Ciardella's stuck in legal, financial limbo | November 21, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 21, 2007

Ciardella's stuck in legal, financial limbo

Garden supply store is using Redwood City space to operate

by Becky Trout

Longtime Palo Alto business Ciardella's Garden Supply, Inc. probably won't be able to operate legally until late January or early February, according to Assistant Planning Director Curtis Williams.

That is the earliest the company's application for use of a Caltrans-owned 1.8-acre property at 1001 San Antonio Road could be approved by the City Council, Williams said.

That leaves Ciardella's in a precarious position, co-owner Bob Budelli said Friday. It has been borrowing space from Redwood City competitors in an effort to keep the 48-year-old company afloat after the city ordered it to stop using the San Antonio Road facility in October, he said.

"It's really hard to keep our employees," he said. "We almost threw up our hands a couple of weeks ago."

Ciardella's was forced to move from its former East Bayshore Road location in August after the site was selected for a critical storm-drain pump for the City of Palo Alto. The San Francisquito Creek pump station will allow rainwater to enter the creek when water- volume is high.

City leaders had helped the business find the Caltrans property, which had been used as a storage site, Budelli said.

It moved and began operating in September on San Antonio Road, using a portable generator and "Lego-like" cement bins to store its soil, mulch and other products because Caltrans will not allow any permanent construction on the site.

But while trying to adhere to the demands of the Public Works Department, responsible for the pump project, former landlord Santa Clara Valley Water District and new landlord Caltrans, company leaders failed to obtain the proper permits that would have allowed them to operate continuously.

"We feel like there were things they could have been doing to help move their city process (along)," Williams said. He admitted that if no one had complained about the business operations, the city might have been able to process the application with Ciardella's open.

But new neighbors on Transport Road, Paul and Patricia Pearson, notified the city they were bothered by Ciardella's noise, dust and parking.

Code-compliance officials went out to check, found the business operating illegally, and issued an order to stop work, according to city records.

Since the City Council voted on Oct. 22 to delay rezoning the property until it has the proper architectural and environmental permits, Williams said code-compliance officers have conducted several surprise inspections and found the facility locked.

Ciardella's has submitted the required applications, which will be considered by the Architectural Review Board on Dec. 20, Williams said.

But late January is the earliest the issue could go before the council, he said.

Until then, Budelli said Ciardella's will try to continue operating without using its own site for materials.

"We've got a lot of support from the Palo Alto community," he said.

Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 21, 2007 at 11:41 am

This is too bad.
Typical PA M.O. though-- a neighbor complains, even though this is an industrial area, and the business is then forced to shut down.
The question is if and when th eproperty is rezoned how will the noise/dust/parking issues be addressed or will the city not allow the business to open because of a complaining neighbor.
No wonder retail businesses do not want to locate in PA.

Posted by Resident, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2007 at 4:39 am

With all the construction on Charleston/San Antonio Road, it is time that area was turned into an exit onto 101 from San Antonio Road. I believe it is in the long range plans of the State to do that.

Leasing that location to a garden supply store is inappropriate.

Posted by Michaelquiek, a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 5, 2017 at 7:38 pm

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