News

Plummeting revenues threaten planned public safety building

Support grows for delaying largest project on Palo Alto's infrastructure list

Palo Alto has recently gone out to bid on the construction contract for a new public safety building at 250 Sherman Ave. Rendering courtesy city of Palo Alto.

With the local economy shaken and city revenues on a steep decline, Palo Alto is preparing to reconsider its most ambitious infrastructure project: the new public safety building that is slated to go up in the California Avenue business district.

The city has recently gone out to bid on the project, which has an estimated price tag of $115 million. City Manager Ed Shikada said Monday that the city expects to get the bids back in the coming weeks, giving the council a chance to approve construction work for the project before the end of the year.

The council's infrastructure plan had envisioned breaking ground on the long-awaited project at 250 Sherman Ave. immediately after the city completes construction of the adjacent parking garage at 350 Sherman Ave. Work on the garage is now nearing conclusion.

A bleak budget picture could upend the plan. On Monday night, Shikada and the city's Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose presented a financial update that offered a decidedly mixed and somewhat fuzzy picture of the city's current financial predicament.

There are some hopeful signs. With Santa Clara County easing its business restrictions in recent months, staff have seen sales tax revenues inch back up after a precipitous drop in March, when shelter-in-place orders began. The city budget that the council passed in June estimated $20.5 million in sales tax revenues, a 40% drop from the prior year. Now, staff believe the actual figure could exceed the budgeted revenue by between $2 million and $9 million.

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That positive trend, however, is offset by massive losses of hotel revenues. With some hotels shutting down and others seeing their occupancy rates plummet from above 80% before the COVID-19 pandemic to single digits in March, the council had expected to see its hotel revenues drop to $14.9 million, roughly half of what it was in the prior year. But with the health crisis now expected to languish well into 2021, staff's prior hopes of a steady recovery at the end of the year have largely dissipated. Hotel revenues are now expected to fall short of the budgeted estimate by $11 million in the most dire scenario, or by $5.5 million in a more optimistic one, according to staff.

The city's prognosis, however, is obscured by the virus. A major wild card is the risk of a "second wave" of COVID-19 cases that would further damage the local economy.

"Ultimately, as we think about what's happening to our city, both economically and financially, it's all being driven by the virus, one way or another — and how it's in control or not, and ultimately the efforts underway in addressing that public health emergency," Nose said.

The hotel slump could prematurely end Palo Alto's ongoing building spree. Following a plan that the City Council approved in 2014, the city completed the construction of a new fire station at Rinconada Park in March and moved ahead with the 636-space garage in the California Avenue district, a project that is now nearing completion. Crews also recently broke ground on the new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

The most ambitious project in the plan is the public safety building, which has been in Palo Alto's planning pipeline for decades. The $115 million structure, as envisioned, would serve as the new headquarters of the Palo Alto Police Department, which has been currently housed in a City Hall wing since 1970. Over the years, various councils and citizen commissions had deemed the existing police headquarters as cramped, seismically unsafe and noncompliant with accessibility codes. The new building at 250 Sherman Ave. would give the police ample space while also housing the city's 911 emergency dispatch center, the Emergency Operations Center, the Office of Emergency Services and Fire Department administration.

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But with the city's finances on a downswing, the calls for pausing and deferring the project are getting louder. Almost all candidates who are running for a council seat this year, including incumbent council members Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka, have suggested delaying the project until after the economy recovers. But while their arguments didn't carry the day in June, when the council adopted a budget with full funding for the project, some of their colleagues have indicated on Monday that it's time to adjust the infrastructure plan.

Council members Liz Kniss and Alison Cormack both suggested that the city needs to take a fresh look at its capital spending in light of plummeting revenues, a struggling economy and recent cuts to city services, including Fire Department positions.

"The perception in the community is, 'Why are we putting up big buildings?'" Kniss said. "Why don't we cut back on some of our infrastructure and put more back into the services that are going into the community? I think we should really listen to that. I think that's really valid."

Kniss also said the city should be more mindful of how the council's push to build large new structures looks to the community at a time of the economic crisis.

"When you're at a restaurant at Cal. Ave. and you look over and see this high-rise garage … people are saying, 'Come on! Are you really going to put up another enormous building right next to that when the restaurants are struggling on the street below?'"

Cormack suggested that the council have a broader discussion about reprioritizing infrastructure projects to account for the hotel tax trends. When she asked when the council would have an opportunity to change the plan, Shikada indicated that this could happen at the end of this year, when the city receives bids for the new public safety building. He suggested moving ahead with the bidding process despite the council's reservations about the project.

"Currently having the project up for bids would not be the time to say, 'Halt.' Let's see what the bids come back at, as one data point," Shikada said.

Tanaka disagreed and recommended acting sooner, rather than later, to halt the project.

"Why not stop it tonight?" Tanaka asked. "Why wait longer? It's not like we're seeing hotels roaring back. Business travel still hasn't happened. Stanford has not opened. We have a lot of needs like fire and other services in the community."

The Palo Alto City Council expects to see hotel revenues drop to $14.9 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which could impact building projects. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

While the council didn't approve any budget changes on Monday, it asked staff to explore adding resources to the Fire Department, which saw significant cuts as part of the council's effort to remove $39 million from the budget. To obviate the need for layoffs and preserve recently hired and trained employees in the Police and Fire departments, the council offered bonuses to public-safety veterans who are willing to retire early. While the Police Department achieved its newly reduced staffing levels through attrition, the Fire Department was still set to lose three positions, according to Nose.

Kniss strongly advocated for retaining these three positions, potentially by dipping into the $744,000 reserve that the council created to address unforeseen needs relating to COVID-19. Her colleagues agreed and the council voted 6-0 to extend the "attrition ramp" until the end of March. Mayor Adrian Fine, whose son was born Sunday, was absent.

Kniss noted that Palo Alto firefighters have been responding to wildfires all throughout the region in recent months. Fire Chief Geo Blackshire said the department has participated in seven deployments, each involving four firefighters.

"This has been a terrible year for fire," Kniss said. "I'd be embarrassed if we said, 'We have to let three firefighters go,' when we've been sending firefighters to other places to fight fires."

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Plummeting revenues threaten planned public safety building

Support grows for delaying largest project on Palo Alto's infrastructure list

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 20, 2020, 12:48 am

With the local economy shaken and city revenues on a steep decline, Palo Alto is preparing to reconsider its most ambitious infrastructure project: the new public safety building that is slated to go up in the California Avenue business district.

The city has recently gone out to bid on the project, which has an estimated price tag of $115 million. City Manager Ed Shikada said Monday that the city expects to get the bids back in the coming weeks, giving the council a chance to approve construction work for the project before the end of the year.

The council's infrastructure plan had envisioned breaking ground on the long-awaited project at 250 Sherman Ave. immediately after the city completes construction of the adjacent parking garage at 350 Sherman Ave. Work on the garage is now nearing conclusion.

A bleak budget picture could upend the plan. On Monday night, Shikada and the city's Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose presented a financial update that offered a decidedly mixed and somewhat fuzzy picture of the city's current financial predicament.

There are some hopeful signs. With Santa Clara County easing its business restrictions in recent months, staff have seen sales tax revenues inch back up after a precipitous drop in March, when shelter-in-place orders began. The city budget that the council passed in June estimated $20.5 million in sales tax revenues, a 40% drop from the prior year. Now, staff believe the actual figure could exceed the budgeted revenue by between $2 million and $9 million.

That positive trend, however, is offset by massive losses of hotel revenues. With some hotels shutting down and others seeing their occupancy rates plummet from above 80% before the COVID-19 pandemic to single digits in March, the council had expected to see its hotel revenues drop to $14.9 million, roughly half of what it was in the prior year. But with the health crisis now expected to languish well into 2021, staff's prior hopes of a steady recovery at the end of the year have largely dissipated. Hotel revenues are now expected to fall short of the budgeted estimate by $11 million in the most dire scenario, or by $5.5 million in a more optimistic one, according to staff.

The city's prognosis, however, is obscured by the virus. A major wild card is the risk of a "second wave" of COVID-19 cases that would further damage the local economy.

"Ultimately, as we think about what's happening to our city, both economically and financially, it's all being driven by the virus, one way or another — and how it's in control or not, and ultimately the efforts underway in addressing that public health emergency," Nose said.

The hotel slump could prematurely end Palo Alto's ongoing building spree. Following a plan that the City Council approved in 2014, the city completed the construction of a new fire station at Rinconada Park in March and moved ahead with the 636-space garage in the California Avenue district, a project that is now nearing completion. Crews also recently broke ground on the new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

The most ambitious project in the plan is the public safety building, which has been in Palo Alto's planning pipeline for decades. The $115 million structure, as envisioned, would serve as the new headquarters of the Palo Alto Police Department, which has been currently housed in a City Hall wing since 1970. Over the years, various councils and citizen commissions had deemed the existing police headquarters as cramped, seismically unsafe and noncompliant with accessibility codes. The new building at 250 Sherman Ave. would give the police ample space while also housing the city's 911 emergency dispatch center, the Emergency Operations Center, the Office of Emergency Services and Fire Department administration.

But with the city's finances on a downswing, the calls for pausing and deferring the project are getting louder. Almost all candidates who are running for a council seat this year, including incumbent council members Lydia Kou and Greg Tanaka, have suggested delaying the project until after the economy recovers. But while their arguments didn't carry the day in June, when the council adopted a budget with full funding for the project, some of their colleagues have indicated on Monday that it's time to adjust the infrastructure plan.

Council members Liz Kniss and Alison Cormack both suggested that the city needs to take a fresh look at its capital spending in light of plummeting revenues, a struggling economy and recent cuts to city services, including Fire Department positions.

"The perception in the community is, 'Why are we putting up big buildings?'" Kniss said. "Why don't we cut back on some of our infrastructure and put more back into the services that are going into the community? I think we should really listen to that. I think that's really valid."

Kniss also said the city should be more mindful of how the council's push to build large new structures looks to the community at a time of the economic crisis.

"When you're at a restaurant at Cal. Ave. and you look over and see this high-rise garage … people are saying, 'Come on! Are you really going to put up another enormous building right next to that when the restaurants are struggling on the street below?'"

Cormack suggested that the council have a broader discussion about reprioritizing infrastructure projects to account for the hotel tax trends. When she asked when the council would have an opportunity to change the plan, Shikada indicated that this could happen at the end of this year, when the city receives bids for the new public safety building. He suggested moving ahead with the bidding process despite the council's reservations about the project.

"Currently having the project up for bids would not be the time to say, 'Halt.' Let's see what the bids come back at, as one data point," Shikada said.

Tanaka disagreed and recommended acting sooner, rather than later, to halt the project.

"Why not stop it tonight?" Tanaka asked. "Why wait longer? It's not like we're seeing hotels roaring back. Business travel still hasn't happened. Stanford has not opened. We have a lot of needs like fire and other services in the community."

While the council didn't approve any budget changes on Monday, it asked staff to explore adding resources to the Fire Department, which saw significant cuts as part of the council's effort to remove $39 million from the budget. To obviate the need for layoffs and preserve recently hired and trained employees in the Police and Fire departments, the council offered bonuses to public-safety veterans who are willing to retire early. While the Police Department achieved its newly reduced staffing levels through attrition, the Fire Department was still set to lose three positions, according to Nose.

Kniss strongly advocated for retaining these three positions, potentially by dipping into the $744,000 reserve that the council created to address unforeseen needs relating to COVID-19. Her colleagues agreed and the council voted 6-0 to extend the "attrition ramp" until the end of March. Mayor Adrian Fine, whose son was born Sunday, was absent.

Kniss noted that Palo Alto firefighters have been responding to wildfires all throughout the region in recent months. Fire Chief Geo Blackshire said the department has participated in seven deployments, each involving four firefighters.

"This has been a terrible year for fire," Kniss said. "I'd be embarrassed if we said, 'We have to let three firefighters go,' when we've been sending firefighters to other places to fight fires."

Comments

Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 6:10 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 6:10 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:46 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:46 am
33 people like this

Finally. Nice to see some reality-based thinking. Voters told them that months ago when Kuo conducted her detailed survey showing that taxpayers/voters/residents wanted to preserve services not more big expensive buildings during this downturn.

With the city's blind rush to build more hotels and evict residents from The President Hotel, they obviously forgot about the last dot.bomb economic crash.

""Currently having the project up for bids would not be the time to say, 'Halt.' Let's see what the bids come back at, as one data point," Shikada said.

Tanaka disagreed and recommended acting sooner, rather than later, to halt the project."

Tanaka's right. Why waste more costly staff time and that of the contractors.


NeilsonBuchanan
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2020 at 9:19 am
NeilsonBuchanan, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 9:19 am
8 people like this

Delay the garage and finance it through two revenue streams. The most obvious options are lost in the fog:
1. Developers of housing and commercial properties could pre-lease a set number of parking spaces if the city council properly priced long-term leases including the value of land. This would avoid the cloudy issue of current Parking Assessment Districts.
2. Hourly parking rates and existing parking permits could be pegged to market demand for all other vehicles.
The goal is to make the garage self-financing.


jr1
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Oct 20, 2020 at 10:47 am
jr1, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 10:47 am
4 people like this

The city should check around and see if they can lease a building. Leave the maintenance of the building to another company.


Carol Scott
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:39 am
Carol Scott, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:39 am
24 people like this

As a resident of Evergreen Park, I strongly disagree with the comment made by Neilson Buchanan. The residents of Evergreen Park and the local businesses argued their case of public financing of the new garage near California Avenue for a reason -- to provide adequate parking for the local business community and their patrons and to get the commercial, all-day parking of employees out of the residential neighborhood. Now you want to give it back to developers???? No way. We want the City to have control over the garage so that it can be used for the benefit of everyone -- not a special interest group. The City has already taken out many parking spaces on California Ave and surrounding lots to support the Summer Streets program. The public and these local businesses need the parking -- it should not be a freebie for developers who do not want to hurt their profits by including parking in their projects. Traffic and commercial employees will be back -- and they will need to park somewhere. If they don't park in the garage, they will park in my neighborhood. Can't anyone see beyond the next 30 days????

Second, I find it astonishing that Alison Cormack and Liz Kniss are now questioning the spending of funds on public infrastructure. They were the primary council members arguing for spending on public projects -- like the bike bridge, like the public art, etc. -- and not on public services in the previous budget discussions. Now, they very disingenuously say we shouldn't be building large structures. The Public Safety building is a public safety issue and has been needed for years. These people are for their projects, but not for other people's projects. They don't even acknowledge their part in prior budget discussions.

This is why I am voting for Lydia Kuo -- one of the few members of the Council who votes straight and always listens to residents.


Reducing our record-sized capital budget is what Pat Burt recommended at the beginning.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:48 am
Reducing our record-sized capital budget is what Pat Burt recommended at the beginning., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:48 am
37 people like this

Reducing capital expenditures (which currently are budgeted at a record high) and rebidding capital projects in a softer economy to reduce costs were among the successful strategies that former City Councils used during the Great Recession when Pat Burt was mayor. It worked.

Very early in this process (May 2020), Pat Burt co-wrote a Guest Opinion in the Weekly making a recommendation to do this--a position that subsequently has been adopted by a majority of other Council candidates. I guess they know a good idea when they see one. Web Link

Initially, our current Council took a more bureaucratic approach that was recommended by staff, reducing services across departments fairly evenly. However, there's wisdom in taking a more strategic approach that puts people and local-serving businesses first. That means thinking about maintaining supportive services in a thoughtful, targeted way to address emergency needs. Council and staff are coming around to that view.

We need Pat Burt on Council. We need his historical knowledge, strong leadership, and creative problem-solving skills. More important, we need leadership that has the experience to understand how to work the levers of government as Pat does. Experience matters. Learning on the job in a time of crisis (both pandemic and economic) is not an option.

I've watched Pat Burt's public service for over 20 years. He is a talented leader, and he loves our community. He's got my vote.


jlanders
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:54 am
jlanders, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:54 am
22 people like this

The reality is that we'll be in a COVID world for the next few years. This is going to force changes to the building's design and the way space gets programmed within the facility. The protocols for handling and mitigating the effects of the virus have yet to be written. But there will likely be changes to everything from the HVAC system, finishes and surfaces to offices and shared work spaces.

Is it a good idea to combine Palo Alto's three most essential public safety elements (police, fire, OES) into a single facility in a COVID-active world?

If shared spaces, say for 911 call center operations, are no longer viable for these critical personnel how should the currently planned spaces be reallocated and partitioned?

Since the disease is airborne, will the new facility be able to sufficiently refresh and filter air in the large open atrium areas?

Will the secure areas with civilian interaction, such as the detention and interview areas, AIB and property storage be able to support frequent disinfection and cleaning?

There isn't great value in obtaining bids for the current as designed facility until questions like these can be answered.


Reducing our record-sized capital budget is what Pat Burt recommended at the beginning.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:08 pm
Reducing our record-sized capital budget is what Pat Burt recommended at the beginning., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:08 pm
23 people like this

Excellent questions, Jlandis. Some of these, HVAC in particular, are questions that Pat Burt has raised as well.

Again, we need Council Members who will question staff, do their own research (in addition to what staff offers in their reports) and work with staff, colleagues, and members of the public to develop ideas--to improve recommendations. This is the kind of process that improves problem-solving and gets us to creative solutions.


StarSpring
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2020 at 3:18 pm
StarSpring, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 3:18 pm
20 people like this

Public Safety has been on the wrong foot for years. The City elected to not hire the most qualified candidate who (surprise!) wanted us prepared for a pandemic. Instead we elected to prepare (in Palo Alto!) for terrorists.

Stop spending millions on bike boulevards for adult bicyclists (who should be able to learn to walk their bikes and stop at signs).

And, by the way, remove the "Closed to through traffic" sign at Ross and Louis before there is an accident there.


Greenacres
Registered user
Green Acres
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:31 pm
Greenacres, Green Acres
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:31 pm
23 people like this

Ah, the wages of getting hooked on hotel taxes rather than caring about what the densification and overdevelopment were doing to ordinary civic life and the tax base. Too bad it's the citizen who suffer the consequences they had been trying to prevent all along.

Let's hope we get a new council majority this election and can move forward to restore Palo Alto's civic life.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 20, 2020 at 5:01 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 5:01 pm
15 people like this

@StarSpring, absolutely. And remove the bollards at every intersection on Middlefield that impede through traffic. I shouldn't have to live in fear of getting rear-ended every time I signal to turn into my driveway while waiting for some nice person going the other way to yield and let me make my turn while they're backed up for blocks waiting for the light to change.

And how about putting the public safety building out in the Baylands? Cal Ave area has enough of a parking shortage already that we don't need all the city employees and consultants taking up the spots.

Let's hope the new council has more common sense and responsiveness to residents than the current one!


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:16 pm
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:16 pm
119 people like this

I think that this project had a few things too many and should be brought down in cost by removing things like "the artwork". Also, I think it is unsafe that the majority of this building is not made with bullet-proof glass. Hence, a new design without constant glass outside and with LESS funding for decoration is in order.

The building itself is essential - as the CURRENT location will not support a strong earthquake and does not allow for correct gate protection from a terrorist attack.


TS Member
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2020 at 8:57 pm
TS Member, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 8:57 pm
10 people like this

Quite frankly, the City relied too much on hotel taxes for revenue. Sure, the very easy to get to pass on ballots since they did not affect anyone's pocket books other than... hotels' and out-of-town visitors'. However, they were exceptionally susceptible to a slump in case of a major economic downturn. It is high time to institute a business tax in this city... as well as cuts in city staff salaries and benefits.


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2020 at 7:26 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 7:26 am
20 people like this

>"Instead we elected to prepare (in Palo Alto!) for terrorists."

> "...as the CURRENT location will not support a strong earthquake and does not allow for correct gate protection from a terrorist attack."

^ Curious...who are these 'terrorists' that others are so concerned (aka paranoid) about?

Something along the lines of, 'now playing and coming to a town near you'...
white supremacists, Antifa, ISIS et al?

Rest assured folks...the sky is not falling in Palo Alto.


Ardan Michael Blum
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2020 at 8:34 am
Ardan Michael Blum, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 8:34 am
34 people like this

Hardening places of command and control by having a two gate process to avoid a truck bomb is logical. We need to be proactive which some are still calling being paranoid.


stephen levy
Registered user
University South
on Oct 21, 2020 at 11:31 am
stephen levy, University South
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 11:31 am
8 people like this

I agree with council member Tanaka that we should pause spending on the public safety building that I do support until our fiscal situation is clearer


mc
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:18 pm
mc, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:18 pm
14 people like this

@Ardan Michael Blum

During the budget hearings Greg Tanaka asked the city manager if the $750K for the artwork could be held back from the project. The city manager said it was too late as the piece was was already being stored in a warehouse.

Even though the city manager told council member Tanaka the money for this had already been spent, Tanaka seemed not to hear and continued urging that this project be cut from the budget for another five minutes.

Tanaka has continued to bring this up at council meetings since, urging his fellow council members to cut this money from the budget. Did he not believe the city manager the first time around and knows something we don't, or was he simply not listening? Or perhaps using council time to continue to try to score political points by demonstrating his fiscal attention to detail during his bid for reelection?


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm
20 people like this

>"Hardening places of command and control by having a two gate process to avoid a truck bomb is logical. We need to be proactive which some are still calling being paranoid."

^ Watching too many Hollywood 'action thrillers'?

Armed checkpoints along Hamilton, Forest & University avenues (along with machine gun turrets at City Hall) should adequately suffice.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:30 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 12:30 pm
14 people like this

It seems odd that the city is spending $750K on artwork for a project that has not been fully initiated yet. It looks to me as though the city manager is trying to lock us into this project and make it a fait accompli.

Now that the city is going for bids, look for the city manager to argue that we have to go ahead with the project when the bids have been done.

It is too bad that the staff is not more attentive to things that the residents actually want.


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Oct 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 3:46 pm
14 people like this

Yes, follow Lydia Kou and Pat Burt's advice and put the Public Safety Building (PSB) on hold for now. Don't rush this project given our serious budget issues! We'll have a new PSB eventually. NOW is the time for the City Council and city leadership to be planning about how we'll use that space once Public Safety moves out. We should pull the building down and put up a high-rise building on its footprint -- and make it all below market rate housing. We do not need more luxury condos. We need housing for our essential works who don't earn enough to live here in a luxury condo. A tall building in this space would be appropriate -- close to transportation and many jobs, and not too close to single-family homes.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2020 at 4:12 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 4:12 pm
15 people like this

Maybe the city manager's unconscionable spending on the art work and insistence on bids NOW for a building whose future is in doubt and the resultant criticism is why he's so eager to impose a gag order.

But hey, we're only 8 -- EIGHT -- months into the pandemic. Who could have ever imagined there would be revenue shortfalls while we were sheltering in place for that time. Certainly mot our "leaders' who charged ahead with their budgeting process.


A.C
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2020 at 4:18 pm
A.C, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 4:18 pm
16 people like this

@Ardan seems to be a good source for this. He is part of the 30 or so Palo Altans who advise the Police Chief. Google his name.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2020 at 5:56 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 5:56 pm
4 people like this

I am so glad to hear that so many sitting city council members as well as other people running for City Council are coming around to my argument that we must delay the public safety building!

FYI the State of California just announced the availability of another couple hundred million dollars in grants (not loans) for housing-related projects. This is the same program under which Mountain View received $12.3 million, Santa Clara received $35 million, and San Francisco received $49 million. Palo Alto has not yet applied for these grants, even though this is free money and we absolutely should. Deadline is December 31.

I will mention this at the city council meeting tonight, because I am guessing that none of them yet subscribe to the HCD mailing list. As I have said for a while, the hopefully-former future public safety building is an ideal location for Palo Alto to build housing that will help us meet our state RHNA mandates to avoid SB 35 repercussions!


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