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Hopes dim for restoring former Fry's building

Original post made on Dec 1, 2022

Poor conditions and new building codes have challenged the city's efforts to preserve the old cannery on Portage Avenue that until recently housed Fry's Electronics.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 1, 2022, 9:19 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Li Zhao
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 1, 2022 at 10:09 am

Li Zhao is a registered user.

The former Fry's site is unsuitable for housing and should be torn down in its entirety to make way for a more modern and accommodating residential complex.

No one wants to live in a dilapidated cannery that is structurally unsound and to make it livable will require additional and unecessary financial outlay.

Good business practices outweigh petty nostalgia and the city should authorize the building's complete demolition.


Posted by BruceS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2022 at 10:50 am

BruceS is a registered user.

Sorry, but let it go. It's not that special a building, and it's not that special to Palo Alto history. The Bay Area has to get denser, and has to have more housing. Those are absolutes. We certainly should save history where we can, but we have to be selective about what's really important, and what the tradeoffs are. And for this building it's pretty obvious to me that the tradeoffs do not suggest saving it. It's too large and means too little.

Now, the other factors are traffic and parking. Those have to be considered in any replacement, but replacement at this point seems unavoidable.


Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2022 at 10:54 am

commonsense is a registered user.

It's such a beautiful building. We definitely need a dozen more reports, surveys, working groups, lawsuits and decades before making a decision on this valued treasure/Fry's Electronics.


Posted by Tecsi
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:09 am

Tecsi is a registered user.

Let’s tear it down and build housing.

More people remember this people for Fry’s electronics goods than any pre-existing cannery.


Posted by Ellen
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:23 am

Ellen is a registered user.

Actually, most of us old people remember it as Maximart, not the cannery. I agree that housing should be the priority now.


Posted by fred
a resident of University South
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:36 am

fred is a registered user.

If the site is zoned properly, it can support housing. That was the plan decades ago when the original zoning was being amortized. It's too bad that council gave in attempting to support Fry's.
How did that work out?


Posted by Garry Wyndham
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:48 am

Garry Wyndham is a registered user.

Tear it down, erect an interpretive panel, recycle whatever you can and move on.


Posted by Lorraine Newberry
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2022 at 11:59 am

Lorraine Newberry is a registered user.

Who cares if the former Fry's/Maximart building was once the site of a cannery?

Do we preserve every old building in Palo Alto?

Tear it down and move on.


Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 1, 2022 at 12:05 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Oh another developer threatening to sue Palo Alto!!!!!!! and shock Palo Alto caved AGAIN!
This continues to be the ongoing scenario every developer uses to their advantage.

The City Council never should have "negotiated" with Sobrato. Once the City caved under threat of a lawsuit, the developer was going to get everything he wanted..... if not, threaten to sue.....again.

Worse, I believe these negotiations and the final City Council approval of the negotiated agreement were done in private; and not open to the public scrutiny or comment.

This is, of course, after years of the City seeking public input, even having a North Ventura Working Group who met for months discussing what the community wanted and giving the City recommendations.

So now, we have a less than optimal privately negotiated "agreement" where "the developer agreed to preserve and enhance a portion of the building that a century ago stood out as the world's third largest cannery of fruits and vegetables."

But SUDDENLY!!!!!! the developer "discovers" the building is too expensive" to rehab? And City staff is supporting the developer????

I personally don't see this issue as one of housing.

I see it as one of another "get rich scheme" developers have pulled with increasing frequency on Palo Alto. using housing as a guise to get what they want.

I have trouble believing a "billionaire developer" does not know the state of his property!

And is it the City staff's responsibility to know?? IMO, no, it is not!

i wish the City would use some of the recently discovered 40 million $ surplus and
say OK, SUE ME! that is, IMO, the only way these shenanigans will end.

Rolling over every time a developer threatens to sue is not a good practice.


Posted by Harold Jenkins
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Harold Jenkins is a registered user.

If that old Fry's building was a significant historical landmark, it would have been designated as one by the State of California and the PACC.

For preservationists still residing in the past, why not preserve all of the now- defunct canneries throughout CA as historical landmarks?


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:21 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

Since when are solar panels required on a historic building? Cannot preserve a historic building because it does not modern building codes? Excuses for the developer to get out of the part of the agreement they didn’t like. Its as if the folks buying these excuses never travelled to Europe. Also you can always restore. Even portions of the Great Wall of China were restored.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 1, 2022 at 1:53 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Darn it all for the new codes.

Stonehenge is a historic structure. Other countries laugh at our self-congratulatory monuments while they point to their beautiful architecture, objects d'art, magnificent frescoes; and the Mayans have us beat hands down in every department. But the cannery in question is worthy of some kind of preservation. West of the Mississippi, almost nothing has been preserved. These were Native lands just like the area EAST of the Mississippi. Yet they managed to preserve many historic lands in some way, so the past is not forgotten. PA doesn't roll that way. PA is dollar driven. Wiping away all vestiges of the past is PA's way of saying, "we are only focused on the future". Brings to mind "if you don't know where you came from, you won't know where you're going."


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Dec 1, 2022 at 3:00 pm

community member is a registered user.

I miss Fry's so much. I shopped there frequently, as so did many others.
And browsing the varied electronics, computers,etc. was a pleasure.
Now the vultures are circling.
Sad days,


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2022 at 4:21 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

That whole area where Fry's is/was located said the lovely City of Palo Alto in the 1990s is meant to be RESIDENTIAL.


Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2022 at 7:05 pm

tmp is a registered user.

What needs to be there is a large park, open space and recreation space for the many thousands of new and soon to be residents of this city. The city is woefully silent on that aspect of the comprehensive plan that details open/park space per resident. They are hundreds of acres behind with no mention of ever doing anything about it.

Apparently they think everyone just lives in their little pod home and plays on their computers all day. And when the next disaster strikes and homes fall in earthquakes, people will live in the street since there will be no parks to camp out in.

Nice planning for the area.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2022 at 7:35 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

the whole point here is to upgrade that whole section which is broken down buildings and huge parking lots. Check out the SU upgrade on Sand Hill Road - nice apartments, play area for kids.
what we need here is residential buildings and a cute restauarant that the locals can walk to to add cheer. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Maybe a tiny service grocery store. Maybe a urgent care center that can help out with small issues and then refer people to a major medical center. I don't get why this is being held up because of a historical angle that can be better served in another failing project - the old PAMF building in the park.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 1, 2022 at 8:31 pm

mjh is a registered user.

All commercial use on the site was amortized in the mid-1990’s with the then owner given 30 years notice as legally required (the “sunset clause”) to recoup its investment, after which time all commercial uses on site would be out of compliance and only multi-family housing allowed.

However, as the 30 year time frame approached, the then council was persuaded to extend the Fry’s lease until 2019 to take advantage of the Fry’s sales tax contribution to the city coffers. Meanwhile council had extensive discussions around the desirability of instructing staff to undertake a broad “coordinated area plan” for the site’s imminent reversion to 100% multi family housing, including the Cal Ave business district, similar to the successful SOFA plan. At some point the property changed hands and was bought by Sobrato.

Then, at the termination of the Fry’s lease, the public discovers that Sobrato has no intention of using the site 100% for housing. Turns out that in the interim Sobrato has such clout in city hall the “sunset clause” was voided just as it was to take effect. Instead the city effectively “up-zoned” the site in favor of allowing Sobrato to not only continue its existing office use, but in addition be allowed to include offices in any site redevelopment instead of 100% housing!

What happened? Looks like this would be an interesting investigative project for a journalist brave enough to take on the establishment figures that greased the wheels so favorably for Sobrato.




Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 1, 2022 at 9:09 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I too miss Fry's. It was like Toys R Us for grownup computer nerds. I liked building out a PC to perform the way I need it to. Now there are only limited selections for computers, each as dull as the next. I don't want to swipe at my screen. I don't want "S MODE". Nor do I want a glorified tracking device. Remember when we could add our own ram, or repair a heatsink or replace a ribbon cable? Fry's had all the parts and if they didn't they would order it in stock and call you when it came in. Without making you pay for it first. Alas, the City is going to do whatever they want with this site, regardless of public opinion. Another eyesore will be erected, with housing where there's not enough parking for the residents. And multi-use is a crap plan because NOBODY will be able to find a place to park - residents or shoppers or merchants. C'est La Vie.


Posted by Jay
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2022 at 10:55 am

Jay is a registered user.

We should be selective of historic buildings. And this definitely doesn't make the cut. Tear it down and build much needed housing.


Posted by Jane
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 2, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Jane is a registered user.

We don't need more density, we need less commercial development to reduce the demand. Check out how the residential streets in that area have all become one-lane because of parked vehicles. Check out how population density accelerates the spread of infectious disease.

That said, the Fry's building never got any significant maintenance and the whole thing is just a rusting moldy rat haven. Even if it could support solar panels (which is an absurd requirement, btw, if your goal is some kind of historic preservation) it should just be torn down. Take pictures first if you care.


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2022 at 1:32 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Rita Vrehl hit the nail on the head w/her comment about the developer SUDDENLY discovering the status of the condition of the building. That is simply not credible. But practiced, successful developers who enjoy a cozy relationship with the City will simply say this: get over it; this is how things get done. And there's a lot of truth in that. And in Palo Alto, questionable sequencing is becoming SOP.

As for the solar panel requirement, that falls in the just-so-much-blather bucket. Anyone who has paid for and installed solar panels at their home can tell you that the delay in getting final approval from the City is so protracted that one has to question the City's commitment to alternative energy sources.


Posted by III
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2022 at 10:00 am

III is a registered user.

Was it not the old White Front store in the 1970s?
Is the land underneath still considered contaminated? Used to be.
Housing is logical, but OMG, the traffic concerns it would cause
getting in and out of that location, surrounded by
Rail Road Tracks, Alma, El Camino and Oregon Expressway.
Nothing is easy or simple anymore....
III


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