Council OKs construction of $118M police headquarters | February 5, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 5, 2021

Council OKs construction of $118M police headquarters

Palo Alto's most critical infrastructure project now set to be completed in 2023

by Gennady Sheyner

After decades of debates, deferrals and disappointments, the Palo Alto City Council advanced on Monday the largest and most complex infrastructure project in the city's recent history: a new public safety building in the California Avenue business district.

This story contains 971 words.

Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.

If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.

Log in     Subscribe

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


Posted by Another Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 2, 2021 at 11:42 am

Another Bob is a registered user.

Did any of the contractors mentioned in this article work on the Mitchell Park Library or the fire station at Embarcadero and Newell? As I recall, there were a few problems...

Posted by Len Ely
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Len Ely is a registered user.

For the council to spend this kind of money at this time is almost criminal. As mentioned by another publication the annual cost of this "Bond" is about $5million a year. I would much rather see this money be used for police persons so that when I call the police a police person actually shows up. The other day there was a major accident which blocked Middlefield. It took about 15 to 20 minutes for someone, not a police officer, to show up. The person had no ideas on how to direct traffic. We need police persons not a building. The $118 million is about $2000 worth of debt per resident.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Another Bob is a master of understatement.

Totally disgusted by this. Fully expecting them to spend more money of the idiotic fiber project.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I listened to the CC meeting and emerged with some questions.

Why was the vote on this agendized before CC has convened to review the broader capital improvement plan? Given the powerful impact Covid has had on the economy, I think Burt’s suggestion to delay this vote was sensible.

And what about the rest of the building? We are told that the wing that houses PAPD is inadequate in many ways, including not meeting current seismic standards. Does that concern apply only to the PAPD part of the building? That’s hard to imagine – unless the balance of the building was retrofitted.

And why wasn’t Burt’s suggestion to save millions by reducing the parking structure to 1 level given more consideration? Time and again we are told that buildings near transit are ideal for reduced parking requirements. This building is a short distance from the Cal Ave train station and the new, enormous parking structure is nearby. Even if some functions other than parking need to be housed on the 1st floor of the parking structure, given new economic realities, Burt offered a sound suggestion.

Left dangling: whether essential services could be cut to meet our financial obligations for this should revenue from TOT and Sales not align with the projections used to justify the yes vote. If the City’s economic recovery isn’t robust, we could find ourselves with a state-of-the-art public services building for a critically reduced roster of essential personnel.

After the vote, CC turned its attention to the public lavatory contract that should have been resolved two years ago. Isn’t this something the City Attorney should have handled in 2019? If the reason for the delay was explained, I missed that, but the bottom line is this: Palo Alto can find $1M for two toilets but it cannot find ~$831.5k to fully fund firefighters and EMTS.

Time will tell, but right now it looks like last night was not a great one for common sense.

Posted by Resident8
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:43 pm

Resident8 is a registered user.

Thank you to the City Council for voting to approve the PSB after the construction has been delayed since 2008. The ability of a police station, 911 call center and office of emergency services be able to function during and after a major earthquake and not be offline possibly for several years afterwards and cost much more to build is a big win. The facilities were too small to function effectively and woefully inadequate and outdated and unsafe for the staff.

With regards to the Newell fire station, the city collected penalties for the contractors missing dates and so at the end of the day it came out within budget. Sad to see Pat Burt try and undo the community consensus on the Cal Ave garage, which would have resulted in more worker parking in the nearby residential neighborhoods. Any savings from removing a level of the garage would have lost due to increased design costs and rising interest rates. Just like in 2008, it also probably would have resulted in the PSB not being built anytime soon. Also, people continue to misunderstand capital vs operation budgets. Bond financing is best done during a recession when there is lots of uncertainty and interest rates are exceptionally low. It's also stimulative.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

My comment is not about the necessity or not of a new building (I happen to think it is, but that's beside the point), it is whether or not the Council is listening to itself. The hypocrisy of doing things such as eliminating the shuttle and other things because of cost, and then going ahead with expensive new projects does concern me.

If the City is in such poor financial condition, how can such expenses be approved? Are we trying to be be more frugal to save money, or are we not? Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul? Are we saying one thing and acting another? Are we being penny wise and pound foolish?

I just think there is clouded thinking here. What sort of message is being delivered? Perhaps we are not in such a financial predicament as the Council wants us to believe?

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2021 at 1:06 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

What happens with the current police station once the new one is built?; Was that factored into the cost? Will it sit there like the old PAMF building? Will the city spend 10s of millions more to turn it into administrative offices?

Posted by Zhao Lin
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2021 at 1:09 pm

Zhao Lin is a registered user.

Is not a new police station a symbol of civic pride to exemplify law and order in Palo Alto?

In the PRC and Hong Kong, authoritarian buildings housing the police are a testament to maintaining the status quo and suppressing dissent.

Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 2, 2021 at 1:37 pm

Be realistic is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Resident8
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2021 at 2:09 pm

Resident8 is a registered user.

Actually in the US, the Capitol Police saved our democracy so you can still express your opinions when they run counter to the (ex) supreme leader. You don't need police, EMTs or Fire till you call 911 and then you really need them.

Posted by film jedi
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2021 at 2:24 pm

film jedi is a registered user.

Don't forget the overpriced PR person that they hired at well over $100,000 per year. Is this really what residents think is important?

Posted by Oh well.....
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Oh well..... is a registered user.

Yep, the current City Hall building is entirely seismically unsafe. Maybe they would be better served by demolishing the entire building and constructing a building safe for all staff and the public.
Bonds for city projects cost taxpayers money and must be repaid by taxpayer money.
Guess the City Council and Mayor weren’t completely honest when they claimed city finances were in dire straits after all.

Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 2, 2021 at 4:25 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

Easy Folks, Most of City Hall is just an office building. Not the part that houses Police, Fire, and OES. I'd think you'd want a dispatch center available after an earthquake closes City Hall. Above somebody wanted more officers. More patrols are not worth much if response can't be coordinated through a dispatch center. In case of large incidents, EOC brings together many agencies in the same room, for a quicker, better organized response. Not great if such a high tech operation is under a tower office building that has to be closed after a large earthquake. And yes, we do get the government we deserve (and pay for).

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2021 at 8:37 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I support the new police station, it’s needed for safety of police personnel and effective operations. I just hope the project management goes well, is well-monitored. This is earthquake country.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:16 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

YEAH - happy we are getting a new police station that has all of the most current bells and whistles. This city and cities around us are experiencing big leaps in problems so it is important to make a stand against the rising tide of problems and establish a strong position of safety and stability. Yes - worth all of the cost as it will be there from now on many, many years.

Posted by Toyon Berry
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:54 pm

Toyon Berry is a registered user.

Thank you Pat Burt and Greg Tenaka for trying to introduce some common sense and caution. The action taken by Council was irresponsible. We'll be paying for it for years to come.

Posted by J. Adams
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2021 at 1:37 pm

J. Adams is a registered user.

Given past discussions regarding the high cost of residency in Palo Alto especially for teachers and public safety personnel, will the new police facility offer hotel-like accomodations with laundry services for its officers who reside outside of Palo Alto and a professionally staffed cafeteria?

And will the new facility have a forensic crime lab with state-of-art diagnostic equipment and a firing range to accommodate all calibers of weaponry including SWAT team assault rifles?

Lastly, will the police department still be operating gas-powered vehicles for the time being? If so, underground gas tanks and pumps should be installed to accommodate convenient and timely fill-ups.

The new building appears large enough to house these additional amenities and more + I imagine many Palo Alto residents would prefer a police station that stands out above all others in the peninsula.

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

This is such great news! With the new liberal President's plans and our liberal leaders, we really need our police force. I toured the PAPD building and it was a 70's throwback experience. The 911 dispatchers are in the basement, not a great environment. If you are interested in learning about what the police do, they offer a great free course where you can also tour the station, ride along with a cop, and sit with 911 dispatchers: Web Link

Our police dedicate their lives to our safety. The new building is easily higher priority than a bike bridge to Google that few would use. To those who are anti-law enforcement, please don't ever call them when you need help.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2021 at 11:22 am

Resident is a registered user.

I found myself agreeing with Council Member Burt's arguments. I support replacing current police station with a new public safety building. I have toured the current facility, and it is sorely lacking in many areas that are important to the department's work and the safety of our valued public safety workers. That said, it makes sense to wait about six months--to see where the economy goes. Construction prices which are currently very high may fall in that time, and the city could save a lot of money that could be used for other pressing infrastructure needs.

Reducing the parking garage from two-to one-story to save millions also is very sensible. What's the rush?

Posted by Resident8
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Resident8 is a registered user.

The increased bond interest rate, design & construction costs would more than offset the savings of reducing the police station parking from 2 stories to 1. Thus ultimately costing more to get less. The single story garage was just too crammed when this option was studied closely and decided against. You would also be increasing the number of day worker cars parked in the adjacent residential neighborhood, reducing customer parking for local retail/restaurants and spaces for the long waiting list of requests for parking spaces from daily office worker commuters. There is already far more demand for the garage than spaces.

Posted by J. Manders
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2021 at 9:01 am

J. Manders is a registered user.

The question is...will the added expense of this new police headquarters actually make Palo Alto a better and safer place to live OR is it just another waste of municipal funding to accommodate police-related creature comforts?

If law and order is the primary concern, then hiring more police officers is a better use of fiscal resources. Add to that the increased use of the PAPD Reserve officers & creating neighborhood watch committees where residents keep an eye out on their own streets and homes, only calling the police when absolutely necessary.

Residents are also permitted to make citizen's arrests and if this involves the further licensing of weapons permits, with proper training in firearms usage police interventions could be minimalized as they would only be needed to haul the suspects away to county jail following apprehension.

Residents should also consider having trained dogs such as German Shephards, Dobermans and Rottweilers for added home security or pitbulls.

These crime prevention measures would make Palo Alto a safer community from home burglaries, street robbery and predatory assaults.

No intelligent person (or aspiring felon) argues with a loaded firearm or angry dog.

Posted by Palo Alto Green
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2021 at 2:56 pm

Palo Alto Green is a registered user.

@J. Manders

The current police station cannot effectively accommodate the current officers so hiring more into a fundamentally disfunctional, obsolete, much too small facility is not a win.

Also, I assume you were writing the above in satire because your proposed solution of everyone running around with guns and attack dogs making citizens arrests would be a total disaster. A police officer must be highly trained and vetted before beginning service whereas your average resident is much more likely to mess things up, will not effectively collect evidence or provide for due process for a court hearing and is much more likely to get emotional and cause harm to others if trying to stop a crime. The odds of a dog attacking an innocent child is much higher than a criminal.

Posted by NRA Member
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 14, 2021 at 6:47 pm

NRA Member is a registered user.

@Palo Alto Green

While your concerns are noteworthy,
given the rash mishandling of firearms by various police departments throughout the nation, a well-armed citizenry with trained attack dogs is not that unreasonable as a pre-emptive crime deterrent.

Only California, Illinois, New York and the District if Columbia restrict the open carry of registered firearms and guess what?

They have the highest crime rates in the United States.

While I am not advocating vigilantism, citizens have a right to protect themselves and if more people were packing armed, the potential troublemakers would probably think twice.

And the same goes for having a well-trained attack dog. Police departments also have them so these dogs can't be all that detrimental when it comes to preserving the peace.

Besides, a dog chasing an intruder may prevent having to discharge a firearm.

Dogs and guns are integral elements to a safe society, providing the gun owners and the dogs are trained properly and responsibly.

Posted by Palo Alto Green
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Palo Alto Green is a registered user.

California's not even close to the highest crime rate in the US and Texas is slightly higher (along with many other high gun ownership states): Web Link

Self defense is different than running around trying to make citizen's arrests with guns and attack dogs. Just call 911 and let the pros do the job right in a way that best protects everyone.

Posted by Justin Taylor
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2021 at 7:36 pm

Justin Taylor is a registered user.

In response to the earlier postings...

We were advised by our local PD that it is OK to shoot an unwelcomed home intruder providing they are actually inside your home, posing a threat and not merely outside in the front/backyard or hopping a fence.

That said, we have a household rule. Our children (who are still minors) must be home by 12 midnight unless they phone in advance to inform us that they will be detained.

I do not not own any handguns but I keep a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with rock salt shells.

In the event of an uninvited intruder, I will shoot below the waist to subdue them and then our doberman Kaiser will intervene until the police arrive.

No accidental killings involved and that is the best I can do to protect my family.

Incidentally, the doberman never wanders off our property and we have signs warning strangers not to enter the premises without prior approval.

So when if comes to getting shot, stupid is as stupid does.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.