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Uncertainty over Hostess House clouds El Camino Park design

Original post made on Apr 24, 2013

When Palo Alto broke ground in October 2011 on construction of an underground reservoir at El Camino Park, the goal was to complete the work and have the park re-opened to sports teams by this summer. But while the utilities work is proceeding on schedule, the design of the new El Camino Park remains up in the air.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:31 AM

Comments (24)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2013 at 7:07 am

Palo Alto Process in full Swing.

Everything takes longer in Palo Alto. Nothing can be completed on time.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 24, 2013 at 7:25 am

This is clearly a tradeoff between giving a developer high density variance versus providing for the residents (playing fields).

Why doesn't Stanford allocate some land for the Hostess house in their vast groves leading up to the quad?

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Posted by winter dellenbach
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

The architect, Julia Morgan, is a premier Calif architect, not to mention a woman of great renown. We are so lucky to have a building of hers in Palo Alto and should treat it as the treasure it is. So whatever planning is needed, it should take into account the value to PA of this building, giving it pride of place that is appropriate to its history, significance and its future use.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 24, 2013 at 10:45 am

To financially survive, MacArthur Park restaurant must be visible and easily accessible. "Out of sigh-out of mind". There is huge competition from excellent restaurants in Palo Alto, Menlo Park- even Woodside and Los Altos. MacArthur Park is close to hotels and Stanford.
Nevertheless, it too has seen a downside with all the restaurants downtown. McPark also gets clientele via the train. Mr. Arrillaga's project - a office building for Stanford-should be on Stanford land west of El Camino. There are 8,000 plus acres so put it there and leave McArthur Park and Palo Alto alone. This City Council should have some 'spine' which is not one of its stellar traits.

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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

Properly set, instead of crammed amidst a bustling transit center, the Julia Morgan house would make a lovely gateway to Palo Alto.... put the highrise building on Stanford lands, where the shadows, wind tunnels, and blocked view of the hills would impact Palo Alto less.

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 24, 2013 at 11:28 am

I was on the Parks and Recreation Commission for 9 years, and stepped down in February of this year.

As I stated in public hearings last year, when I was on the Commission, about what to do with the Hostess House, I find objectionable, bordering on insulting, that the folks working on the potential office complex and improvements around the downtown transit center think they just shoe horn the Hostess House into a space that has no room for it, compromises the public benefits for recreation, does not account for the extensive effort that went into the re-design of this park prior to this preposterous notion of placing Hostess House in that footprint.

I commend my former colleagues and those who are now part of the Commission for the way they are developing their recommendations to City Council about the El Camino Park matter.

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Posted by Idea
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I have a question, I"m not sure I understand -- is hostess house being moved WITH the restaurant, or as a historical structure to be preserved for the community, like Gamble Gardens? Because if it's the latter, there's a solution staring us in the face.

A battle is shaping up in Greenacres over attempts to rezone a low-density patch across from the park into high density, including a wall of 9 tall homes with virtually no setback ala Miki's Market on narrow school route Maybell. The property in question is an orchard across from Juana Briones Park on 2.6 acres, with 100 year old oak trees next to the street facing the park. Rather than putting a high rise on it -- if it gets through the upcoming litigation from the neighborhood over traffic, safety and zoning issues -- why not put the Hostess House there? The neighborhood would be receptive.

In fact, PAHC just closed on that property for $11 million (I think), including a $3-4million loan from the city. If Arrillaga were to buy that property from them (maybe sweeten it with an added 100k) and put a lane with 5 or 6 large new houses within the existing zoning on the north end of the property (with the lane and back of the houses facing the PC neighbor and front facing the new park), they could could recoup their investment (in this neighborhood, 2,000 sq ft home is around $2 million+, old 1400 sq ft homes go for $1.6M and up), they would then also have 1.5- 2 acres to donate to Parks and Rec for the Hostess House, which would give them a $10Million tax write-off.

That 1.5 -2 acres would be across from the existing Juana Briones park and if the improvements included some kind of community orchard or park extension, it would be cheered by everyone in the community, well used, and well loved.

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Posted by Idea
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm

And by the way, Juana Briones Park would be a much easier place to keep an old historic building in good shape than the damp sea air by the Baylands, and much of Palo Alto can reach that area on bike via the bike path/Greenacres neighborhood.

It could be a reality before the end of summer. Think about it...

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Posted by Idea
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Oops, correction --

Just so no one misunderstand, I meant THE ORCHARD ACROSS FROM Juana Briones Park. (Pls read my suggestion, I'm not suggesting it go in the existing JB park but become part of a new extension, rather than the rezoning/highdensity high-rise the high density proponents are trying to put there.)

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Posted by emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Now that Stanford has its emergency water supply on El Camino Park, it wants to put not only the Hostess House but also a major theatre building on the parkland as well. Palo Alto had better wake up or ALL our parks will be eroded by this kind of intrusion. With increased density, we need more parks, not less and they shouldn't be cluttered up by expediently moving various urban artifacts onto them. If they can justify a community restaurant and a theatre on our parks, what about video arcades and movie theatres? It's a slippery slope.

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Posted by Too much green
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Emily-- [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It was the city of Palo Alto that wanted the emergency water supply to be on El Camino Park
Web Link

We have too many parks and too many trees in Palo Alto, so I would not be adverse to having a few movie theatres built on what is currently park land.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

@"too much green [and too few manners]"
From the City Website
Web Link

[Portion removed.].

"The existing Lytton Station supplies water to Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford West housing, a portion of the Stanford Medical Center and the University Avenue downtown area. These areas were identified as needing additional water storage for fire suppression and for short-term emergency demand. The El Camino Park location has several advantages compared to the other sites considered. These include lower construction costs, the avoidance of disruption or displacement of existing residences and businesses, and the fact that no additional land will be needed for the new pump station. See the November Ballot Measure page for more information about locating the reservoir beneath El Camino Park."

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Posted by too much green
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm

from your link:
"The existing Lytton Station supplies water to Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford West housing, a portion of the Stanford Medical Center and the University Avenue downtown area."

This reservoir is for water for both Stanford and Palo Alto--not just for Stanford as Emily stated. You will note that the city of Palo Alto decided where to locate the reservoiras I stated above

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

To Too much green, Maybe you have too many parks on campus but we in downtown DON"T. We need parks available to everyone NOT huge office buildings!

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Posted by too much green
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:08 am

PA resident--you have Johnson Park, Hopkins Creekside Park, Cogswell Park, El Palo Alto Park and soon El Camino Park again--not enough for you???
A downtown by definition cannot have many park areas--it is a business center for retail, offices, restaraunts etc.

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Posted by long time PA resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

Let's try this.
1. No Arrigillia project there. If Stanford needs big office buildings they can build them on their own land at their own cost.
2. Leave the hostess house where it is accesable to all.
3. Make all the rest of the land a park for everyone.
Come on City Council and Planning Department do what is best for Palo Alto not what you are told to do by money and power.

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Posted by palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

Too Much Green, You're playing a silly semantic game. I think that it should be put to a vote of Palo Alto residents as to which they would rather have a huge ofice complex or a park.

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Posted by too much green
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

PA resident--I completely agree with you that it should be put to a vote--office building, park or left as is.
The big picture is will HSR ever come through there, will the Caltrain want to redo the station area. Do you want the Hostess House left there etc.
I would have no problem with the city buying the land from Stanford to use as the people desire

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Posted by Tomy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

This story would be much better with a graphic. Come on!

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

@ long time PA resident: Actually Stanford owns all of the land where the Arriaga/Stanford project has been proposed to be built. Just like the car lots on ECR in Menlo Park - Stanford owns that land too.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:06 am

Since when do dogs "need" a park? Use the sidewalk to walk your dog like most people do. If you don't have a yard to let your dog outside, just walk it on a leash. The exercise is good for you. If you don't like that, then don't own a dog. Puhlease - parks for dogs? Idiotic.

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Posted by Long tern resident of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I have a question. Stanford owns the land and the Hostess House. Arrigilla is one of the biggest donors to Stanford. So what do we in Palo Alto have to say about this project? Do we have any real recourse or is the debate just to let us vent and then go ahead with what ever they want. What is the real power of Palo Alto in this circumstance? If Palo Alto does not approve a variance can it still go through? I would love some clarity.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Just posted this on another thread:
Web Link

Here's an idea:

Move Hostess House to the orchard and make it a community orchard.

Wait, hear me out.

We have the problem of where to put historic Hostess House. It's a problem for the Arrillaga development and must be relocated.

The lot in question is a beautiful open orchard with some 100 year old oaks across from Juana Briones Park. What if someone were to perhaps convince Arrillaga to buy the property from PAHC -- perhaps purchase price plus a few hundred thousand more for their trouble -- then put up housing in keeping with the neighborhood and zoning on the north (El Camino) end of the lot, parallel with El Camino, with a lane and driveways facing El Camino and the houses facing the park? Six new homes for $2 million each. The houses on Maybell come down, and Maybell (which is too narrow there) widened with a sidewalk.

With the 1.5 acres left, the Hostess house gets located there, and it becomes a community center again, garden, and orchard, across from Juana Briones Park. Note that the Veterans Hospital is behind this neighborhood and not that far a drive or walk on the bike path. Arrillago donates the 1.5 acres to Parks and Rec and writes off $9million.

It would be accessible to the neighborhood, 4 schools within a few blocks -- as well as the low-income senior housing PAHC is building right now just across El Camino. It could be a place for neighbors to gather once again.


Maybe instead of buying the property from PAHC, he could swap for land nearer Stanford where seniors would be near to services they actually don't have to drive to.

There are always logistical hurdles for anything, but it solves a lot of problems for everyone, for Arrillaga, the City, and most of all, the issue of that orchard not adding to the safety/traffic issues for THAT LOCATION in Greenacres (which only has safe routes to school in and out of the neighborhood), and preserving open space in an increasingly congested end of town.

And, the neighbors are organizing for a fight over the high-density rezoning, they could organize in support of something like this!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

It might be possible for Arrillaga to keep two of those house on Maybell, in such a plan, renovate those, bringing the total of home sales to eight, financing the project completely and still providing the donation of land for Hostess House and 9million writeoff....

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