Palo Alto's lost vision | July 19, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - July 19, 2013

Palo Alto's lost vision

If the city has a plan that nobody follows, what good is it?

by Gennady Sheyner

The crowd arrived early June 11 and quickly filled every seat in the Council Chambers of Palo Alto City Hall, including the folding chairs set up in the overflow area.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at [email protected]


Like this comment
Posted by Ken Hake
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 9:22 am

The City Council needs to wake up and realize that overdevelopment is diminishing the quality of life in our city. Traffic, parking and large developments are making our neighborhoods unsafe, noisy and ugly.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:23 am

The question is whether or not the city council who are voted by the residents should be putting the residents' quality of life first before pandering to other outside voices. Do people who live here deserve to have their say more than those who just want to use Palo Alto for a few hours each day?

I know who I think should have their voices heard and their needs met. I hope the council thinks before they act. They are unlikely to be voted in again, however, I think that unless we get some willing better options, we may be stuck with them. Tim Gray, please run again. Jxr1i

Like this comment
Posted by Leaving
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm

All the traffic, pollution, noise and ugly buildings are making Palo Alto, once a sleepy bedroom community, a less desirable place to live.

We are opting out in order to improve our standard of living: less traffic, fewer people speeding and running red lights, cleaner air, larger, newer homes with real back yards, and better, less crowded schools. Also, no more city council members who are dishonest and have obvious conflicts of interest. No more crooked school board.

Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

" it [the city staff report advocating 27 University] doesn't dwell on the height issue. Instead, it notes that that there are "many existing buildings in the adjacent downtown area" that exceed 50 feet and lists 10 examples."

This is how overdevelopment gets sold to an eagerly gullible city council. Instead of evaluating the compatibility of a proposed project with its surroundings, as the Comprehensive Plan requires, Palo Alto "planning" staff cite existing exceptions to justify ever more egregious exceptions, until the community environment the Comprehensive Plan was designed to protect is totally destroyed.

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Not sure palo alo was ever a sleepy bedroom community. Considering what people are offering for homes it is quite a desirable place to live. There has always been retail and business in town-- so not by definition a bedroom community.
Times change. Palo alto is being dragged into the 21st century, though we will continue to hear how wonderful it was 10/20/30 years ago

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 1:20 pm

"If it (the Casa Olga project) was a PC, I would have discretion over it," Scharff said.

Our mayor has it backwards. As we all know by now, City Hall never enforces the "benefits" that are touted to justify each overdevelopment granted under the PC spot zoning process. Indeed, the enabling ordinance for each PC is carefully written so the developer's entitlements are ironclad, while the city's "benefits" are wholly at the developer's--not city council's--discretion.

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Posted by Tricia Dolkas
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm

As a member of the citizen's committee (CPAC) that created the draft of the Comp Plan in 1993 I am shocked how far away from those principles the Council, Planning Commission, City Manager and Planing Dept have drifted. Several former mayors coming to comment against a project and a process (Arrillaga project), then you know the Comp Plan has been violated. And there are SO MANY examples... What about the sweet deal that the developer of Alma Plaza struck? Now we have a failed grocery store (Miki's) along with an unfriendly pedestrian and bike development. What about the public benefit promised by the developers of 101 Lytton - a building that exceeded height and density limits? No tangible benefit to the neighborhood as promised. Just $ to be wasted in yet another study of the impact of developments on residential parking. A 7 yr old can tell you the impact. Don't need to waste money on expensive consultants.

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Posted by Sarah K
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

My main concern is parking, I pay a great deal of taxes to the city and I feel this needs to be a priority. I, like so many others, have no where to park my second vehicle on the street if it is at all during the work day. While I want to maintain the quaintness and esthetics of the city, I also think we cannot ignore that we are growing and need to address the issues that arise related to this. We can't go back in time and erase the growth that has occurred, but we we can constructed buildings that are both functional and pleasing to the eye. I also have a question, why was the space at Lytton and Alma not turned into a parking garage? It is an ideal locale. Does the city purchase the land from previous owner in order to do this, and if so why didn't they?

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Posted by Jayna Sheats
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm

It seems clear that deviations from the Comprehensive Plan should be exceptions clearly justified and voted on (with ample room for public comment), rather than a posteriori justifications for what a developer wants to do (which promises money, including campaign contributions) to council. Likewise the PC designation should be a true exception, not the norm. There is plenty of room for business in Palo Alto in 50 ft buildings (at least until someone builds a subway from a parking lot on 101...).

Growth is normal, inevitable and acceptable, but decisions made totally for the benefit of developers who promise tax revenue and campaign contributions are not. Let's have a solution to parking as the highest priority, traffic density and safety next, and then see what room for growth there is.

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