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Eminent Domain and more is on the way for Palo Alto

Original post made by Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 1, 2008

The high speed rail will create a significant amount of eminent domain in Palo Alto (or worse - the state may just seize chunks of people's back yards without buying the properties (putting houses right up against tracks?)

Web Link

Property that backs to Paly's football field (which today is Caltrain easement) will be taken back. What will be the impact on Paly?

Are Palo Altan's aware that the high speed rail final Environmental Impact Report profile drawings already show the new tracks with a FIFTEEN FOOT SOLID WALL running halfway through Palo Alto past Paly, sloping gradually down to an 8 FOOT WALL past Charleston and down to San Antonio. This is a SOLID retained wall all the way through Palo Alto, with 4 lanes of tracks running on top, (that's 15 foot wall plus 15 foot trains and high voltage electrical infrastructure running ON TOP of that 15 foot wall.

Also, the volume of trains will go from about 100 Caltrains today, to about 250 or more daily (trains less than 5 minutes apart on all four tracks, - a CONSTANT parade of trains, 15 hours a day)

All crossing for HST must be below or above grade. But there are only 2 crossings drawn in currently - at Charleston and Churchill. East Meadow crossing gone.

The HST will mean a massive redrawing of traffic flows through Palo Alto. (By the way, who will pay for new crossings at Oregon, Embarcadero, University? Palo Alto? - Or do those crossings go away too?)

A Station in Palo Alto would mean paving over of El Camino Park for a high rise parking structure (in the current EIS). And a station CREATES massive influx of dense housing and major traffic arteries feeding into the station -stated as TRUTH in the EIS. (At levels like nothing we've seen in Palo Alto yet.) Do we have the city infrastructure to support this kind of massive dense growth? Is that what we want to turn our city into?

Our creeks, including the endangered San Fransisquito creek, and massive numbers of underground water resources are all negatively impacted.

All this and more is already in the FINAL environmental impact report!

Are Palo Altan's paying attention? Where the hell is our city council?

Web Link

Comments (146)

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

Parent--our city council has much more important things on their plates to deal with--hiring a sustainability czar, getting rid of all bags in town, allocating $500,000 for the senior games and funding a bike borrowing station. And once the review of the Children's Theatre investigation becomes available they will be busy discussing that.
No time to deal with your issues.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:54 am

Thanks for that informative post. Part of the link included this about locating the Mid-Pen station. Why PA would want a HSR station is completely beyond me. Frankly having HSR at all seems like all downside to me.

Peninsula cities vie for station

Apparently, if a city on the Peninsula really wants a high-speed rail station, they have to covet it.

As it stands, all locations of high-speed rail stations throughout the Bay Area have been decided except in one case: the mid-Peninsula station, which will either go to Redwood City or Palo Alto.

“Operationally, they’re very similar, so we’ll have to see which one really wants it,” said Ron Diridon Sr., a board member on the High-Speed Rail Authority.

So far, he said, Redwood City has shown slightly more interest.

Neither Redwood City nor Palo Alto has taken an official position on whether they’d welcome a high-speed rail stop, and officials in those cities said they may not until after the November election, when the high-speed rail’s funding will be on the statewide ballot.

There are plenty of reasons a city would want a station, said Curtis Williams, Palo Alto’s planning director. The rail could facilitate transit-oriented development, new jobs and possible state funding toward infrastructure improvement.

“It could be a real hub of activity,” he said.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 11:24 am

And PAUSD Board of Ed is meeting tomorrow night to decide whether to spend about $9M of our bond funds to improve the PALY FIELDS.

I think they should understand how much land they'll have left at Paly (and how much the setback needs to be from THE WALL, so the kids don't all get fried by High Speed Rail electronmagnetic fields) before they spend millions on the fields.

(Oh wait, the EIS says there ISN'T any impact from EMF because the negative impacts from EFM exposure haven't been proven. Get that Paly families? Not that there aren't any, just that they don't have to SAY there are any because the evidence of negative impacts from EMFs is unknown:

"Because of their rapid decrease in strength with distance, EMFs in excess of background levels are likely to be experienced only
comparatively near sources. Consequently, only persons on or close to the proposed HST system would be likely to experience such increases, and although HST operations could introduce some very low but measurable changes in 60-Hz MFs up to 1,000 ft or more from the right-of-way, these low-level changes are not known to be harmful or hazardous."

(Is Paly within 1000 feet of the right of way? yes!) and...

"Issues concerning EMF2 biological and health effects for the HST alternative are the subject of the scientific discipline known as
bioelectromagnetics, which is served by the Bioelectromagnetics Society, other scientific organizations, and extensive scientific literature that has been critically reviewed by scientific expert committees convened by a number of national and international bodies. This body of information was used in the statewide program EIR/EIS to describe the potential effects of each of the system alternatives. The medical and scientific communities have been unable to determine whether usual residential exposures to EMFs cause health effects or to establish any standard or level of exposure that is known to be either safe or harmful."

Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Will the new $80 million police station have to be torn down or moved as it will be to close to these trains to be safe from crashes,noise, vibrations of the ground, earthquake that could topple the elevated tracks?

Maybe Palo Alto Ave can be made into a expressway to meet up with Sand Hill at Stanford Shop center. It will be needed to handle the thousands of cars to the massive train station parking garage.
Maybe the Core of Engineers that will widen San Fransquito Creek can build the expressway also, from Hwy 101 to El Camino.

I'm sure the GreenBelt Alliance development Corp will be egar to build thousands of high rise, high cost housing near the station.
The city taxpayers can buy the land for them and give them the land as a gift as they are an "Enviromental "orginization.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Are the BOE and the City of PA simply staying in denial about the HSR project? Or are they unaware of the details of the project? Or are they simply of the mind that they don't want to be distracted from their agendas by bothersome facts which may be difficult to deal with? Since this thread is about schools and kids, I'm asking PAUSD to step up with some feedback on what is happening with HSR and how they anticipate it will impact our schools. Let's not rubber stamp our improvement projects without looking at HSR in our town.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Whereas I have no idea about the HSR, it would make sense to me that the BoE either found out or waited til more was known before planning anything along the tracks and its border. What is more worrying is that the field at Paly has just been renovated and now they may be voting to spend more money on it. That is the last thing I want money spent on. Since I am having to pay for this bond, I hope they use the money on sensible causes as a priority. What about increasing the bicycle racks both in quality and quantity at all the schools and getting rid of the car pool permits which must be illegal.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Paly Parent, your response seems to be all too common as I research this amazing issue, something like: "I don't anything about HST, but somebody should me minding the store."

You would think so, wouldn't you? Who's looking out for Palo Alto's best interests, particularly for our schools, our kids, our community and our property values? Seems not to be anyone in PAUSD nor in Palo Alto City Council!. Everyone seems to be watching the glossy presentations from the Southern Californians running the HST Authority, and nodding vigorously - won't we be on the cutting edge for going along with the high speed train! How positively progressive of Palo Alto to hand over everything they have and everything they value for the sake of progress!

Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm

I am a Palo Altan for HSR. Electricity is cleaner than diesel if you are worried about pollution. High speed rail is a proven solution for traveling over distances such as the Los Angeles-San Francisco trip. Very competitive with flying and an environmentally friendly solution. If the HSR station is in Palo Alto or close to Palo Alto, great for us. It will become even easier for us to travel to Southern California. And even to SF !

California voters knew what they were doing when they voted for the high speed train initiative. Good for all of us.

As to the few Palo Altans who live near the train tracks... Trains will be cleaner and quieter when they run on electricity. As for the eminent domain issue, well, most of you were happy to get a house for a lower price when you bought right next to a train track. So don't come complaining now.

Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Actually, HSR supporter, many of us have no interest in visiting LA.
And what about all the additional pollution caused by cars being forced into too few crossings and less than optimum intra-city traffic flows.

I also think you make an unwarranted assumption about people being "happy to get a house for a lower price when you bought right next to a train track." There are people who rent near the tracks who would be happy to be able to afford a better location.

You might also think about the visual blight that will result from that towering wall running the width of Palo Alto. Take a look at the elevated grade crossings in northern San Mateo county for a taste of how bad that will be.

I suspect Palo Alto will be severely impacted by this folly, along with many other peninsula cities.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:03 pm

"Palo Altan" for HSR - you give the 'pat' answer in favor of HSR, right off the glossy website - and you disregard the community impact on Palo Alto so blithely that I guarantee you are NOT a Palo Altan.

If you were, first you'd know that the issue is not simply for the row of neighbors whos properties are going to be taken. The impact will be widespread and far reaching for the entire town (schools, kids, businesses, and neighbors for blocks and blocks), trees, views, etc.

You also would know that people who bought on the train tracks paid slightly less (not alot less), but still got the same great schools and so it was a tradeoff they were willing to make with full disclosure - the train tracks have been here forever (they knew what they were getting), those neighborhoods are quite nice, and the homes have mostly all been remodeled and updated. Those people did not bargain for the state or the railroad to come in and destroy their wealth, or their communities.

The HSR High Gloss Sales Pitch was grossly lacking in information to communities like this (PA, MP, Atherton), which is why people supported it. People are now going to start getting the real information, and you can certainly be guaranteed that the stuff is about to hit the fan. Yes we certainly WILL come complaining now.

And, by the way, I don't live on the tracks, I live on the other side of town. And it STILL is a disaster for our town, no matter where you live. (See you'd know that if you were a Palo Altan, that the entire town is only about a mile wide on each side, that what impacts the train, impacts all of us.)

And no, what's good for California (ie: Southern California) is NOT 'good for all of us'. In fact its bad for many of us, except you Southern Californian's. (What do you care, your part of the state is already trashed, so now you rooting around here.)

Well, a majority of 'Californian's' are not going to trample on the rights of a small minority who are going to be destroyed by this - so - fight is on.

Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:27 pm


I AM from Palo Alto, part of the Palo Verde community and know very well the layout of our town. And I am STILL a supporter of HSR, thank you.

Posted by Rob
a resident of Woodside
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:46 am

They have to compensate you fair value plus improvements if they take part of your yard. Eminenent Domain is something you deal with as an American, Palo Altans are not immune. At least they aren't snatching up your property to give to private developers for economic development, like they do in other parts of the nation.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:45 am

So, they take 10 feet of your backyard, compensate you with say $100,000. Then you have a house sitting about 20 feet away from a 15 foot solid wall, with 125mph trains running by overhead every 3 minutes. And would you be able to ever sell the REST of the property, the home, ever? And that's fairly compensated?

Best case scenario for the people who back to the tracks is that their entire homes get taken, they get out with enough money to move away. And then what about the people on the other side of the street who's homes now face a 15 foot wall with 125mph trains passing every three minutes, 15 hrs a day? Are they being fairly compensated for loss in their property value?

And what about the people who own property on Alma that are now facing a 15 foot wall and 125mph trains passing every three minutes? Are they being fairly compensated?

And what about the people who live on Charleston or Churchill, which have then been turned in to major thoroughfares instead of the two lane roads which they are today? Are they being fairly compensated?

And what about the businesses on El Camino Way, who no longer sit at the end of a cross town feeder from the east side of the tracks, who are no longer going to be on the receiving end of passage way across town. Are they being fairly compensated?

And what about Paly (PAUSD) who's fields/parking/District Offices get encroached if Churchill is widened or if the Caltrain right of way/construction encroaches on the west? When they lose field space and parking space, and spend another several million on redoing the fields (again). do they get fairly compensated?

And what about the folks in the Palo Verde Community who's kids are going to have to bike under major expressway underpasses to get to high school, who's preteens are going to have to bike across a TRUE expressay (new and improved Oregon which will be converted to a large expressway to feed the HST and the very dense growth around it - NOTHING like today's Oregon), who's neighborhoods are going to give way to an explosion of auto feeder traffic routes heading toward the shiny new HST station, and who's properties are going to be relegated to the declining part of town sandwiched between the Berlin Wall and 101? (Take a look at some beautiful old historic parts of towns underneath freeways and in and around the Sacramento area for a sense of what happens to neighborhoods who are choked off by major transportation arteries. Are they going to be fairly compensated?

And what about ALL the neighbors and surrounding communities and the bay who's water resources (creeks feeding the bay, underground aquifers, etc along this corrider are irreparably damaged - are they going to be fairly compensated?

And what about the entirety of the communities who's town is rudely divided in half by a solid wall, who instead of 100 trains/day get to hear 250+ screeching trains a day, who have high voltage electrical hanging through the middle of the town (which they either live in close proximity to, or they cross daily), with the increase in noise, vibration and unsightliness. Are they going to be compensated fairly?

We could keep going, shall we? There's more. Way more.

If HSR supporter is a property owner, he'll will get what he deserves out of HST, (But I have no doubt that he's been here a very short while and has no qualms about picking up and heading out before it gets to that point) If he's a renter, he has no skin in the game (other than probably hoping for some of that cheap ticky-tacky high rise housing shortly to be cropping up.)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:23 am

HSR Supporter - if you are a Palo Altan, then you might care about water supplies and flooding for our fair town (and in fact your neighborhood might be impacted by occassional flooding and creek overflows... So I guess you might dig the findings in the FINAL Program EIR/EIS...

Hydrology and Water Resources:
Web Link

This alignment alternative would traverse TMDL impaired segments of the following six water resources: San Francisquito Creek, Matadero Creek, Stevens Creek, Permanente Creek, Calabasas Creek, and Saratoga Creek. Diazinon is identified as the impairment for these water resources. The construction and operation of the HST is not a likely source of these contaminants; therefore, the alignment alternative is not expected to increase the identified contaminants of waters in the study area. San Francisquito Creek is also impaired for sediment and siltation. The construction of the HST may affect sediment and siltation in San Francisquito Creek.

Palo Alto (Caltrain) Station
The station location option could directly impact 20.7 ac (8.38 ha) of groundwater and indirectly impact 27.4 ac (11.09 ha).

Direct Impacts
The HST has the potential to directly impact 95.8 ac (38.77 ha) of 100-year floodplains, primarily along the segments south of SFO, in Palo Alto, and in Sunnyvale. Within this corridor, the 100-year
floodplain is often confined by the embankments of the existing Caltrain or roadway facility. Although there are no surface water bodies in the direct path of the alignment alternatives, there is
the potential to impact 2,613 linear ft (796.5 m) of streams, creeks, and channels. In addition, 506.8 ac (205.1 ha) of groundwater basins could be affected.

The San Francisco to San Jose corridor has the potential to indirectly impact 175.77 ac (71.13 ha) of floodplains. Although there are no surface water bodies immediately adjacent to the alignment alternatives, there is the potential to impact 5,266 linear ft (1,605.1 m) of streams, creeks, and channels. Finally, 1,097.1 ac (444 ha) of groundwater and 17.7 ac (7.18 ha) of land with potentially erosive soil conditions could be indirectly impacted. (See Table 3.14-2.)

The corridor traverses seven TMDL-impaired segments of water resources in the area. The construction and operation of the HST is an unlikely source of most of the contaminants that impair the water resources. The contaminants are generally chlorinated hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and organophosphate pesticides. However, San Francisquito Creek is impaired for sediment and siltation, and the construction of the Dumbarton to San Jose alignment alternative may affect the sediment/silt load in this drainage.

<Note: San Francisquito Creek and Matadero Creeks are in Palo Alto. We also Barron Creek and Adobe Creek that run past the track to the bay.> Only San Francisquito Creek is addressed in the profile drawings! What does this mean? Inadequate attention to mitigation for the other creeks in this plan?
<Note: If they choose Palo Alto for the statino they plan to build a high rise parking structure in El Camino Park - that was where Palo Alto was going to put their emergency water tank storage recently approved by voters? City Council - What's the impact on that?>

I wonder what a solid wall running all the way through town would do to overflowing creeks on the east side and the west side of the tracks. With the added benefit of some rising bay waters with global warming impacts, with any luck maybe east of tracks will become a giant duck pond. How scenic would that be!

Posted by Eric
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:38 am


How do you know there is going to be a 15 foot high wall?

You don't!! It hasn't even been designed yet with small enough details of how it is going to go through Palo Alto. So stop complaining about walls because it hasn't even been decided yet about walls!!

I hate to break it to you, but property values always decline the closer you get to railroads, starting 1/4 mile away. And the railroad right of way has been there 100 years, long before you got there. So when a person buys a home, it is stated in the documents with a nice little signature of your own, that you understand that there is a railroad corridor near by.

It it your own towns problems for not figuring out way to get across a railroads PRIVATE PROPERTY in a better fashion that has been there before your town. You keep complaining about children crossing the tracks, or being seperated by them, but if you thought past the end of your nose you would realize having no more grade crossings will make things safer. Come on, you supposedly are doing all this research but fail to see the benefits because you have your blinders on and don't want to see that things are going to change around you in a town located in the middle of a cosmopolitan area.

You talk about EMF from overhead catenary lines for HSR, but i fail to see you fighting against the power lines that already run through you city and currently go past schools and homes, which I might add carry a lot more power than catenary for trains. Where is your fight for getting rid of those lines?

As for your creeks feeding the bay comment, you do realize your town is the one sending the pollution into the bay, from the drains on your streets. If there is source of water for the community along the 100+ YEAR OLD RIGHT OF WAY, it will be improved by being rebuilt. Besides, where are the "underground aquifers' as you so called state?

And as for the noise and vibration comments. You obviously haven't seen in your "research" (or don't want to see) that the new rail will be continuously welded which greatly reduces sound. The brakes on the new trains manufactures these days don't just push brake pads against the wheels to stop. They also use Regenerative braking and Dynamic braking.


Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:44 am

I HSR will be an economic disaster that will never be self sustaining. In reality, the HSR will most likely be powered by natural gas which will produce plenty of greenhouse gases. Electricity just allows us to pollute someone else's backyard. The best thing that can come of this is to realize the need for nuclear power plants, but that's a real pipe dream in anti-nuclear Palo Alto. Don't discount noise, noise, noise. Any large vehicle going 125 mph will generate plenty of noise. Environment Impact Reports always seem to be trumped by money and politics and rarely mitigate real problems.

Posted by Ven
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:14 am

Agrees with Eric. It seems the minority want to keep the town in a nice and secluded from the rest of the world. Sorry, this isn't House on the Prairie with quaint little downs off in the meadows. It's the 21st century, and yes your town will step into it with everyone else.

Again, people voted and it passed. Not much else to say that hasn't already been said in here and OTHER Parent rants/blogs.

Posted by Ven
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:17 am

To Neal:

It is MUCH easier to control and regulate emissions coming from a power plant than it is on tens of thousands of cars in the road. So with all that in mind, HSR is still a far cleaner solution when compared to cars and airplanes.

No need for me to respond to the rest of your ludicrous post about "HSR being an economic disaster" ect.

Posted by GLEN
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:29 am

ONCE AGAIN...this is Caltrains ROW has nothing to do with HSR..if the bond had Failed Caltrain was still going ahead with these 4 tracks and no grade crossings.The Grade crossings are for life safety. HSR will be a tenant only

Posted by It's not too late
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:41 am

Looks as though the HSR sock puppets from "another community" are flocking to this topic. It's easy for them to make snide comments about property values near the train--they obviously have no clue about our neighborhoods.

I know enough about the HSR plan (or lack thereof) to realize that their numbers don't pencil out in any way. The costs and the projected ridership and revenue figures seem to have emerged from a fantasy. Just the expense of eminent domain (and ensuing lawsuits) in the mid-peninsula would consume a huge chunk of the Prop 1A funds.

The public fell for the glossy pictures, but in reality, HSR is no more than a shell game designed to funnel money to a small group of investors and developers. For all the justifiable concerns about the impact of HSR on our communities, I doubt we will see those trains running down the peninsula any time soon, if ever. Meanwhile, a few people are getting richer off the taxpayers. Pretty pathetic, given that our governor just convened a special session to discuss the $11 billion shortfall.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:51 am

Eric, I had to smile at your post. Obviously you're not from Palo Alto. If you were, you'd know it's so not over, regardless of what the vote was. Check out the efforts of the developers who want to build the Alma Plaza and the Edgewood Plaza and the push back from the community regarding every minute detail of their plans. When the word gets out, and it will, about HSR's impact on this community, it will be a real battle. It won't be over for a long long time.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:58 am

Eric, its in the Profile drawings within the document called
"Bay Area to Central Valley FINAL PROGRAM EIR/EIS, Volume 2 Appendices. Plans and Profiles, P2-D-5
(that's p9 of the pdf document).
Web Link

(Thats a 51MB document, so it will take a while to download)

Some points of interest on this drawing - Retained Fill at Churchill 4.6METERS. Crossings shown ONLY at Charleston and Churchill (GS-UC), (Grade Separated Under Crossing). The only creek mentioned on this drawing is San Francisquito.

The water references from the Hydrology section of the report are given above. (with links, quotes, and page numbers)

This is the PROGRAM level plan that was in place for the bond vote - so that's how I KNOW. You are correct that the PROJECT specific engineering is not yet completed - which will be the specifics for each segment of the line. So the time is indeed NOW to influence the specifics of the planning for the Peninsula. No, we're not going to sit quietly around while the specifics of the plans to demolish our city are laid. By the way, this FINAL Program EIS is based on a RECOMMENDED route. Here's an idea. Its not the final route. Now is absolutely the right time to be kicking up a firestorm over the route, the engineering and the impacts.

Eric, the tracks have been there much longer than any of us - NO DUH. So, people who bought on and near the tracks or anywhere in Palo Alto knew EXACTLY what they were getting, and those of us whose children cross the tracks daily knew exactly what we were bargaining for when buying into Palo Alto. And no, I'm not complaining about the current tracks whatsoever. Its the negative consequences of the HST line that are unacceptable, and no one could have envisioned nor did they bargain for nor did they 'sign on the dotted line' for the massive HST changes. Did anyone (including Caltrain) disclose these potential HST effects to homeonwers buying on he tracks??? Yet the HSR has been in discussion for over ten years. Sounds like some property owners might want to think about lawsuits against Caltrain for lack of disclosure...

Eric, the effects of the noise, when you count the massive increase in number of trains (which is stated as a negative impact in the EIS findings) has been 'mitigated' by the writers of the document (conveniently offset to a zero consideration) in the report findings simply by the reduction of bell and horn noise at grade crossings. The report did NOT say the hs trains would be quieter themselves. (Particularly considering the increase in volume). The report also says noise impacts are much greater in residential areas. However, they conveniently negated the effects of noise and vibration and visual/aethetic degredation for ANY community that already had a railroad line - as if the current Caltrain line is anywhere near equivalent to the proposed HST changes. Not by a long shot.

The reason Palo Altan's voted for this is because the majority have been led to believe (as you attempting to do now), that the HST will be nothing more than a new kind of train running down our tracks. Because few people if any are attempting to actually read the 1250 page EIR - they've been fed lies (of ommission, misprepresentation of the HST impacts). As soon as people start realizing what's really being laid down here, the crock is going to hit the fan. So Eric, you CAN SCREAM ALL YOU WANT THAT THE MAJORITY OF VOTERS (heavily weighted in Southern California) VOTED FOR HST, but the fact remains, the fight for the integrity of the towns on the Peninsula hasn't even begun yet. The fact is the planners and "visionaries" of HST haven't come up against the right kind of resistence yet because of the glossy misinformation flow. They're going to have to be convinced to find another right answer for this route.

Posted by Jon
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:39 pm

I would not be so quick to dismiss the impacts on community health of the electrical EMF. My mother lived in Hayward along the railroad tracks where elevated BART tracks were built. Her house was easily less than 200 feet from the BART trains. She was retired and spent most of her time in the home. Within a few years of the start of BART trains she developed a rare form of blood cancer. I know power line EMFs have been linked to an increase in childhood leukemia and I believe the BART train EMFs contributed to my mother's disease.

Posted by John
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 1:08 pm

The walls, the noise, the pollution, the train every 3 minutes, people losing their properties... stop the whining please and think! All people that live on the East side of the tracks will not see a difference: Alma St. runs right in front of their homes (talking about eye-sores), and I don't see how a 15 foot wall behind all those 15+ ft trees btw the rails and Alma would be even noticeable. A very low percentage of people have their backyards against the rails on the West side. First, there's enough space to build 4 racks without the state taking property from anyone,... Second, those people may welcome a wall that will hamper the noise. I can't imagine how they've put up with the current trains. I'm a Palo Altan (yes, not everybody that voted yes on 1A is from OUT of town). I actually looked into buying one of those homes by the tracks because they certainly are much cheaper. Most of these properties actually have a lot of trees to avoid the eye sore of the tracks, but the trees don't mitigate the noise. So a wall behind those trees will not be visible but will hamper the noise A LOT.
A train every 3 minutes,... not even in the busiest terminal in the world, so get real!
What really is an eye-sore is the uneven patchy roads, uneven sidewalks, dog owners that don't pick up their dog's crap, home owners that don't care for their homes/frontyards, and the maze of electrical wires 20 ft high that gives that beautiful 3rd world country look to our streets. I think there a major things to worry about from an aesthetically pow than a wall behind the tree line btw the rails and Alma St.!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 1:42 pm

John, you should take a look at the other thread on this topic where Clem, an well informed proponent of the high speed rail effort has confirmed the impacts for eminent domain along this stretch (backed with details about certain measurements at certain intersections, etc).

The trees that conceal the wall - will be gone either by virtue of the 100ft clearance required for the 4-wide tracks (as Clem notes, about the width of the full caltrain corridor available today). That would put the walls up against the edges of Alma and the backyards on the West side. Except for in some spots where the Caltrain space it currently short of 100ft. Otherwise, the trees will be taken out during construction. Either way, many of those trees are doomed.

As for the daily train volume, when you combine 150 HST trains per day plus 100 Caltrains per day, that's 250 trains per day. The HST number is an approximation, assuming only 60% of the TOTAL VOLUME of HST's will pass through the Peninsula (The EIS says that the full HST system state wide will run 250 trains per day - but where are they going??? mainly between SF and LA - so most will likely pass through the Peninsula corridor. Using 60% means that 40% will not pass through Peninsula corridor at all - frankly that seems like a generous underestimate of the number of trains coming through the peninsula corridor. But in any case, for the Caltrain Peninsula corridor that would equate to 250 trains a day. Over course of 15 hours, 250/15 = 17, that 17 trains an hour. That's a train (either a caltrain or HST) once every 3.5 minutes in one direction or the other. That's pretty much constant trains for the FULL 15 hours of daily operation. If that's unrealistic, then what you are saying is that the HST cost/revenue projections must also be unrealistic.

Those other things you mention are indeed issues, are the typical sorts of issues that Palo Altan's get really fired up about, along with traffic patterns, high density growth, loss of trees, architectural and aesthetic integrity, school capacity, etc. So imagine what they're going to say about this when they finally get wind of details of HST.

Posted by mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:22 pm

I don't live in PA, but do work here and will for the foreseeable future.

What I would love is for people on both sides of this issue to realize that we can accomplish more by finding a common ground and working together. Let's all realize there are legitimate "community" centric concerns just as there are valid regional benefits to come with the advance of HSR. Don't like the currently proposed plan? Come up with a better solution (raised sky-way rails along certain stretches perhaps, or separated trenches -- i'm not sure what's possible but I suspect there _are_ choices available).

We would be good, however, to all come to terms with the fact that HSR would be a great service to the state. Gas will not remain forever at $2/gallon, vehicle emissions will continue to poison our air, grade intersections will continue to result in loss of life -- these are but a few areas where the HSR will benefit us all. And you must realize that traffic in 20 years through this City and the surrounding cities will be vastly different from today regardless. I'd much prefer we take a proactive step towards providing alternatives than wait till our hands are bound and our only option is to widen our roads, etc, etc.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I used Google Earth to measure, and indeed there isn't enough space unless they take some property from Southgate, or they they take Alma and turn it into a 2 lane road, instead of 4 lane expressway.

The lot for the new public safety building would bump right up against the sound wall. Once south of that, there's room without taking any land.

Posted by Glen
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:54 pm

NO sock puppet..making sure CRYBABIE NIMBYS dont spread more silly "horror stories" 62% percent of San Mateo county voted yes..GOT IT?...AND ITS CALTRAINS TRACKS

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Common sense - see the other thread, where actually Clem says there will be need for more space in various spots down to Monroe.

Mark - here's the appropriate solution:

Put the train on an EXISTING Freeway corridor where it belongs (raised in the center median for example) - which have already taken the negative consequences of a major transportation corridor. If you're replacing long distance travel between LA and SF (which HST claims as its purpose) THAT's where the HST belongs, where it will not be disrupting and laying to waste all new lands, communities, neighborhoods, wildlife, openspace, parks, schools, etc. Why do we have to spread blight across California, to get this done? Who is behind this particular preferred route? Could it be developers who don't like the land values for their new high rise communities along freeway corridors? Those communities along existing freeways way might actually be economically revitalized and might welcome major new renovation in those areas. The net gain for them could be great. The net loss for residential suburban neighborhoods will be astronomical.

(Raised skyways absolutely unacceptable. Completely Underground?, solves only part of the problem - doesn't address watershed issues, dense housing growth issues, etc.)

Posted by flycalifornia
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 2:59 pm

You guys built your houses next to a railroad track.

Do you understand the legal term easement ?

Suck it up and deal with it !

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Are you opposed to the HSR plan in general, or just what they plan to do in Palo Alto?

If you are opposed to HSR, I think you will have a tough battle, the voters have spoken on the issue. If you are opposed to the plan specific to PA then I wish you good luck. I certainly think that the needs of local communities should be taken into consideration, but I do not believe that any one city should be able to defy the will of the voters as far as completion of the HSR goes.

What I would like to hear is some alternatives, rather than just complaining how it's being planned. I think the Altamont alignment might resolve some of your concerns, as the line could then bypass, or at worst only minimally impact PA, rather than going right through the center.

How about it, have you got any constructive comments?

Posted by jardins
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 2, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Why do the HSR tracks have to be elevated? And does the EIS include any study of how communities in Britain and the rest of Europe have accommodated HSR in the last two decades? Those countries have plenty of towns and suburbs, too, and they've managed to work things out.

Posted by me too
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 2, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Fast progress in a slow moving community can be painful!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Patrick, constructive idea for HST directly above your post. The lines if they are built should be correctly studied for impact, and proper 'impact' be assigned to highly residential communities.

California might want a theoretical concept of progress, but should the will of an uniformed majority be allowed to defy the rights of a minority? That's mob rule.

Me too - no good reason whatsoever to put "fast progress in slow moving communities". That's a false logic driven by greedy, short sighted commercial interests.

Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The best thing to do, Palo Altans, is to DEMAND of your city council to join Atherton and Menlo Park in their lawsuit against the Authority that governs High Speed Rail. Add to your specific issues what four tracks is going to do to the namesake park which protects El Palo Alto. That tree has enough trouble hanging in there without construction of two more tracks, elevated right-of-way and a new four track bridge. The lawsuit referenced above challenges the Authority on their environmental report that chose Pacheco Pass. If successful, they would run the high speed trains over Altamont Pass instead, avoiding Palo Alto, Atherton & Menlo Park altogether. Altamont is clearly a better transportation feeder for the Bay Area, and avoids the difficult challenges of ramming the train, both politically and literally, through the South Peninsula communities.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I agree Jay. And have been looking for info online about the Menlo Park/Atherton lawsuit, and will continue to look around. If you have any links, please advise.

The HST lines belong on existing freeway corridors not in historic residential neighborhoods.

In addition to destruction of California Historic Landmark #2, and mother of all Heritage Trees - El Palo Alto, this proposed line impacts one important high school, two parks, and massive amount of watershed - and that's just in Palo Alto alone! Menlo Park, Atherton, and several other communities up and down the Peninsula are going to be devastated. Its an absolutely ridiculous placement for HST - that can only be motivated by greed.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Hi Jay, no need to send links. I think I've found the organizations I need to get in touch with. thanks.

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Sorry Parent, but that's not mob rule... it's Democracy. Without it you wouldn't even have the right to contest what the appointed decided was right. And as I stated before, I believe in the rights of a community to be heard and their concerns taken into account as part of the process but I don't believe in their ability to hijack and destroy a project.

I think you're freeway idea is decent (I hadn't refreshed my browser before posting), but I suspect there are as many if not more eminent domain issues involved, as I doubt there is much room to add 4 lanes of railway tracks in existing urban freeway stretches (I drove those freeways for many years and didn't notice any significant stretches wide enough). It sounds like you just want to make it somebody else's problem.

If the HSR gets built, somebody is going to be unhappy, no matter what. I believe a lot more people are going to be happy and benefit from it... I bet a lot of the Stanford students would be very happy to be close to a high speed rail system that could the get them to Southern CA quickly and relatively inexpensively. And I bet there will be a lot of workers that will be happy to be able to get to work without being stuck in traffic.

Personally I prefer the Altamont alignment, it will be much better for the East Bay, benefit many more people, and only add about 10-20 minutes to the long haul trips.

Posted by mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm

The bigger problem for building along freeway corridors is that it sets the service up to fail -- which eliminates the purpose of building it in the first place. Why? Because it eliminates convenience which is _key_.

You need to position the stations at urban centers -- the places people want to be when they step off the train. This reduces the need for people to drive (thus congestion), and as city centers are already the preferred living of many, capitalizes on existing public transit while maximizing on potential ridership.

Just think how big of a pain it is to get from downtown PA to 101 or 280. That's a 10 to 15 minute drive and is already a source for heavy congestion. What we need to do is not add to that congestion, but provide alternatives to driving in the first place (which like it or not, depends on the interconnectedness of Caltrain with HSR with Stanford Maurgerrite(sp), with other public transit).

Next time you're out walking around, imagine how much nicer the city would look with fewer cars; then get working on providing _solutions_ to all the problems you're voicing with the current plan.

Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Those of you who are so quick to condemn opponents as just more NIMBYs, please take a step back and think what we're being asked to do: significantly and permanently alter our communities for some vague "greater good" that only exists in the mind of the CHSR authority and their consultants. The issue here is the uncertainty of what is the final result. At the local level, the very real possibility of a monolithic wall (The Great Wall of the Peninsula?) cutting through our towns is an ugly vision. At the state level, the estimates of ridership & funding are just guesses by "experts." It all adds up to a big question mark.

We were asked to vote on what amounts to a concept. (And don't get me started on the "it requires no new taxes" baloney.) Gee, HSR sounds good, it's cool, it's 21st century. But does it really return the value invested? Do we HAVE to get to LA in 2.5 hours? Will it really help the State? How? IF the value is guaranteed, then we can more honestly deal with the local tradeoffs. But for me, agreeing to a permanent, massive structure in the heart of our communities in exchange for a vague, unproven concept is unacceptable.

Why can't the HSR terminate in San Jose or Oakland? They both have larger populations than San Francisco!!

Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:14 pm

I don't think panic is warranted with regards to HSR.

I was born and raised in Europe and moved here in my 20s. In my native country, there is a very extensive and very dense network of railroads and rapid transit, all (or almost all) of which is electric.

You'll find that life expectancy in my native country is significantly higher than in the US, even though most people live close to an electric rail/mass transit line.

You'll also find that train, subway and other transit lines there go through the poshest of neighborhoods and towns, as well as through middleclass and poor neighborhoods. They are everywhere and people have no problem with them.

Quite frankly, they are much less of a nuisance than expressways with their noisy cars, trucks, and buses that spew a toxic mess of fumes, and also less of a nuisance than low flying airplanes that make much more noise than a train ever will and that drop who knows what on you, from exhaust fumes to toilet refuse.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Patrick, they don't need to build 4 lanes over freeways, they only need to build two for HST. And they could build over center of freeways, not on the edges, so no eminent domain.

And Mark, the urban centers you talk about would need to built around the stations - they do not exist today. Palo Alto is not an urban center. If you read the EIS you will see that part of the proposal is indeed the dense growth around the stations to create these urban centers. So you build stations in the same cities they are talking about (Palo Alto, Redwood City, etc.) but you build them at the freeways instead of bizarrely located in the middle of neighborhoods - then you build and revitalize the neighborhoods adjacent to the freeways that have been left to die from the original freeway development. Struggling low income areas around the freeways would be economically revitalized by becoming the new urban hubs around the new stations. Why decimate sleepy urban communities to accomplish this? No good reason!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:41 pm

HSR supporter - you miss the point - if the tradeoff is with expressways and airplanes, then put the trains where these exist today - in existing freeway corridors. The problem is, this is NOT where they are proposing to place the HST. They are attempting to place it a small rail corridor that runs through residential neighborhoods, schools, parks, and kids riding bikes. These towns are not Metro transport hubs, yet the HST plan fully and unapologetically intends to transform them into just that. The plans are a full on assault to our towns.

Why? Why are they choosing such an inappropriate route, with such negative consequences for these small neighborhoods that will be immediately impacted? They have more appropriate locations to place these high speed lines.

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Ken, you certainly raise some valid points, and I don't think everybody opposed to the HSR is a NIMBY. I'm not belittling the concerns of local communities, they should certainly be taken into consideration. But don't forget that without the HSR there will need to more more and bigger roads and/or more and bigger airports, all of which will have impacts on the surrounding communities. It's not as if it's HSR or nothing, it will be serving a real need, and solving a problem that will only get worse.

I see the benefits of HSR as:

-Reduced road congestion (it's not just a long haul solution, I predict it will have a higher commuter ridership than long haul ridership. I doubt there are many people needing to go back and forth between northern and southern CA on a daily basis, but there are a lot of people that already make hour plus commutes on a daily basis that will be well served by the HSR)
- Reduced emissions, even if powered by gas burning plants, it's still far more efficient than auto or plan commuting).
- Faster land trips on the long haul.
- More convenient than airline, and competitive time-wise when you factor in getting to and from the airport.
- Cheaper than flying or driving
- Safer than driving (and maybe flying)

I definitely doubt that it will pay for itself on an operational basis, much less the cost of construction, but roads don't pay their way either, roads are completely subsidized (gas taxes don't even cover maintenance, much less construction). I'm an advocate of toll roads recouping some of the costs of construction and maintenance. That would make for a fairer comparison between roads and rail.

A lot of people are worried about train noise, but forget that there is road noise all day every day. People are just used to that sort of noise, so don't complain about it so much. I grew up near a train line (regular fraigh and passenger service with whistles blowing) and it wasn't that bad in my opinion. As an adult I've lived on busy streets, which were much more of a personal annoyance because the noise is more irregular, plus motorcycles are extremely irritating for me to hear, but that's something we are all accustomed to.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Also this idea that the collective voters of california can get together and take away basic rights of a community (rights to environmental health and safety for one, and property rights for another, lawful protections for schools and historic landmarks, etc. ) 'for the greater good' is hogwash. In fact we live in a democracy that is governed by basic laws that guarantee us due process and basic rights. So, I reject the idea that a small community can be pounced on by the mob, in the name of democracy. THAT's mob rule.

Those benefits you mention may or may not be true on a macro level (up for debate, the EIS is not conclusive on many of those points), but the impacts and rights on a micro level matter and don't just need to be 'considered' they need to be respected and protected, by law.

By the way, the HSR proposal says it will be financially self sustaining, NOT that tax payers are going to foot the bill operationally in the long run (as in subsidizing roads indefinitely). So if its not to be self sustaining then the voters/tax payers just approved that funding measure under false pretenses.

Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:41 pm

With all due respect, Parent, it makes more sense to me to put a new train line where there is already a rail corrido than divert it to a freeway.

Posted by Ven
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Ken wrote "vague, unproven concept"

These 3 words just invalidates your whole post and makes it laughable at best. Yes, High Speed Rail is a vague, unproven concept. It's only been around for 4 to 5 decades.. but who's counting......

Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2008 at 9:30 pm

OK, Ven, you have a point, my choice of words were not the best. The concept is not unproven. However, my intended point is that the project, as sold to us by the CHSR authority, is vague and conceptual. It does not have the certainty of a very specific, planned project. On the Peninsula, is it above ground, below ground, four tracks, five tracks? Is it really intended to serve primarily SF to LA or is the primary purpose regional travel? My point is that to welcome a massive change in our towns based upon a vague promise is very, very hard to swallow. I would like to see HSR proven in California in a more phased approach before ripping through the suburbs. "If you build it, they will come" may not apply here.

And to say that my post is laughable (at best) may well be more a reflection of the reader. I'm glad you had a good laugh. Thanks for being so positive!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:11 pm

HSR supporter, respectfully, I believe you are wrong, because you have grossly oversimplified. Here's why.

The Caltrain system is diesel. In order to accomodate HST, the Caltrain system will need to be fully ripped out and electric lines, and trains installed (just for Caltrain). ALL the crossings and stations will need to be rebuilt. There really is zero leverage other than a narrow strip of land with right of way (the existing Caltrain right of way). There will be significant demo and rebuild costs for Caltrain, costs which would not be incurred in the Freeway idea.

In the mean time, the strip of land (existing Caltrain Corridor) is in many cases not big enough, and in most cases BARELY big enough. And the small communities around the existing Caltrain are very well established and very compacted around the existing corridor. (This train corridor has been here longer than any developement!) Many homes, businesses, landmarks, schools, parks, etc. will fall. So the impacts on the immediately surrounding communities will be IMMENSE - much greater than as if there was some existing rail line that was suitable. The impact to the communities will be great, for no particularly valid reason.

On existing freeway corridors, those are 6-8 lane freeways, the communities for better or worse fell to 'progress' half a century ago. We can only now minimize further degredation OR we can hope to revitalize those communities at best. Why degrade MORE of California?

Freeway corridors, eminent domain and other INCREMENTAL environmental impacts could be SIGNIFICANTLY minimized by building over existing freeway medians. Ripping out and replacing entire Caltrain system would not be necessary, vastly reducing the cost of demo and rebuilding. Just build the new system! Overhead - Medians. The route from So-Cal to No-Cal is already fully in existence! The structures and stations for HST need to built anyway - so build them without remodeling entire towns! (That don't want or need to be remodeled!)

And at the same time, the urban communities underneath freeways already, around where the the new system SHOULD be placed, would net benefit through economic revitalization, rather than small towns being net hurt from dense urbanization.

the 'just because there's already a train there' doesn't hold up.

Note: No doubt - Caltrain (the company itself) benefits. HST pays for their overhaul. And this is likely why its all smiles and roses coming from the Caltrain folks. Wont it be grand?! Given a full understanding of the tradeoffs at hand, I'm SURE the communities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton would GLADLY fork up the money to build below or above grade crossings to solve the safety issues of the current grade level crossings in their own towns, solving the noise issues, and safety issues, without the environmental and community degredation that would come with HST. Will they choose to electrify? If proper environmental impacts are studied - perhaps. But for a 2 lane track! Big difference! So then expand the light rail system. There are many morally and environmentally right options for improving local Caltrain service that don't include HST down this corridor.

Posted by it's not too late
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

The claims about HSR reducing traffic on local roads and freeways is in itself laughable. What percentage of cars on 101, 280, Alma, El Camino, or Embarcadero/Oregon are en route to/from Southern California? .0001%? Our real need is for better local transit options, not intrastate options. And if you take HSR to LA, you will need a car on the other end.

HSR is great for covering vast expanses of undeveloped land. Running it alongside 5 would make sense. Plowing through a densely populated area does not. As far as I can tell, the only reason to route HSR up the peninsula is to gain political capital for Rod Diridon and his cronies.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Mark - your convenience hypothesis - so wrong. Think about it - what's more convenient? A simple exit off a freeway to a high rise parking structure at the HST Station (minutes from freeway), or a two mile jog from 101 through downtown Palo Alto (or worse yet Menlo Park) to a high rise parking structure located at El Camino Park - maybe half hour through some dense or not so dense urban (or suburban surface streets), that may or may not have gotten on board with a complete overhaul of their town layout to accomodate that station.

(And if you know ANYTHING about Palo Alto - you'll know reconfiguration of the traffic patterns, even one traffic light, will be world war III)

Look Mark, people making this trip from no-cal to so-cal today are willing to go through the inconvenience of driving themselves 500 miles, OR the inconvenience of driving themselves to SFO or SJ Intl. You think they can't stomach the HST hub station being about 500 miles (or 45 minutes) closer and more convenient? They're going to drive there and park their cars in a long term parking garage, or some day may take some form of convenient and green public transportation (which doesn't exist in in Palo Alto yet anyway, so why can't it be developed for a station on the 101 side of Palo Alto, as easily as it will be developed for the dead middle of Palo Alto?

Your post about _convenience is_key_ doesn't make even a lick of sense. If you were from around here you'd know that NO spot in Palo Alto is more INconvenient to get to than Stanford Shopping Center (I've lived here for 40 years, used to work there, and haven't been there more than 2 times in the last 10 years!)

Its too obvious you are not even vaguely familiar with the area!

(FYI, El Camino Park the proposed location for parking structure for the proposed Palo Alto Station, is across from Stanford shopping center - since you probably aren't aware of the layout here in the northern parts of Cali...)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2008 at 10:53 pm

This theoretical discussion of where the HST SHOULD go is all well and good, but the immediate issue is that Palo Alto schools and parents, homeowners and businesses need to get truly educated on this if there is to be any hope of influencing this for the better for Palo Alto.

And again, WHERE IS PALO ALTO CITY COUNCIL? For that matter where is the Palo Alto news media on this? Lets have some comprehensive reporting on what the current EIR/EIS says about the impacts to Palo Alto! Lets inform Palo Altans so they can be appropriately involved.

Jay Thorwaldson - Why did I have to download a 51MB Appendix document to find out that the wall is going to be 15 FEET TALL up through Palo Alto to at least Paly?

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Also impacted would be not only Paly, but the Palo Alto Medical Clinic's many-story garage and the new Sports Medicine and Dermatology Builidng, the Sheraton and Weston,, the proposed new transit center, and the housing backing up to Alma in the southern part of the city. ? Of course, at my advanced age, I'll never see it happen, but I love this city and don't want to see it ruined. The residents of Atherton and Menlo Park feel that way too for their cities. This monster should not come down the narrow Peninsula. Can we stop this thing?

Posted by dont worry now
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2008 at 11:51 pm

From what I have seen on the website of the high speed rail, it looks that they haven't yet decided between either Palo Alto or Redwood city for the hsr to run through. this eminent domain problems might not even happen.

Posted by stirfry
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:16 am

Woo Woo!! I am on the first train! I will have a glass of white wine and wave as I woosh by.

Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 3, 2008 at 3:32 am

Boy, I'm excited by the new High Speed Rail. I live in Palo Alto, near the train tracks. I'll be happy to see the East Meadow/Alma crossing closed. I would love to get a tunnel, or something, at the East Charlston crossing.

I hope we can get the train station here in Palo Alto, instead of Redwood City. That would be sweet. Let's make it part of the 'Destination Palo Alto' campaign.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 8:12 am

Dont worry now - a train coming down the peninsula will follow the tracks through Palo Alto AND REdwood city, just like Caltrain - except the track will HAVE to be widened to 4 tracks for HST, all the way down the line - no matter where the stations are located. The only thing that prevents the eminent domain (only one small part of the issue) will be if they move the location of the rail all together out of this corridor. To make that happen the fight needs to be taken up NOW.

now is the EXACT time people need to get worried and get involved.

Realize that your Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously on resolution to support the high speed rail. So they are NOT looking out for you either. Who will, if you dont?

Posted by H
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 8:47 am

I wrote to the Palo Alto City Council yesterday. I received 1 reply from Yoriko Kishimoto.

I recommended that they read some of these posts, I even quoted a few of them, and I provided them with many of the links posted on this thread along with the other similar thread.

Yoriko responded with this: "Thanks -- I agree we need to focus on this now that the election is over. I'll talk to our staff about it, Yoriko Kishimoto".
To me this sounds like a very typical Council response.

I propose the following to all those apposed; we select one VERY near Council meeting to attend, we have Clem, Parent or ???? speak on behalf of those apposed. We get as many people to pack the chambers so that our Council will understand how BIG this issue is and will become if they just sit back an do nothing.

Anyone want to propose a date? Any volunteers that want to speak?

Posted by bad idea
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

Let me put it this way...I just drove, in 5.5 hours, with 2 stops for snacks and rest, from Palo Alto to Los Angeles. Same time home. All 4 of us.

Let me think...5.5 hours, total, for all of us and our luggage. For 2 full tanks of gas and wear and tear on the car. Plus the convenience of the car while there.

I did the same to Palm Springs last year, in 7 hours. And to San Diego in 9 hours.

VERSUS: MORE time, hassle and money involved by driving to the train stop, paying for 4 very expensive tickets which combined would cost more than the gas, and PERHAPS even out on the wear and tear on the car, but then still having to pay for the rental while there, going through the time and hassle of security, renting the car at the next place, unloading luggage here and there and then again into the hotel from the car, ..

no thanks. It is a ridiculous idea. We are not Europe. I have travelled extensively in Europe. It works there because of many reasons that I won't waste time going into. It, like our other "mass transportation" ideas in California, will never pay for itself..always subsidized by taxes from people who won't use it. As usual.

To people who move here from other countries, then want to make ours into the "home country"..please consider why you are here and ask yourself why you want to turn our country into anything like what you left. Where would you go if you succeeded?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:50 am

Clem is not opposed.

Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

But Clem is in favor of the Altamont Pass route which he said was our best argument for avoiding the Great Wall. I consider him a friend, not foe.
In the other thread Web Link he explained why the council is so quiet. If they join Menlo Park and Atherton to push for the Altamont route, they've removed Palo Alto from consideration for the train station that will go to either Redwood City or us. There may be an element of avoiding joining a losing battle if doing so removes their next-best desired outcome.
Your persistence is admired, Parent. Neighborhood associations could be a good place to stir up formal resistance. The neighborhoods along the tracks are obvious, but even the ones further away will suffer from the noise generated ABOVE any sound wall. Trees, fences, landscape and houses all act as sound walls. Once they lift the tracks above all these and remove nearby trees, the sound will travel across the city with few obstructions.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:43 am

Palo alto will not be able to single handedly stop a statewide project. At best what you folks can so is insist the right of way be cut and covered ( all trains under ground through the city limit) and you will have to pay that extra expense as you can not expect Californians to pay for you to get a special exception.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:49 am

You should be glad to have the opportunity to be a part of this project, especially in these hard economic times. A project such as this which can bring revenue and jobs to your city, well, most cities would be clamoring for it. Perhaps all you are so wealthy you don't need it. personally I think Redwood City would make a better stop as there is actually a city there and not just a college and a bunch of rich folks.

Posted by Bernard & Jane Leitner
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:22 am

Wow! What about an underground HSR up the Peninsula?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:28 am

jt - no need to stop the project, just get it moved to an appropriate pathway. Not our town. The station is not wanted in Palo Alto, has nothing to do with being rich. Factually speaking few in Palo Alto are 'rich'. In fact the few that are rich, are probably the ones that want it (likely connected with politics, high tech industries or developers). You are attempting to spread a false fear-based argument that a station located in the heart of our town is our only hope for economic vitality and wihtout it we wither. False. The railway could go just as easily (more easily) go down 101 and still hit all the same cities. IN fact the Railway could TERMINATE all together in San JOse, and still create jobs for Palo Altans. The cities along the Peninsula are close enough together that a large economic hub in any of them will benefit all of them. Lets just stop making the false argument that we have to destroy a small non-metro town for the sake of progress, its nonsense.

H, yes I'll soon write and talk city council. When are the next several city council meetings? I feel preparation is needed, I feel more education is needed. I hope our local papers will start by doing a detailed dive to report out to our community what is actually written down inthe current documents about the truth of the impacts to Palo Alto. IN the meantime I've started contacting groups. Yes, I agree Eventually it will come to some massive rallying around city council. Not sure if we're quite there yet, because the information is not yet widely out there. The community needs to get educated on the facts before they will rally. Thats my first goal -spread some education and start making contacts.

Posted by on the tracks
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:30 am

Well I did not build my house on the tracks, but I bought a house on the tracks (and not at a reduced price). I can't believe Palo Alto will agree to demolishing houses on Mariposa for high speed rail. If they do they are going to have to pay out a lot of money.

According to the California Eminent Domain Handbook: (Web Link
"Eminent domain" - also called "condemnation" - is the power of local, state or federal government agencies to take private property for "public use" so long as the government pays "just compensation." The government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property. "

"The government is required to pay the "fair market value" of the property it acquires by eminent domain. California's Eminent Domain Law generally defines fair market value as:

"The fair market value of the property taken is the highest price on the date of valuation that would be agreed to by the seller, being willing to sell but under no particular or urgent necessity for doing, nor obliged to sell, and a buyer, being ready, willing and able to buy but under no particular necessity for so doing, each dealing with the other with full knowledge of all the uses and purposes for which the property is reasonably adaptable and available."

Evidence of fair market value is generally presented to the jury by real estate appraisers retained by each of the parties. Real estate appraisal is not an exact science, and as such, appraisers often differ in their opinions of value in a particular case. In fact, in a great many cases, the government's appraiser and the owner's appraiser may disagree by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars!

It is particularly important in this regard to retain appraisers who have significant experience in eminent domain matters. Experienced eminent domain attorneys, such as those at California Eminent Domain Law Group, have appraisers with whom they work and will recommend to their clients. Eminent domain appraisals must comply with statutory and case authority peculiar to eminent domain matters. Working with an appraiser or attorney who is inexperienced in eminent domain can be a very costly mistake."

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:39 am

Wary, true, Clem has been much more of a friend than a foe, and has shared some important information and ideas that have been helpful in researching and understanding the HST plans so far. I would be glad to consider him a friend if he will help rally around alternative routes.

I don't know if underground has been studied. Having read about the hydrology- significant negative impacts to the San Francisquito Watershed (including MANY creeks, ground waters, and flood plains -between PA and Svale), I can't imagine an underground solution would be feasible - however I'm not an engineer. Perhaps someone knowlegeable on what's been studied so far, like Clem, would have some comments on what is known to this point about an underground solution.

My impression is that the additional cost would be prohibitive. And no, Palo Altans' are not going to pay for the privledge of having their town 'spared' destruction. Ridiculous.

An underground line would also NOT be justification for a station in Palo Alto, as there will be many negative impacts from turning Palo Alto into a massive metro transport hub around HST stations (including the massive repercussions of the very dense housing boom that would follow.

I believe I also read that similar clearances (100ft wide?), are still required for underground lines. I'm not sure about that, Ill have to wade around in that 1250 page document again.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:48 am

Southgate Neighbor - welcome to the discussion. Do you think your fellow Southgate neighbors have any understanding yet of what the HST proposal currently has actually written in it? I'm hoping they will be a vocal group in influencing the city council to wake up and smell the coffee.

Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

Parent, can you share any of your links with the rest of us? We're at a distinct disadvantage. HSR supporters are a highly organized group. I'd like to see website for the opposition, one that matches the glossiness of the official HSR site and the connectedness of the support groups.

Their simulations skipped over the populous areas. Show pictures and video clips of what Palo Alto will look and sound like with a 15 foot wall. Show traffic patterns without Meadow and Palo Alto Ave crossings. The image of a high speed train rushing through open space was what won votes at the election - that's the image that stuck. We've been PR brainwashed. Replace those images with local images of their own city transformed and people might start rallying before it's too late.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:09 pm

While the 101 might be be an option, one big reason the Caltrain right of way is being used is the shared expense of upgrades to rail corridor which is to benefit the movement of freight, high speed rail and Caltrain all at once through grade separation and electrification. Caltrain and HSR electrification will be designed to support both systems on the same grid helping to reduce cost and grade separation is a safety issue for freight that needs to be addressed with or without HSR. Running up the 101 to avoid your town will be an added expense and still leaves the cost and need to make the same upgrades anyway. as for PA being a small non metro town - you guys are smack in the middle of the Bay Area with 7 million other people so stop pretending you aren't. the best and probably only resolution would be to cut and cover the ROW, just as Berkeley did with BART - they didn't want an "elevated" though Berkeley so the taxed themselves to pay to put it under.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:20 pm

@Parent -- first off if you had read my earlier post you would see I _work_ in PA and to be honest, considering how much time I spend here it's more a home to me than my actual home. I'm also one of those pesky cyclists and considering the amount of time I've spent on my bike, prob. know my way around the city better than you (unless you're also out for hours on end looking for new/interesting routes).

HSR is about more than servicing the travelers to/from SF and LA -- although this is bound to make up a large chunk of the ridership. It's about servicing the entire region _between_ SF and LA. Live in Fresno and need to get to SF? You could drive and deal with the traffic (depending on the time) or you can ... wait, there are no other options -- awesome!

Also, electrification of Caltrain is in the works regardless. It doesn't make sense to me to build two electrified corridors when Caltrain and CHSR can share the cost in modifying the existing corridor.

The argument for placing the PA station (if it's even chosen for one) along 101 suggests to me that you are unaware of your own city's geography/demographics and status as a technological epicenter. Let's assume your interest in coming to PA is any of the following: business, school, sporting event, dining. How convenient is to hop off at the crossing of 101? It isn't -- don't pretend it is. Downtown Palo Alto IS a technological/innovation hub; this also makes it a hub for public transit. People come here for business all the time and we should embrace that as part of our heritage and future.

Why should HSR link up with Caltrain otherwise? For the same reason it makes sense for BART and Caltrain to hook up. It means you don't HAVE to drive a car or take a taxi to get to/from the station. Will people still drive to the station? Of course. But we aren't forcing them to. This brings convenient access to HSR to anyone who already lives within reach of a caltrain station or a busline that ends/starts at downtown palo alto.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Mark - the vision for the HSR is not just to build a simple station or two, but to build up dense metropolitan infrastructure around that station, including transportation feeders and networks around it. If they build a station on 101, simple - they put buses or shuttles in place to get in to the town areas of Palo Alto/Stanford, or wherever - exactly like they will have to do if they put it IN THE MIDDLE of Palo Alto. Or Palo Alto/Stanford/or Santa Clara Cty will implement busses and shuttles that serve the HST station. No problem. That's a far cry from destroying whole towns up and down the Peninsula to place this hub in the center of it for no good reason. Your pie in thy sky vision just glosses over one tiny point - there's already a town, with people, houses, schools, parks HERE that isn't a metropolitan hub and doesn't want to 'transformed' into an inner city metro. Take it elsewhere.

(But since you don't live here, your only interest is piling in and high-tailing out on your bike, so you actually have no interest in the quality of life here for the kids and families. Only for your own fastest route in and out. "WE should embrace it as part of OUR heritage"??? You mean - "get out of the way", don't you?

HST can just as easily link up with Caltrain at Caltrain termination points, where metro hubs belong (SF/SJ). Caltrain can also link up with many other forms of transportation (like bikes, like buses, like cars, like othe rail lines like light rail, light rail could be extended northward to serve more commuters). And Caltrain can, or doesn't have to, electify - they'd have to show us the environmental impact reports - now wouldn't they.

And since you're a bicyclist, you are probably fully aware that its impractical (impossible) to think that travelers with suitcases, and families would be bicycling to the stations anyway. Fact is, on the whole, very few bicycle to the stations - its impractical for most. The fact is people will be either driving or taking public transportation to the stations. NOt bikes. HST IS for long distance travel, it does nothing to solve any transportatino issues for local commute travel.
Total nonsense.

HST doesn't have to remodel entire towns and the entire Caltrain line in order to 'hook up with it'.

Your last line is a real winner - brings convenient access to anyone who already lives within reach of a Caltrain station - that's a bunch of hooey. Hardly anyone is 'within reach' of a caltrain station - people have to bike, bus or drive to caltrain stations! The only ones who will be within reach will be the ones in the dense high rise housing they plan to build around the stations! Those can and will be built AROUND the stations - not vice versa! You've got it completely backwards.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

@Parent -- I work with plenty of people who walk to a caltrain station. Considering we're a relatively small company, I imagine there are many others who are also within walking distance.

Not all HSR travel will require luggage. The trains _will_ serve commuters as well as travelers. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the fact this corridor runs along a highly trafficked/commuted region. I know people who commute between SF and SJ on a daily basis. I know others who commute from the Pittsburg area to Palo Alto. The fact is that commutes for anyone who works within reach of a HSR station (or public transit that connects to one) can benefit from significantly faster commutes.

No, not all commuters will benefit directly from HSR - but it provides options. I'd like to see the HSR authority handle these community issues in a sensitive manner but I think everyone will benefit from this (yes, even the people who don't use it).

Next time you have the chance, try taking public transit in our area and see how you like it. No, it's no NYC. But I think you'll be surprised how effective it is nonetheless.

Also, I know there are grand visions for some stations (SJ and SF and LA, etc) -- I don't think the same is true for all stations. Will _any_ HSR rail spur increased development? Prob. But they're not building developments as part of all stations.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Wary, I agree. I don't have the resources or the skills to provide all those things - but I think we should require our city council to study it thoroughly and provide ALL those drawings - before and after visuals to the community. An artist rendering of 15 foot wall through town would be a great start - any graphic artists out there?

The links I've used for this information are in the Library section of the California High Speed Rail Authority website: Click on Libary, click on Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIR/EIS. Go to Volume 1 Report. Click on Indivual Chapters.

And then you need to basically just start reading through chapters to find sections pertient to our stretch. There are separate chapters on Environmental consequences, Traffic, Electro Magnetic Fields, Visual and Aesthetic impacts, Stations, and much more.

Also there is a section of the report called Volume 2 Appendecies, Appendix 2D, that shows the engineers profile drawings; the wall, the proposed crossings, the measurements, etc. Palo Alto is shown on about pdf file page 9. (But beware thats a 51MB file).

I do plan to put a summary together of what I'velearned and where to find it in the report, and I'll eventually get it out into the wild one way or the other. I hope that it will spur some organized body to take some interest. I also think folks should begin asking City Council what they're doing on this, and why they are apparently asleep. And it sounds like we need to link in with the Menlo Park/Atherton efforts. Its a process, I've only been looking at this for about 2 weeks.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Sorrym here's the link to the Cal HSR Authority website, library page, described above.

Web Link

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 1:30 pm

> The Caltrain system is diesel. In order to accomodate HST, the Caltrain system will need to be fully ripped out and electric lines, and trains installed (just for Caltrain).

The $1.2 billion Caltrain electrification project is likely to proceed with or without HSR. The plans for it are already quite advanced. Visit the Caltrain website to read up on the EIR/EIS documents.

> No doubt - Caltrain (the company itself) benefits. HST pays for their overhaul. And this is likely why its all smiles and roses coming from the Caltrain folks.

Until they get into a funding cat fight with the CHSRA, which has no intention of funding Caltrain. Witness the cat fight already brewing between the CHSRA and the Transbay authority in SF: Kopp (chaiman of the CHSRA) is vigorously defending his pot of money. My guess is that it'll be all smiles and roses until Caltrain realizes who's calling the shots.

> The claims about HSR reducing traffic on local roads and freeways is in itself laughable.

It's quite reasonable, actually. As I've mentioned in another thread Web Link today's Neanderthal Caltrain service is likely to ride HSR into the 21st century, removing traffic from local roads. There are things you can do with 4 electrified tracks (shared with HSR) that simply are unthinkable today, such as fast, frequent and reliable service at every stop on the line. Caltrain is none of the above; take it from this daily rider.

> "Eminent domain" - also called "condemnation" no big deal. Samtrans expropriated $180 million worth of private property to make way for BART to the airport. They can snap their fingers and repeat in Palo Alto.

> My impression is that the additional cost would be prohibitive. And no, Palo Altans' are not going to pay for the privledge of having their town 'spared' destruction. Ridiculous.

Building a tunnel would definitely be billable to Palo Alto. A tunnel provides no added value to the transportation function of HSR, so they will not be inclined to pay for it. The parallel with BART through Berkeley is appropriate.

> Show traffic patterns without Meadow and Palo Alto Ave crossings.

I wouldn't attach too much importance to the omission of a few crossings from the EIS/EIR figures. If I recall correctly, the text states that the Alma crossing (near El Palo Alto) will be an underpass. They also talk about the tree itself and how it will (not) be impacted.

There's a lot of material there, but worth reading through. Web Link

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Putting the tracks on 101 is probably not realistic as there are long stretches that don't even have an emergency lane, much less a median with enough room for even 2 tracks, 280 might be a better alternative. Another possibility would be for PA to pay for the trains to be placed underground (As Berkeley did with BART) as jt suggested. Another possibility would be for PA to pay to have the soundwalls roofed over so the majority of the noise will be contained. If you aren't willing to pay, be prepared for a tough fight.

As far as eminent domain goes, it's not PA that will pay, but CA from the funds available for the HSR, of course part of that money comes out of all our pockets.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Clem, what is the feasibility (or what are the issues) of an underground tunnel through this part of town? Has this already been studied? Rejected?

Why would you say its 'billable' to the town. Is that written into law somewhere?

(Clem there are about four other crossings that are omitted: East Meadow, Oregon, Embarcadero, University. Why are they omitted - do you know? If they are not in the drawing, does that mean they are not in the costs of the current plan? If so, does that mean the town itself would have to pay to remodel or rebuild those crossing? Or does that mean HST would delete/prevent those crossings altogether? Why would you not put importance on the omission?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Clem, one more question. ABout that wall. Does the measurement of the height of the wall start at today's current track level? IN other words, from the west side of the tracks, the tracks are flush with street level. But from the Alma side, the tracks are sitting at the top of about a 5 foot embankment.

So are we talking about 15 feet (at Paly) when viewed from the Paly side?

Or is that a 15 foot wall when you measure from the Alma street level?

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

When he says Billable he means PA will have to pay or it won't happen... if the HSR paid for it they would have to do it for every city that wanted it, which would instantly become every city it goes through, nothing legal, just a reasonable expectation that that's how it will play out.

As far as walking & riding, plenty of people will do it. I worked with a number of people that walked from Caltrain to the office, first 10 minute walk, then a 20 minute walk when we moved our office, and they were happy to do it to avoid the traffic and be able to work on the train. I personally walked 20 minutes to BART to get to work for a number of years, I've also biked 20 minutes to Amtrack and then another 10 minutes to the office.

I've read that Caltrain does not even have enough space for the bikes of all the people that bike to and from Caltrain. (Web Link

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

It never fails in California. no wonder the state is falling so far behind in so many areas. The minute you tryto do anything here the Nimby's show up. All of a sudden everyone has an "environmental concern." Look, none of us in the Bay area gets to have our town be perfect the way we want it. Even here in San Francisco I have to put up with a hundred thousand outisders coming in and changing the way we do things. I don't like it but it is the way it is. the fact that so many cities around the bay put so much restriction on growth is part of the reason there is a big push to shove everybody into SF. I don't want them here. Do your part and accept your share of growth and progress. if I have to put up with it then so do you. You don't get a pass.

Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Our state is freaking broke.

Our local gov'ts won't even connect Alma to Sand Hill Road.

This HSR is DOA... mark my words.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:39 pm

> Clem, what is the feasibility (or what are the issues) of an underground tunnel through this part of town?

Nearly anything is feasible, and the big engineering and construction firms will be happy to take more of your money to maximize earth moving and concrete pouring activities. Here's the problem: it's fantastically expensive, and the HSR authority will never pay for it because it doesn't add value from their point of view.

It may be cheaper to give every adult in Palo Alto a Ferrari and call it a day.

> there are about four other crossings that are omitted: East Meadow, Oregon, Embarcadero, University. Why are they omitted?

I can't speak for East Meadow, other than to point out that there are other crossings omitted in various figures in the EIR/EIS documents, and not just in Palo Alto. It may be sloppy work.

In the case of Oregon, Embarcadero and University, I think the underlying rationale is that there is no environmental impact at those locations. Remember these are only EIS/EIR documents, not detailed engineering, and they are labeled 'preliminary'. To close those crossings would simply be absurd.

> Does the measurement of the height of the wall start at today's current track level?

Don't know. That will be determined in the detailed engineering phase over the next couple of years.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Here's a tasty little tidbit (from the HST's own website)

Average cost of a trip on HST will be $33. (Thats average on all types of trips.)

To be a little more specific the fares are projected (by them) as follows:
Intraregional: $15 boarding fee plus .9cent/mile
Interregional $7 boarding fee plus .6cent/mile

And the report states: Intraregional high speed fares will be 50% higher than commuter rail lines, on average. (ouch)

Worse case (say you need to take the average type of trip daily, round trip: about $1450/month oops, not so commuter friendly

Best Case - you're interregional only - say SF to SJ, round trip daily, comes out to about $315/mo. Today you pay about $199/mo for that on Caltrain (in 2008 dollars) - oh but Caltrain is a month pass so you'd get weekends too. So on a per day basis, its $14/day for HST versus about $6/day for Caltrain.

Hmmm. OK, but those HST rates are all in 2005 dollars, lets increase by $27/mo for inflation rate since 2005, and we go from $315 to $345/mo

Those Caltrain prices are all if your company doesn't buy a GO pass which brings Caltrain down to about $112/mo (or free, if your company pays for it).

Oh don't forget though, these SHINY NEW HST stations will have high rise parking structures, that will charge market rate parking (think $3 - $20/day) At the unbelievably low price of $3/day add about $65/mo in parking fees.

Will HST come out with all these frequent flier deals? Well, they put forth their revenue projects based on these full fare prices, so if they start offering deals they sort of shoot all their revenue projections in the foot.

So all in all, I'm thinking No. HST is not a big draw for regular daily local commuters. (not at $1400-$1700/year more in commute cost for riders)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

jt - big difference is that you live in one of the most world reknowned metropolitan cities of all time. Probably among the worlds top travel destinations, definitely all time known for its high rise skyline, dense growth, urban lifestyle, etc. That's who San Francisco is - and that's who it was when you MOVED THERE. You GOT what you PAID FOR. And now you complain you don't like it, and want to push that lifestyle on others who chose different ways of life? Its a pretty babyish argument. Move if you don't like the SF lifestyle. But don't think you're going to push the SF lifetyle down the throats of other simple suburban neighborhoods who fight every day to save their trees, and soccer fields, and make safer bike routes for their kids, and less crowded schools, who restrict building heights and architectural styles (to sometimes hellish lengths) in every effort to preserve a way of life. You're barking up the wrong tree.

Posted by mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

What, however, is the cost for driving that same distance? Even with gas as cheap as it is now, unless you're driving an electric car, you're spending a lot of money on gas. And then there are the costs associated with wear/tear on your car (google compares the cost as ~$11 by public transit and ~$28 by car). Even if the prices are what you say they are (they might match -- but how could possibly say right now?) it's not steep enough to discourage using a system that makes your daily commute more manageable.

Just think how cheap HSR will seem if/when gas ever reaches $5 - $10 a gallon -- something that will happen eventually.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Nothing more than the usual nimby ism that goes on EVERY time ANY one tries to do ANY thing in California. Plain and simple. So don't build the station and you don't have to worry about additional development. and the train passing through isn't going to ruin your lifestyle. You may not prefer it, but it doesn't ruin your lifestyle. and I didn't move to San Francisco, I'm from San francisco and in spite of all the efforts to save and preserve a way of life here the past 30-40 years, change has come against all of our wills. The place certainly wasn't an overpriced disneyland for yuppies 30 years ago when I got my first apartment. So if I can live with some change so can you.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm

What? Are you kidding? I drive about that distance very day (PA to SJ round trip), and I spend $20 a week in gas. My car is free and clear, I pay $70/year in registration, $100/mo for insurance. And I go to the exact parking lot of the exact establishement that I need to go to, including shopping, schools, etc.

By the way, HST doesn't free people from owning cars, they still will have cars and registratinos and insurance so that's not part of the cost comparison.

Or do you mean travel from SF to LA? In which case we're no longer talking about commuters - we're back to HST as a long distance substitute - which is indeed where the value proposition lies.

And again, we're back to HST belongs on existing highway corridors, (where existing long distance traveler are today), like along hwy 5. Not running through neighorhoods, schools and parks.

(And when energy prices skyrocket someday, then a) price of operating eletrical will also increase, and b) by the time price of gas reaches $10/gallon, we'll either have fuel alternatives on the market or we'll have way bigger problems then how to get to Disneyland for vacation.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:01 pm

The time for arguing the merits of HSR in Cali are over as the voters have approved the system and the cities to be served are on board and looking forward to the benefits. The fact that a a couple towns - towns that everyone knows are uppity little enclaves of 'we're better than you" - ( everyone in the bay areas knows that ) want to hold up the system doesn't come as a surprise. The best you can hope for is they will cut and cover at your expense the way Berkeley did with BART.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Altamont is not going to happen. As for paying for your own cut and cover to bury the tracks underground. there is some justification for having PA pay for its own expense for this reason not only would you prevent HSR added within sight, but you improve the whole town and surrounding properties by eliminating caltrain and freight traffic from sight as well, and you roads crossing at their normal street lever. and once covered you have newly available land that you didnt have before for a bike path and trail or park. everybody wins.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:20 pm

looking ad a satellite view there is no place on the atherton PA stretch that isn't already railroad property with a 4 track right of way. There may only be two tracks and a lot of brush and shrubbery but the entire right of way is four track right of way already. So other than the grade crossing improvements the railroad doesn't even need eminent domain.

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Tripple A estimates on cost per mile (based on Fuel price of $2.405/gallon):

AAA Average Costs Per Mile
Miles per year 10,000 15,000 20,000
Small Sedan 50.5 cents 41.7 cents 37.6 cents
Medium Sedan 62.4 cents 53.1 cents 48.8 cents
Large Sedan 72.9 cents 61.9 cents 56.5 cents
Composite 62.0 cents 52.2 cents 47.7 cents

go to Web Link to get much more detail

So a 20 mile trip costs about $7 for the smaller sized cars)
roundtrip from PA to SJ is about 20 miles each way for about $14 a trip.

The cost of gas is not directly correlated with the cost of other energy sources, so gas going up will not necessarily mean that energy costs for an electric rail system will go up proportionately. Even Diesel rail has much more of it's cost in maintenance and infrastructure, so operational costs do not go up as strongly for rail transportation as they do for autos even when using petroleum based fuel.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:32 pm

In other words what I'm saying is; rather than use this as a reason to moan and groan about a project you don't want, look at this as a once in a lifetime chance to get all the rail traffic, freight caltrain and hsr underground once and for all while giving yourselves additional trail and parkland as well as peace and quiet and while you can't expect the rest of the state to pay for those improvements just for you benefit , you can certainly use this as a chance to offer to pay the difference by joining with Atherton to fund this permanent improvement to your cities. again its an opportunity for you to buy something you'll never be offered again, a chance to put all the train traffic underground and out of sight.

Posted by mark
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:55 pm

@Parent -- It seems to me you want to live in a protective bubble. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have what we want? But the reality is, the demand for oil will grow in a non-linear fashion as China ramps up evermore with development. People will continue to flock to CA (for living or just plain travel) -- even to your sacred Palo Alto. Congestion will continue to worsen on our freeways. Our cars will continue to poison the very air we breathe. And change will come to everyone and everything.

Maybe you got the short end of the stick and were born in Palo Alto back before Leland Stanford Jr. came through and built up that little university across the way. If so, I can't blame you for so willfully resisting change. But if not, you need to come to terms with the fact that your little small town has grown up. No, it's not SF -- it never will be. But it's a vital city (and has more capital here than can be found in all of SF by most estimates) and would be served well to have HSR.

You are also, obviously, very attached to your car and driving. You're free to be so. Some people do, however, make do without a car. There are options now (zipcar/cityshare) that make living without a car very simple. I'm not saying it could possibly be convenient for most people right now to do without -- but if we never invest in the proper infrastructure (of which HSR is only a single part) then we can't ever expect to deal with our current problems (oil dependency and the dumping of billions and billions of dollars into governments/countries that do not like us) let alone our future problems (rising oil costs, increased congestion, worsening of global warming).

HSR is not a cure for any issue altogether. But it is a significant start.

Really, however, my frustration with you is that your efforts amount to purely destructive boondoggling. I don't mean to imply that your concerns are invalid but to point out that we are still very early on in the process of bringing HSR to CA. With that in mind, you and your concerns would be best served in finding solutions (that aren't narrow minded such as your proposal to place the station at 101 -- your insistence that this serves the community better hints to me that you've never used public transportation) to the problems. Start petitioning to have Redwood City selected as the station's city. Pull in some stanford students and get them tackling some of the environmental/engineering concers. Anything is better than sitting around and clamoring that HSR will DESTROY cities (hasn't seemed to have happened outside the US -- not sure what makes you think Palo Alto is so special).

And if you ever do get out on a bus or train, try to enjoy bumping elbows with your fellow citizens. You'll find yourself enjoying life and the company at hand much more than when you're on the freeway dealing with road rage and traffic.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Patrick, sorry that data you provided just doesn't hold up. I fill my car up once a week for about $25-$30, go from PA to SJ and back 3-4 times/week, plus all the errands a person can humanly do (grocery shopping, schools, piano, ball games, practices, etc), all on that single tank of gas.

The figures you quoted are are fully loaded costs including tires, wear and tear, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, and car payment, including interest! But guess what. Even if I (or most suburban families) switched to rail for commuting, I'd STILL pay all those other costs - because I'd HAVE to keep my car!

The only savings I'd have from the rail communite is gas between PA to SJ. So those don't get to be decremented from my budget by virtue of rail commute. The savings isnt' NEARLY as much as these figures suggest for us regular family folk living South of SF.

Sorry, its just a reality that most real people will look at - the only incremental savings they will considering for the rail commute decision are at the gas pump.

Its a very good example of how the high speed rail authority people writing the plans are kidding themselves and the tax payers and investors about ridership demand projections.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Web Link downtown redwood city plan with possible elevated hsr. looks very nice.

Posted by it's not too late
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Rod Diridon explained in his presentation that the HSR people had already changed the route after a couple of East Bay cities (I believe that's where they were located) made a huge stink about the train ruining their communities.

It's interesting to see how many of the "another community" posters seem to support HSR primarily because of pleasure it gives them to stick it to the "rich" people who live here.

It is possible to live in this area without a car...if you are single and spend most of your time at home. Even then, it's tough. If you have children, it is essentially impossible to get by without driving. That's one reason why we should be addressing local transit before even considering this boondoggle project.

Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Why do these forum posts show up on Google News? This isn't news!

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:14 pm

no one wants to "stick it" to the people of Atherton and PA. It just that less affluent communities don't have the clout and get stuck with stuff al the time while affluent communities can afford to sue their way out of stuff while holding up progress for the rest of the state. The reasons for the route and the caltrain right of way have been studied to death over the last 10 years. The decision is made with most people on board. Unless you want to pay the difference for making changes its gonna go where its gonna go. even without hsr, caltrain is still going to do grade crossing work and electrification. having this run though your town is not the end of the world. I mean really if that's all you have to worry about consider yourselves lucky, you could have worse problems. And when the project starts and everyone gets word of the "Atherton lawsuit" you will hear a statewide groan and eyeroll because the rest of us regular working folks are all too familiar with the type.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:15 pm

spoiled with a capital "s"

Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm

To Mark in Downtown North:

Why didn't Sand Hill Expressway cross El Camino to connect to Alma?

I would guess that Downtown North fought it and killed it. It didn't want that traffic in their neighborhood!! They wanted streets closed and make into cul-desacks(sp). The city spent hugh amounts of money on that fiesco.

If Palo Alto gets a HSR station Palo Alto Ave should be made a expressway to 101. I wonder if MARK would fight that and hold up progress.
Also a 20,000 or 30,000 car parking garage should or would be built in Downtown North within walking of the HSR.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:09 am

Mark dosen't live in Palo Alto nor Downtown North!!!!!

This I found in a earlier posting. He works in Palo Alto and commutes, probably to S.F.

Any comments he makes are totally irrelevant. What a Phony!!!!

Other comments: We need to elect council members that give a SH--- about Palo Alto and not how much $$$ they and their b;uddy developers can make.

We home owners need to set up a process to process ballot measures that will protect us. Taxing the non business properties would be near the top of the list. This could generate $15 to $20 million a year for our general fund. It would help pay for the police station, new parks, firefighters that spend much of their time inspecting businesses and all of the special equipment they need for high rise buildings. etc,etc.
Also not having a HSR terminal in Palo Alto would be high on the list.
Palo Alto Taxpayers would probably have to pay for it and the parking garages associated with it also. And a new expressway in N.Palo Alto for 280 and 101 traffic to reach the station.

Posted by mark
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:30 am

No, I don't live here (I've been pretty clear in regards to that).

Maybe you're also opposed to non-home owners having a say in this matter as well? Afterall, if I spend 80 hours a week in your city and have no right to even voice an opinion, surely renters shouldn't either (why, they have NOTHING tying themselves to the community! They could up and leave at any moment? Or new ones... from down south(!!).. could move in! Their one great goal in life is to sweek into PA, hunker down for a bit and leave only once they've eroded your long lived small town lifestyle!).

Face it: your obstinate opposition to an initiative the majority of CA voters supported gives everyone with an interest in HSR and the well being of this state's future the right to voice their opinion.

Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 2:18 am

Why, he's not from Palo Alto at all! He's from... OUT OF TOWN. Dang you, you city slicker get out of this here Intranets forum!

These people are acting like Palo Alto is the boonies.

Posted by Glen
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 2:26 am

You people need to be head slapped for pure pusssnes.THE 140 years old railroad did not move to you..YOU MOVED THERE>>SHUT up PANNSEY
and that 140 year old railroad is going to get a wopping 10 foot wider..Rich people have a strange idea of what pain is..I suggest you travel poor cities and SEE what a non Silver spoon fed mouth is

PS another Town because your RICH things dont have SouthCITY on it

Posted by Jon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 4, 2008 at 6:33 am

Grow up Glen.

People in Palo Alto have a lot of time on their hands to discuss this issue and they are certainly entitled to.

Nobody appreciates your snide comments which I guess are supposed to belittle us. Grow up please, this forum is for people who can offer intellectual arguments instead of your rude remarks.

Posted by Bullet Train Fiasco
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 4, 2008 at 8:24 am

The planners of the Bullet train are making the same mistakes the UK made when they first built the bullet train from London to the English Channel. They first built it over existing train tracks but due to the huge outcry were forced to run the train at much slower speed. The same thing will happen here if they build it up the existing right of way on the Peninsula.

In England they have completely rebuilt the train line underground or in a ditch through what was greenbelt preserved land. They will eventually have to do the same thing on the Peninsula and carve a track through the hills of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space or put it in a tunnel under the Bay to San Francisco.

By the time we have a Bullet trains it will be obsolete.

Posted by Born in Palo Alto
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 4, 2008 at 8:45 am

It's time for our City Counsel to take a stand for the actual residence of Palo Alto, not just the ones with specific agendas. The high speed rail will split our city in half. Join with Menlo Park, Mountain View and any other community that is willing to fight this. SAY NO to the High Speed rail lines. We live in Palo Alto for the small, community, friendly life style. Not because we want a cement wall cutting our city in half.

Citizens of towns along the corridor need to get together to fight this. For once let's just say NO!

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 10:59 am

@Parent, sorry, but your logic is flawed, the cost of driving a car is not just the cost of gas, wear and tear is directly correlated to the number of miles driven... depreciation is based on the number of miles driven (have you noticed how a car with fewer miles will sell for more than a car with more miles, all other things being equal?). Oil changes are mileage dependent, tire wear is mileage dependent, insurance is in some ways mileage dependent, basic maintenance is mileage dependent. Most parts of the car only significant degrade based on the number of miles driven. The only things that pretty much independent of mileage.
Now it's true that are car will go down in value even if it just sits in the garage, but it will go down much more quickly if driven.
If you bothered to look at the link I gave you will notice that cost goes down as the car gets older, so you may be doing better.
You may drive a car that is 10 years old and paid off and gets 30 miles per gallon or better, so you would be doing better, but most people don't. Especially in the Peninsula and South Bay I see a lot of big shiny new vehicles that are certainly getting less than 20 mpg.
If you think that the only incremental cost of driving a car is gas you are simply wrong.
People may choose to ignore the fact, but it's still a fact and the real cost of driving is much more than you state.

Posted by mark
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:16 am

No one is dividing your city in half. In case you haven't noticed, you already have a rail line running straight through it. The difference is this will be grade separated -- meaning it will be both far more convenient for traffic (no more waiting at crossings while trains approach/pass), and far safer. I know if I had children I'd feel a whole lot better knowing they didn't have direct access to rail tracks with express commuter trains barreling down them.

There's been some talk about the consequences of this on the meadows and other crossings. I'm pretty sure Caltrain's plans already call for these to be grade separated. If they're planning on eliminating these crossings (I highly doubt it) then you should fight to make sure they can't -- I'll join you.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:53 am

Mark, we can argue over wear and tear per mile and depreciation, but the fact is people bake that in to their decision making as a total cost of owning a car the minute the drive it off the lot. Those costs are a done deal at the time of purchase in people's minds. Most people will ignore the miniscule incremental cost of driving each trip - when that's what they bought it for in the first place. The only incremental cash flow that people FEEL and EQUATE to their commute(after the car purchase decision is locked in) is gas.

We don't really need to argue about it anyway - I am not particularly a defender of car trips for the sake of car trips - I'd also much prefer that people (including myself) find ways to bike to work, take public transport, etc., but the realities of life for pretty much any family in California (with the exception of a reliatively few that live in a metro hub like SF, where public transit is the norm, and cost of owning a car is MASSIVE with parking, etc), is that they need their car, they need them on a daily, practically hourly basis. The 'fully loaded' cost per drive is not their decision point. Gas cost really isn't even their decision point. Complete Flexibility and speed to destination is really the only factor. (By flexibilty - ability to go in something other than a completely straight line, and to have complete access to change routes, leave when you need to, pack as much stuff and kids with you as needed, etc.) HST will not get most car bound commuters out of their cars. Its a bad assumption to say it will.

The real questions - will HST get current rail riders off Caltrain? A few, if money is no object. HSR will be significantly more expensive for them (per HSR's own projections)

Will HST get current plane and car tourists to take the train between NoCal and SoCal - yes probably. And that's the MAIN selling point of HST.

HST doesn't belong running through densly populated neighborhoods - backyards, schools, parks. It belongs running through current freeway corridors.

Mark, if you really spend as much time in Palo Alto as you claim, then you will know that the current tracks are at street level (coming from the west), they are almost completely obscured by trees, fences, etc. - they practically disappear into the landscape for most. As many have pointed out, they have been here since before even our town existed. They are a fixture that disappears into the woodwork.

Yes, they are in a line, but they do not create any separation of our town. You will certainly understand that there is an ENORMOUS difference between what we have today and a 15 foot SOLID wall running the entire length of the town. (to be more specific, the "Wall" reduces gradually to 8 ft by the time it reaches Charleston.) Grade separated crossings are no consolation (and we can get those done anyway - without HST!) You are just not going to get people to agree that such a wall is equivalent to what exists there today.

By the way, the issues we have with our street level crossings today are that a few people choose to use that track access to do themselves in, intentionally. Generally they are safe for grown ups, parents, bikers and drivers 99.9% of the time, for anyone who intends to treat them with respect. Don't assume everyone is running around fretting inordinately about the current state of these 'unsafe' crossings. Would it be nice to have them grade separated - I'd say, it depends! At what cost?

Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 12:20 pm

As I stated in my previous post some people will choose to ignore the facts that there are more costs to driving than just gas. But you are incorrect if you think all people do, I certainly don't.
I'm not arguing it, just pointing out the flaws in your logic.
It sounds like you are unhappy with the wall most of all, why don't you fight for no wall, but add in the grade separation? That solved your complaint. The cost of the grade separation is already built into the project, so eliminating the wall will actually save money, and certainly not cost PA anything.

Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 2:51 pm

> a 15 foot SOLID wall running the entire length of the town

It would really help your case to stick to the actual evidence.

Again, nobody has ever suggested a 15-foot wall through all of PA. What the HSR documents describe is as follows: from the San Francisquito creek to south of the station, the tracks would be at grade (zero feet). There would be a 15-foot split grade sep at Churchill, ramping back down to ground level (zero feet) by the Cal Ave station. The tracks would run at ground level (zero feet) until rising on an 8-foot embankment over Meadow and Charleston, coming back down to grade (zero feet) at San Antonio.

The only technical reason to build embankments is to get over the 4 existing grade crossings in Palo Alto. Assuming for a moment that the people who wrote the HSR documents are not completely incompetent, the road crossings boil down to this:

Alma: tracks at grade, road underpass (zero feet)
University: tracks at grade (zero feet)
Embarcadero: tracks at grade (or rising to Churchill)
Churchill: 15-foot split grade sep
Oregon: tracks at grade (zero feet)
Meadow: 8-foot split grade sep
Charleston: 8-foot split grade sep
San Antonio: tracks at grade (zero feet)

While I agree that the HSR people may have been a little bit embankment-happy in their preliminary plans, they describe quite a different situation than the solid 15-foot wall you envision.

Shameless exaggeration, if not actual scaremongering, will do you no favors as you try to rally reasonable people around a cause.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Clem thank you for clearing that up. i looked through the reports and cam to the same conclusion as you. the folks in PA are exaggerating on the impact.. When you consider the benefits of the grade separation, the landscaping adding to the embankments, and the additional safety, the overall result is a benefit to the city. The partially raised tracks combined with partially lowered roads creates a nice visual effect.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Clem, here's the rest of what you've said on other thread about the 15 foot wall. (below) Thanks for all the specifics you've provided because I'd REALLY like people to have as clear a picture as possible about the 15 (or 8) foot wall as it passes through town, and let them weigh in for themselves.

So, as I understand what you've said all in all, this will be a 15 foot wall all the way through Menlo Park, entering PA 'at grade' (which by the way as far as I can tell is because Alma street level slopes up at that Alma crossing, probably due to San Francisquito Creek running underneath), going back up to 15ft until it reaches and passes Paly - as it approaches Oregon (which is already an undpass - is the location of the current Cal Ave Station - so no homes impacted on the west side of tracks) the tracks again are at 'zero' (I assume the level of the station today is at 'zero'.) As it leaves the Cal Ave station area, the Wall rises up again to 8 feet by the time it reaches Charleston.

I say its SOLID, because its solid. Its a solid retained wall, The HSR tracks are required to be fully enclosed by fence. There is not going to any line of sight through or around the Wall, at any point (besides at the Caltrain station area, or through underpasses.

So, lets be clear, there is NO exaggeration here on the impacts that Palo Alto neighborhoods (and Menlo Park, and Atherton) will feel. Whether this is a 'nice visual effect' jt? I think the Palo Alto residents will let you know loud and clear about that shortly.

CLEM kindly wrote on separate thread:
You will see that the preliminary track profile through Palo Alto is a quite reasonable 15-foot retained embankment (80 feet wide, per figures CC-3 and CC-4) at Churchill Ave, descending to grade level over Oregon Expressway, back up to an equally sensible 8-foot retained embankment (80 feet wide) over Meadow Dr and Charleston Rd, and back down to grade level shortly thereafter.

> Clem, you are incorrect about the 100 feet on Mariposa.
Right you are, thank you. It looks a bit shy of 80 feet from the back yard fence to the Alma curb. So it is possible that eminent domain might be used in that location to acquire 5-10 feet of land.

> explain how eastbound traffic can move from the cross-streets of Churchill, Meadow and Charleston onto Alma.
Not unlike the way that eastbound traffic moves from San Carlos Ave onto Old County Rd in San Carlos. Take a look around there using Google Street View. Web Link
As I mentioned before, this would likely impact properties on the east side of Alma, at the street corners. You could no longer access those driveways because of the road sloping down to the intersection.

> 15 foot walls through our town
Only the part of Palo Alto near Churchill. Not all of Palo Alto. As I said before, Menlo Park has it much worse: they plan a 15-foot embankment through all of Menlo Park.

> Turning that corridor into 15 foot solid wall
Parent, only one third of PA will have the 15-foot wall in the preliminary HSR plan... and even then, were Charleston & Alma to be reconfigured lower (at the cost of greater impact to properties around that intersection) this 15-foot wall could be quite reduced in height, to something like 7 feet or less.

> Would you measure the 15 feet in the new plan based on starting at street level on the east side of the tracks? Or from the Alma side?
I have no idea, since the detailed engineering is yet to be done. The stuff in the EIS/EIR is highly preliminary, and labeled as such.
While I don't think you'll have much success in preventing HSR from passing through Palo Alto, you will certainly have opportunities to shape how it is built, within reason. The 15 foot retained embankment (a.k.a. wall) was probably devised by a handful of civil engineers poring over Caltrain right-of-way maps. There is a lot more detail still to flesh out, which is the next task that the CHSRA will take on, no doubt in collaboration with the impacted communities. There will be many design requirements imposed by the city, Caltrans, the California Public Utilities Commission, the FRA, etc. and all of those conflicting requirements will have to be boiled down into something workable.

Posted by mark
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Everyone, I have really enjoyed the discourse here even if it has at times become a little heated. I'm not surprised that there are very disparate feelings on this matter and the fact that there are shows just how much the city and the project mean to everyone.

In any case, I'm very hopeful that this plan can be enacted with everyone's interests and concerns in mind. And the fact that individual issues with the plan have already become a hotspot of debate are a good sign imo -- it's all the more time for these concerns to be voiced, and where appropriate, addressed.

Posted by mark
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 6:08 pm

BTW -- this article (Web Link states that suicides account for 60% of all caltrain deaths. I'm not sure how many of the remaining 40% could be eliminated by grade separation but i'm sure it's enough to justify doing so in human life cost alone.

Posted by Rob
a resident of Woodside
on Dec 4, 2008 at 6:18 pm

HSR does look like crap. I've spent some time in Japan and the elevated lines through cities and suburbs looks pretty ghetto. The shinkansen (bullet train), does have a grace and beauty, especially when it flys by at 100+ mph over the Fuji River and pass Mt. Fuji. The nice thing about the bullet train is it keeps people on foot and condenses them around stations. California needs this. The old 1950's idea of suburbia is dead, suburbs are boring, stale and a waste of resources. Time to pack more people together and build community, culture, economy and convenience.

I'd love to see a station in Redwood City, with the subsequent excitement of businesses that support the HSR. To eleviate the blight factor of electrical lines and overhead rails, the train should be underground or built along 101, which is already blight.

Bart hangs out underground for much of its penninsula line, so tunnling shouldn't be overlooked. Does the penninsula Bart line bother you at any point?

Caltrain should be scrapped and replaced by the bullet train. No need to be redundant as far as rail transportation goes.

Then again, you can fly to LA for less than $100 and pick up a rental car. A bullet train to Squaw Valley and Alpine would be nice for day trips though.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2008 at 11:35 pm

I still the best solution is to look at this as an opportunity for atherton and palo alto to get together and come up with the money and pay the difference to cut and cover - lowering all the trains - freight / caltrain/ HSR below grade and cover them. The both cities get, for their money, reclaimed land for a long stretch of bike and walking trails with benches and landscaping. Not only do you put all trains out of sight forever, and get new public space, but you put the noise to bed forever as well. yes it will cost you and no the rest of us aren't going to pay for it, but you will get great benefit from it. For a little cash - and there's no shortage of money down there and you know it - you get all the benefits of a nearby station (RWC) with none of the drawbacks. Think about it. this is your one and only chance.

a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Maybe the City Council should take their collective heads out of their butts.

Yeah, not likely to happen. Give up Palo Altans, you are on your own here. I had the misfortune of trying to work with the City on a project that was directly related to student bike safety. What a major joke the process was, and is. Lots of time spent, even money and in the end? NOTHING DONE.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2008 at 4:40 pm

How about assistant city manager Emslie who told the Post Thursday "We're obviously advocating for a stop".

Really? Who's "we"? Where's he getting his marching orders from?

And when were they planning on filling in the rest of the 50,000 residents of Palo Alto who live anywhere other than the five blocks of University between Alma and Middlefield?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2008 at 5:26 pm

I don't think it has to be disastrous to have a sound wall in your backyard if you already have a train line there.
Some years ago, when 85 was opening (the stretch that opened most recently there was a lovely large home I saw for sale in Mt. View somewhat near Mt. View High and it had a new tall wall in the backyard - because it backed up to 85. The house was lovely and offered at a slight bargain owing to this slight defect. I don't believe there was any trouble selling it. The sound-proofing appeared to be effective and with good landscaping it would have been fine. We all have pluses and minuses to our properties. We can hear 101 but we have dual-paned windows that completely stop the noise.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Anonymous - the wall isn't a sound wall. Its a 15foot (or 8ft)high retained solid wall, that will be 100feet wide, which the 4-wide tracks will sit up on top of. The trains (and the high voltage electrical overhead infrastructure) will ride up on top of the wall. So in your example, the kids bedroom windows of that big beautiful home would have been not just looking at a sound wall at the back edge of the backyard, but looking directly up (about 15-30 feet up if you consider trains are about 15 feet tall) at the trains passing overhead.

Sound? Still there! There's no soundwall in this plan!
I have a hard time imagining what a soundwall on top of this would look like, trains are 15 ft, electrical infrastructure well taller than that - so sound wall? Another 20 feet on top of that? That would be getting to be quite a wall!

By the way, was that by any chance a historical home? That had been saved with construction of 85? How big was the backyard?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2008 at 12:36 am

Isn't a retainer wall basically a berm, then? Those can be landscaped.

From what I can see, what we're really looking at is Park taking a hit and Alma being a mess for a while.

The homes backing up onto the tracks are among the cheapest houses in the city and have a reasonably high rate of turnover. They're basically starter homes discounted for both the trains and Alma.

I mean, from what I can see, Palo Alto already is divided into East and West--Alma and El Camino and the existing train tracks see to that. This isn't going to add a new division to the town--though I'm all for making the wall attractive.

Palo Alto is the more logical stop than Redwood City--Stanford as well as the corporations here. I think amid all the concerns about people clogging the roads getting to the station there's not enough thinking about the people who will come to Palo Alto by train instead of by car. We have a lot of people who commute into here--from San Jose and San Francisco (a surprising number from SF) as well as other points.

I realize for someone who grow up when Palo Alto was more college town than tech center that the rail line does mean change and increased urbanization, but in my view a lot of that's already happened. HSR is one of the very few things that might reduce traffic without damaging the economy.

Way back when BART opened, my grandmother had a home next to the elevated BART tracks. She didn't have double-paned windows, but the sound of the trains was a nonissue--they were quiet since they were so elevated and electric. They also didn't run late at night. I slept over there several times, the trains just weren't an issue.

I've lived near freeways, CalTrain and busy streets--the noise from all was much, much worse (and the fumes)--I'd take BART over any of them.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2008 at 9:55 am

Ohlone Parent - You are not getting the picture here. The stations are not going be like today's train stations, they will be urban metro hubs, per the HSR. The HSR proposes and expects the stations to be built into major dense housing and transportation hubs. ACCELERATED dense housing growth will be an expected and planned outcome of the station hubs. Also, the stations hubs will be supported by a significant reconfiguration outcropping of feeder transportation artieres - that's auto traffic arteries and public transportations. There would be expecation and requirements that Palo Alto traffic patterns be widened and increased to accomodate massive inflows and outflows to the station. The plan has a high rise parking structure built in El Camino Park.

In addition, the traffic flows on our current cross town arteries will be drastically altered. Charleston and Churchill are the only underpasses drawn into the EIR (then the only underpasses in HSR's plan?) First of all, what does that mean to width and traffic patter on those cross streets from 101 to El Camino? How wide (and how much eminent domain) does that imply, both at the tracks ~and~ beyond. And if Oregon, Embarcadero, University, East Meadow are not in their plans, then they are not in their cost projections - grade crossings estimated at $20 each - who's paying for those? Palo Alto?

OP, if you think the current rate of densification of Palo Alto is hard on Palo Alto schools, do you have any idea what the impacts would be from this accelerated rate of densification? (Answer: you don't because they haven't studied that yet.) Are you singing off on giving up Palo Alto parks and field space? Are you signing off on impacts to Paly.

OP, are you signing off on the negative impacts to the Watershed - creeks and underground water supplies - alot of them, that are called out as being impacted in their environmental impact report. Do you understand the negative impacts to bay area water resources and the bay (I'll answer that for you - No you dont, those aren't yet studied, and mitigations are not yet described.)

OP, are you signing off on the negative impacts at Paly? Peers Park? El Camino Park? Do you feel Southgate neighborhood is just 'starterhomes' and worth sacraficing?

Do you feel looking at a solid 15 foot (or even 8 foot) solid wall is equivalent to looking across the train tracks today?

Have you thought about the 3-4X increase in number of trains that will be passing through? - pretty much constant train traffic?

OP, have you wondered if people will REALLY use the HSR as a daily commute option for short distances (ie: between SJ and PA), considering that the HSR by design will cost (at least) 150% as much as caltrain for riders? BEcause then what's the business justification for keeping Caltrain? CAltrain will still be there! HSR isn't intended to solution for daily commuters coming in to PA!

Are you aware that the SF to SJ portion of the line is currentlyprojected to cost 4.2B (that's $84.2M per Mile). The whole bond for the ENTIRE Phase 1 (Anaheim to SF) is only 9.9B. Do you think they're earmarking half the bond for just SF to SJ stretch? Not even close! The bond doesn't cover even 1/3 of the cost of the HSR - phase one is currently project at 33B! The full expectation of the HSR authority is to get a bit of federal funding, a bit of private funding. AND ALSO to tap in to local and county government's taxing authority and borrowing capacity to close the gap to the tune of 2-3Billion. Translation -the HSR says WE will PAY for much of our OWN improvements to accomodate this line. Thats direct funding required from Palo Alto and Santa Clara County! How much and what impact will THAT have on our schools, our city services? Do you know? Are you really signing off on those tradeoffs?

"The Authority’s financing plan for the Los Angeles/Anaheim to San Francisco link is targeting between $2-$3 billion in local financial support based on potential overlapping infrastructure needs, and a broad overview of local revenue authority and local borrowing capacity in the counties along the project’s proposed routes."

OP, NONE of this has happened already in Palo Alto. None of this even UNDERSTOOD yet in Palo Alto. Have you heard anything from our city council yet about what the impact will be on Palo Alto?

Im surprised and shocked, that you of all people are not trying to take a bigger picture look at the impacts on the entire system of what makes up Palo Alto - including schools and kids. Shame on you for not getting informed!

Start here for financial info:

and here for environmental impact reports
Web Link

And OP - PA is already divided into east and west?! Are you the real OP? This doesn't sound like you at all. You are of course aware that 100% of our high schools are on the WEST, and 75% of our middle schools are on the EAST. How much of our town today consider those tracks a 'barrier', you'd be hard pressed to find many that haven't crossed those tracks daily at various points in their lives. I absolutely disagree that our town is divided by the tracks today.

OP, tsk tsk.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 6, 2008 at 10:28 am

And OP, one more thing. Wow, for someone who was adamant about transparency of process, and quality work by (district) staff, to create an informed and complete and realistic feasibility study on MI, you sure do seem to be oddly missing that perspective here.

I would have thought you'd be the first (of all people), to be demanding - where's our city council on giving us some transparent reporting and specific impact analysis?

Its odd that you're willing to embrace the pat macro level view 'global economy and environmental savior' pro HSR standpoint on this, when the macro view 'flat world' argument for MI was so offensive to you.

Something about your incongruency here is unsettling at best, suspicous at worst.

Posted by the truth
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2008 at 10:49 am are a mess!!! stop whining

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Parent, I guess I better learn more to understand what the "wall" means in this case. I thought it was just a soundwall.

FYI - You asked more about my story above. In the Hwy 85 situation, I am referring to the section that passes through Sunnyvale and Mt. View. I can't quite recall what year that section of freeway opened after 20 years of construction (and quietness) - I guess 1992?!
The home for sale that I referred to above was not historical; it was a modern 2 story and it was a bit too expensive for us at the time so we moved to a smaller home in a neighboring town. Sorry I don't recall exact address but it was near Mt. View High (a plus). I recall a normal landscaped backyard with a VERY tall soundproof wall as it backed up to Hwy 85. I took note that one might want to put in more vegetation/bushes.
Some residents were worried about noise, I don't think the noise has ended up being a problem. Not sure what has happened recently to property values of actual existing nice homes (not recently built high-density condos)that back up to 85.

Posted by jt
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Some one around here has some serious train- phobia or something. good lord. its just a train and it is gonna go through your town. is this the biggest thing in your ilfe to be upset about? Do you own a lot of airline stock or something? look growth and change are are coming to every city and town in the bay area and yours is not exempt As the bay area grows, PA has to do its share to accept growth. you don't get to push it off on other communities. we all have to accept change, even change we don't like sometimes. believe me I wish it was still california circa 1978 but it's not. and never will be again.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Fifteen foot wall, plus 43 foot high headspans (for us non-rail road engineers - big towers or poles holding the high voltage electrical structure over the trains). That's through North Palo Alto. In South Palo Alto that would be only 8 ft wall +43 towers = 51ft. So infrastructure at 58-51 Feet tall running through town, through backyards, behind Paly, through parks etc.

Clem, if I'm to understand the EIS/EIR, that's how they currently have this drawn? Right? And how far apart to they place these 43 foot overhead electrical support headspan structures?

(By the way Clem, if the wall is 15 feet from ground level (measured on the west side of tracks) but the tracks are actually sitting up on an embankement when viewed from Alma side of tracks, then this whole wall+headspan structure takes on appearance of an additiona 5+ feet from the Alma side. So we're in the 60-70 ft range as viewed from Alma.)

Parents, schools, citizens of Palo Alto - do we feel we've been properly informed of the true impact of HSR on Palo Alto?

Are you wondering yet where your city council is?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I'll answer my own question (but hopefully Clem will correct me if I'm wrong). Looks like about 75 feet apart. So, that's cool; Palo Alto's about 3.5 miles long; that will only mean about 246 of these headspan structures through Palo Alto.

I imagine at this point jt jumps in and scolds us about not accepting change.

Posted by it's not too late
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Don't know if this is our Clem, but worth reading up on HSR and headspans on the peninsula.

Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2008 at 1:53 am


I post consistently under one name. I am not an expert on HSR, but so far I haven't anything that automatically results in the draconian picture you paint. I'm not sure how we're going to be forced into turning our arterial roads into expressways or build high-rises in the downtown.

Is there a contract written in blood that I'm missing?

I've been on HSR trains in Europe and I haven't seen anything like what you describe.

From what I can see, there will be large hubs in the large cities--SF, San Jose--that's what's shown at the site you linked to. I don't see a "large hub" requirement. The cities will want them. I don't see that there will be a large hub here for the simple reason that we're not connected to much. There's no BART, no light rail. Not even the freeway is particularly close.

Fact is, we have had a railway and Alma and El Camino divide the east and west parts of our city for a long time--and we've survived. I'm not sure why I won't continue to drive under Alma and the trains to get to El Camino the same way as I do now. I assume the grade crossings for University, Embarcadero and Oregon aren't in the projections because they *already* exist. What would you be building?

Which does leave us with the issue of crossings for East Meadow and it would be good to know the answer.

As for Southgate, I thought the setback in that area was already wide enough so that picking up land was less of an issue, no?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2008 at 2:31 am

It's not too late,

Interesting blog link, thanks. Sounds like we want poles here.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 10:40 am

OP, then you haven't read the EIR yet have you? Stations and the HSR by design (by desire) will become major transport hubs.

You don't have to look very hard to see statement like these in their materials (quotes taken directly from the links I provided above):

"High-speed train systems typically act as a catalyst to strengthen urban centers, promote more compact development around stations"
"In concert with suitable local land use and economic development
policies, high-speed trains can strengthen existing city centers by maintaining and improving accessibility."

You say there won't be development here because we're not close to much. But that's the exact point - we BECOME that urban center hub after the train comes through, by design. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and call your statement naive. If you don't see what already happens with pressure from the likes of ABAG to force in dense housing for our CURRENT situation, then certainly a station hub becomes a MANDATE for ACCELERATED dense housing- whether Palo Alto chooses it or not. The EIR documentation couldn't be more clear on this point.

As for the resulting impacts on our local roads and traffic - Can you use logic or do you need to wait until the roads are actually built to forsee the eventual impact of adding thousands MORE high rise dense housing units to the station hub area? The impact on roads for access to dense housing development and to the station itself goes without saying, once you read the EIS properly for what it means to growth around the stations.

Or better yet, instead of us being forced to imagine how this is going to play out for PA, maybe the city council should just be telling us and showing us what will happen on our traffic arteries (like Oregon, like Embarcadero, like Charleston), which are the main routes for moving people between 101 and the train tracks?

OP - THE California HSR website is only showing the glossy pictures for SJ and SF! THATS EXACTLY RIGHT! They do not once attempt to show us a picture of what a town like Palo Alto would look like with an HSR running through. I'd LOVE to see some visuals of the HSR line from the point of view of standing on Alma at Churchill. Or sitting in the bleachers at a Paly game.

Read Clems blog again. (or maybe you already know it pretty well already...) The wall the train rides upon will by 15feet tall through north Palo Alto. So instead of 43 foot headspan structuers, you want mere 32foot pole structures. Great! just add 32 feet for the electrical structures on top of the 15 foot wall - that still be 47 FOOT structure running through North Palo Alto! (Wow, only 40 feet through South PA!) There would be well over 100-200 of these pole structures through Palo Alto! And by the way, the pole structure he discusses creates need for wider right of way - potentially more eminent domain. I mean, OP, really?

Whether just just a little bit of eminent domain is less of an issue for Southgate, - wow, I don't know, maybe we should ask Southgate neighbors if just a tad of eminent domain, plus a 50 foot wall of high voltage electrical structure running through their backyards is not that big of a deal.

BTW, should you ASSUME things are not in the drawing are not going to be effected, or should the city of Palo Alto CONFIRM that Palo Alto is not going to be forking up massive funding dollars to do remodels on 100 year old overpasses that inevitably WILL need to be remodeled when the new 4 wide tracks are built. MAYBE by not having ALL our crossings in the drawings, Palo Alto has a massive funding risk on their hands???

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 11:00 am

OP Said: "Is there a contract written in blood that I'm missing?"

That's the point isn't it? Shouldn't he city council be doing the detailed impact anaylsis, and sharing the facts with the citizens NOW, before it reaches the point of contracts and its too late to have any influence? The thing is going to be signed sealed and delivered before Palo Alto citizens decide to wake up and smell the coffee. (And plenty of people pretty happy that PA is asleep at the switch so far...)

OP Also said: "I'm not sure why I won't continue to drive under Alma and the trains to get to El Camino the same way as I do now."

Why OP, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were a commuter instead of a resident!... Because if driving under Alma and the trains to get to El Camino is your only concern with the tracks, then congratulations, but you have a pretty limited perspective of the impact of the train tracks in Palo Alto.... So, you might try taking the perspective of people who live within 1/4 of a mile of the tracks for about 3.5 miles through heart of Palo Alto, not to mention the other 46.5 miles up and down the Peninsula from SF to SJ.

Again, I'd LOVE to see a rendering of the HSR from the point of view looking up (way up) from Alma street, or looking at it from Paly field, or from the play structure at Peers park, or from the backyards in Southgate.

Maybe that would help with some 'vision' issues we seem to be having on this.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 11:32 am

Since OP seems to think we'd like 'poles', here's some help in visualizing exactly what that means:

This kind and knowledgable person provides some links to pictures:
Web Link
Scroll down to find
“Rafael Said”, “Here are some catenary Pole designs from around the world”:

He kindly provides a list of links to pictures to help us see use of catenary ‘poles’ that hold the high voltage electrical nfrastructure above high speed rail. I provided a few of the links below particularly when they show more than two lanes of tracks, since we’ll have 4 tracks wide running through our neighborhood.

Austria: Web Link
Belgium: Web Link 320 140307.jpg
France: Web Link

(more links in next post)

Maybe we should ask our City Council which version of catenary system they prefer for Palo Alto?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 11:33 am

More pictures of catenary pole designs:

Germany HSR: Web Link
Italy: Web Link
Japan: Web Link

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 11:34 am

More pictures of catenary pole designs

Switzerland: Web Link
Taiwan: Web Link
UK: Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 9, 2008 at 12:20 pm


A couple of things,

First, I know what high-speed rail looks like. I've traveled on those trains. I can live with it--but then I've lived near power lines and phone lines. Not everything pictured is the sort of pole we'd get here. We're not in the Alps, we don't face the sort of extreme weather conditions that lead to the most overbuilt poles.

And this is exactly the sort of thing that can be argued and negotiated--less intrusive is better. Underground would be ideal, but is probably prohibitively expensive because of the water table.

Again, I don't see anything written in blood. I'm not sure what kind of power you think the agency has here. You mention ABAG, fact is, ABAG can only recommend and play with the budget, we're not under legal obligation to build to its recommendation.

In fact, I see the same barriers to growth in the future that I see now. Where's it going to go? We're one of 19 cities in the country where the median home price is over $1 million--that's some pricey eminent domain.

I don't expect the famed Palo Alto process--which means we have not one but two decaying empty shopping centers sitting around for years--to disappear. There's nothing in the comments you've copied that indicate local development will be taken away from local decision making.

Sorry, Parent, I have a great deal of respect for you, but I just don't see this one your way.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2008 at 1:19 pm

OP, the bottom line is that the time to negotiate and understand and require appropriate design and mitigation (or changing of the route) is now. And no, underground is not feasible (read the HSR proponents blogs! They HOPE we will think underground is feasible because then we lower our resistence. Which will just allow ourselves to be strung us along until its too late...)

The CHSRA DOES have authority granted by the state, AND they are building steam with SIGNIFICANT political backing (Boxer, Feinstien, Pelosi, Gov.S., Newsom, Diridon, etc etc et.
Web Link And we certainly know they now have the power to spend 10B bond dollars for starters.

And they are encouraged by the Obama's administrations promises of massive influxes of federal funds for infrastructure projects. And already actively lobbying for federal funding.

Read ANY pro blogs or HSR materials (except perhaps Clem who does have an interest in seeing the Peninsula route done well), and you will see they dismiss any concerns about local impacts (visual, aesthetic, environmental, historical, property value, quality of life, schools, parks, etc) as ranting NIMBYism.

And, they have no qualms with the price of Eminent Domain here by the way. Logic would say they SHOULD because if anything it will be their achilles heel, but that doesn't seem to be bothering anyone at the CHSRA now. The $10B bond was approved, just a drop in the bucket of what they'll eventually need, but that's a mandate as far as they're concerned, they're off and running.

What do you mean dense development has no where to go? When they come through and trash the property values withing 1/2 mile of the tracks, there will be plenty of willing sellers in that corridor. The whole thing becomes dense high rise housing. Don't you think its high time we raize all the apartments along Alma and rebuld 5-6 stories? Height max's will be a thing of the past, so why not?

Again, OP, your resistence to carry this through to its logical consequences for PA's future is puzzling. I get that you are probably one that has bought in to the 'big idea' of high speed rail as savior for planet earth. But, you seem not to have considered some of the very specific, very real negative consequences for the cities and people along this route. The time is EXACTLY now for us to require the Palo Alto city council step up to protect Palo Alto interests.

BTW, if ABAG has no authority, why is PA City Council bending to the will of ABAG to meet the extremely unreasonable dense housing growth objectives for Palo Alto set forth by ABAG? Your perception of what constitutes 'power' is naive here. The scenario laid out before us is that the HSR will barrel forward in areas far flung from Palo Alto, well outside the Peninsula first, but with plans laid and set in stone for the whole thing. And by the time its time to start breaking ground here, its WAY too late. It will be an unstoppable force by the time constructino starts (even in the central valley). The time to pay attention is now.

(BTW, don't you think our city council should be showing us some pictures of what it WILL look like here? Why not? And not all these pictures were far flung Alps. Your argumentation here is not up to snuff - a rhetorical trick isn't going to cut it.)

Posted by it's not too late
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 9, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Here's my interpretation of that "catalyst to strengthen urban centers, promote more compact development" issue. Let's say I am friends with Rod and Quentin. I buy a huge chunk of non-arable land for cheap in the middle of nowhere. Rod, Quentin, and their buddies make sure that HSR goes smack down the middle of my land, which means that my property is suddenly going to become 1000 times as valuable.

Face it: we may think we're important, but the HSR people don't give a hoot whether or not Palo Alto turns into a megalopolis because it wouldn't give them any more money or power (unless there are some Blagojevich deals going on that we don't know about).

My problem with HSR all along has been that it's a facade for a big money swap. It's all about political back-scratching. Unless the feds cough up big time (Obama and WPA-type infrastructure projects) the funding isn't enough to do anything other than line a few pockets. The bond money will barely cover all the eminent domain that's required, especially when you factor in legal action, much less build anything.

However, if by some unfortunate miracle HSR were built, it would indeed reduce the quality of life for thousands of residents and degrade the charm of our local cities, probably forever.

Anyway, the voters have approved the money, and there's no question that we have traffic problems, even if they aren't of the long haul variety. Maybe we can figure out how to channel the money into a transit system that makes more sense for the people who live and work here.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 10, 2008 at 12:06 am


I'm with "it's not too late"'s interpretation of that one phrase. We're already an urban, built-up area. The comments about higher density urban development seem to me to be very aimed at the development of the Central Valley and SoCal routes. Remember, this is being put forth as a positive--and if you spend time looking at southern sprawl, you'd see urban density as a good thing.

As for pictures--they were mostly of trains in Europe, which, indeed, has more severe weather than we do. Not all your pictures showed heavy pole building, some, the ones you took from the original blog post, were fairly light. No reason we wouldn't get that.

I think you're jumping ahead here--asking for things that have not, in fact, been drawn up yet.

And, yes, of course it has backing--from both business and environmental groups.

Seriously, I visit the links you send and then I really don't see the big deal. HSR is not going to be the prettiest thing to hit Palo Alto, but because of the current street set-up and right-of-way, it strikes me as having the potential to be less intrusive than it would otherwise be.

Your "logical conclusion" seems to me like a "worse-possible scenario" instead of the most-likely scenario.

And, yes, you're right, longterm I don't think we can rely on cheap oil. You keep bringing up the EIRs--well, the global EIR indicates that we do need to look at more fuel-conservative transit alternatives. The state EIR says that the state will be better off environmentally if there are population clusters instead of sprawl connected by congested freeways. (And since I have concerns about nuclear power, I do favor energy conservation when possible.)

So, maybe the HSR should head out to the East Bay somehow and skip the Peninsula, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. As I said, we're already an urban center. One of the big problems with ABAG's demand for 3,000 units is that no one's ever been able to tell me where those units would go. We're built out and have been for a while.

As for the Council, I suggest you form an organization and talk to them. Redwood City would be thrilled and, who knows, it might be decided that that's the better alternative.

Posted by h
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2008 at 8:22 am

I wrote to the City Council and they are clearly behind on this topic. Everyone opposed should write to the City Council today, they need the message to get on board now and begin to understand the impacts and options.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2008 at 1:09 pm

The infrastructure being 'fairly light' - again people should be taking a look at examples of 4-wide electrical high speed rail infrastructure projects where they exist (not that many existin in the US, yet so I guess that means we look to other countries mostly), and the people should be deciding if that's 'fairly light' in the context of the neighborhoods, schools, parks that will be impacted here. This is an inappropriate route for the HSR project.

less intrusive than it would otherwise be? If there were no right of way at all?? Yes, I agree, if you wanted to imagine putting it through, say, Amarillo Avenue or something - but who's suggesting that as the 'otherwise'? The actual alternative would be not putting it through Palo Alto at all, or putting down an existing freeway corridor (like101), which would be less intrusive than putting it down the Caltrain corridor.

"Their comments about higher density urban development seem to be directed at central valley and southern california." Really? Where? Because everywhere I see it, they just talk about the Stations and the HSR growth acceleration engine in general.

They're only putting 24 very select stations on this line - are you suggesting Palo Alto gets to be a special dispensation from this dense urban hub vision, or that they've already suggested it will? That's just false advertising. Does that realistically play out as economically feasible for the HSR plan? No, they aren't making distinctions for differnt kinds of hubs, but yes, they NEED to be, and that's the kind of research and detail we need to see Palo Alto representation taking care of for us now - while there is still time to have influence.

Yes, of course it has political and economic backing. Yes, of course. And I bring that up to wake people up to the fact that this is not some wacked out psychadelic trip, there are powerful people actually out there designing and lobbying for this NOW. There is an urgency to getting people around these details.

OP, frankly, I'm not particularly interested in trashing Palo Alto for the Planet Earth EIR (oh, by the way, where's the link to that one ;-), and I'm not so sure the Planet Earth EIR would say HSR is the best use of this particular stretch of land (considering the watershed impacts, etc.) In fact, I'm pretty sure the Planet Earth EIR would have us maximize local transit first, making sure more people commute cleanly and routinely in their daily lives, and finding realistic alternatives to car travel. HSR doesn't take any cars off the roads, and doesn't even make a dent in what we need our cars for in our daily lives.

Again, I'm not anymore impressed with the 'flat world' argument for Palo Alto than I was with it during the MI debate.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2008 at 2:09 am


I've *been* on HSR trains--I can deal with what they look like. I can deal with seeing some poles poking up when I look at Alma. You can't. That's your perogative.

Again, we are already an urban area. We certainly have the small lots and housing prices to prove it. We're *already* a job center.

Look, I'm from around here. You and I both know that this is not the Peninsula we saw as kids.

The rail would go where there's been a railroad for 100 years. So, yes, I think it is a good use of land around here--beats a wider freeway and it would beat, frankly, putting a rail-line on the Baylands, which is what a Bayshore alternative would be.

You may remember that the reason we don't have a BART line is that San Mateo was the one county that voted it down. Why? To limit growth.

Turned out that stopping BART didn't do a thing to limit growth--no, instead, Silicon Valley erupted and took over the orchards I remember--perhaps you as well.

Transit, in and of itself, doesn't create growth. The Peninsula and the south Bay exploded without BART. Meanwhile, large chunks of I-280 go through some of the least densely populated land in the Bay Area.

And why did this happen? Cheap land. It was affordable to build here. That's no longer the case. We have a well-established tech center here, but there's not going to be massive expansion in the city because it's too damn expensive.

As for local commute lines--the rail upgrades will be how that's achieved. And because of the exorbitant parking costs and hassle in SF, train tickets in that direction will be seen as a decent deal and will make for a faster commute. HSR makes a better local commute rail possible--quieter, faster and less polluting.

I don't oppose your vigilance by the way--a little opposition will keep the powers-that-be on their toes--I just really don't have the same issues with HSR.

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