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Voters unlikely to fund bond for police HQ

Original post made on Dec 11, 2013

A bond to fund a new public-safety building in Palo Alto would probably fail if it were put on the November 2014 ballot, according to a survey conducted by a city contractor.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 9:52 AM

Comments (22)

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Posted by Use our surplus
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

Since the city's revenue is so good, instead of wasting the surplus money, perhaps it could try financing a public safety building without using a bond? All we have to do is not waste city surpluses on pay raises. A few good years of surpluses saved up would go a long way toward paying for the costs. Seems obvious to me.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

Use our surplus,

A bond is not a tax. It is a method for paying for a capital improvement up front. Otherwise you would have to put money in a savings account for 30 years before you could build anything.

A tax is different than a bond.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

> A tax is different than a bond.

Well, yes, that's true. But when a bond is retired via the revenues of a tax, it's hard to see them as any different from each other.

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Posted by I support a bond
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

So "Use our surplus", did you pay cash for your house? No. If you are like most of the rest of us, you took out a MORTGAGE because you couldn't afford to pay the full cost of this size capital investment up front. A bond measure is the standard way most cities (and governments at every level around the world) fund major capital investment. City revenues are not adequate to pay for this kind of expenditure and do the other important work that the city budget must fund, just like your income is not adequate to buy a house without a loan and meet your other expenses. Read the city budget.

Hotel taxes should be very carefully considered. I took the ridiculous survey. They offered no information about how Palo Alto hotels currently compare in tax levels and cost to surrounding communities. Without that information, I'd be an idiot to support the tax.

If you don't want City Hall to cut a deal with Jay Paul, then we HAVE to identify some realistic, large funding source for this major project.

Our current public safety building is NOT SEISMICALLY SOUND. In earthquake-prone California that is a significant problem that must be solved. Further, the police station is inadequate to serve a community this size. I recommend people tour it. I have. What I saw worried me.

Weekly, please do a tour of the facility and do a major expose on its problems--with photos. We are long overdue with a solution to this problem. this has been fully studied and reported by a Blue Ribbon committee (years ago now, which may be why so few people understand the problem) You can help by educating the community about what this means for their safety--both day-to-day and during a major earthquake. This is an urgent and important community safety NEED that most people do not understand. I hope our best local paper will inform the public about this pressing problem.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

Someone on a previous thread recommended much smaller, distributed stations around town. Maybe we could start funding those instead of a giant project all at once, or until we could fund it? If there is a disaster, the police are there around town, and it lessens the chance of responders being taken out.

Also, what about starting or increasing real estate transfer taxes?

I wonder if this firm is the same one that found people preferring Measure D two to one. Do you think they asked how people's feelings toward approving something might change if the Council stopped trying so hard to work for developers?

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

> City revenues are not adequate to pay for this kind of
> expenditure and do the other important work that the
> city budget must fund

This is story that City governments have promoted over the years. When the City budget (here in PA) was in the $50M to $75M, there really wasn’t a lot of money in the budget to fund grandiose projects—like massive police stations, funding for an airport, or all of the projects that seem to pop up almost weekly.

But with expenditure levels in the $150+M, there is money to tuck away for paying for capital expenditures. For instance, if the City were to reduce its spending by a mere 5%, then this generates $7.5M in “new” revenue. Over five years, this comes to $37.5M and over ten years—a sum of $75M could be made available from the revenues of the General Fund. And if the City were to reduce its spending by 10% a year—then these numbers are doubled.

Palo Alto has squandered untold dollars over the years. The pass-thru from the Utility over the past hundred years is quite large. Yet, we have virtually nothing to show for it other than a over-paid, and under-performing work force.

This City Manager has hired an incredible number of “executives” that produce what? Can anyone point to any real accomplishments for the 1) Emergency Services Manage, 2) Public Relations Officer, 3) the soon-to-be-hired “Sustainability” Officer, 4) the Business Development Manager?

The dollars that could go into Reserve Funds to pay for infrastructure are paying the salaries and benefits of these employees. It’s really hard to find anything “critical” in any of these folks job descriptions.

Rather than increase taxes and fees, it would be better to downsize by 5%, with a goal of 10% or even 15% of the unneeded staff—putting that money in infrastructure instead. Oh, and the City could sell some of its assets instead of sitting on them.

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Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Referring it to the Finance Committee is a Cop Out.

Now 4 council members analyze it and it gets Rubber Stamped by the Entire Council.

Why don't we just have 4 elected Council Members with a popularly elected Mayor with a staggered term?

Or don't we want Accountbility?

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Why can't we rebuild a new public safety building at the same site as the current one? Or as was suggested, at the sites of the fire stations that are being rebuilt. And are do we really need all the space in City Hall, could administrative portions of public safety be housed there instead?

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Posted by Old Man
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Let us begin with the $5.8M loan refund, and I assume it will take at least 3 years to complete the new facility using COMPETENT contractor and the surplus is more than adaquate for the ballance,

If more funding is required, please, reduce Mr Keens's budget and reduce his staff significantly.

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Posted by Cheez
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm

If the city has so much surplus money from tax revenues already, why not use that to build a new police headquarters. We are overtaxed already just to live here.

The city needs to dismount its high horse and get things done on its own. They have enough resources, so like Nike says, Just Do It.

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Posted by Chutzpah
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

There's a simple 7 letter word that explains why people won't vote for a public safety building now. The word is "LIBRARY" - the City screwed up massively with the construction on that project. Folks naturally expect the same thing is likely to happen again. They are probably right. The Library at Mitchell Park is still not complete.
And how about it's design ! - so incredibly god-awful ugly, among the ugliest of any structure on the peninsula. It will live 'in infamy,' as an embarrassment to Palo Alto and a monument to the tastelessness of the project planners.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Nobody in town trusts the City Council with money. @Wayne Martin's reasons are right, not to mention the Maybell fiasco and special election. What a mess.

Isn't there still a proposed pay raise for 100-200 city management staff coming back up? Especially now that Menlo Park just did one?

Of course @Chris may have the answer: I still have a credit card, how can I be broke?

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Posted by bignose
a resident of University South
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Given that the current building shared with city hall is unsound and requires the police to move out, doesn't that mean that it's unsound for the rest of the residents? Will moving the police out allow space for a seismic retrofit or do we need to level it? The reporting is lacking.

What are the requirements for the police department?

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Posted by Funding
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Nobody wants another library fiasco. So, we should probably not try to build anything. We simply lack the competence to design something buildable.

But, that's probably not going to stop us - the incompetent have the highest view of their own (in)ability.

So let's combine our two biggest problems: pc zoning and building. In fact, they can pay for the building by assessing a one time fee for pc zoning equal to 100% of the land value. That will slow down pc zoning, and slowly raise funds for police station.

That will give us a few years to train the idiots in building management, so we can slow the rate of stupidity in our city's waste of money on poorly-thought out construction.

(yes, I proudly voted against the library bond. It was an over bloated boondoggle from day one. How many others will admit it was a stupid waste?)

HSR, Library... We should just stop elections in this town, as voters we don't know what we are doing.

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Posted by getoveritfolks
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I agree with "I support a bond". We need to build a new public safety building (or whatever you want to call it) NOW. And we ought to pay for it ourselves, instead of selling out the Master Plan by giving concessions to developers. (I was also called for the survey).

And, No, "Palo Alto Resident", we cannot build it at the same location. There is not enough space there, and where would it be while it was torn down and being built?

I doubt "Wayne Martin's" numbers, but even if they were true then we should definitely pass the bond and start construction ASAP. Pay the bond off with the money Wayne says we could save *as we save it*. But don't wait until we have it all first.

And to "Chutzpah", you sure have it! I find the new library design pleasing and exciting. Your use of 'in infamy' is really over the top.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

> I doubt "Wayne Martin's" numbers,

Why do you doubt my numbers?

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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

The Palo Alto police need a new facility. That is an important goal for public safety. Public safety -- how much is it worth?

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I have been periodically following this topic of building a new police station since I moved here and I have to ask: why in this very wealthy, well funded city, have city officials been unable to make this happen by now?
Meantime, I have noted weird proposals (billboard), extra expenditures (costly multi-libraries scheme with cost and time overruns) and oddball, costly hiring of specialty "managers" and "officials" in fields such as PR and "sustainability."
Am I not correct that most if not all SF Bay Area cities have seismically safe, reasonably modern police stations? It doesn't seem rocket science, except PA city government seems SO excessive, consultant-and-process-laden, and SO ultra-costly that it is not possible to accomplish reasonable and meaningful projects such as this police HQ! And yes, I know land is expensive here, but that is NO excuse.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Don't we already have a mobile emergency operations center that can survive a nuclear attack or a 20 minute City Council sermon by Marc Berman?

Do supporters seriously believe a $57 million police station in Palo Alto will actually cost $57 million? Clearly price is a major issue. But, the idea keeps getting pitched again and again, as if it's the only possible solution for addressing the problems with the current facility. Couldn't the City partner with Mountain View and Los Altos to come to workable plan?

It's a ~45,000 square feet for $57 million. That's well over $1000/sq ft to store lost bicycles and shopping carts as well as an auditorium for those big public service announcements in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. You know we're going to three quarters into building the thing once everybody suddenly realizes we forgot to plan for the purchase of doors and windows.

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Posted by Duh
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:29 pm

The cost quoted is just too high. The city has enough money to fund this without taxpayer involvement.

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Posted by Funding
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm

A sure sign that this city does not know what it is doing. $57Mil sounds like the library all over again. Similar size, similar outrageous cost. Probably similar stupid design process.

Here is a suggestion: throw out this plan, and start over targeting a simple-to-build structure utilizing standard components, standard construction techniques, and target average $/sqft construction costs for commercial construction.

When the bill comes in at $15 you are in the right range.

A quick search on the web shows police stations for a city this size range from $12m -$18M.

Some extravagant plans up to 70000sqft hit $28m.

But that would be excessive.

I suggest a do- over on the plans: this time with a cost TARGET before design.

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Posted by resident2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:11 pm


"Don't we already have a mobile emergency operations center that can survive a nuclear attack or a 20 minute City Council sermon by Marc Berman?"

Best quote all week.

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

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