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Palo Alto looks to upgrade historic building, complete critical bike project as revenues recover

City's proposed capital budget includes rehabilitation of Roth Building, repairs at Cubberley Community Center

Students walk and bike home on eastbound Arastradero Road on May 21, 2018. Palo Alto is looking to complete work on the Charleston/Arastradero corridor in fiscal year 2023. Photo by Veronica Weber.

With its revenues on the rise, Palo Alto is looking to advance an ambitious infrastructure plan that would rehabilitate the Roth Building, make long-awaited upgrades to Cubberley Community Center and finally complete streetscape improvements at the Charleston-Arastradero corridor.

The city's five-year capital program, which stretches from 2023 to 2027, would fund 73 projects that total about $198.8 million. This includes $60.1 million for repairs to streets and sidewalks, $40.6 million for transportation projects, $53.7 million for buildings and facilities and $37.9 million for parks and open spaces.

Much of this spending — about $82 million — would take place in fiscal year 2023, which begins on July 1 under City Manager Ed Shikada's proposed budget.

The spending plan represents an increase of about $46 million since last year ($152.9 million). This includes $11 million for rehabilitating the Roth Building at 300 Homer Ave., which would be taken over by the nonprofit group Palo Alto Museum under a plan that the council has been discussing for well over a decade. The council is now in negotiations with Palo Alto Museum over the lease terms.

Palo Alto's proposed budget calls for spending $11 million to rehabilitate the Roth Building at 300 Homer Ave., which is eyed as the future home of Palo Alto Museum. Embarcadero Media file photo.

So what else should residents expect? Those living near Boulware Park can look forward to some welcome changes. The park in the Ventura neighborhood was expanded in 2019 after the council purchased an adjacent property from AT&T, and will see a suite of improvements as the city moves to connect the existing park with the additional property in the coming months. The improvement plan calls for new playground equipment at the existing Boulware Park as well as additional amenities such as basketball courts, a picnic area and a dog park.

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Those who like to bike in south Palo Alto can look forward to completion — at long last — to the Charleston/Arastradero corridor, a 2.3-mile segment that stretches through 11 schools and eight neighborhoods. The project includes traffic-calming measures such as curb extensions and median "refuge" islands, as well a traffic signal modification. The completion of the project will represent a major milestone for the city, which has been discussing and modifying the corridor for about 20 years and which was the only bike project that was designated as a priority in the council's 2014 infrastructure plan.

And those who have been clamoring for years for the city to do something about Cubberley Community Center, a dilapidated but well-used community hub in south Palo Alto, will finally see significant investment in repairs, even as long-term plans for Cubberley remain in flux.

As the council's Finance Committee reviewed the budget on Tuesday, Chair Tom DuBois marveled at the high number of projects in the capital and wondered if the city can actually achieve its ambitious goals. Public Works Director Brad Eggleston acknowledged that the list is ambitious.

"We're definitely very busy and in sprinting mode on these projects," Eggleston said at the Tuesday discussion of the capital plan. "A lot going on."

Palo Alto plans to spend more than $4.2 million on Cubberley in the coming year, which is roughly as much as over the last four years combined (in the current year, the city's spending on the aged community center totaled $537,547). Most of this spending (about $3 million) will be devoted to roof replacement, though the budget also includes $855,000 for building repairs and $485,000 for installation of a restroom at Cubberley Community Center Fields, a facility that includes soccer and softball fields, tennis courts and a running track. The Cubberley field, according to the budget, is the city's largest recreation field that currently doesn't have a restroom.

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At the same time, the city appears to be in no rush to kick off a broader redevelopment of Cubberley, a 35-acre complex at which the city owns 8 acres and the Palo Alto Unified School District owns the remaining 27 acres. After years of fruitless negotiations with the school board about jointly redeveloping the community center, the council agreed to instead devote the city's energy and resources exclusively to its own 8 acres. The goal remains to construct a new facility that would align with a master plan that the city and the school district conducted in 2019, which included broad community involvement and called for a wellness center, classroom space and a performance art center, along with other amenities.

The capital budget includes $316,000 for a feasibility study to determine the cost and facility needs of the redevelopment project, though that money isn't budgeted until fiscal year 2026 and construction would be at least five years away.

Artist Servane Briand works on bookbinding in her studio at Cubberley Community Center in 2017. Palo Alto's proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes $316,000 for a feasibility study on redeveloping the center. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Deborah Simon, who chairs the group Friends of Cubberley, told the Finance Committee that she and her group are glad that the city is at last preparing to make an investment in the aged community center.

"As you all know, Cubberley is a well-used and loved community center that has been in serious need of repairs and redevelopment for many years," Simon told the committee. "We've been waiting for years for progress, since the first master plan was developed, and then COVID changed all of our plans."

The vast majority of the projects in the capital budget have been in Palo Alto's planning phases well before the economic downturn of the last two years. In some cases, staff deferred projects because of slumping revenues.

Even with the downturn, however, the city was able to complete several long-awaited infrastructure projects, including a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, which opened to the public last November; a six-level parking garage near California Avenue, which opened in November 2020; and the rebuilt Fire Station 3 at Rinconada Park, which opened in March 2020. Palo Alto also began work on its biggest infrastructure project, a new public safety building near California Avenue, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023.

While these high-profile projects progressed, Palo Alto has been cutting back in other areas. Eggleston said that the city has cut it street and sidewalk maintenance by more than $6 million over the past two years. Now, officials are looking to play catch-up.

"This budget restores that to our previous levels but does not address the fact that we are somewhat behind in these areas," Eggleston said. "I think we are getting more complaints from the community about areas that we're currently not able to address."

Assistant Public Works Director Holly Boyd said that the new budget represents a shift in strategy from the prior two years.

"In the last couple of years, the budget strategy has been about reducing funding to adjust to the lower revenues due to the pandemic," Boyd said. "However, this year's budget strategy is about reprioritizing and replenishing funding."

In addition to the capital-improvement projects, the council is preparing to sign off on a list of Enterprise Fund projects that pertain to utilities and public works. These add up to $525 million in spending over the five-year plan, with $251 million budgeted in 2023.

Unlike the rest of the capital program, which relies on hotel-tax revenues and transfers from the general fund, the utility projects are supported by utility rates and, in some cases, grants and contributions from regional partners.

By far, the most significant of these is the planned renovation of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, which alone is projected to cost $186.6 million in 2023 and $282.5 million over the course of the five-year plan. About 64% of the cost would be picked up by Palo Alto's partners in the facility: Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.

This year, the city will begin to upgrade the plant with advanced water purification and secondary treatment upgrades, according to the budget.

"Many of the Plant's major systems are reaching the end of their useful life and new technology for systems such as advanced water purification, and secondary treatment upgrades are available and need to be integrated into the Plant while older systems are phased out," the budget states.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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.

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Palo Alto looks to upgrade historic building, complete critical bike project as revenues recover

City's proposed capital budget includes rehabilitation of Roth Building, repairs at Cubberley Community Center

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, May 12, 2022, 9:11 am

With its revenues on the rise, Palo Alto is looking to advance an ambitious infrastructure plan that would rehabilitate the Roth Building, make long-awaited upgrades to Cubberley Community Center and finally complete streetscape improvements at the Charleston-Arastradero corridor.

The city's five-year capital program, which stretches from 2023 to 2027, would fund 73 projects that total about $198.8 million. This includes $60.1 million for repairs to streets and sidewalks, $40.6 million for transportation projects, $53.7 million for buildings and facilities and $37.9 million for parks and open spaces.

Much of this spending — about $82 million — would take place in fiscal year 2023, which begins on July 1 under City Manager Ed Shikada's proposed budget.

The spending plan represents an increase of about $46 million since last year ($152.9 million). This includes $11 million for rehabilitating the Roth Building at 300 Homer Ave., which would be taken over by the nonprofit group Palo Alto Museum under a plan that the council has been discussing for well over a decade. The council is now in negotiations with Palo Alto Museum over the lease terms.

So what else should residents expect? Those living near Boulware Park can look forward to some welcome changes. The park in the Ventura neighborhood was expanded in 2019 after the council purchased an adjacent property from AT&T, and will see a suite of improvements as the city moves to connect the existing park with the additional property in the coming months. The improvement plan calls for new playground equipment at the existing Boulware Park as well as additional amenities such as basketball courts, a picnic area and a dog park.

Those who like to bike in south Palo Alto can look forward to completion — at long last — to the Charleston/Arastradero corridor, a 2.3-mile segment that stretches through 11 schools and eight neighborhoods. The project includes traffic-calming measures such as curb extensions and median "refuge" islands, as well a traffic signal modification. The completion of the project will represent a major milestone for the city, which has been discussing and modifying the corridor for about 20 years and which was the only bike project that was designated as a priority in the council's 2014 infrastructure plan.

And those who have been clamoring for years for the city to do something about Cubberley Community Center, a dilapidated but well-used community hub in south Palo Alto, will finally see significant investment in repairs, even as long-term plans for Cubberley remain in flux.

As the council's Finance Committee reviewed the budget on Tuesday, Chair Tom DuBois marveled at the high number of projects in the capital and wondered if the city can actually achieve its ambitious goals. Public Works Director Brad Eggleston acknowledged that the list is ambitious.

"We're definitely very busy and in sprinting mode on these projects," Eggleston said at the Tuesday discussion of the capital plan. "A lot going on."

Palo Alto plans to spend more than $4.2 million on Cubberley in the coming year, which is roughly as much as over the last four years combined (in the current year, the city's spending on the aged community center totaled $537,547). Most of this spending (about $3 million) will be devoted to roof replacement, though the budget also includes $855,000 for building repairs and $485,000 for installation of a restroom at Cubberley Community Center Fields, a facility that includes soccer and softball fields, tennis courts and a running track. The Cubberley field, according to the budget, is the city's largest recreation field that currently doesn't have a restroom.

At the same time, the city appears to be in no rush to kick off a broader redevelopment of Cubberley, a 35-acre complex at which the city owns 8 acres and the Palo Alto Unified School District owns the remaining 27 acres. After years of fruitless negotiations with the school board about jointly redeveloping the community center, the council agreed to instead devote the city's energy and resources exclusively to its own 8 acres. The goal remains to construct a new facility that would align with a master plan that the city and the school district conducted in 2019, which included broad community involvement and called for a wellness center, classroom space and a performance art center, along with other amenities.

The capital budget includes $316,000 for a feasibility study to determine the cost and facility needs of the redevelopment project, though that money isn't budgeted until fiscal year 2026 and construction would be at least five years away.

Deborah Simon, who chairs the group Friends of Cubberley, told the Finance Committee that she and her group are glad that the city is at last preparing to make an investment in the aged community center.

"As you all know, Cubberley is a well-used and loved community center that has been in serious need of repairs and redevelopment for many years," Simon told the committee. "We've been waiting for years for progress, since the first master plan was developed, and then COVID changed all of our plans."

The vast majority of the projects in the capital budget have been in Palo Alto's planning phases well before the economic downturn of the last two years. In some cases, staff deferred projects because of slumping revenues.

Even with the downturn, however, the city was able to complete several long-awaited infrastructure projects, including a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, which opened to the public last November; a six-level parking garage near California Avenue, which opened in November 2020; and the rebuilt Fire Station 3 at Rinconada Park, which opened in March 2020. Palo Alto also began work on its biggest infrastructure project, a new public safety building near California Avenue, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023.

While these high-profile projects progressed, Palo Alto has been cutting back in other areas. Eggleston said that the city has cut it street and sidewalk maintenance by more than $6 million over the past two years. Now, officials are looking to play catch-up.

"This budget restores that to our previous levels but does not address the fact that we are somewhat behind in these areas," Eggleston said. "I think we are getting more complaints from the community about areas that we're currently not able to address."

Assistant Public Works Director Holly Boyd said that the new budget represents a shift in strategy from the prior two years.

"In the last couple of years, the budget strategy has been about reducing funding to adjust to the lower revenues due to the pandemic," Boyd said. "However, this year's budget strategy is about reprioritizing and replenishing funding."

In addition to the capital-improvement projects, the council is preparing to sign off on a list of Enterprise Fund projects that pertain to utilities and public works. These add up to $525 million in spending over the five-year plan, with $251 million budgeted in 2023.

Unlike the rest of the capital program, which relies on hotel-tax revenues and transfers from the general fund, the utility projects are supported by utility rates and, in some cases, grants and contributions from regional partners.

By far, the most significant of these is the planned renovation of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, which alone is projected to cost $186.6 million in 2023 and $282.5 million over the course of the five-year plan. About 64% of the cost would be picked up by Palo Alto's partners in the facility: Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.

This year, the city will begin to upgrade the plant with advanced water purification and secondary treatment upgrades, according to the budget.

"Many of the Plant's major systems are reaching the end of their useful life and new technology for systems such as advanced water purification, and secondary treatment upgrades are available and need to be integrated into the Plant while older systems are phased out," the budget states.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 9:36 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 9:36 am

More work to Arastradero/Charleston? At first I thought it meant the part by Fabian which appears to me to be at a standstill. But that is not over 2 miles and passes 11 schools.

So the part that has already had multiple work done is getting more done?

Please tell me that I have misread this.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2022 at 9:51 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 9:51 am

Oh, goodie, More "traffic calming" and road diets. Love those backups and road rage.

Still waiting for Public Works to check their Street Light Outage reports instead of taking on new projects. Tick tock, tick tock.


Larry
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 11:31 am
Larry, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 11:31 am

Anyone else notice that the costs of the projects shown in the 'Palo Alto's Enterprise Project" graphic don't add up to the $525.5M total shown in the graphic's heading?


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2022 at 11:41 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 11:41 am

Bystander, the entire project is 2.3 miles. The Arastradero end of it and the Middlefield to Alma segment is mostly done. Underground work and hardscape preparation for repaving in other segments has been done. Many of us are very glad this has been done, especially those of us who have been hit or who know people who have been hit by cars on that street. Too bad it wasn't done sooner. People who were killed would still be alive. People who were hit by cars and injured wouldn't have to live with the long-lasting pain of those injuries. I personally know 12 people who were hit by cars on that road before the hardscape went in. School route safety is important. Also, I think older people like me should be able to walk across the street safely without being hit by speeding cars. The former four-lane road was a problem. It looked like an expressway and so drivers drove it as though it was one (85th percentile speeds were 38MPH in school zones--killing speed). I thank the city for taking action. The road is a much safer place, and (as a driver who lives in the area and uses the road regularly) I think it operates just fine. Bike and pedestrian collisions have been reduced by more than 50%. That is an excellent outcome--well worth the minor inconveniences of construction. Well done, City of Palo Alto. Please finish up. Thank you.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2022 at 11:43 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 11:43 am

GS how do these plans align w HCD and PAHEWG housing?


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on May 12, 2022 at 12:04 pm
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 12:04 pm

@Larry. Thanks for catching the error in the utilities chart. We fixed it.


Pat Markevitch
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 12, 2022 at 6:11 pm
Pat Markevitch, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 12, 2022 at 6:11 pm

Can someone please list the 11 schools?


Neal
Registered user
Community Center
on May 13, 2022 at 6:45 am
Neal, Community Center
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 6:45 am

Overall, I think this is money well spent.


Chris
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on May 13, 2022 at 9:28 am
Chris, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 9:28 am

There are not one, but TWO extremely walkable, very close restrooms to the Cubberly fields. They are open all day, and are well maintained. Both are at Cubberly. There is even a third restroom closer to the turf field in the pavilion. A sign with a map in lidong the restrooms would be a lot better for the environment than running more pipes
Many of the trees at Cubberly have been cut down unnecessarily by these projects recently. Hopefully you're all diligent enough to make that sure that doesn't happen. The destruction of the redwoods to facilitate another access point for prescious prescious trucks to the turf field was particularly unecessary


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