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Proposal: Divide Palo Alto Into Two Separate Cities

Original post made by North/South Divide, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 3, 2008

Perhaps South Palo Alto would be better served if there were two cities divided by Oregon Expressway. Currently, the city government and almost all of the city facilities are north of Oregon. But it also holds an incredibly inefficient and wasteful city government. South Palo Alto might be better off giving up on these facilities and starting from scratch. The smaller tax base would force any new entity to enforce some fiscal discipline and try to serve its constituency rather than fund pet projects.

Just a thought...

Comments (28)

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2008 at 2:31 am

Perhaps we can get this done right after the California secession.

Web Link


Posted by Abe
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2008 at 2:51 am

How about the north merging with Menlo Park. we can call it Palo Menlo; and the south merging with Mt. View - we can call it Mt. Alto View. LOL!!!!!! Man, someone had too much Five Buck Chuck after dinner.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2008 at 6:34 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

About now I would succeed to join Coloma. Much of Coloma's population is untouched by the nannyism fads that grieve the judicious here.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2008 at 8:08 am

Not only are most of the facilities supported by our property taxes located in North Palo Alto, but more than three-quarters of our City budget is spent on payroll, facilities, and events located in North Palo Alto. During the budget debate Greg Schmid pointed out the inequality of this arrangement; he wanted to even things out and have more money spent in South Palo Alto.

Not only is City Hall, the Police Department located in North PA but also pork spending such as the Junior Museum and Zoo, the Children's Theatre, the Heritage Museum, the proposed new Palo Alto History Mudeum, 3 of the 5 libraries, and the facilities at Lucie Stern etc.

Meanwhile, South Palo Alto has the Cubberley Community Center supported with our Utility taxes. The problem here is that all the rooms and gym facilities are rented out to Foothill, the JCC, and a myriad of smaller entities.

If the Cubberley facilities in South Palo Alto are rented out, why isn't Lucie Stern in North Palo Alto? South Palo Alto wants and deserves to have more of our property tax dollars returned to us.

Posted by Yes
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2008 at 8:31 am

Another way to address this inequity would be to go to district representation, which many towns have to address this problem. Historically 90% of council members live in the north. This obviously perpetuates the problem.

I had a good guffaw once when suggesting this once before, and Paul Losch responded gently that city councilors required certain intelligence and knowledge of city finance and it would be a shame to deprive the city of the experienced people in the north. Us hillbillies in Barron Park can't reckon them sums I guess. Well, at least the despots are benevolent ;-)

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2008 at 9:05 am

Vote yes on Measure N. If that bond passes, you will have a brand new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center.

Posted by Vote No
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 4, 2008 at 9:29 am

Instead vote NO, so they will shut down Downtown and CT, both of which should be shut, and then re-do Mitchell in a couple years anyway. Otherwise we continue to subsidize north-side branches forever!

Posted by Jenny
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2008 at 10:24 am

If South Palo Alto didn't have to subsidize all the expensive facilities and programs in North Palo Alto with our property tax dollars, we could afford to rebuild the Mitchell Park Library without a bond measure. Meanwhile, I'll vote No on Measure N until our City Council has the backbone to economize by closing both College Terrace and Downtown libraries.

Maybe this is the time for South Palo Alto to declare it's independence from North Palo Alto, and keep all those tax dollars that presently subsidize North Palo Alto's wants.

Posted by Bankrupt Palo Alto
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2008 at 2:40 am

The problem in this city has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with North or South Palo Alto. The problem lies in how this city is run. Most of the money goes into Salaries and Benefits of the the City employees.
This city has a lot of money - all of it is wasted away. I would'nt be surprised if city of PA file for bankruptcy like Vallejo did.

Posted by Another Critic of how the city is run
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2008 at 11:04 pm

The city is run by the old time establishment. The downtown and industrial and corporate leaders. The Palo Alto Papers contribute to this as their advertisers are in many ways the same people.

Almost all of the available money is spent on North Palo activities, projects, promotions to benifit that area: No traffic police in S.Palo Alto on a regular basis, no traffic enforcement so cars/people can get to their jobs in the industrial park with out speed, etc restrictions. All truck traffic directed toward/to S Palo Alto as no truck routes exist in N.Palo Alto.
Most of fire dept money is spent on industrial/high rise buildings and their inspections.
No new parks in S Palo Alto and thousands of new residents planned for this area. $20,000,000 for Heritage Park and Clark bldg.. No such thing in S. Palo Alto.\
$10,000,000 possibly spent relocating Alma Substation as 800 High St developer didn't like it there next to this bldg.
Cubberly is run down and they consider selling a big part of it to pay for who know what. Maybe fiber to every house N. of Oregon Expressway.

The only feasible solution is for more involvement by S.Palo Alto Homeowners and maybe ballot measures that direct money be spent on projects in S.Palo Alto. \\

Homeowners in S Palo Alto must wake up to what is happening.
We need a S. Palo Alto newspaper/newsletter and website for our benifit.

Wish I were younger and could start one. All S. Palo Alto neighborhoods must organize and act for our benifit. Leaders of these neighborhoods must support S.Palo Alto area and not be business people who support projects in N.Palo Alto as I see existing now. At least two past council/mayors who lived in S. Palo Alto openly were hostile to S.Palo Alto issues, but lived here because of personal circumstances.
They openly lied to us before becoming elected.

Posted by Joe Baldwin
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2008 at 11:06 am

South Palo Altans expend much energy complaining they are abused by their fellow citizens. Why don't they divert that energy into the electoral process and get the representation they allege is conspiratorially denied them? I've been listening to this tired lament for 35 years now.

Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2008 at 11:06 am

gee, I am too old!
South Palo Alto used to be Mayfield, a separate town up till 1925 when both cities merged.
"unmerging" the two parts of Palo Alto would surely be better for South Palo Alto....
If that happens I would like to put a gate up between us and those arrivistes, nouveaux riches and parvenues.....

Posted by Jeeesh!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 6, 2008 at 11:58 am

Here's a south Palo Altan who loves where I live and has no desire to separate from our north PA neighbors. I plan to vote YES on Measure N because it is a good plan that provides the facilities Palo Alto needs to serve our present and growing population.

What is it about PA Online that it attracts so many crotchety naysayers? Please take a nap, go for a walk on our tree-lined sidewalks, visit our libraries and parks (esp. Mitchell Park Library so you will see what the problems are there), get to know your neighbors, volunteer in our excellent schools or one of the many other amazing community programs available here. Maybe it will change your outlook. We live in an incredible community. Count your lucky stars. We are blessed.

Yes. Greg Schmid is correct that the budget could be divided more fairly. We (individuals, not only elected officials) can do something about that by getting involved EARLY in the decision-making process. Many south and north Palo Altons participated in the bond measure meetings. Council voted UNANIMOUSLY (that vote included Council Members and south PA residents Greg Schmid, Yahweh Yeh, John Barton) to support Measure N.

The Cubberley deal was a Benest fantasy that has evaporated with his departure...and because COUNCIL sent a clear message that it was NOT for sale. Do you ever watch an actual Council meeting...or do you just make things up as you go along?

Measure N is an opportunity for Palo Alto to get the library improvements that we badly need. If you attended the City Hall meetings and heard the large scope of the discussions around this issue, you would understand that if Measure N fails, we will have nothing...for years (possibly decades) to come. That is not something I want to see happen.

There is so much misinformation in this thread, I hardly know where to start.

Join me in voting YES on Measure N!!!!

Posted by No thanks
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Jeesh, your judgmentalism of your neighbors doesn't do much to persuade me. Our libraries cost twice as much per capita to operate as other towns; our building cost is fabulously higher, with no state funding to defray; 4 of 5 libraries are north of Oregon, and the only one ever closed is on Arastradero.

You can call names if you like and put down your neighbors. But with sales tax revenue and likely property values headed into the tank, our city budget is going to be slammed. We need to pull in our horns, not add another $400 tax bill on top of our already over-high costs. In Barron Park, where most people go to Los Altos library anyway (closer and better), this bond should be dead-on-arrival; the rest of Palo Alto I hope will reach the same conclusion.

Vote No on N - let's get smart and fix our libraries.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm

How about "Palo View"? Or "Palo Mountain"? Or "Mountain Palo"?

I'll Stop.

Posted by Gedank
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2008 at 2:51 pm

It's an interesting thought experiment I've pondered before, going back to a "Palo Alto" and a "Mayfield".

It would not work if the dividing line were strictly Page Mill/Oregon, though, as it would leave the southern half with no real business district. So the lines would have to be drawn such that the new "Mayfield" contained the old one — i.e., that the southern half got the California Ave. business district.

And the south would have to pony up for all those services now located exclusively in the north, such as a City Hall, central police station, etc. That would be really expensive, and we'd be paying for it with a lower tax base.

Another issue would be the school district and school assignments, something people feel passionately about. I'm not sure how the population breakdown would affect the feeds into Jordan/JLS/Terman and Paly/Gunn, but I suspect there'd have to be some rejiggering of school attendance boundaries with new city lines, and for sure rejiggering if two new school districts were formed. Could all the middle schoolers in the north fit into Jordan?

Posted by Realist
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Passing N will simply prolong the misery. Neighborhood branches are no long "sustainable" to use that most popular phrase. Close the College Terrace and Downtown branches. It didn't seem to be that hard for our leaders to find the courage to close our pathetic paperback branch in Barron Park a few years ago. Improve the Main and Mitchell Park libraries. Keep the Children's library since the money has already been spent there.
Paula Simpson was right but nobody wanted to hear the reality.

Posted by ChrisK
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Right idea, wrong dividing line - you meant to write "Embarcadero", not "Oregon" :-)

Posted by North PA
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Narnia, gee thanks. Bail on PA and leave us stuck with all the arrivistes and nouveaux riches. Better yet, why don't the peeps in South Palo Alto vote in the next city election and help give das boot to our wasteful government? It is time for the people to take back Palo Alto! Then *all* can get its fair share, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The city already has plenty of revenue, but needs to cut out waste (remember the traffic barrier debacle and the new city website?) Then there would be plenty of money for services such as libraries without having to raise taxes or issue new bonds.

Just my 2 cents worth...

Posted by Publicus
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Here's an even better idea: merge Palo Alto with East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Los Altos, and Mountain View for a truly diversified city and the new powerhouse of the Peninsula ...

Posted by Geraldine
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2008 at 8:36 pm

This needs to be done today!
North Palo Alto, South Palo Alto
do it now!

Posted by Oh my
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 6, 2008 at 9:04 pm

South Palo Alto is clearly conquered real estate and people.
Force them sign some treaties and North Palo Alto will not honor them and move on.

Posted by not north south
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2008 at 10:19 am

Lets divide it at Middlefield, lets go East West on this one! HA.

Posted by Publicus
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2008 at 12:07 pm

This is not unlike biological cell division. How about four cities: Northeast Palo Alto, Northwest Palo Alto, Southeast Palo Alto, and Southwest Palo Alto? Every year there could be a tribal council meeting with representatives of all the clans meeting to trade, arrange marriages, make or renew peace treaties, and hold a festival with dancing in colorful tribal folk costumes from all of the many tribes in all four Palo Altos (Yuppies, Cranky People, Type A Personalities, Granolas, Old Hippies, Academics, Managerial Folk, Venture Capitalists, Engineers, Lawyers, etc.).

Posted by poster boy?
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 7, 2008 at 12:40 pm

"Yes. Greg Schmid is correct that the budget could be divided more fairly. We (individuals, not only elected officials) can do something about that by getting involved EARLY in the decision-making process."

Is that the same Greg Schmid that proposed using the city's contingency fund for another part-time librarian? Yeah, the epitome of fiscal irresponsibility. Just to let you know that would make 110 library employees. Not really the poster boy you're looking for.

Posted by Townie
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

How about splitting all of North Palo Alto off from the US and selling it to North Korea? The political views are about the same in both places, and the proceeds could be used to reduce the State deficit. South Palo Alto could remain part of the US.

Or we could keep Palo Alto intact and declare it a Free Love Zone. Make love not war! If everybody was umm.. preoccupied, then they would be happy as pigs in mud. The North/South issue would go away.

Seriously, though, the city government needs to start taking care of Palo Alto - ALL of it - instead of trying to save the world. I know the little pet projects might be fun, but our city leaders were elected to do a job and act responsibly. Wasting money to find out the color of Palo Alto when homeless go hungry on our streets is not only irresponsible, it is shameful.

Posted by Treewoman57
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 7, 2008 at 10:58 pm

There sure is a lot of petty bickering going on here. The bottom line is that the city wastes far too much money (over-administration; too many things sent out for EXPENSIVE, unnecessary consultations; too little accountability; and too much apathy). We don't need to improve the libraries. We need to consolidate them.

Santa Clara and Sunnyvale (populations in excess of 100, 000) manage to serve their communities beautifully from ONE centrally located library. Sunnyvale further serves the neighborhoods via bookmobiles. Mountain View (population over 70,000) also manages with ONE library. Why does Palo Alto (population below 60,000) continue to insist upon keeping 5 library branches open, and in so doing, duplicating overhead (staff, utilities, books, computers, furniture, maintenance, etc., etc., etc.). One town, one library, under one roof. Do that, and I might consider voting for the library bond.

As for a the other nonsense, many of these problems could be resolved if we would switch to district elections for our city council. Council members would have to actually live in the district they represent, and every part of the city would have a representative. I realize it's a novel and radical idea, but why not give it some thought?

As a resident of Evergreen Park (we surround the California Avenue shopping area, but aren't swanky enough to be considered in the same sentence with Southgate or College Terrace), I feel like the forgotten stepchild in city politics and goings-on. We're on the wrong side of the tracks, the wrong side of El Camino, or the wrong side of Peers Park to warrant any attention from the city. You'd think our proximity to California Avenue shopping and Stanford University would give us some clout (that the city might want to keep us looking pretty), but that isn't the case. Nothing ever gets done in this neighborhood until it becomes an emergency. South Palo Altans, I empathize with your issues of feeling under-served.

Dividing north-south (east-west, or any other orientation) isn't the answer. This would just create another city with another government and duplicated services and expenses. In case you haven't been paying attention to the news lately, the nation (and world) are in a financial crisis. Creating more expenses by dividing cities in two is simply fiscally irresponsible. If, instead, we elected our city council by district, this would end the always heavily north PA-bias, and give all Palo Altans equal representation.

If you want to talk about succeeding from the Union if the Presidential election goes the wrong way, we may have something worth talking about. California has the 5th largest economy in the world. We could do it ... maybe bring Oregon, Washington (state, not D.C.), and Hawaii with us. What do you think? It's food for thought.

Posted by ex palo altan
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Hmmm, what vitriol here! I remember when I lived in Palo Alto a few years ago, near downtown, envying the south Palo Altans! If you have kids, south PA has more amenities. For middle schoolers, you have the Mitchell Park teen center. Kids from JLS can walk over there and have aplace to hang out with their friends, play games, etc. And for the little kids, Mitchell Park has the great kids wading pool. Yeah, north PA has Rinconada, but that one is hardly ever open for recreational swimming.

Also, I remember the constant carping that North PA schools had so much more money and it wasn't fair, and yet Gunn comes up higher on every survey taken.

C'mon people! A couple of miles away is EPA where the schools are lousy and the streets are dangerous. Be grateful for what you have and don't gripe so much. (Of course, griping is the Palo Alto way...)

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