during a discussion of the potential purchase.

Scott Van Duyne, who also raised two children in Ventura, shared his sentiment and also encouraged the council to move ahead with the purchase of the 0.64 site, which is next to an AT&T building that would not be part of the sale.

"I know the number of kids in the neighborhood has been increasing significantly and is expected to increase more, given the housing plans," Van Duyne said.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

The residents were, in a sense, preaching to the choir. The City Council had long eyed the site as a welcome addition to Boulware Park. At 1.5 acres, it fails to meet the city's adopted goal of having neighborhood parks of at least 2 acres in size. Purchasing the land would allow the city to both increase the recreational amenities in the park and help the council meet its goal of having a park within a half mile of every residence.

Even the council's most stringent fiscal conservatives strongly supported making a bid on the property. Councilman Greg Tanaka, who has routinely voted against big-ticket expenditures and salary increases for city workers, supported making a bid for the park site. So did Councilwoman Lydia Kou and Mayor Eric Filseth, who said the park site "would be a great addition to Boulware Park."

"I'm delighted it came on market, and if it can be acquired at a fair price, I think we should bid on it," Filseth said, seconds before the council voted unanimously to direct staff to submit an offer.

The council does have one advantage over other prospective bidders. The site is zoned for "public facilities," which is designed to accommodate "governmental, public utility, educational, and community service or recreational facilities," according to the zoning code. Commercial real-estate firm CBRE is marketing the site, listing potential uses as residential, commercial and industrial, which would all be illegal under existing zoning. The council would have to approve a zone change before any buyer can move ahead with these types of developments advertised on the property listing.

The council discussed the potential purchase in a closed session at the beginning of its Monday meeting and then voted at the end of the meeting to move ahead with a bid. Vice Mayor Adrian Fine noted that the city has been discussing the site for several years and has heard from many members of the community who are enthusiastic about the potential purchase.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Even so, Councilwoman Liz Kniss pointed out that the purchase is far from certain. While the city has collected more than $3 million in various park fees (which are designated specifically toward park improvements), officials don't know how much the seller will seek and how much other bidders will offer.

"I don't want to throw any cold water on anyone, but I also know that it's a desirable piece of land," Kniss said. "Just keep that in mind."

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Palo Alto to bid for site near Boulware Park

City Council supports buying the 0.64-acre property and adding it to the park

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 5:06 pm

For Jonathan Brown, Boulware Park is a place crammed with memories: birthday parties, neighborhood potlucks and watching his children grow up, play soccer and learn to ride their bikes.

Now, he believes that it's time for the park itself to grow. On Monday, the Ventura resident was part of a group that urged the City Council to make a bid on a parcel at 3350 Birch St., immediately adjacent to Boulware Park. The parcel, owned by the Pacific Bell Telephone Company (and often referred to as the "AT&T site"), went on the market in January, with no listing price attached. Interested parties were asked to submit bids by the end of February.

"The park is our baby. What it becomes will be the legacy of this council," Brown told the council on Monday, during a discussion of the potential purchase.

Scott Van Duyne, who also raised two children in Ventura, shared his sentiment and also encouraged the council to move ahead with the purchase of the 0.64 site, which is next to an AT&T building that would not be part of the sale.

"I know the number of kids in the neighborhood has been increasing significantly and is expected to increase more, given the housing plans," Van Duyne said.

The residents were, in a sense, preaching to the choir. The City Council had long eyed the site as a welcome addition to Boulware Park. At 1.5 acres, it fails to meet the city's adopted goal of having neighborhood parks of at least 2 acres in size. Purchasing the land would allow the city to both increase the recreational amenities in the park and help the council meet its goal of having a park within a half mile of every residence.

Even the council's most stringent fiscal conservatives strongly supported making a bid on the property. Councilman Greg Tanaka, who has routinely voted against big-ticket expenditures and salary increases for city workers, supported making a bid for the park site. So did Councilwoman Lydia Kou and Mayor Eric Filseth, who said the park site "would be a great addition to Boulware Park."

"I'm delighted it came on market, and if it can be acquired at a fair price, I think we should bid on it," Filseth said, seconds before the council voted unanimously to direct staff to submit an offer.

The council does have one advantage over other prospective bidders. The site is zoned for "public facilities," which is designed to accommodate "governmental, public utility, educational, and community service or recreational facilities," according to the zoning code. Commercial real-estate firm CBRE is marketing the site, listing potential uses as residential, commercial and industrial, which would all be illegal under existing zoning. The council would have to approve a zone change before any buyer can move ahead with these types of developments advertised on the property listing.

The council discussed the potential purchase in a closed session at the beginning of its Monday meeting and then voted at the end of the meeting to move ahead with a bid. Vice Mayor Adrian Fine noted that the city has been discussing the site for several years and has heard from many members of the community who are enthusiastic about the potential purchase.

Even so, Councilwoman Liz Kniss pointed out that the purchase is far from certain. While the city has collected more than $3 million in various park fees (which are designated specifically toward park improvements), officials don't know how much the seller will seek and how much other bidders will offer.

"I don't want to throw any cold water on anyone, but I also know that it's a desirable piece of land," Kniss said. "Just keep that in mind."

Comments

Becky Sanders
Registered user
Ventura
on Feb 27, 2019 at 4:20 pm
Becky Sanders, Ventura
Registered user
on Feb 27, 2019 at 4:20 pm

The only fly in the ointment is the real threat that a speculative buyer will offer a price well beyond what the current Public Facility zoning would command. There exists precedent for Council rezoning such a property without any due compensation to the city for loss of a PF zoned site (2755 El Camino). If Council will hold fast and keep the zoning as it is then that property will continue to be used in perpetuity for a Public Facility. Let's hold the line here and keep this a public serving property, and then what better way to serve the public than to add park space in a community that is badly in need of open space?

Thanks Gennady for covering this. Thank you Council for your unanimous support. We're counting on you and we will help any way we can!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

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