Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto may pull back from Cubberley to cut costs

Original post made on May 12, 2020

As Palo Alto grapples with a bleak budget picture, the fates of Cubberley Community Center and College Terrace Library are up in the air.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 12, 2020, 12:50 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Wrong Way to Cut
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 12, 2020 at 3:13 am

How about instead temporarily cutting salaries, especially from those earning over a $100,000 a year? Start with the City Manager, who makes over $400,000 a year PLUS benefits.

Salary cuts protect both jobs and existing services and makes getting back to full service easier when the economy recovers. Right now, it sounds like upper management is feverishly protecting its own salaries by happily sacrificing the lowest-paid workers, such as the non-librarians who run the College Terrace Library. So we'll get even more top-heavy management and worse city services while laying off people who need the money the most.

Come on Council - show some leadership.

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2020 at 6:05 am

Thank god we have the money to build the bridge that will service like 10 houses across the creek in North Palo Alto.

Pshhh, who even wants a community center that mostly serve south Palo Alto anyhow...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 6:47 am

The first way is to cut costs at City Hall. Get rid of the large numbers of administrators with fancy titles. Start whittling away at the top, not the services for residents.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2020 at 8:52 am

I live on the other side of town, but have always wondered why the city needs both the Cubberly Center, and Mitchell Park. They're very close to each other, and offer very similar things, don't they?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 9:35 am

Let's see a budget laid out with ZERO *new* construction projects. Defer all the constructions -starts-. Defer the public safety building. Delay the replacement firestation. Postpone the 101 bike bridge.

Next, zero out overtime.

THEN let's see what we need to do. I just don't believe that we need to cut services for residents. To the City Manager/City Council: PROVE IT. Prove that services for residents must be cut.

Every time they talk, it proves to me once again that they are more interested in continuing to build edifices than they are in services for residents. Until they completely stop these new construction starts, there is really nothing to talk about.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2020 at 10:13 am

I live on the other side of town ... but I've always wondered why we need the Art Center, Junior museum, Riconada park, Riconada library and Lucie Stern community Center. They are all very close together and serve the same purpose don't they? (note sarcasm).

Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2020 at 10:33 am

For many older residents, taking public transportation to a library across town is not only difficult, but also dangerous in these Covid-19 times. And because of where the other 4 Palo Alto libraries are located (Downton, Children’s, Rinconada, Mitchell Park), walking for our seniors -- or biking for children -- is not a reasonable option.

At a bigger picture level, please understand that you would be cutting not into flesh but rather into bone. Our city libraries and emergency services (fire, police, etc.) should really be the last thing cut. The net savings of $167,000 for closing the CT library hardly seems worth it.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 10:38 am

Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown

>> I've always wondered why we need the Art Center, Junior museum, Riconada park, Riconada library and Lucie Stern community Center. They are all very close together and serve the same purpose don't they? (note sarcasm).

I have a different take on it. In my opinion, "art centers" have a relatively short shelf-life, but, better to allocate some money and real-estate on them than office space. Cities need some non-money-making spaces in them to give them livability. Palo Alto is drowning in app-developers right now. We need other stuff to balance it out. As for Cubberley, I hope that within my lifetime everyone will see the light and turn it back into a third high-school (re-named after a tree I hope). The Gunn site is badly situated to be a large central high school. PAUSD made a really, really dumb decision back in 1978-1979. Exceptionally short-sighted, and, it has cost a bundle over the years to compensate.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2020 at 12:07 pm

All capital development projects should be put on hold immediately, until we finish this discussion on budget. We have a shortfall of around $40M and potentially 20% of that could be solved by not building the bike bridge over 101. Let's postpone that for a couple of years until the economy comes back. People can use the Adobe Creek tunnel at the same site until that happens. Just put a stop to it right now, take a breath, and then re-evaluate it. They just started work on it last week (groundbreaking was 6 months ago) and it will probably take 18 months to build. So, do you want a bike bridge that we don't really need, or a library and fire and police services?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Vice Mayor Dubois was absolutely right that they should focus first on the big-ticket items first; it was surprising that such a sensible suggestion got any pushback if the council is serious about saving money.

If you watched last night's meeting, you saw several interesting things: 1) Mayor Fine declining to answer whether the city discussed not giving out the $6,000,000 in new raises, 2) the dancing around whether any savings could be found by cutting the city's PR budget because "it's not pr; it's communications" and the double-talk about identifying "managers" who might be subject to cuts.

Going after the crossing guards while avoiding focusing on big ticket items or staffing seems like a false economy that avoids the big issues.

At least Mr. Tanaka tried to pin down the CFO and City Manager about staffing cuts but at every turn he was told, "nope, that won't work, not possible" raising questions about the sincerity of their efforts.

Posted by PA Grandma
a resident of College Terrace
on May 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Definitely do something to curb capital spending and excess salaries and pensions before cutting libraries and other services. Especially all the expensive road work, like the latest Charleston maze.

The libraries, the programs at the Cubberley site, Lucie Stern Center and the Art Center are going to be enormousely important as we climb out of this disaster. In fact it would be a valuable thing for PA to figure out how to put in place a program to actively subsidize tuition for children that need it, and adults, to engage in these activitie, not cut programs.

Posted by Unions run Palo Alto Budget
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Until residents understand the strangle hold that unions have on the budget they will continue to make comments that for budget cutting that will not be possible.

The city council has no ability to cut salaries since they are union negotiated and can't be changed under California law. Only the union can decide that their members can take pay cuts.

These same unions also are bleeding taxpayers dry with huge cushy pension costs that their members get at very early retirement ages.

The only way to cut salary is to fire people, which is OK with the unions as long as the overall pay to individuals doesn't go down.

The city needs to outsource as many jobs as possible to the private sector to take some of the power away from the unions.

Maybe the good citizens of Palo Alto can start some private corporations to run libraries at lower costs or run community spaces or offer support for community programs. Cut out the unions with their rigid rules and untouchable pensions.

I vote for completely outsourcing fire and paramedics so that they are not spending half their time eating and sleeping on the job. We can get inspections and fire duties done because the union says there are too few of them. I think if they actually "worked" they could get it done. At least the police show up for their shifts and nominally work while they are one the job.

So just remember, don't say cut salaries unless you can make the unions do it. And I don't see the unions here at all saying they will help out and everyone will take a 20% salary cut!!!

Posted by see comment above
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2020 at 12:58 pm

It should be "can't" not can get inspections done in the above comment. Sorry.

Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2020 at 12:59 pm

@Online Name

I agree that big picture items should definitely be looked at first, but stating Councilman Tanaka raised good points is where you definitely lost me. Tanaka came across as ill-informed, ill-prepared, and honestly just looked like he was bumbling along at a job he is ill-suited for.

The resistance to answer his questions wasn't met with "double talk" or with a lack of "sincerity" as you say, it was because they were suffering a fool and being as patient and respectful as they could while holding his digital hand.

Web Link

Watch yourself

Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2020 at 1:29 pm

I'm upset that the City is considering cutting part of its lease with the school district at Cubberley.
Even if the sports fields are saved, the nonprofits would be displaced and have nowhere to go. As a group, the nonprofits form an art community. I also feel we should support the schools and not cut payments to them.

We can postpone the bridge over 101 and other large capital projects. That's where the City Council should start.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Darwin, I did watch it thanks. I said "At least Mr. Tanaka TRIED to pin down the..." which is more than many of the others did as they seemed to blithely accept there was nothing to be done besides cut low-hanging fruit.

Most reasonable people would assume that not filling the 112(?? staff vacancies already budgeted would result in some savings and was worth questioning, esp. since the city uses the figure of $240,000 for each position. That there's no difference between hiring / not hiring 112 people could use a little more explanation for the test of us.

Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2020 at 2:03 pm

[Letter sent today]

Dear Mayor and Council,

This concerns the budget discussions in the light of the pandemic.

I suggest that you think about budget adjustments the way that businesses normally do when confronted with a financial crisis. Many businesses are having these problems right now.

First, you avoid actions that could harm or annoy your customers. You make it clear that you are working to restructure the company to meet customer expectations more efficiently.

Then, you review the obligations, organizational structure, and staffing of the company. Group heads are directed to come up with new plans including staffing and other resource reductions while still meeting group and corporate goals.

The City has been blessed with large resources for many decades. Head counts have increased remarkably while salaries and benefits have increased a lot. Given this, it is difficult to believe that you do not have many redundancies and inefficiencies in what has become a large bureaucracy. The City has too many managers and too large a staff in many areas. The residents know this.

I simply refuse to believe that the things you have identified for cuts (for example, the libraries and traffic control team) are the least important things in the City's budget. This list is an insult to the community.

It is time to take a measured and professional approach to the problems we face. The community will support you but is likely not to favor cuts to services that we depend upon and love in order to preserve positions that we don't think we need.

Thanks for listening.

Robert Smith

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on May 12, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Put the big projects on hold -- the new Public Safety Building, the bike bridge, the fire station. That is where the big savings will be. Then as Mr. Smith recommends above, ask each department head to come up with a plan to reduce their budget. DO NOT close any libraries, though open hours and perhaps staffing could be reduced. DO NOT reduce traffic control: our city is already dangerous because drivers are speeding and ignoring stop signs.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 12, 2020 at 2:53 pm


Do you understand that canceling vacancies does not fix the budget by itself. You have to fix the budget, then you can determine what jobs you need and don’t need. There already is a hiring freeze.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2020 at 3:23 pm

Chris, I do understand that but there are savings there. But in the hearings last night the city said they were going to fill vacancies due to under0staffubg in some departments, especially police. They said the "vacancies" could also be used by current employees seeking a higher-level job and more money.

Of course you have to fix the budget; one lives in hope.

My main concern is that other council members weren't pushing more.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2020 at 3:24 pm

Saving $167,000 for the College Terrace library; to put that in perspective, look at the cost of the City Manager's office per 2020 adopted budget (salaries only):

City Manager - $356,000
Assistant to the City Manager - $310,000
Assistant City Manager - $256,000
Deputy City Manager - $214,000
Chief Communications Office - $206,000
Communications Manager - $121,000
Executive Assistant to the City Manager - $102,000
2 Admin Assistants - $178,000
Management Analyst - $85,000

Total salary is $1,830,000; add in benefits, and it's $2,700,000

Posted by Len
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 12, 2020 at 4:57 pm

Put a hold on the Police Station. That should put $30 or $40 million back in to the budget.

Posted by Dianne
a resident of Downtown North
on May 12, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Besides our excellent schools, one of the reasons Palo Alto is so desirable and the property values are so high is the availability of cultural resources for our community. When I walk through Cubberley Center I see classes for many forms of dance, music, martial arts, meditation, art, yoga, movement, sports who would not be able to find or afford space in a town where almost every available nook or cranny has been turned into a tech company. The non-profits and arts organizations housed in Cubberley are treasures whose loss would be deeply felt so I urge those of you who value them to speak up before consequential decisions are made which could change the character of our town.

Posted by Barroness
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2020 at 7:08 pm

Move FOPAL from Cubberly to College Terrace Library.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2020 at 9:51 am

Well, i am glad everyone is enraged at this wholesale destruction of all that make Palo Alto a desirable place to live! besides posting online , please email the city council and city manager with your thoughts: [email protected]

stand up and be heard! yes, stopping the public safety building, the pedestrian bridge and some other massive projects will save the needed funds. No need to eviscerate the College Terrace Library and other services.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Los Altos
on May 13, 2020 at 11:18 am

This employment data is a
couple years old, but likely
to still be mostly accurate.

Department 2017_Full Time
------------- ----------
Administrative Services.55
City Attorney...........13
City Auditor.............6
City Clerk...............5
City Council.............0
City Manager............10
Community Services......81
Development Services....31
Human Resources.........15
Information Technology..31
Library Services Department..54
Planning & Community
Public Works...........211
Full and Part Time:...1549

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 11:21 am

Joe, I'm having a hard time reading/understanding your post as it is formatted now.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 12:01 pm

> Joe, I'm having a hard time reading/understanding
> your post as it is formatted now

The data was formatted in columns, but the Weekly's software mangles the text. The Weekly refuses to fix this problem. It's been pointed out to them for years.

However, if you copy the text from the post, put in an editor, word processor or spreadsheet on your PC-- then you can format it so that you can read it comfortably.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

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

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

How quickly will we electrify our homes?
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 3,015 views

Sulbing Cafe brings internationally popular shaved ice dessert to Santa Clara
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 1,828 views

Everything Falls – Lessons in Life and Souffle
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,677 views