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Despite history of failure, Palo Alto eager to renew Cubberley negotiations

Original post made on May 16, 2023

For decades, Cubberley Community Center has served as both a valuable hub for artists, athletes and nonprofits and a place where local dreams go to die. On Monday, the City Council agreed to renew its effort to redevelop the center.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 16, 2023, 9:31 AM

Comments (17)

a resident of University South
on May 16, 2023 at 11:12 am

KEN HOROWITZ is a registered user.

“You must be very careful with planning for the future if you do not know where you are going because you might not get there” Yogi Berra

Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 16, 2023 at 1:37 pm

PST is a registered user.

I’d prefer whatever land the city has or can acquire there be used to build rental housing for extremely low income individuals forever more with the city retaining ownership. We’ve done without amenities proposed there for many years and should continue to do so given the extremely low income housing crisis.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2023 at 4:38 pm

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This is a prime, central ideally-situated location in Palo Alto. This is a real gem.
It should be a major public school (as it was in the past, happily) and/or major community resource. It should absolutely not be given for subsidized housing or sold to developers.

Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 16, 2023 at 4:51 pm

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Anonymous. There is room for a school and housing. The city should retain ownership and develop rental housing for extremely low income people. This would be a great community resource IMO. And if city owner it could exist in perpetuity. Time for the city to do something besides talk and dream to address this crisis.

Posted by Resident11
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2023 at 5:21 pm

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Palo Alto has more affordable housing per capita than any other city in Santa Clara County besides Gilroy. Yes, we need more, but this "do something besides talk and dream" is itself empty rhetoric. Affordable housing for the disabled is going up right around the corner from this site at 525 Charleston: Web Link

With the large majority of new housing planned for the southern part of the city, we need Cubberley to be used for school and other social and community-building services for the thousands of new people.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2023 at 5:57 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

The lion's share of state-mandated housing will land south of Oregon Expressway and most of that housing that will be in the general service area of Cubberley. Thousands of new residents will need community services and schools. Let's not forget that the homes Cubberley was built to serve are still here. Many are currently occupied by seniors who no longer have kids in these programs any more. That is rapidly changing, and we have an obligation to plan for the future as our predecessors did for us. Comprehensive planning for growth should be done for south Palo Alto as it has been done for other parts of the city, especially given the densification that is coming.

It is not correct to say that it's just fine services have diminished over time at Cubberley. Actually, service reduction has been a huge problem for people who need child care, art space, music practice space, dance space, gym space, therapeutic programs, senior programs, maker studio space, etc. It sounds like it is not a problem for you personally. Did you do a survey to find out what people need? I attended the entire last two Cubberley processes, and have read the Parks & Rec Master Plan and the Comp Plan and all of the documents that came out of THREE Cubberley planning processes. I hear people complain about it a lot. It is crystal clear to me that people need and want this space to be fully functional again.

Mitchell Park has nothing but meeting rooms and a small after-school meeting place for kids. It's not suitable for the programs I mentioned above. The new Mitchell Park space is mostly used for STEM camps, computer dependent activities. It gets rented out for events for REVENUE and is often used for city meetings. Cubberley needs to come back to life. It is our last, large publicly owned land dedicated for community use and school use. Housing is a PRIVATE use. If we convert that PF zoning, we will never be able to get it back when we need it. And we will need it.

Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2023 at 6:20 pm

Ken Dauber is a registered user.

This story is based on the premise that PAUSD's willingness to negotiate over transferring land to the city at Cubberley is new. But in fact the school board publicly stated its willingness to negotiate a land swap in October 2021 (see Web Link "Under a broad plan laid out at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, the district would reserve roughly 20 acres for a theoretical future high school and use the land in the much more immediate term to temporarily house two elementary schools while their campuses are under construction. The district would be open to negotiations about transferring part or all of the remaining 7 acres to the city of Palo Alto."

Despite the language from Vice Mayor Stone about Charlie Brown and the football, the district's position has been clear for years: it's ready to negotiate with the city over reconfiguring boundaries and swapping additional land, but it can't pay for community center projects using bond funds that are designated for educational purposes. When I was on the school board it was clear that city council members wanted the district to close the funding gap for the community center, and didn't really have a Plan B.

I'm not an expert on how the city funds its infrastructure projects, but a fair question for the city council is why it's possible to build a new police station and parking garage at Cal Ave, but not to build a community center at Cubberley. The answer isn't that PAUSD has somehow snatched away that football. I suspect it's in how the council sets priorities.

Posted by fred
a resident of University South
on May 16, 2023 at 11:15 pm

fred is a registered user.


Housing can be built in many places in Palo Alto -- El Camino, Downtown, California Ave.

Cubberley is one of very few locations where a Community Center can be located.

Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 17, 2023 at 9:43 am

PST is a registered user.

Cubberly is the largest city owned property where there is room for a school and EXTREMELY LOW INCOME housing, (not so called “affordable housing”)could be built as rental housing with the city retaining ownership in perpetuity. Perhaps with proper planning and negotiation there could also be room for some “community services” which are important but less important than the need for extremely low income rental housing in perpetuity IMO. “Affordable housing” is too expensive for many people in need so while it’s nice we have and are building more of that it does not meet the housing needs of truly low income people. Perhaps the airport or golf course lands could be repurposed for ELI housing but I assume people would resist that idea even more than using the Cubberly site.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 17, 2023 at 11:09 am

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I get the Charlie Brown part, since the Council seems not particularly capable here. But what has the school district done, aside from tell them that, no, they can't use school bonds to pay for a community center? And the Council suddenly remembers Cubberley, when the district sends them a letter reminding them of what they said two years ago? Hopefully they can get their act together and stop blaming others for their shortcomings.

Posted by Beryl Phillips
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 17, 2023 at 11:13 am

Beryl Phillips is a registered user.

There are only three options for the Cubberly site...(1) additional housing, (2) an educational campus, or (3) a cultural & recreation center.

This is not rocket science.

Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2023 at 4:15 pm

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

The CC and Ed Shikada failed to come up with the funds to do anything with Cubberley and rather than admit that, has tried for years to get residents to blame the school district. The City Council clown car, having tried and failed to bully the district into doing something patently not lawful -- that is to bail out the City financially and issue a bond to pay for non educational expenditures, now continue to claim that the failure to develop Cubberley was PAUSD's fault. The District has repeatedly offered, over a period of many years, to do exactly what is on offer today -- a land swap. There is nothing new here except some new hot air from the CC to cover up for their own failures. Maybe you shouldn't have built a giant Police Palace instead of a community center, CC and Ed. Stop blaming the schools for not wanting to bail out your bad planning. Sheesh.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2023 at 1:37 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

To PST, perhaps you are unaware. The City Council has just approved 50 units of 100% affordable housing less than one block from Cubberley, They also have approved 88 units on San Antonio Road for people who are transitioning from being unhoused. In addition, in the last 17 years, they approved and built The Treehouse on Charleston Road which added 33 100% affordable studios and 1 BR units. They also built Alta Torre which provided 56 1BR 100% affordable apartments for very low income seniors. Please note that I only mention the 100% affordable projects for very low income people. I do not mention the many hundreds of other units that have been built in this area and the thousands of mandated units that are coming. These new residents need community services.

How much housing do you recommend they build on north Palo Alto public facilities (PF-zoned) land? Which facilities do you recommend they eliminate to build housing there?--Rinconada Library? Lucie Stern, Junior Museum and Zoo, Children's Library, Art Center, Downtown Library? Personally, I think equitable distribution of community services is important--especially where we already are under served and the city is zoning for thousands of smaller new units for people who will have greater need for community services. Balanced land use is key to a healthy community.

Posted by roger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2023 at 11:39 pm

roger is a registered user.

lets not forget we own the city and we own the schools----lets get going --it is a disgrace and must be fixed.

Posted by roger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2023 at 11:41 pm

roger is a registered user.

lets not forget we own the city and we own the schools----lets get going, it is a disgrace and must be fixed.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2023 at 3:25 pm

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

These may be a naive questions, and I am no pro when it comes to municipal funding, but,

If a disturbed teen burns down two PAUSD classrooms at Cubberly, who pays the bill? PAUSD, the City, the Fire Department, the Police, or all of the above? Does insurance of any sort play a role?

Do they all draw from the same bucket, as in property taxes?

Not wading into the fight, just trying to understand it.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2023 at 7:34 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I am sick of the people who want to turn every piece of property into a place for housing. It's like a "group think" that every piece of community property which is used by many groups is a focal point for housing. CHS is very special - not a grab bag for all of the "housing" people. It is a location used by many non-profit groups for their activities.

There is a group that it is using the 'Housing Issue" as a wedge issue throuout the city. That wedge issue is dominating disussion on every topic. We have housing and we are going to protect our right to have a community which has some structure, some uniformaty to standard residential requirements.

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