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Financing police building 'won't be easy'

Original post made on Apr 8, 2008

Budget cuts and new revenue sources needed to finance a public-safety building won't be easy, Palo Alto City Manager Frank Benest warned the City Council Monday night. The city needs to come up with $5.2 million each year to finance the new building, currently estimated at $81 million.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 12:30 PM

Comments (30)

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Posted by Michael Meloy
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 4:53 pm

AS a former Palo Alto Police Officer, I do not see the building of the new Police Station as the answer. While it will provide additional space, the cost per sf is enormous and it not centrally located. While I was with the PD, it was always a long way to the southend of town and a long way back. Travel time was a waste of officers' time.

I believe the answer is Precinct Stations. The old Lucky grovcery store on Alma, would have been an ideal place to put a Precinct. It at approximately 20,000 sf feet that could have been utilied for a mix of Patrol, Dectives, ???. Community Outreach, and other functions. The cost of refitting the building be much less per sf that the proposed building.

It would bring the Police closer to much more of the community and it would certainly shorten drive time/distances. Communication between sites can be accomplished with video links. One Brief seen by all.

There many models of the Precinct concept. Hillsboro OR, has two great sites and a third one is underway. The cost for their retro fitting a 23,000 Albertson's was under $5 million. This building has Patrol function of part of the town, central evidence storage, Administration, and community outreach.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Bring back the community police officer, patrolling his/her beat on a bicycle, someone who knows the kids, knows the joggers, and knows what looks right and what is obviously out of place.

Good idea Micheal.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Michael, nice idea. Where have you been all these years! We need that kind of thinking.

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 5:53 pm


Has had a good idea. Many Palo Alto Employee's have had good,great and Fantastic idea's.

However with are City leaders,staff and council. Very little if any input from the employee's is ever listened too.
And we see where it has gotten this city.

After working here, You just must learn to do your time and shut up..

No one listens and no one cares... Right Frank? and the rest of ya!

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 5:53 pm


Has had a good idea. Many Palo Alto Employee's have had good,great and Fantastic idea's.

However with are City leaders,staff and council. Very little if any input from the employee's is ever listened too.
And we see where it has gotten this city.

After working here, You just must learn to do your time and shut up.. Or you will be next

No one listens and no one cares... Right Frank? and the rest of ya!

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 6:16 pm

As for travel time to the South of town???

Frank,Gary or Emily do not live there... No City Council members live there??

So guess what.... 2nd rate service for the second rate part of town??? Frank? Well frank what is it?

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 8, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Yes to what the community needs - de-centralization!

NO to empire building.

Precincts and staff rotation for the brass.

The cost of the police headquarters is amazing and unaffordable.

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Posted by follow the money
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2008 at 8:41 pm

That is a good idea Michael. Isn't there an existing satellite police station at the old Ventura school? You'd think they could evict the long-term artist tenants at Cubberley and put some officers there too. Oh, but one of the last names on those studios is Klein.

Good ideas are typically overlooked when developer's can get a big pot of City money. Who is the real beneficiary of this new Police Building plan? The property owner who couldn't be bothered to develop the property in the last 20 years. It has been an eyesore of a vacant lot for a long time and probably contributed to Agilent leaving.

What about the Roth Building? How much money did the City waste on that? It is still vacant as far as I can tell. What is going on there? The new park looks nice, but that building is just getting older.

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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 9, 2008 at 12:01 am

I agree with Michael, I was at the public meeting when the locations were being considered and suggested a dispersed police force. Mainly because of the consequenses of a major disaster or manmade attack. That site is very isolated and the underpass could easily be closed by car,truck wreck or flooding as happens often.

I wonder who really owns the proposed site. This needs to be disclosed.

The fire stations are dispersed why not the police force?

An obvious source of $$ is parking meters everywhere except residental. Also giving traffic tickets to speeders, red-light runners and trucks using residental streets illegally. The police have told me that the truck ordinance is so poorly written it is unenforsable. Is this accidental or what?
These sources of $$ could bring in millions of $$ every year.

The city could sell the city hall/police station as they are old and certinaly not "green". This site should bring in by a factor of 3 or 4 per sq ft what the proposed site is costing.

There is no chance of any of these suggestions being taken as decisions are made by a few who are running the city.

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Posted by C. A. Graduate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2008 at 2:57 am

Quite the contrary, the proposed building site is very centrally located. Much more so than the current downtown location, or the suggested sites at Alma Plaza or Cubberley. I'm not an expert, but I have a difficult time believing that the geographic make-up of Palo Alto would justify exploring the precint concept. The working area of Palo Alto is simply not large enough to even consider this option. Furthermore, unlike the fire department, the police are not station bound awaiting service calls. They will be out in the field, focusing on the areas with the highest crime potential. As far as overall coverage, it is my understanding that officers are already assigned to patrol districts that cover the entire city.

Other problems could also arise from spliting personnel and resources, such as the timely sharing of information, staying on top of crime trends, and maintaining overall consistency. No, a strong, centrally located police facility is what Palo Alto needs.

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Posted by Think Again
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2008 at 7:32 am

If you recall a sub-station was opened at the old Ventura School site. It proved very expensive and hardly anyone used it. I'm not sure what the status of it is right now but I don't believe any officers are located there anymore.

Also refitting an old Albertsons store would not comply with modern earthquake standards which is one of the reasons for building a new public safety building.

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Posted by John
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 9, 2008 at 7:46 am

Long Time Resident: Palo Alto had parking meters Downtown at one time, they were ugly, and the downtown merchants complained they discouraged people from using downtown for shopping. Also, it proved uneconomical as they had to be repaired, and someone had to be employed collecting the money from the meters. Much cheaper and more efficient having a Community Service Officer give parking tickets. Now you could increase the fines to raise money.

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Posted by Senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 9, 2008 at 8:08 am

This is a teriffic idea well worth some further study.
I suggest you contact and meet with some of the City Council members individually and ask that they propose a study of this idea.
Thinking outside the box is just what this City needs now!!!!
Senor Blogger

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2008 at 9:00 am

As far as Earthquake standards...Most of the Fire stations have not met that standard for many,many years.

We laughed then cried when we would hear about safety, Knowing that are Fire Station and large bay doors at the station would not function most likely.
We figured that half the Fire Department would not be able to get EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT out of the station.

What does that due to your plans????

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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm

As far as parking meters go there are new hi tech ones that sense when cars are parked, use credit cards, etc,etc.

Having meters would encourage people to come shop, leave more quickly after shopping thus opening up parking to more people. Having to drive around, park blocks away and ck parking garages for a place certinly discourages shoppers from coming to buy things.

An alternative is to have a high business tax based on sq. footage of the building. I have been told by several police officers that they actually only work the downtown area and other business areas. These areas should be paying a large part of the cost of the new police facilities. I know they do not work in large areas of the city at least on a regular schedule.

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Posted by JP
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2008 at 7:26 pm

I agree 100% with Michael. I am also a former PAPD officer and know that if we get a call in the south end of town where it is usually "slow" police response is delayed. There are only two officers assigned to the two beats in the south end, but many officers spend their time in the "problem areas", namely downtown or the Stanford shopping center. Many PA residents don't even know about the so-called substation on Ventura Ave. Even if they did, that is just a place for the officer assigned to that beat to write his/her reports and take a break. A precint or small station in the Alma plaza would be ideal and less expensive then building an entire new police facility. I think we pay enough to live in Palo Alto as it is!

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Posted by Free parking only
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2008 at 7:57 am

Parking meters are death to a shopping area; ask the people of Redwood City why they now shop in San Carlos, and why they are abandoning downtown RC in droves.

Why should I shop on University Avenue and pay for parking when I can go to the Stanford Shopping Center and park for free.

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Posted by Andrew L. Freedman
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 10, 2008 at 8:58 am

Hi Officer Meloy (and JP),

Andy here, I was a juvenile delinquent back in the late 60’s early 70’s.

Your ideas and thoughts about the Alma Plaza are good and make sense. At this point, though, it would take nothing short of a miracle for the city to consider it, as plans have already been submitted and are currently going through a final approval process for retail and housing for that site.

What do you think of the proposed Park Blvd site? That area is pretty much the midpoint of Palo Alto. If it were developed where there is a special access to Alma Street (beneath the railroad tracks), it would increase the response time. My feeling is that the Park Blvd site will probably become the new Police Services site.

As an aside, I feel very fortunate to have grown up here. As a kid, being escorted by a policeman to the doorstep of your parents goes a long way in curtailing delinquent behavior. I was a little shocked when that kid a Paly who pulled the car prank was initially facing felony charges.


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Posted by Impossible Idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2008 at 9:48 am

Alma Plaza is a done deal. Retail and housing are going on that site. They just have to do a little more tweaking to satisfy the ARB and finally it may be a done deal.

The neighbors would never ever approve a Cop house on that site, what with flashing lights and sirens all night. Forget that idea, however, the Ventura Community Center is still a possibility.

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Posted by Friend of PA
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 10, 2008 at 10:31 am

It sounds like there are a lot of questions and certainly critisism about this plan. Andy brings out a good point, how do we stop this? Well you go to the community with flyers and petitions to reconsider. Then you go to city council and bring the community along with the Unions, that may be opposed to this idea for lacking the needed study and city management not taking in consideration the input of its workers. Lets get a petition going to re-study this building, it funding and impact.
Friend of PA

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2008 at 11:47 am

City Hall wants its toy. It will get its toy. It has bypassed the the bond election to cut off the normal opportunity for citizen review. The "process" is over. The train is on the track.

The only ways to insure "civic participation" are a referendum on the ordinance which authorizes the financing, or an initiative to force a bond election.

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Posted by pete
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 10, 2008 at 4:38 pm

This blog has some misinformation. The 15 member Blue Ribbon Committee spent >6 months reviewing more than 24 sites and sought citizen input. (Some sites were dropped because of neighborhood opposition.) The primary reasons the site on Park Blvd. was chosen was its central location, size and availability. The Blue Ribbon Task Force Report supplies more information.

C.A. Graduate's statements are correct. Also separate firehouses perform a different function than a centralized dispatch center.

The use of small precinct substations has been considered, and they are not cost effective.

The proposed Public Safety Building will replace the present dispatch and police locations which do not meet present earthquake standards for emergency use buildings.

Three fire houses are scheduled to be retrofitted during the coming year. They should be strengthened to withstand earthquakes.

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Posted by Firefighter
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

To pete,

Your wrong about retrofitting the fire stations. Sta 1 and 2 have been retrofitted (earthquake) and remodel in the last two years. Sta 5 is to be retrofitted and remodel in the next two years.
Sta 6 and 7 are owned by Stanford. They "foot" the bill.
Sta 3 and 4 can't be either- to old. Both will need to be torn down and rebuilt. Here is the "kicker"- the city has gotten bids to rebuild both stations 3 and 4 at around 15 million dollars for both and the city OWNS THE LAND. San Jose stations are half that price and most of the time, they own the land too. But it is Palo Alto and these contractors see $ signs. I want that contract!

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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 10, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Another issue is the proposed size of the new station. They are proposing it be 50% larger than the existing one. Or is it 50% more room than they need now?

I think a lot of the materials, seldom used or accessed stuff could be in a warehouse type bldg.. The proposed bld is costing over 1000 $$ per sq ft.. I don't think mansion houses cost this much and they have top of the line everything.

Only the space needed right of way should be built and ordinary everything in it and not the gold plated stuff.

Will Park Ave be made into a expressway or a major thoroughfare?

A underpass would probably cost $20 million.

I have heard from contractors that they do double their price for Palo Alto work. I would hope they search all of California or even the west coast for bids. Or will it be for local only and "connected" contractors and Architects?

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2008 at 7:20 am


Fire Station's #1 and #2, #2 is also a Stanford Station on stanford land I think. These two station have had several remodels over the years.

Tons of money on patch work. Station #1 was remodeled for men and women's use. Lots of money and not a very good job. Same for Station #4. Also huge amounts of money spent on station #3, same thing putting good money into a building/buildings that should be rebuilt.

The station #3 kitchen remodel took over 1 year, Yes we had no kitchen where we live while we work for 1 year. Cost a huge amount of money{ over 100k] and had firefighters doing the work that other unions should have done. Union firefighters doing Union construction work?? Also up to 100$ a day paid by the City for food for the firefighters. While this went on?? $100k for a 12x12 kitchen???

Now how long and for how many years have the Fir Fighters had to live and work out of substandard ,unsafe buildings.

WAY TOO MANY... So if you want to talk real world/life stuff..

All the PLAN"S [lol] that the FIRE DEPARTMENT leader told you were in place. FOR THE LAST 15 or so years.


Funny never saw or heard that in any PLAN.

We would laugh and say, Hope the BIG ONE HITS WHILE WE ARE SHOPPING FOR FOOD.

That way we will be out of the FIRE STATION and safe... GOOD PLAN???

Too many people in this city and town believe what the City Manager and City staff tells them. WITHOUT LOOKING AT WHAT THEY REALLY DID.

Money can be spent, work done. THIS DOES NOT MAKE IT GOOD OR UP TO STANDARD?

Well on paper and telling the uninformed citizen it might look GOOD>

So lets add this up HOW MUCH FOR THE BIG BUILDING? 80 million

FOR THE REST of the fire station's that need to be up dated. Lets say 4 stations at 15 million each. That would be 60 million more. I can add just not spell [hehe]

So we are at 140 million,

FD needs safer,better equipment.. A truck several engines, New breathing apparatus 10 million.

Wow looks like the FIRE DEPARTMENT needs 150 million.. and a chief...

One last thing.. The Council and staff want to spend 80 million on 1 building while the rest need lots of help. Where does the rubber meet the road??

Learn the whole story and the history of what has been going on for too many years.

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Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Simple to figure out:

The City leaders and Fire and police departments . Have not done so well with how they spend the public's funds/money.

Have not been held responsible for there actions. Have spent huge amounts of funding very poorly.

Now the infrastructure needs 455 million $. That is just the number they are telling you???

Most likely it will/is more.

Now they have no more money to spend but, they want!!! Want to look good, Want to tell everyone,,

In real life the next part of the above goes.





THEY KNOW WHAT THEY WANT........ PERIOD..... I could be wrong but, I do not think so.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2008 at 7:03 am

"Another issue is the proposed size of the new station." I agree, their argument is that if they are going to build a new Public Safety Building it must accommodate increases in staff for the next 30 years.

I would prefer they built something that would accommodate their needs for now, but build it in such a way that it could be enlarged at a later date if more space is required. A flat roof which could accommodate another story or space for an additional wing.

That's what's wrong with the present building. It would be more expensive to enlarge it than building something new.

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Posted by Lamont
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2008 at 4:21 pm

I have an idea. Let's disband the police department and let the city fall to all of the marginal residents and transients who happen to find themselves in our city. Maybe we all deserve what might come.

Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2008 at 10:40 am


It has already done that.. Just these criminals wear suits and nice dresses. And look you in the eye when they steal from you.


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Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2008 at 10:50 am

Given this recent spike in crime (thieves stealing tools, gunman at Baskin-Robbins), it seems like the sooner the police have a better headquarters, the safer we'll all be. Of course, it could have the opposite effect if the new HQ is TOO nice and the police get complacent.

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

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