Proposed Ventura deal includes 2.25 acres for a park, gradual restoration of Matadero Creek | July 29, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 29, 2022

Proposed Ventura deal includes 2.25 acres for a park, gradual restoration of Matadero Creek

Palo Alto to hold public hearing on redevelopment proposal on Aug. 1

by Gennady Sheyner

A proposed deal between the city of Palo Alto and The Sobrato Organization for redevelopment of the Portage Avenue site that formerly housed Fry's Electronics could pave the way for a popular idea that until recently seemed unlikely to materialize: restoring Matadero Creek to its natural state.

At the same time, any plan to convert what is now a concrete channel overseen by Valley Water into a real creek would likely fall short of the city's dream scenario, which would have expanded the existing 30-foot-wide corridor to 100 feet and created a linear park along the creek. That's the concept that the City Council endorsed in January, when it approved the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, a vision document for a 60-acre area that includes the 14.5-acre Portage Avenue site.

The agreement, which Mayor Pat Burt announced on June 21, follows months of negotiations between Sobrato and a council ad hoc committee and threats of a lawsuit by the developer. Once formalized, it would allow Sobrato to maintain commercial and research-and-development space on the site, and renovate and preserve most of the historic cannery building that housed Fry's Electronics. The developer is granting the city land for a future affordable housing development and park space around Matadero Creek.

According to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment, full naturalization of the creek as envisioned by the council would require the city to obtain significantly more land and would cut into Sobrato's plans to build 74 townhomes at a portion of the Portage site, a key component of the agreement that the council and the developer reached last month. A portion of the Sobrato housing project lies in the footprint of what was envisioned as the creek improvement area under "Concept 3," the council's preferred alternative.

In addition, the negotiated agreement allows Sobrato to retain parking along the creek for its commercial building at 3050 Park Blvd., which was formerly used by Audi but which would now be available for research-and-development uses. This, according to staff, makes Concept 3 impossible to achieve.

The agreement does, however, allow the city to proceed with what's known as "Concept 2," which would widen the channel to 85 feet and increase an angled bank on one side of Matadero. The area would be available for riparian plantings, enhanced landscaping and recreational access, according to staff.

Under the deal between the city and Sobrato, the developer is dedicating about 2.25 acres to the city for open space, a dedication that has an estimated value of nearly $29.5 million. The city's economic consultant, Keyser Marston Associates, pegged the value of 1 acre being dedicated to the city at $13.1 million per acre.

Burt said in an interview the day after the announced deal that while the potential creek improvement in the agreement would fall short of Concept 3, the proposal that the city and Sobrato ended up with would represent a "major naturalization of creek over time, as well as other parkland." The developer is dedicating a total of 3.25 acres, which includes 1 acre for an affordable housing site near the creek.

"The affordable housing project is essentially right up against the park and the creek — it's going to be a wonderful location," Burt said.

The prospect of naturalizing the creek has been one of few areas in the planning process that had received broad support from the council and the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan Working Group, a panel of stakeholders that worked with staff and consultants to develop concepts for the area, which is bounded by Page Mill Road, Park Boulevard, Lambert Avenue and El Camino Real.

The group struggled and ultimately failed to reach a consensus between how much housing and commercial development should be allowed in the planning area, with some members arguing that the city should focus almost exclusively on affordable housing and others arguing that doing so would keep the plan from being economically viable and achievable.

The council voted on Jan. 10 to approve an alternative that envisions 670 residences in the planning area, of which about 100 would be restricted for affordable housing.

The council plans to hold its first public discussion of the proposed deal on Aug. 1, its first meeting after a summer recess. The hearing will give the community its first opportunity to weigh in on the agreement.

Vice Mayor Lydia Kou, who served with council member Tom DuBois on the ad hoc committee that negotiated with Sobrato, said the expanded open space will be an important benefit for the Ventura neighborhood.

"It will take a little time to get it there for them and make it a park, but it will definitely enhance open space," Kou said in an interview the day after the deal was announced.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2022 at 12:23 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

All of these creeks should become natural habitat with wildlife and access.

All of them should become rights of way for the public to enjoy, to use for recreation, for exercise, for safe bike and pedestrian routes.

If the bike lobby can get green paint on all the streets, then getting some of the bikes off city streets and into safe non-vehicular pathways we would all benefit.

Posted by Shirley Freehan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 22, 2022 at 3:03 pm

Shirley Freehan is a registered user.

To fully naturalize Matadero Creek will be costly but well worth the effort providing the restoration provides for salmon runs and the return of all wild flora and fauna.

Merely adding some stones along the creek floor and planting a few trees doesn't cut it.

Posted by Cherjo
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Cherjo is a registered user.

Well said “Bystander”. Sobrato, are you unaware we currently exist in a drought, perhaps one without end? Complete Folly to spend resources that could be used for needed practical use by this community as a whole instead of creating a pretty meandering water feature that most likely will not extend beyond your scope of build. Seems your purpose is only to steer eyes to a section of ‘dolled up’ creek to avoid the appearance of what you’ve built. Everyone knows you can and should do much better for the privilege of building and making profit in our town. City Council, please stop demanding “Community Benefits” by developers desiring to build here if you continually excuse these provisions for community benefit once they crumble our streets with their heavy equipment and leave town. The Roth Building Renovation was a promised public benefit required of the Builders of the 2 Condominium Complexes adjacent to the old PAMedical Clinic to only be excused by you. You have neglected our Historic Building for more than 20 years. Appears you are patiently waiting for it to reach “Condenment Status” to demolishish it to advantage another lucky builder. I tire of the repeated ‘bait and switch’ to gain our approval for building projects we don’t desire or Need. You now profess sudden concerned for more downtown housing after kicking out the disadvantaged living at Casa Olga and those from The President Hotel. How much empty Office exists downtown that replaced previously existing housing? Your disingeuousness is obvious. You are better than this.

Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2022 at 1:49 pm

marc665 is a registered user.

I'm a bit confused. Moving here in 1990, Matadero Creek would continually flood during storms and cause significant damage to the buildings on both sides of the creek all the way down to the bay. Midtown/Middlefield was underwater .

The city spent a lot of time and money raising the banks of the concrete channel, raising some overpasses so that the water was contained.

Now someone wants to turn it back to a natural stream? Are they going to evict and remove all the structures along side the creek? Who is going to pay for all the damages when it rains and the creek floods the surrounding area?


Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 23, 2022 at 4:41 pm

Carl Jones is a registered user.

I think this is overall good. But my comment is about the old cannery. I do NOT understand or agree with the 'need' to preserve that building. That seems *such* a waste of space and potential use. Put up a PLAQUE with all the history that you want. Commemorate what happened here. But, IMHO, this falls well below the line of retaining important/historical STRUCTURES as opposed to EVENTS.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 24, 2022 at 3:24 am

Chris is a registered user.

Naturalizing the creeks is a great way to fight climate change. I'm sure we can make them deep enough to withstand el nino.

The whole city should be natural. Otherwise people are going to continue to get cancer and have strokes

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


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

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


Register today to support local nonprofits

The 38th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 9. Proceeds go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually to support local nonprofits.

Register Now!