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After initial backlash, Palo Alto again mulls raising ticket prices for Junior Museum and Zoo

Proposal would raise admission tickets by 50% or more

Zookeeper Loree Lee Harper watches as a meerkat suns its belly at the Junior Museum and Zoo in Palo Alto on Oct. 28, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

With revenues falling below expectations, Palo Alto is once again considering hiking ticket prices at the newly rebuilt Junior Museum and Zoo.

The topic of admission prices proved to be thorny last year, as staff proposed charging $18 for admission to a museum that historically allowed visitors to walk in for free. After backlash from the Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, a nonprofit that raised $25 million for the museum's reconstruction, the council settled on a more modest fee: $10 per visitor.

The decision has, however, come at a cost. According to a new city analysis, the museum's operations are costing the city more than $1.2 million annually. While the city had projected the museum to recover 65% of its costs through ticket prices and membership purchases, the actual cost recovery level between the museum's opening date of Nov. 12 and the end of June was just 54%. On Tuesday, the City Council's Finance Committee will consider raising ticket prices to make the Rinconada Park facility more self-sustainable.

With its nature exhibits and a colorful array of wildlife that includes meerkats, flamingos and a tortoise named Edward, the Junior Museum and Zoo has seen an uptick in attendance since this spring, according to a report from the Community Services Department. In its first two months of operations, the city limited operations to weekends only and capped the number of visitors for morning and afternoon sessions, which resulted in fewer ticket sales, class enrollments and facility rentals, the report states. While the city budget projected about 138,780 visitors by June 30, the actual number was less than half that: 62,634.

The museum has been successful in selling memberships, which range in cost from $110 for residents to $245 for nonresidents. While staff had expected to sell 2,000 memberships, the actual number as of June 30 was 2,917. That success, however, has created its own problems, with members overbooking reservations that they do not use and making it harder for visitors to drop in.

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"Members and ticket holders are required to make reservations for each visit, and because reservations are often booked for weeks in advance, members overbook reservations to hold space," the city report states. "As a result, JMZ sells the unused membership reservations each morning to walk up guests, but this has resulted in long lines for tickets and distracts staff from assisting guests with other needs such as booking birthday and facility rentals."

Members also have comprised a greater share of visitors than the city had projected. Staff had assumed members would make up about 34% of daily attendance and general attendance make up the remaining 66%. Instead, the split has been roughly even. And while staff had assumed that 80% of the membership would be bought by nonresidents, the proportion ended up at 62%.

On Tuesday, the council Finance Committee will consider various scenarios for raising revenues, all of which call for hiking ticket prices. Even the most modest proposal from staff would result in a 50% increase, with tickets for general entry going up from $10 to $15. Other scenarios contemplate ticket prices of $16, $17 and $18.

The report does not propose any ticket price increases at this time, though it notes that staff is monitoring the museum's resource needs and that any recommendations about adjustments will be presented to the Council as a part of the city's annual budget process for fiscal year 2024.

The idea of setting ticket prices at $18 stirred significant opposition last year, when the council was considering the topic as part of its adoption of the fiscal year 2022 budget. Lauren Angelo, president of Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, was among those who criticized the move, which she suggested would lead to lower attendance.

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"And if attendance declines due to high ticket prices, it could be years before attendance levels recover," Angelo said at a May 2021 public hearing on ticket prices.

Faced with the backlash, the council ultimately set the ticket prices at the current level of $10.

Staff acknowledge in the new report that while raising ticket prices help with cost recovery, "a drastic increase of 50% within a year may impact visits and deter patrons." One possible way to address this is by raising ticket prices by 10% to 20% in the coming year and creating a roadmap for long-term cost recovery.

"A gradual increase would allow staff to engage with the community and keep community members updated," the report states. "The phased approach would also allow staff to continue to revisit the evolution of all revenue streams including classes and facility rentals as part of the total cost recovery calculation."

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 >>

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After initial backlash, Palo Alto again mulls raising ticket prices for Junior Museum and Zoo

Proposal would raise admission tickets by 50% or more

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 12:39 pm
Updated: Tue, Sep 6, 2022, 9:28 am

With revenues falling below expectations, Palo Alto is once again considering hiking ticket prices at the newly rebuilt Junior Museum and Zoo.

The topic of admission prices proved to be thorny last year, as staff proposed charging $18 for admission to a museum that historically allowed visitors to walk in for free. After backlash from the Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, a nonprofit that raised $25 million for the museum's reconstruction, the council settled on a more modest fee: $10 per visitor.

The decision has, however, come at a cost. According to a new city analysis, the museum's operations are costing the city more than $1.2 million annually. While the city had projected the museum to recover 65% of its costs through ticket prices and membership purchases, the actual cost recovery level between the museum's opening date of Nov. 12 and the end of June was just 54%. On Tuesday, the City Council's Finance Committee will consider raising ticket prices to make the Rinconada Park facility more self-sustainable.

With its nature exhibits and a colorful array of wildlife that includes meerkats, flamingos and a tortoise named Edward, the Junior Museum and Zoo has seen an uptick in attendance since this spring, according to a report from the Community Services Department. In its first two months of operations, the city limited operations to weekends only and capped the number of visitors for morning and afternoon sessions, which resulted in fewer ticket sales, class enrollments and facility rentals, the report states. While the city budget projected about 138,780 visitors by June 30, the actual number was less than half that: 62,634.

The museum has been successful in selling memberships, which range in cost from $110 for residents to $245 for nonresidents. While staff had expected to sell 2,000 memberships, the actual number as of June 30 was 2,917. That success, however, has created its own problems, with members overbooking reservations that they do not use and making it harder for visitors to drop in.

"Members and ticket holders are required to make reservations for each visit, and because reservations are often booked for weeks in advance, members overbook reservations to hold space," the city report states. "As a result, JMZ sells the unused membership reservations each morning to walk up guests, but this has resulted in long lines for tickets and distracts staff from assisting guests with other needs such as booking birthday and facility rentals."

Members also have comprised a greater share of visitors than the city had projected. Staff had assumed members would make up about 34% of daily attendance and general attendance make up the remaining 66%. Instead, the split has been roughly even. And while staff had assumed that 80% of the membership would be bought by nonresidents, the proportion ended up at 62%.

On Tuesday, the council Finance Committee will consider various scenarios for raising revenues, all of which call for hiking ticket prices. Even the most modest proposal from staff would result in a 50% increase, with tickets for general entry going up from $10 to $15. Other scenarios contemplate ticket prices of $16, $17 and $18.

The report does not propose any ticket price increases at this time, though it notes that staff is monitoring the museum's resource needs and that any recommendations about adjustments will be presented to the Council as a part of the city's annual budget process for fiscal year 2024.

The idea of setting ticket prices at $18 stirred significant opposition last year, when the council was considering the topic as part of its adoption of the fiscal year 2022 budget. Lauren Angelo, president of Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, was among those who criticized the move, which she suggested would lead to lower attendance.

"And if attendance declines due to high ticket prices, it could be years before attendance levels recover," Angelo said at a May 2021 public hearing on ticket prices.

Faced with the backlash, the council ultimately set the ticket prices at the current level of $10.

Staff acknowledge in the new report that while raising ticket prices help with cost recovery, "a drastic increase of 50% within a year may impact visits and deter patrons." One possible way to address this is by raising ticket prices by 10% to 20% in the coming year and creating a roadmap for long-term cost recovery.

"A gradual increase would allow staff to engage with the community and keep community members updated," the report states. "The phased approach would also allow staff to continue to revisit the evolution of all revenue streams including classes and facility rentals as part of the total cost recovery calculation."

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2022 at 1:55 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 1:55 pm

This was always a bad idea. I haven't spoken to anyone who has been to visit and putting the prices up will make it even more unlikely to be used.

It used to be a charming little local gem. No idea why it couldn't have remained as it was with just a little refurbishing. Grandiose idea that fails.


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:15 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:15 pm

Yes, exactly. Not everything needs to be edified at public expense.


Wei Jiang
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:24 pm
Wei Jiang, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:24 pm

Our older Palo Alto neighbors told us that at one time, admission the Palo Alto Junior Museum was free.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:40 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 2:40 pm

Yup. Too bad Palo Alto can't leave its charming little gems alone and think before spending big bucks on the new zoo and the redesign of the nearby playground,.

We used to walk by the old zoo on the way to the library and there were always lots of kids outside. Now a day at the zoo for a few kids and a caretaker/parent is too expensive for more than one or 2 visits a year rather than a regular trip visit where the kids can pop in to see the animals and use the bathroom after playing at the nearby expensively redone playground.


MyFeelz
Registered user
Juana Briones School
on Sep 2, 2022 at 4:36 pm
MyFeelz, Juana Briones School
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 4:36 pm

If you want to see wildlife, go to the forest in Tahoe, peel a banana, and wait for the wildlife to come to you. It's much more exciting seeing wildlife in their natural element. And it's good for your heart rate and the muscles in your legs as you try to outrun anything that's not in a cage that wants to take ownership of your snack. Meerkat, schmeerkat. Give me a good old fashioned mama bear and her cubs, coming to visit as I open my cooler on the beach. Breathtaking, and FREE!


Michele Dauber
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2022 at 8:35 pm
Michele Dauber, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 8:35 pm

Another Ed Shikada special.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 2, 2022 at 9:28 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 9:28 pm

A membership, especially a residential membership, is a much better deal than buying individual tickets if a family thinks it will visit the museum even, say, 2-5 times a year, depending on the size of the family. The city ended up selling 1.5 times the number of memberships it projected, and is now...complaining? Because it thought that non-members wouldn't mind paying relatively much higher rates for individual visits, while members would stay away and not take advantage of their unlimited passes??

54% cost recovery through ticket sales is a very respectable number for an arts organization; most live theaters, for example, consider themselves lucky if they break 30%. The City's obsession with expecting its arts groups to pay for themselves or make money for the City through their basic operations is bizarre--the purpose of these organizations is to enhance life in Palo Alto and the surrounding communities. Why is the City not proud to fund these organizations it has run for decades and decades?

When the Junior Museum and Zoo was smaller and had free admission, people just walked up from the street and visited. I don't remember ever having trouble getting in. Now that it's bigger and charges a fee, reservations are required and people have trouble getting in? This makes no sense.

If the City was willing to fund the smaller Zoo's operating costs when admission was free, it makes no sense that it balks at supporting about half the Zoo's operating costs after spending millions of dollars and years to build the new Zoo--it was always obvious that running the new Zoo would cost more than the old one, and the original fee proposal was expected to be modest, around $5.

The City should be proud to spend its money on such a wonderful institution.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 2, 2022 at 9:58 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 9:58 pm

I also note that the City's projections and "goalposts" for expected revenue from the new Museum and Zoo keep shifting. The Weekly reported on May 6, 2021:

"Kristen O'Kane, director of the Community Services Department, presented to the council a set of options for potential fees and corresponding cost-recovery levels. The staff's model suggests that with $18 tickets, the Rinconada Park museum will achieve 85% cost recovery; with $10 tickets, the city would recover just 59% of its costs.

The model does not, however, consider the possibility that higher tickets prices would result in fewer visitors. Rather, it presumes that the museum would continue to see about 185,000 visitors per year, regardless of the ticket price.

For Angelo [the President of Friends of JMZ] and other critics of the city's proposal, that is a fatal flaw. If the demand plummets because tickets prices are too high, the museum will generate lower revenues than it would with tickets in the $10 range. Angelo noted that most other museums and zoos in the area charge fees well below $18, with the lone exception of the San Francisco Zoo, which costs $18 to enter."

Web Link

Okay, so the current article says the fees covered 54% of the Museum's cost, which is only 5% off from the earlier article's projection of 59% if the attendance fee is $10 per person, and 11% off from the current article's 65% cost recovery goal. And the Museum did that with only 45% of the current projected attendance.

From the standpoint of arts administration and opening a new facility during the COVID pandemic, I would say the new Junior Museum and Zoo is doing pretty well. Unfortunately, the City keeps saddling it with shifting and unreasonable expectations, and is probably driving down both attendance and income by doing so.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 2, 2022 at 10:31 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 2, 2022 at 10:31 pm

Looking at the linked City memo to the Finance Committee, it is clear that the purpose of the proposed fee increases is NOT to close the gap between the projected cost recovery and the actual cost recovery for the new Junior Museum and Zoo, but to change the cost recovery to 100% so the City does not have to pay any of the facility's operating costs.

Web Link

This is NOT the deal under which the new facility was built and financed. The City also admits that attendance--and thus fees--have been down because of COVID restrictions and surges, and that the lack of available reservations is mainly because of limited space and time because of COVID protocols. In other words, this is not the way the museum will presumably function going forward, yet the City is using this an excuse to propose permanent exorbitant fees, or privatize the Museum and turn it entirely over to the Friends of the Junior Museum and Zoo--either way, the City simply doesn't want to fund the Museum.

Again, this is NOT the deal under which the new facility was built and financed.


JR
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2022 at 7:31 am
JR, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 7:31 am

They would have had better luck increasing the prices to attend the old junior zoo (though I recall that admission was free w/ "suggested donation). The NEW junior zoo is a downgrade in almost every way. It's convenient to blame Covid for the fall in attendance, but the truth is that the renovations turned a unique, innovative museum into a bland cookie-cutter destination that nobody will remember 5 minutes after they leave.

So let's see, the museum gets relocated / closed for many years, no longer free to attend, prices getting raised, and the museum is worse in almost every way to the predecessor. Developers did make millions of dollars on the "upgrade" though, so I guess it's a net win.


moderation is the key
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Sep 3, 2022 at 9:46 am
moderation is the key, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 9:46 am

Another example of Palo Alto gouging young families. Perhaps in the end some nominal fee needs to be charged, but $18!!! San Francisco Zoo is $16 for kids, The Oakland Zoo is $15 for kids - and do you really think our little museum and zoo is even close to those two? Ridiculous. And by the way, there are many FREE zoos in this country, including the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

My goodness, Palo Alto! Can we PLEASE elect moderate people to the City Council so we can build true consensus and make reasonable decisions based on mutual respect. Let's go moderate and find solutions to problems such as this one without having to listen to lefty woke people trying to drive a wedge between north and south PA and righty development $$$ only.


Bruce Wilkens
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2022 at 10:52 am
Bruce Wilkens, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 10:52 am

The Palo Alto Zoo is no San Diego Zoo by any means of the word or definition.

Admission should be FREE for Palo Alto residents with a nominal entrance fee for non-residents.

Either that or expand the zoo with more exotic attractions to justify charging an entrance fee for all.


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2022 at 1:11 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 1:11 pm

Any city official associated with this debacle needs to resign ASAP.

They took a cute FREE neighborhood zoo frequented by everyone (babies, toddlers, small children, nannies) and made it cost-prohibitive by over building.

The only people who won here were the developers and [portion removed] city officials.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2022 at 1:46 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 1:46 pm

See: Michele Dauber's comment above. I agree with her. City Council might want to have a sit-down meeting with the City Manager and all senior staff and clue them in on what it is that Palo Alto residents value, what has made Palo Alto special for decades, what is sacred, and what can be changed, within reason. OF COURSE there will be differences of opinion, but if there's one thing that has never changed it is our dedication to what is good for our children. Keep the schools strong, keep the bike lanes safe, keep the Children's Library, keep the Junior Museum and Zoo.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:08 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:08 pm

Thank you Jeremy Erman for the background about the Junior Museum pricing model as presented to staff. I also watched that council meeting and couldn't believe staff's analysis on entrance fees and proposed revenue that would be raised, or how gullible the city council members.

I suspect that many employees in city hall are under the misconception that if you live in Palo Alto you must have plenty of discretionary income. Whereas, many people make considerable sacrifices so their children can attend Palo Alto schools, and many people who do not have children have a much more restricted income than seems to be assumed by city hall employees. Also, as reflected in decisions made in the past, by too many council members.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:30 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:30 pm

mjh,

"Whereas, many people make considerable sacrifices so their children can attend Palo Alto schools, and many people who do not have children have a much more restricted income than seems to be assumed by city hall employees. Also, as reflected in decisions made in the past, by too many council members."

There was a time when there was (maybe) more disposable income but the cost of living is so much higher. 46% of the population rent; local billionaires make news but they don't invest in Palo Alto. Businesses and Stanford don't care about the community; the reality is that there is simply NO MONEY.

How about all the folks who got exemptions on the business tax? Maybe they would
like to make a contribution to local community services and get honorable mention.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:51 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:51 pm

"How about all the folks who got exemptions on the business tax? Maybe they would
like to make a contribution to local community services and get honorable mention. "

And how about Stanford buying up all those homes and taking them off the tax rolls while objecting to housing THEIR community on Stanford campus and having to pay their fair share of sending the kids to PA schools.

Then they try to defend their endless expansion by claiming "no net new car trips" which is an insult to our intelligence.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:59 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 2:59 pm

Per status quo CC and highest earning city staff boot kids and families to the curb, crying poor, poor city coffers. My children (we are very low-income) had so many beautiful family times when they were toddlers thru grade school at the Riconada Junior Museum. There is so very little children benefit from the City's offerings (Riconada pool is 9 dollars entrance fee) -- shame on the city for not offsetting the crushing cost of living and give our youngsters no admission fees . Philanthropists Lucy Stern and her two sisters are surely weeping from the grave. Someone else is weeping too down from the Heavens. Josephine Randall (Yes the SF Rec and Park Randall Junior Museum). I am sure Josephine Duvaneck is joining in as well. Let's throw Julia Morgan's commitment to progressive social causes as well. So much for history, posterity, mission with a purpose. Taking candy and fun from babies is just dumb. Nothing like pulling straw from the bottom half pretending to make hay.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 3, 2022 at 4:00 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 4:00 pm

MJH wrote: "I suspect that many employees in city hall are under the misconception that if you live in Palo Alto you must have plenty of discretionary income."

Kudos to MJH for making that point. Maybe this misconception is fueled by the wealth of those they interact with frequently. I am thinking of the privileged applicants who appear to get "most favored nation" treatment when seeking building permits and variances. The Castilleja application and the massive amounts of money spent to assure that win come immediately to mind. Another fuel may be some of the salaries paid at City Hall, such as the City Manager's, which is higher than the Governor's. These things can skew one's perception of reality.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 3, 2022 at 10:59 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 3, 2022 at 10:59 pm

Who among us asked for this? This was once a wonderful and unpretentious museum for kids. It's now turned into a pretentious state-of-the-art place for the rich which needed an ever-growing bureaucracy like this. The old Junior Museum and Zoo was never broken in the first place -- and certainly not enough to justify spending millions of dollars for something that is only marginally more interesting to kids -- but prices out our children and visiting kids.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2022 at 12:53 am
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 12:53 am

@Nayeli,

“Who among us asked for this? This was once a wonderful and unpretentious museum for kids. It's now turned into a pretentious state-of-the-art place for the rich which needed an ever-growing bureaucracy like this.”

This is where a “survey” would have come in handy, were we ever given some scale options and price ranges? Any children surveyed? The website offers options to book the Junior museum for Weddings now which may explain the scale geared for adults. Ugh.


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2022 at 8:24 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 8:24 am

Go visit Curiodyssey if you want to see what PAJMZ could have been.

The things people are complaining about were inevitable when PA hired the former head of SF’s zoo after the tiger mauling. I’m not saying he’s bad by any means. He’s been very supportive of education at the JMZ. But it was always like the low-key young children’s place of exploration was beneath him, and early partial renovations were in the image of big zoos and lacked prior warmth and charm. The annual redesign of the tactile exhibits, which was probably the greatest gem for young children in this town, bar none, ended when he took over.

Charging admission is problematic on so many levels. A trip to the Oakland or SF zoo is a day trip once or twice a year. A trip to PA JMZ with really young children was always valuable to families here as spontaneous drop-in as part of visiting the park and/or library. Anyone who has young kids knows that spontaneous play and exploration opportunities are priceless compared to scheduled expensive events.

The old JMZ was fantastic as a place a parent could let kids explore for themselves without being hovered over. I’m really sad for our kids and families that it has been turned into a destination they have to reserve ahead of time to get into, playing into the overscheduling of childhood. Even at $10, it’s going to exclude sponteneous visiting, which, again, made it great for young kids.

How much did the old system of voluntary donations raise? Just want to know for comparison. It seems like more drop ins donating less on average would still raise comparable amounts. Admission fees just kill spontaneity though, and exclude people who can’t afford it but would benefit the most.

Sure, you can have a policy that low-income people can get reduced rates, but applying is humiliating, time-consuming, and tone deaf to the realities of our area with all the house poor who are too rich to qualify but too poor to actually afford fees like this.


Bryan Roberts
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 4, 2022 at 9:33 am
Bryan Roberts, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 9:33 am

It is time for the PACC to put on their thinking caps (if they happen to have one handy).

Why not use the resources from their proposed business tax to offset the projected expenses of the Junior Museum and Zoo?

And while they are at it, make the museum/zoo free to all visitors.


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2022 at 9:44 am
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 9:44 am

‘Sure, you can have a policy that low-income people can get reduced rates, but applying is humiliating, time-consuming,’

Citizen speaking the truth.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 4, 2022 at 10:52 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 10:52 am

@Bryan Roberts - if the business tax passes, the revenue from it will go to the General Fund, making it available to be spent as you suggest. However, CC recently passed a non-binding resolution that it will be spent only on housing, police and fire, and grade separation. That's the pitch being used to get voters to approve it.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2022 at 2:23 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 2:23 pm

@Bryan Roberts,

Why not use the resources from their proposed business tax to offset the projected expenses of the Junior Museum and Zoo?

The new business tax also exempts a great many businesses who could chip in, and get a medal to hang on their wall “we support the Junior museum” but that would be too much to ask. Their lobbyists not only capped the business tax to $9 million but police and fire may have been a “compromise.”

We’re lucky we aren’t paying businesses to do business here, oh sorry we are.


Ugh
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 4, 2022 at 7:36 pm
Ugh, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 7:36 pm

Each time I've tried to go to the zoo, the tickets were all sold out because they limited attendance. And then, it got even worse when they made two hour blocks of time. A friend who has a membership can barely go because the member spots are reserved all the time. Maybe they should just open the zoo to all without limitations and see how much $$ they would actually bring in. Ridiculous!


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 4, 2022 at 7:46 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2022 at 7:46 pm

Two hour blocks of time?? We took the tour when it first opened and they wanted to placate the neighbors for the construction disruption and there was hardly enough to see for maybe 30 minutes in the zoo and maybe another 15-30 minutes in the exhibit area.


Seth Aronson
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:05 am
Seth Aronson, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:05 am

The question is...do the exhibits and features of the PA Junior Museum and Zoo warrant the current price of admission?

Also curious...why would anyone want to book a wedding reception at a pet zoo?


StephenM
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2022 at 6:08 pm
StephenM, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 6:08 pm

Online name: A correction of a common misconception: Homes that Stanford buys and then resells to faculty do not leave the property tax rolls. Indeed, when the house is sold to a Stanford person, the county assessor makes up a guess at "fair market value" of the property, an amount that is generally much higher than the purchase price despite the fact that ownership of these houses has serious down sides - appreciation capped at something related to CPI, and a requirement to sell the property back to Stanford after 50 years. The capped appreciation requirement is the same as what UC Irvine imposes on its for purchase on-campus housing. And, just for the record, homeowners on the Stanford campus also pay property taxes based on the assessments of their homes exactly as would be done for homes in Palo Alto.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2022 at 6:59 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 6:59 pm

Another aspect is to this is that making this a destination for out of towners, will add to traffic and parking issues.

I am not suggesting this in a Nimby manner, but Middlefield and Embarcadero are already traffic nightmares especially in school commute times.

Perhaps increasing ticket prices will discourage those from out of town coming to visit.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2022 at 9:54 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 9:54 pm

@StephenM,

"appreciation capped at something related to CPI, and a requirement to sell the property back to Stanford after 50 years."

I don't understand. The property owner cannot sell with appreciation beyond CPI and only to Stanford. Does that mean that the property owner has one basis for "selling" it back to Stanford and there's another for the County to assess value? This eliminates all other market buyers, is this legal, and how?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 5, 2022 at 9:59 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 9:59 pm

@StephenM, we know Stanford professors and children of Stanford professor so I'm pretty sure that the land is not taxed, only the houses and improvements. In fact, if you skim the real estate listings, you'll see some incredibly low "sale} prices esp. on College Terrace when Stanford is the purchaser.

" Middlefield and Embarcadero are already traffic nightmares especially in school commute times."

Something our "planners" absurdly ignored when eagerly forecasting all the local visitors, tourists and school buses from outside Palo Akto who'd flock to the zoo.


StephenM
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:08 pm
StephenM, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2022 at 10:08 pm

Online: Sorry, you are misinformed. As I wrote, the prices you see as sales prices are not the assessed values. The assessor creates a much higher assessed value that is the basis for taxes paid. I too know many Stanford faculty, a number of whom live in these houses not on Stanford land, and I am certain that they pay taxes based on a higher price.


Larry Johnson
Registered user
another community
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:16 am
Larry Johnson, another community
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 8:16 am

"...making this a destination for out of towners, will add to traffic and parking issues."

Will tourists from out of town actually put the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo on their 'must see' list?

Perhaps only if they are from the Midwest as Palo Alto can hardly be described as a tourist venue.


merry
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:13 am
merry, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:13 am

It’s not complicated. Go back to what worked….FREE and no reservations. Fundraising can be done as needed. Why make it complicated ? It’s not working as is. The city wants tinker and just muck it up more.


Janice R Miller
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:17 am
Janice R Miller, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:17 am

The old Junior Museum & Zoo , and other community centers in Palo Alto, used to be inclusive. They were an integral part of my son and my activities from the age of 2. It was spontaneous. It was a community gathering spot for parents and caretakers of young children. It's where you safely have a toddler playdate (which may only last 30 minutes.)
Short, frequent, exposure to age appropriate play and leaning. Toddlers don't understand, "It will take Mommy two weeks to get an appointment"
Whether rich, poor or in between, Palo Alto's community programs were very inexpensive or free--and nourished all community members equally. Only slightly more expensive for neighboring cities, who use spots that residents didn't sign up for. From babyhood through retirees, the community services bond us together.
This is a great loss to the current, and future residents of the city.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:20 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:20 am

A handful of people asked for this--strongly supported by Greg Scharff and others on Council. This is the kind of process that gets out of control behind the scenes when staff interacts with small groups of people and the general public is not included. Meanwhile, Cubberley Community Center, located where the vast majority of current housing growth is being planned, continues to decay after years of neglect and unproductive, poorly administered public process. South Palo Alto needs this community center to be fully operational...and will need it more after many hundreds of new units of housing are built.

Some criticize staff for failure to engage the community (and there is some truth to that), but Council has not demonstrated strong leadership getting the public engaged. To be fair, the public, for its part, is not actively engaging with the city at the level it once did. This is the result. Plans need to be vetted by an informed public. Similar things are happening at PAUSD. Fewer people are serving on city commissions and committees. Fewer people read local news and track City Council agendas than once did. If you want a great community, serve your community. Give time to your community. Leadership is needed to bring people together--to bring in the public and to guide staff toward greater openness to that engagement. If we want great community services and public schools that meet the real needs of our community, we have to participate in decision-making in an informed and meaningful way. Historically, very active public participation is what made Palo Alto a wonderful city with great schools, parks, libraries, community centers, and beautiful tree-lined streets.

Let's cultivate a healthy public process through civil, well-informed and mutually respectful participation. Fellow parents, did you ask questions about ticket prices when these plans were being considered for approval? That would have been the time to effect change in this process.


Len Ely
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:30 am
Len Ely, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 11:30 am

Hate to say "I told you so" but I did. When I was on the Board and again when they first talked about a $20.00 per person fee. The City was not going to "foot" the bill then and it sure is not going to now.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2022 at 12:52 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Maybe split the difference with a modest ticket rise.
How many of you pay ridiculous ticket prices to go see rappers and other performers nowadays?? Hmm?

As a local taxpayer w/ grown up kids, I get nothing out of this museum, but believe it benefits the community.
However, I don’t want to subsidize ALL of it.

Btw, don’t they feature rescued animals who would otherwise die?
They aren’t pretending to be San Diego Zoo, which is very far from here, but they are helping local wildlife in some circumstances. This has merit, as does education and fun for children in this region.


Edith Clark
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 6, 2022 at 2:46 pm
Edith Clark, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 2:46 pm

If they are going to charge more, the PA Zoo will need to add more interesting and exotic animals from around the world.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2022 at 3:44 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 3:44 pm

@PAcommubityadvocate You said it right! What happened to a community benefit for all. No it’s upside down. Keep it “no cost” to enter and donations gladly accepted! Sad the low bar CC will stoop to ruin long standing traditions. Look up the history of Junior Museums . Came out of a more progressive FDR time, during another Depression era where the benefit of “free” far out weighed fee based educational programs.


Green Gables
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:11 pm
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 6:11 pm

The cost to enter the museum and zoo should be exactly ZERO. That was what is was and that is what it should be. Figure it out City of Palo Alto.


Knows Stanford Labor
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:45 pm
Knows Stanford Labor, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 7:45 pm

Since the walls initially were raised (during construction, years ago), the facility has kept lights ablaze all night, with shades rarely and partially drawn. Large areas lack any light shading. This light pollution casts shadows across the streets, overwhelming the gentle lighting from the previous facility, and the lofty street lights that protect nighttime activity. The construction manager speculated that that 24 hour illumination was needed to test the LED’s. When will we hit the performance target of 40,000 hours?
Ecofriedly landscaping was installed around the perimeter. Now, trees along the planting strip are watered late at night by a tanker truck—neighborhood trees are not offered this service and are visibly diseased.
Landfill trash cans are left out for Greenwaste— recently, these overfilled bins remained for 4 to 5 days on the street.
When the large artificial “tree” for the bird habitat was delivered, it was supported by an even larger molded piece of polystyrene.
While grieving the horrible animal housing of the original museum, locals appreciated the engaging childrens’ science education. When wild animals are “displayed” in artificial circumstances, sans breeding to rescue endangered species, is this the preferred message to convey to our kids? Recall the fox with cage stereotypy? The captive eagle that dives off the arm flapping its wings?— this is “bating”, interpreted as distress.
Contrast this orientation with neighboring Walter Hays Elementary’s field trips into the natural environment and programs respecting indigenous peoples.
How could this have gone more wrong?


Claude Ezran
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 6, 2022 at 9:25 pm
Claude Ezran, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2022 at 9:25 pm

This is a debacle! The City Council needs to appoint a citizen commission to draw the key lessons from this fiasco so that something like that does not happen again. Who are the people responsible for this white elephant (pun intended)? What role did the Friends of Junior Museum and Zoo, the City Council, and Staff play in this? Why was a nice and functional facility destroyed to be replaced by this extravagant Taj Mahal?


Janice Campbell
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2022 at 9:55 am
Janice Campbell, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2022 at 9:55 am

" If they are going to charge more, the PA Zoo will need to add more interesting and exotic animals from around the world."

^ And adding someone like the late Jack Hannah as a zoo director and PR specialist would also enhance the venue.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 7, 2022 at 10:03 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2022 at 10:03 am

Seconding the post above. The City Manager needs to address the City Council each week AND respond to questions from residents.

I'm SO tired of his weekly Uplift newsletter. Do we pay him the big bucks to regurgitate covid news we can easily find else and to send out a Recipe of the Week??


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:50 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 7, 2022 at 4:50 pm

When will Palo start getting interest in REALLY IMPORTANT things?

Implementing a solid plan for installing off-grade rail crossings at East Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, and where Alma joins El Camino Real??? All four are necessary unless PA doesn't care about traffic jams.

Implementing an increase the capacity of the capacity its in-city electric power distribution system by 3x to 4x present to prevent massive brown- and black-outs as demand increases rapidly in the future as we "go green"? And not to mention increasing its access to external power supplies by the same 3x to 4X amount? Good luck with that.

Where will they get the money? Stop wasting it on projects of lesser importance to the future of Palo Alto??? Is that politically or economically possible given the huge $$$ and political costs?


Eric Filseth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 8, 2022 at 8:24 pm
Eric Filseth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2022 at 8:24 pm

“If the business tax passes, the revenue from it will go to the General Fund, making it available to be spent as you suggest. However, CC recently passed a non-binding resolution that it will be spent only on housing, police and fire, and grade separation.”


The City Council has been pretty vocal about its top priorities for the large-businesses tax (Measure K).

However, the JMZ is exactly the kind of community function that has long been partly funded by the Gas Transfer (Measure L). Obviously when there was no ticket revenue, the General Fund subsidy was even more central (!). The JMZ remains one of many things that continue to depend in part on the Gas Transfer.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2022 at 8:52 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2022 at 8:52 pm

@Eric Filseth,

"The JMZ remains one of many things that continue to depend in part on the Gas Transfer."

I'm voting in favor of the Gas Transfer tax and happy it funds the JMZ. This doesn't excuse the mess with the finances of the JMZ or that it's not free for kids. It only shows that decisions are being made that are way out of the City's reach. Your post also doesn't tell the story of the gas transfer tax, another complicated mess. You are appealing to something we care about, and perhaps in a well meaning way but also not considering the full picture, what is that called?

The business tax though couldn't be more offensive. Lobbyists given way more transparency and choices of how to spend than voters, and they can waltz into private negotiations, threatening to campaign against the City's interests. All the logic in the world to collect $9 million has not convinced my stomach. Is there any other way you can think of to protest this?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 9, 2022 at 2:02 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2022 at 2:02 am

The JMZ is exactly why the city doesn't deserve approval of the Gas Transfer Tax. How else will they ever learn?

Now if the money were to be devoted to police, safety and FINALLY restoring library hours, it would be different because it's ludicrous that working adults have only one evening a week to use SOME of the libraries.

And we won't even talk about the absurdly expensive Fiber Project and/or how they ignored the residents during the business tax negotiations where the Mayor and CC totally caved to the business community while insulting and/or ignoring residents who objected.

When/if they start holding the City Manager and staff accountable for poor performance, then maybe.


Neil
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Sep 10, 2022 at 8:52 am
Neil, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Sep 10, 2022 at 8:52 am

I've been to the new museum; it's really great.

Maybe the double payment (our existing property taxes + the new blanket entrance fees) collected from residents to use Foothills Park, which also used to be free, can subsidize this?


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