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City spots flaws in glass shards on California Avenue

Original post made on Jan 20, 2015

Responding to complaints about the sharpness of the polished glass used in California Avenues new sidewalks, Palo Alto officials have directed the contractor behind the $7 million streetscape project to remove and re-embed the glass in some areas.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 2:27 PM

Comments (55)

Posted by dog lover
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Thank you Ms. Devincenzi for your persistence. I often walk my dog along Cal Ave and am very concerned about him cutting his paws on the pieces of glass protruding from the sidewalks. I imagine parents of small children have similar concerns.

Posted by Ay Long Last!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Thank you for FINALLY listening to our pleas! My two-year-old son tore up his knees badly enough to require medical care back in early October, and I have been begging for the city to attend to this ever since!

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Maybe Ms. Devincenzi can fight City Hall on the ridiculous parallel parking backing up traffic onto El Camino, too?

Maybe she can also lobby City Hall to fix the Embarcadero lights at Town & Country since she seems to have so much more clout than all the complaining residents combined.

Poor Cal Ave merchants.

Posted by S
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Oh thank goodness! I assumed this was intentional to keep people from loitering with the threat of bodily harm by glass shards, but it's been annoying telling two toddlers they can't run, don't fall, they can't sit, don't touch - when they're just on a sidewalk trying to enjoy their farmers market snacks. I'm glad to hear it was a mistake and will be fixed!

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Having read about the problems, I wondered if they were exaggerated. They are NOT! I ran my hand over the glassy sidewalks and the protruding glass is definitely a hazard for people -- and dogs!

I wonder how much extra we're paying for the glass and whose brilliant idea it was. (No pun intended.)

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Cost of the "jewels" -- so far:

Web Link
The first batch of decorative sidewalk segments built for the project resulted in a 2 week delay to address supply issues of the decorative glass jewels.

The glass jewels supplied during the material approval process did not match the glass jewels installed at the first field installation sites near Park Boulevard. Additional decorative sidewalk segments were delayed while the supplier modified their fabrication process to ensure a more uniform material size.

The initial two installations in front of Kinko’s and Baume Restaurant were removed and replaced in July. With the glass jewel fabrication issues addressed, decorative sidewalk installations continued in August but a 2 week delay was realized (10 working days).

Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Well, it is obviou. We need special sidewalks because we are Palo Alto. That is why we need to build a fancy bike bridge over 101, so that everyne will see Palo Alto as the leader in everything.
Put n a simple, long lasting sidewalk. Not in Palo Alto. We have to show the world how things are done. California avenue is , after all, one of the leading retail destinations in the world. It has to look special.

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Pat, I'm not seeing the $$$ costs in report you cited.

Agenda, hah! Cal Ave as "one of the leading retail destinations in the world." Just like El Camino's the Champs Elysses!

Delusions of grandeur, anyone?

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:47 pm

A few weeks ago I discovered a new problem with the Cal Ave sidewalks that will no be corrected by replacing the large glass shards, with smaller glass shards... in the late afternoon, when the setting sun is lined up with Cal Ave the glass shard reflect a blinding light when you are walking toward the west.

How about just admitting this was a dumb (and not very attractive) idea, and replacing the sidewalks with normal concrete sidewalks?

Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Silly-- I did not think of it, but california avenue does interesect the Palo Alto champs d'elysse.
Our council and staff live off of delusions of grandeur. That is why everything takes years to get done. And given the comments and expectations from them regarding the bike bridge, I do not expect things to change.

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm

It is not the PACC that is delusional. The PACC is just trying to fulfill the XXX dreams of Palo Alto commercial real-estate developers and owners... ha ha ha, just think about the rent I could charge if El Camino WAS the Champs d' Elysse, and Cal Ave WAS a world class retail destination (Rodeo Drive), braw ha ha ha...

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Of course you're not seeing the $$$ costs. Why would the city manager put costs in his “California Avenue Streetscape Improvements Project Update.” And why would the city council demand it? After all, it’s just taxpayer money.

That 9/25/14 report also said, “Construction for this project was anticipated to be completed by the end of the calendar year (December 2014). The project is now expected to be completed at the beginning of March 2015, barring unforeseen circumstances or major storms.”

Ahem, that blinding light problem affects drivers, too.

Posted by Just saying
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 9:01 pm

My husband isn't usually a critic, but even he said "it just looks cheesy"...

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Marie is a registered user.

The embedded glass sidewalks are dangerous and ugly. i don't think there is any way to make it right. PACC needs to bite the bullet and replace these with an alternative - either plain concrete sidewalks or some other accent. Take another look at Castro Street. There accents are functional and look good. Face it - this is an experiment that failed.

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2015 at 8:55 am

SteveU is a registered user.

A few weeks ago I rode my bike over there to see what all the fuss was about.

I see that the City found a use for recycled (broken) glass bottles.
A very, very poor one...

I got off my bike and made a closer examination:
the glass was Clear, with sharp edges, not the tumbled (smooth, dull) pebbles you find at some of the former Coastal (ocean) dump sites.

Obviously, Palo Alto is too good for safer, Dull(ed) Glass.

Posted by mike sugerman kpix
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2015 at 11:57 am

I am a TV reporter doing a story on the glass shards on Cal Ave sidewalks. Could someone please call?
Mike Sugerman

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Mike, I'm a fan and look forward to hearing your commentary.
We'll see whether the PA Online moderator leaves your KCBS phone number up.
Sorry I won't be calling -- to me this is sidewalk decoration is much ado about nothing.
We have so many larger concerns.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Another misstep by Jaime Rodriguez, the head of the Transportation Dept. The guy only cares about bicyclists. His attitude is to make the lives of pedestrians and motorists in PA more difficult. [Portion removed.]

Posted by N Bumppo
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Ah, I think someone forgot the 'tumbled and polished' part of the spec. A friend who owns a shop on Cal Ave pointed out a sharp pointed shard sticking up with the cheap vodka label still attached. Definitely wouldn't want to walk barefoot around there!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Love it when the local news media reports on happenings in Palo Alto. Remember how the whole Bay Area laughed at our emergency Pancake Breakfast! No wonder we are called Shallow Alto!

ps, glad the glass is being removed, but can't comment as haven't seen it.

Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Eyes roll. Why not heads? Like, in city hall.

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Heads roll in City Hall? Surely, you jest. They get raises, bonuses and an unspecified amount of "extra pay" while being free to dole out big contracts to their buddies.

Meanwhile the poor merchants got a measly $2500 (or so) for their loss of business.

How much is the city spending on Social Media ($500,000), Traffic Reduction Non-Profits ($500,000) etc.?? What am I forgetting? How much are we spending on "Retail Preservation" consultants?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I've avoided Cal Ave for so long, owing to the overly extended time frame of construction, that I've only see the glass shards-laden sidewalk once. It seemed silly. What a waste of taxpayer money. A nice fresh sidewalk with some aggregate stones or something routine would have been much better and less expensive.
I would like to know who specifically in the City of PA approved this odd sidewalk design.

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Today’s Daily Post (1/21/15) reports “City to redo parts of glassy sidewalk.” Jaime Rodriguez “told the Post last night that the city isn’t re-doing the sidewalk because of those complaints.”

No surprise there. When did Rodriguez ever listen to residents?

The article also says, “In other areas, the concrete is flaking off because it wasn’t mixed properly.”
Who’s minding the store?

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

> “I would like to know who specifically in the City of PA approved this odd sidewalk design.”

The Public Records Access request form is at Web Link
See if you get an answer within the required 10-day response period.

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Pat, did the Post article say Rodriquez approved the glass sidewalk?

He should be fired for replacing the convenient diagonal parking with parallel parking that backs up onto El Camino!

Or does he get his bonuses for irritating taxpayers? (I LOVE stopping at the green T&C cross-walk light in time to get to the green T&C driveway light just as it turns red. At NIGHT when there's NO ONE at the cross-walk, no kids to "protect" ... )

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

The Post didn't specifically say Rodriguez approved the glass, one can assume that, since he's the chief transportation officer in charge of the CA Ave. project, he approved it -- as well as the planning director, the city manager and the city council.

BTW, how hard can it be to mix concrete properly?

No oversight at any level.

Posted by a
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2015 at 2:41 pm

I agree with Silly about the parallel parking. It backs up people turning off of EL Camino and endangers bikers. I was excited for the improvements and updating the aesthetics on Cal Ave...but now I'm scared to bike down it. I have 3 small children and now I'm even more weary of walking/biking down this street.

People don't look where they're driving, and at lunch time the floods of office workers who are chatting and just stepping out into the street don't ever look. Someday I'm going to run them over because I won't be able to stop in time, they just step out into the street without looking and are completely unaware of their surroundings. PAY ATTENTION EVERYONE, if you're walking, driving, biking. You are not the only person in the world.

Posted by It's his job
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Rodriguez is useful to the City Manager, he takes the heat and the CM smiles off-camera. I assume that taking the heat and irritating those pesky residents is part of his unwritten job description.
Else, why is it going on so long?

And is there a connection with the several companies Rodriguez owns?

Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Nice that the city has finally "spotted" the flaws in the sidewalk design. Residents spotted them months ago. How long is it going to take the city to "spot" the rest of the flaws?

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Here's the link to the KPIX segment on the glass:

Web Link

Too bad no one asked the City Official Keith how replacing the sidewalks won't cost anything more.

Isn't it miraculous that Palo Alto workers work for free and that the merchants won't lose another dime due to to the delay.

Posted by Katie
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Only in Palo Alto could this happen!

Posted by scraping the bottom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 9:37 pm

These sidewalks are ill-conceived not just badly executed. They make no
sense for a commercial sidewalk. Have these been installed anywhere
else? We are not just below norms in terms of planning and development
control,streetscapes,neighborhood preservation- we are scraping the bottom and becoming a symbol of failed government at a level seldom seen considering where we started and where we are today.

Posted by Ped
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2015 at 9:48 pm

I walked to California Avenue from Midtown. I found the glass infused sidewalk a very entertaining design. I am not sure I would have done it for my driveway, but I had fun walking over the surface and enjoying all the colorful reflections. After those portions, walking over dull concrete was boring. Maybe they can sand it a bit and smooth the sharp edges. But I hope they *don't* remove them.

Posted by Barron Park Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm

Not only is the glass infused concrete unsafe, now we have yet another sidewalk material along this short commercial strip. The sidewalk has become an ugly hodge podge of materials, with different concrete mixes of various sizes, as well as colored bricks and tiles. There is no consistency whatsoever. I was very supportive of this streetscape renovation, but I am not at all happy with the results.

Posted by scraping the bottom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 10:43 pm

@Barron Park Resident
Exactly right. Was there a landscape architect here? Ugliness is spreading
over the entire City and its streetscapes - it has a life of its own,
unstoppable and it is consuming eveything. This is a horror movie. The
Go Mama sculpture must like the new sidewalks.

Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:31 am

When Mike Sugarmen takes off his shoes and socks in that news clip and walks on the glass shards.... PRICELESS.... and then then City staffer saying the issue is just a teensy bit of "inconsistencies" by the contracter .... I laughed so hard I choked.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 5:43 am

Originally budgeted at $1.5 million with $1 million coming from grants, the past city council pushed this project because of the grant money. Now the city is spending $7 million; instead of putting the extra $5.5 million for projects like the replacement for a public safety building, it's spent on unsafe sidewalks.

Where were the members of the Infrastructure Commission? One of them was Marc Berman who is on the City Council and voted for the overspending on this project, and then pushed to impose more taxes saying they will be used for "infrastructure" projects.

So what we see happening is that the city spends on pet projects, and then plead poverty to pass new taxes.

Posted by jm
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:31 am

When Jaime Rodriguez was hired he applied for the VTA grant, which I thought was $1.5 million. The city had already set aside $750K for repaving and a few new benches, but the project had languished. However, the VTA grant came with the stipulation that California Avenue must be reduced to one lane each way. According to the latest fad in traffic management lane reductions are de rigueur as a way to "encourage" people not to drive. Jaime Rodriguez is still relatively young and it could be said that the bigger the project the better it will look on his resume.

At the planning stage the traffic consultant's report conveniently concluded that lane reduction will only result in a few extra seconds for drivers. At the public presentation I asked why hadn't the recent up-zoning of the California business area been taken into account in the consultant's report. Jaime looked awkward and the director of planning quickly stood up quietly responded that because they didn't have any construction applications this couldn't take this into account! And Jaime quickly moved on to the next question.

Has anyone else noticed that as that the city has been reducing the width of spaces in parking lots many drivers of larger cars, SUV's, and trucks, simply park up against, on, or over the passenger side stripe? Making the adjacent parking space unusable and vacant? Or worse, you come back and find you can't open the driver's door and have to climb across from the passenger side!

Posted by Surly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Did the VTA require the switch from convenient diagonal parking to parallel parking which takes longer and causes longer backups or was the Mr. Rodriquez's own idea?

Remember when he was forced to shelve the BACK-IN parking that had only been tried on one deserted street in Fremont and caused so many accidents they shelved it within weeks?

KPIX and Mr. Sugarman have enough material on Palo Alto boondoggles to run a constant news program!

I still want to know how fixing this mess won't cost the city any money? Did we finally find people to work for free

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:38 pm

The only way I can see this removal being at no cost, is that it was budgeted in from the beginning. The "let's see if this works but in case it doesn't we should budget the cost of replacement in the original budget" idea.

Posted by It's his job
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Scraping said: Ugliness is spreading over the entire City and its streetscapes - it has a life of its own, unstoppable and it is consuming eveything. This is a horror movie.

It can't be accidental, it is so widespread. I just drove past the new library and the huge, immense white sculpture overwhelms the street. A mass of geometric figures piled one over the other. this is art? expensive art?

And who chose the new carpet for the council chambers? someone with vision impairment?

In a world with so much that is beautiful to chose from it can't be accidental that the city chooses ugliness and incompetence again and again.

Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

I think the sidewalks are beautiful and it is amazing to walk on jewels. Hopefully will be sanded and the jewels kept.

As for the blinding lights from the sidewalk---maybe this will be sufficient to divert the flight paths over Palo Alto and reduce the nightmare noise and pollution!

Posted by Barron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2015 at 1:48 am

Can residents put a referendum together for the next election that will reduce the number of city employees 5% per year for 5 years.

We have too many employees with too much time dreaming up useless projects to justify their own positions.

Posted by adios
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 25, 2015 at 6:27 am

Jaime is gone, leaving the cit, kaput. Maybe the next person will focus on traffic and not grants.

Posted by Marty
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2015 at 11:08 am

Several thoughts about the California St. fiasco.
1. Whoever thought of the idea of the glass did not have the experience to understand the ramifications and difficulty of working with that material and should not have been tasked with making that decision, even if they thought it was "cute". 2. The work has been going on for months now and several things have been apparent from the very beginning, namely that the quality of the work was awful because in some spots there is a lot of glass and in some there is less AND what the installation is wrong, wrong, wrong! Wrong material, wrongly installed. Who are the city staff responsible for overseeing this work? Why did they wait until the past 2 weeks, until after much hue and cry from citizens, to initiate action to correct this mess? The awful work was obvious from the beginning and allowed to continue to this point. City staff responsible should be dismissed, as this was so obviously unacceptable work that they did not do their job to do any quality control? Usually payment is made
via monthly draw requests that is approved by the owner and then paid. How many months of this work were approved and paid until now? Clearly the folks responsible for approving the draw requests are responsible for allowing this to go on as long and as obviously as it has. No wonder the citizens of Palo Alto have no confidence in either the leadership hearing what the community wants or city staff's ability to competently and professionally carry out work. This is mores upsetting because none of the last 3 big projects, this project, the library, or the tree removal on California avenue were so complex that competent oversight couldn't have prevented this series of fiascos. Hold Palo Alto staff accountable! If the city council doesn't come down hard on the responsible parties we will see the continued erosion of faith in our city.

Posted by Jennie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I tried California Avenue with my Nova 4-wheel walker. Now Ii's in for repairs getting new tires. Parking is hard in the area for the handicapped .... backing out dangerous, parking spots narrow. I WON'T GO THERE ANYMORE. And is it true that "Jamie" is gone? I'll drink to that.
Can the city buy a lot of black paint and un-paint the psychodelic streets splattered with green and yellow paint and street corners peppered with those @#$%^ yellow curb bumps. Very difficult to get a walker over those hated yellow bumps. Did anyone who demanded this even try to use a walker or even worse - a wheel chair - to get down the curb into and out of the street?? AND COULD THE CITY PLEASE FIX THE BAYLANDS? THE BOARDWALK IS FALLING IN THE WATER. THE INTERPRETIVE CENTER IS RARELY IF EVER OPENED. BUT LET SOMEONE ELSE DESIGN IT. NOT CITY STAFF.

Posted by Barron Park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm

We are seeing more and more failure of leadership in each of the city departments. If people don't do their jobs right in private industry, they lose their jobs or their companies disappear.

How can the city employees be held responsible for their failed deeds and lack of improvement?

Posted by You're Kidding, Right?
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2015 at 10:45 am

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The sidewalks look great and California Avenue is going to be so much improved when the project is completed.

Posted by Yet Another Voice
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2015 at 11:46 am

There are parts of the glass-infused sidewalk that look fine, even great.

But yes, there are parts that look bad and parts that are dangerous. The density (and type?) of glass varies and that looks terrible and sloppy. The sidewalk itself varies from new cement, old cement, patched cement, covers of various sorts, well embedded glass, poorly embedded glass. As a whole it looks terrible, like vairous colors of paint put on a house to decide what color to paint it, without actually painting the chosen color.

And there was apparently no thought to doing the right thing with gutters/drains/grading to ensure rain doesn't make very large puddles. Just a little rain makes the street very difficult to navigate for many people.

(It could be part of the pattern here in government sponsored projects: ignore basic requirements and nuts and bolts, but instead try something new and creative for its own sake. Don't ensure the outcome meets the actual requirements after its done; leave the public to deal with it. I'm thinking of zoning variances and lack of associated benefits, artwork, underpasses, libraries, city hall enhancements etc.)

Posted by Ding Dong
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Several people above said Jaime is gone?

Really??? Follow-up please!

For what it's worth, I sent an email to the Council last week about traffic lights and he wasn't copied on it.

Posted by Angela Greene
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2015 at 11:55 am

Dear Palo Alto Government:

After walking on the glass aggregate of California Avenue on a daily basis both me shoes and my rolling luggage were ruined.

Please reimburse me $500 for my troubles. I have also filed an inline complaint form..

Thank you greatly,
Angela G.

Posted by Tim Buck II
a resident of Downtown North
on May 19, 2015 at 9:49 am

Dear Ms. Greene:

Your claim is denied. You should know better than to walk on broken glass.


The City of Palo Alto

Posted by DC
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

Pardon me but glass will breaks and concrete chips. This is a never ending repair and liability. It was a bad choice for tables and counter tops and worse as a sidewalk or outdoor uses. on Nov 2016 I saw sever sharp broken segments still not removed or repaired.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm

eileen is a registered user.

I was walking there with my toddler granddaughter today and saw the delight in her face at the lovely sparkle of the glass sidewalks. What a fantastic and beautiful change from the UGLY concrete sidewalks in front of some of the other shops down there. Can we just lightly smooth out the offending areas and please retain this wonderful streetscape. My toddler tripped and fell on regular ugly and cracked concrete and busted open her knee. Please stop complaining about every little thing the City does, OK? Repairing or elimination this glass will cost the tax payers even MORE money and your kid will might still fall. Just saying....

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