Palo Alto's plans to build a history museum and create a new program for responding to mental health emergencies received a boost from the federal government last week, with Rep. Anna Eshoo announcing that she was able to secure funding for both efforts in federal appropriation bills.
The projects are part of a $11.2 million package that Eshoo secured for District 18, which includes portions of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Woodside and Portola Valley. The bills have already cleared the relevant subcommittees in the House of Representatives, as well as the Appropriations Committee, and will soon be considered by the full House, according to Eshoo.
The allocations include $3 million for the rehabilitation of Roth Building at 300 Homer Ave., a city-owned building that was designed by architect Birge Clark and which is slated to be transformed into the Palo Alto Museum.
Also included in the federal package is $2 million in funding for Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos for response services to mental health-related emergency calls. Eshoo said the funding will make sure these calls addressed with "the appropriate resources rather than law enforcement," according to Eshoo's announcement.
Provided that the full House approves the appropriations, the funding will advance two city efforts that have been picking up momentum in recent months. Palo Alto has been looking to build a museum at a renovated Roth Building for about 15 years, though the project has faltered because of lacking political support and inadequate funding. That changed last month, when the council approved an allocation of more than $4 million in impact fees for the renovation of the building, which is expected to cost about $10.5 million. The project is also benefitting from money obtained through sales of development rights and the museum's fundraising efforts.
Three council members — Vice Mayor Pat Burt, Lydia Kou and Greer Stone — also issued a memo last month urging their colleagues to advance the project so that it can be completed within the next year and under an existing building permit.
"This project needs to move forward quickly to preserve this vulnerable historic building, take advantage of the existing permit, and move forward this construction season to avoid winter rains," the memo states.
The funding allocation for mental health emergencies will help the city and its neighbors develop a program modeled after Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (Cahoots) in Eugene, Oregon, which relies on public health professionals rather than police officers to respond to certain emergency calls.
The city is already partnering with Santa Clara County on the Community Mobile Response program, which is modeled after Cahoots but which the county initially planned to roll out only in east San Jose and in Gilroy. After Palo Alto lobbied to be included in the program, the county agreed to create a third site to serve north county, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. The program is funded through a state "innovation grant."
Deputy City Manager Chantal Gaines said at a June 8 meeting of the council's Policy and Services Committee that the federal funding would be used to "create a Cahoots-like program or augment the county's program.
"Though there are many steps to go and no certainty of receiving the funds, the City is proud to have made it this far in pursuing additional funds to complement any mental health alternative response program in North County and ensure adequate coverage of Palo Alto's needs," a report prepared by the City Manager's Office for that meeting states.
Eshoo also secured $2 million for Atherton for transportation improvements along the Alameda de las Pulgas corridor and $800,000 for Woodside to install bicycle and pedestrian amenities near Woodside High School.
"I'm proud to have secured this funding which will go directly to local education projects, efforts to mitigate traffic congestion, and plans to strengthen senior care and mental health services," Eshoo said in a statement.