Restaurants, techies spur boom on California Avenue | December 6, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 6, 2013

Restaurants, techies spur boom on California Avenue

With big changes on the way, Palo Alto's 'second downtown' shows steady revenue growth

by Gennady Sheyner

As Palo Alto officials prepare to give California Avenue an extreme makeover, the arty, eclectic and under-maintained thoroughfare has been quietly undergoing an economic resurgence, with restaurant activity on the upswing and tax-revenues climbing steadily.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:06 am

> The cash receipts from the California Avenue area have risen
> 24 percent between the second quarter (the period from April and June)
> of 2010 and the second quarter of 2013, when they totaled $1.1 million.

Ahhhh .. this comparison is not particularly helpful, since there are twelve quarters in the 2010-2013 time frame. On a quarter by quarter basis--we would see that the California cash receipts are about 91,000 as opposed to the 5.5 million of Stanford Shopping Center--a 50X difference.

> At a Planning and Transportation Commission meeting last week,
> Commissioner Michael Alcheck waxed ecstatic about the California Avenue
> area, calling it "an epicenter" and urging the city to
> "start to appreciate" the area's critical role.

Got to wonder why Mr. Alcheck thinks why the business activities of California Avenue can be considered as "crucial"--when it is producing so little in terms of financial benefit to the local governement's coffers?

Also got to wonder how people like Alcheck ended up on the P&TC with so little ability to see reality as it is. Stanford Shopping Center is "crucial" to Palo Alto's financial well being. California Avenue is not. It might be a convenient shopping area for people living close by, but it is in no way important to the City as a whole. Restaurants are nice--but they don't produce much in the way of sales tax revenues.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:47 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Calif Ave is "arty"? Wow, that's sad.

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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:51 am

It is not necessary and sometimes not desirable to fill in every void.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:02 am

I'm looking forward to the city's planned pedestrian safety project to be completed on California Ave. Four lane streets with no stop lights are tremendously dangerous for pedestrians. Car drivers hunting for addresses or stores are not paying attention to the crosswalks and the wide streets make pedestrians harder to see, as well as exposing them to danger for a much longer period of time. I'm sure our family will visit California Ave much more often when it is safer.

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Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

Yay! I've loved Calif. Ave. since I was a kid-- nice to see it getting kudos and attention it deserves. Can't wait for all the improvements to get underway!

Like this comment
Posted by CroissantLover
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:13 am

Streetscaping sounds great to me. Outdoor seating. Good lighting. Makes up for the hack job done on the street trees years ago. And goodness knows we need this kind of tax revenue growth.

I'm surprised, btw, the article didn't mention the Sunday Farmers Market that closes part of Calif Ave. While I prefer the tight confines and "hidden gem" nature of the saturday downtown Palo Alto market, more people go to the Cal Ave market. Surely this boosts visibility for the restaurants/etc.

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Posted by long time user of CA Ave
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:19 am

The parking situation may stall additional development and use of CA Ave. It has taken several circles of the parking lots on both Cambridge and Sherman Avenues to find a spot the last two times I attempted to reach a merchant on CA Ave. Both times were around 3 PM. Lunch time it is impossible to find a parking situation. The reworking of CA Ave will require some re-working of those lots and the addition of parking if patronage of those merchants and restaurants is to be achieved.

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Posted by Mikey Palo Alto
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 6, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Mikey Palo Alto is a registered user.

Still sore about the tree massacre that took place here a couple of years ago... the street really lost its charm after that... not hopeful that the Disneyfication project will be an improvement... but the fact business is good is encouraging.

Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Give our city council enough time and they will screw Cal Ave up as bad as they have downtown...they already started with the tree issue and trying to narrow the streets!
Give it a rest!
It's the only place that we can continue to drive while people wait for a parking spot!

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm


Downtown screwed up? From what I can see, downtown is a destination and is busy mornings to nights. If that doesn't constitute success, what does?

Like this comment
Posted by Future of Palo Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

"Underscoring the importance of the area and the council's desire to turn it into a second University Avenue, council members in February officially adopted "the future of downtown and California Avenue" as one of its three official priorities for 2013."

This Council is an arrogant mess and a disaster for this City. I would like to see Cal Ave revitalized, but not in the image of University. Or Manhattan, as this Council seems to want to make us.

Given all the density they are foisting on us, we desperately need retail on this side of town. Any plan for the Fry's area should retain it as retail. I was once on board with retail and housing, but that seems to mean things like Alma Plaza and that monstrosity at San Antonio in Mountain View. That's a good location to retain as RETAIL.

Let's vote out these arrogant people who think democracy is beside the point. If they want dense City living, they could move rather than destroying Palo Alto. Someone made the claim that Marc Berman said he hoped someone built the ugliest thing possible at Maybell -- this from a guy who came out here and admitted the situation wasn't safe for the kids as it is -- if it's true he said that, he should be recalled. Anyone have a way to verify that? Please post.

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Posted by spirit
a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm

If the city wants California Ave to thrive as much as University Ave, they have to install multi-store parking garages like they have already done on University Ave. Until then, California Ave will primarily be for locals who can walk there from nearby offices and neighborhoods. This is why pedestrian safety improvements are so important.

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Posted by like that funky aspect
a resident of Nixon School
on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Gee, I kinda like Cal Ave the way it is. Although I'm in favor of the reduction of lanes and the street-scape changes, I don't want to aim for Cal Ave to be "another University Ave".

Like this comment
Posted by Chrisc
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm

I want to cry.

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Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2013 at 6:48 am

How to offend your colleagues? Try calling them techies

Web Link

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Posted by Jacob
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2013 at 9:40 am

By the time the city decides to act , high tech companies nearby will go out of business.

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Posted by Please, Mr Custer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2013 at 11:07 am

Please do NOT try to make Cal Ave another University Ave. University is for the tourists and out-of-towners. Cal Ave is the last bastion for the locals.

More and more of us are dropping our tax dollars in Mtn View or Menlo Park, so please don't take Cal Ave!

Like this comment
Posted by marty klein
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 10:05 pm

How pathetic to run what is essentially a developer's press release as "news". How pathetic to run an article about what's happening to California Avenue without quoting a single business owner or resident of the area. And what a cute oversight to not mention the petition signed by dozens and dozens of California Avenue's top businesses begging the city to slow down the development process being shoved down our throats.
Soon California Avenue will look and feel like every other "developed" section of our area--crowded, expensive, with little character. And who will benefit? The developers who took a nice little area and created a pointless big area.
Remember that the next time you're stuck in traffic at the corner of El Camino and Page Mill, or you can't get a parking space anywhere near what used to be your favorite restaurant on California Ave.
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