Quality of life tops neighborhood concerns in 2014 | January 24, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 24, 2014

Quality of life tops neighborhood concerns in 2014

Addressing problems of parking, large developments gain momentum for residents

by Sue Dremann

Climaxing with the passage of an anti-development referendum in November, 2013 was a year when Palo Alto residents pushed back.

This year, neighborhood leaders throughout Palo Alto say they will continue to focus on their fight to preserve what they view as their threatened quality of life.

The proposed redevelopment of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on El Camino Real into 180 high-end apartments will come to the forefront for the neighborhood this year, said Art Liberman, outgoing Barron Park Association president.

Some neighbors support efforts by Buena Vista's 400 low-income residents to stay. Though a bid by the residents to purchase the multimillion-dollar property was rejected in September by the property owners, the Jissers, Buena Vista denizens hold out hope that a buy-out might still be possible, should the redevelopment plan fail to clear several city hurdles.

The fate of the plating facility at Communications & Power Industries (CPI), which has been the source of hazardous emissions and stormwater accidents, will also re-emerge this year for Barron Park. For years, residents have wanted the plating facility to be shut down. A draft report of a technical analysis of hazardous materials at the site is scheduled for release to the public this year.

College Terrace residents face a multiple-year construction project adjacent to their neighborhood, due to begin this year. Stanford University plans to demolish buildings in Stanford Research Park, along South California Avenue, to make way for 250 housing units.

The demolition and site preparation could begin in November, said Brent Barker, College Terrace Residents Association president. The flow of construction equipment along South California and Hanover Street concerns the neighborhood group, which has actively sought to keep traffic off California.

"We will continue to press our case," Barker said.

The main concerns are safety, congestion and noise from trucks traveling along Hanover and California, which are heavily used by bicyclists.

"Fourteen wheelers shedding mud and dirt (and) sharing a road with kids on bikes is asking for trouble," he said.

The neighborhood can expect one truck to pass through every eight to 10 minutes, six to eight hours a day, for six days a week for three years, according to Stanford's data, he noted.

"The result will be continuous vehicular congestion ... noise, vibration and general disruption, he said.

Traffic, and particularly parking issues, will remain front and center for neighborhoods surrounding downtown Palo Alto, with the new Lytton Gateway development ready to open with three stories of offices and ground-floor retail.

Residents are heartened by the city's movement toward finding a solution, said Downtown North neighborhood resident Neilson Buchanan. But they are also determined to keep on the pressure.

"The most exciting is the city's plunging into traffic-demand management. It is a precursor to any relief for our neighborhoods," said Buchanan, who has spearheaded efforts to measure parking problems in his neighborhood.

"We are in a stand-off situation while we struggle with techniques and funding. If we did our due diligence — if we did a Manhattan-type Project and put our heads together — we could have a plan in 90 to 100 days," he said.

But the city must then fund any solution, he said. With offices taking over traditional retail spaces and new workspace models that pack in employees, the city will need to find or build more parking.

Parking will become a growing issue across town, including in Evergreen Park, which lies adjacent to the California Avenue business district, he said.

"I'm more concerned for California Avenue. They are in a much bigger pickle," he said, noting that a renovation of the retail district is scheduled to begin in March, and the construction could push more traffic onto residential streets.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.


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