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City looks at 3 strategies for revitalizing Palo Alto's flagging retail areas

Original post made on Aug 16, 2023

Eager to revitalize Palo Alto's business sector after three years of economic turbulence and uncertainty, city leaders pledged Monday to take a fresh look at how the city could help rather than hinder its retail districts.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 16, 2023, 8:27 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2023 at 8:54 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Sadly the City seems to think that the only walkable neighborhoods idea is for north of Oregon and not south of Oregon.
When the Community Garden in Midtown was bulldozed it was said at the time it was for more parking. That obviously never happened and there is now a field of weeds, useless for everyone. The Middlefield/Loma Verde corner is now an eyesore with no information about what is to happen, the upside of that is traffic is so much better at that intersection.
Round Table Pizza in Midtown seems to be closed for remodeling, according to a sign, but is that the case?
Charleston Center seems vibrant compared to the Midtown retail area. Piazzas is obviously a draw in the way Safeway is not. Getting Safeway to improve their store could help. But that alone is not enough. Mikes appears to be in trouble, not just because of the day late rent issue, but perhaps it is because he is not doing well enough to pay his rent early and perhaps there are issues to do with raising the money each month.

Property owners have increased their rents and have no emotional interest in making the community better. They doze out gardens and do nothing to give back. Some seating areas, a play structure, even some public art, could help. The City could start fining the owners of closed storefronts so that the owners might be more interested in helping out tenants with lowering rents or providing amenities.

An eat local, shop local campaign may help. There is a lot the City can do, but putting pressure on owners and local merchant associations to do more to work together could help. We as residents also need to do our part by patronizing our local retail.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2023 at 10:40 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Sadly the city chose to spend $261,000 on a consultant from Washington. DC, with no local knowledge and which ignored too many areas of the city rather than having staff get out and look around at the city it's paid to "manage." It's not rocket science to see how filthy the streets are and how much trash has accumulated.

It's not rocket science that allowing companies like Palantir operate company cafeterias just might have hurt nearby restaurants and retailers. They only had to bop into St Michael's alley at lunch time.

Appoint the local ombubsmen now and fire StreetSense whose cliche-ridden word salad presentation had a lot of us laughing at how they compared Palo Alto and New York City.

Hire Annette Glanckopf who notes that Economic Development staff should help businesses like they do elsewhere, not impeding progress like they do here. Too sensible and threatening for staff??

As amusing as StreetSense's failure to survey remote areas like San Antonio and El Camino was their suggestion that PA become a tourist attraction. They and staff ignored the fact that in 2015 PA HAD a highly paid Tourism Development manager for such a program but it was killed in a few years because -- shocker -- people didn't want to tour office parks -- and 2019 PA pulled out of a regional hotel/tourism group because it wasn't worth the money.

PA. where bad ideas never die.

Just follow Bill Ross's no-brainer point that revitalizing Stanford athletics will attract sports fans who stay in hotels, dine out etc. and stimulate the local economy without more consultants. Give staff their gold stars and be done.

Interesting that no mention was given to the outrageous rents and larcenous food delivery charges that establishments have specifically blamed for their closures. Predictable that Steven Levy touts his preference for fine-dining-by-delivery so he can pitch more housing and that Chamber of Commerce mainly focuses on downtown.

PS: Where's the article on Stanford sports?

Posted by Beverly James
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2023 at 10:45 am

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In some ways, the PACC relies too much on outside consultants and their exorbitant consulting fees to arrive at common sense solutions and alternatives.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2023 at 12:58 pm

Carla is a registered user.

I hope someone in the City listens to this:

I've been part of this community for a more than a decade, and I've isolated that a major factor that allows our successful business in downtown to thrive is that we have reasonable landlords. The major reason we don't have a diverse mix of retail like other downtowns of similar size e.g Carmel, maybe los gatos, and isolated parts of SF, is that the rents are much too high in downtown Palo Alto. The rents are high because there is little competition among the landlords. From what I've learned is that there is a handful of them that act like a monopoly in setting prices --or price collude, call it whatever you will.

I've also learned that these handful of landlords also financially (and likely legally) contribute to the City Council members elections from the get go, which means that they highly influence what the City does in the end for the Community --not to the benefit of the Community but to benefit the landlords.

[Why do you suppose that John Shenk, CEO of Thoits Bros. above gets so much air time in all hearings, at every angles, at all times?]

This is my opinion, understanding very well that there are numerous other factors at play for which there is no room here to discuss.

But these two insidious factors present are a real problem and barrier for our downtown.

Posted by Garry Wyndham
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2023 at 1:15 pm

Garry Wyndham is a registered user.

At Costco Mountain View today the nice young man from the solar energy company asked ‘have you ever considered solar power?’

‘I live in Palo Alto’

‘Ahh.. We don’t install there’

We both knew that, no matter how worthy the goal, the Palo Alto Process would contrive to make our lives miserable

Does it have to be this way?

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2023 at 1:45 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Why is the thriving retail district on nearby Los Altos Main and State Streets never used as a comparison to what our shopping cores in Palo Alto could and should be? Or is it because city hall has historically supported lobbying by landlords of restricted retail zoned properties to "up zone" by euphemistically designating an ever growing list of more profitable businesses as "retail-like" which essentially evicts traditional retail?

I burst out laughing on Monday night when our "expert" cited gyms as an excellent example of the types of business that could displace traditional retail. Because after the previous round of council hand wringing lamenting the demise of retail, former council member Liz Kniss lobbied to allow landlords to up-zone retail-restricted properties to exercise studios. Which must be more profitable for the landlord because not long after 4 or 5 existing businesses on California Avenue were displaced by personal training gyms. Including one of the last remaining useful resident serving shops, the family owned Village Stationers on the prime corner of Cal Ave and Birch, with huge retail display windows facing both streets always lit, colorful, and cheerful. Replaced by a personal training gym with prominent windows on Cal Ave and Birch now mostly black, uninviting, or when the inside lights on a really ugly and unattractive interior. An excellent example of "up-zoning" to cater to the boom-bust cycle of office space as not surprisingly most of these personal training studios went out of business once the offices were under occupied.

Palo Alto is a poster child of what happens when a critical mass of zoned traditional retail in shopping cores is hollowed out by allowing conversion of retail to non-retail businesses that can outcompete useful retail, ultimately setting a new bar with which useful local retail can no longer exist. And unfortunately encouraging, if not forcing, residents to take their sales tax dollars elsewhere.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2023 at 2:11 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I agree with the above ^ comparison of other nearby cities, towns and recommend including the wonderful downtown San Mateo, too. It’s easy benchmarking.
Highly paid consultants from out of area with belated reports vs. action now on the part of our city officials easily visiting/observing nearby recommended thriving, vibrant, SAFE, clean “downtown” retail,business districts. Learn from what you see.
And no, please…no phony pretend European themes like Santana Row. Keep it real.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 16, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Cal Ave merchants lament the lack of foot traffic during the day. I biked through Castro St (Mt View) a couple days ago around 1pm on a weekday - Castro St was jam packed. It was solid people. Twice as busy as Cal Ave is on a weekend night. Why? Mountain View allowed the building of a lot of condos - private property units for sale, and not just clustered around "transit."

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2023 at 2:27 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@mjh nails it. Because staff never gets out of their offices to drive to Los Altos and Menlo Park??

I was so glad that when this subject of gyms was raised that Mayor Kou pointed out to Julie LH that watching people sweat wouldn't exactly entice people to have a lovely meal.

When Julie's self-described "role model" Allison Cormack pushed for the conversion of Town & Country to medical/retail right before the pandemic shutdown ended, Cormack laughably claimed that would attract one-stop-shoppers who'd go shopping after their workout sessions and/or medical appointments. (She didn't care that staff had never even defined medical/retail or that the pandemic was ending and retail would obviously recover.)

We had great fun laughing at the idea of sweaty hurting people in leotards trying on / ruining clothing merchandise or patients drooling after their dental appointments at restaurants.

Seriously, when will our "leaders" start supporting OUR needs instead of greedy landlords and housing developers??

When restaurants like Refuge and Mikes and retailers like Footwear etc. EXPLICTLY blame outrageous rents and larcenous food delivery charges for their closures, when will our DODO leaders start looking into them??

DODO = Developer Owned Developer Operated

During the Town & Country medical/retail fiasco, Mayor Kou and some of us UNPAID volunteers actually spoke to the retail tenants and learned how Ellis kicked out independent medical offices like Dr. Lisa Berkowitz and refused to respond to rent renewal inquiries from long-time family business like Village Cheese House!

Why can't our highly paid staff and their highly paid consultants drive to nearby towns and/or pick up their phones, too??? They might actually learn something.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2023 at 3:32 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I watched Monday night's CC meeting so I saw it all and heard it all. My takeaway? It's over!! That horse isn't going to spring up and start racing again just because you kicked it. Bob Dylan got it right with his song, "The Times They Are Achangin". I only turn my clock back one hour every year, when we go off daylight saving time. I've written stories about "my town, then, and now". Interesting maybe, but just simple recordings and reflections of what it was compared to what it is now. The 'then' part came before all the big shopping malls and big box stores came into existence. That's when I bought home plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, various screws, nut, bolts, and nails, for my home projects, at Peninsula Hardware. And I could buy lumber at a couple places as well. My shopping habits changed and I eventually only went there in emergencies. I chased better prices for items offered at Hope Depot and at that time, Orchard Supply. I helped kill Peninsula Hardware. I could dig down very deep and tell about the family owned Coast-To-Coast hardware store at the Charleston Shopping Center, and the Bank of Canada where Peets is now located...but I won't. It will be interesting to see how much retail, not only locally owned mom and pop retail, but famous brand retail comes to South Palo Alto to service all the new residents that will be living in the housing that's been proposed and approved. We lost REI, Best Buy, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond, just a few short years ago. My town, Palo Alto, "the best of times, the worst of times?.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 16, 2023 at 3:54 pm

Rose is a registered user.

Closing off Cal Ave to traffic is killing the retail companies that survived Covid so far. Except at lunch and dinner, nothing is happening except a few children running around drawing with chalk and throwing bean bags and frisbees. They didn't create their businesses thinking that one day shoppers wouldn't be able to drive by, see their store and then park. The street closure was to be temporary but now those who LOVE TO EAT OUTSIDE are selfishly keeping the street closed. They've also spent City money to buy outdoor furniture so people can sit around on the street (who's going to keep it clean?) although this closure was to be temporary. Can Police Chief Binder encourage a closed street when ingress and egress to the new police station is going to be SOOOOO awkward? We are trying to encourage people to get out of their cars, use public transportation, and switch to walking and biking. With Cal Ave closed you can't bike there and you can't get to the train station in an efficient manner. Our streets are so narrow, one way, and lots of right turn only intersections. Our City Council needs to get realistic. I agree with thoughts expressed above -- City Council and City leadership need to quit paying expensive consultants who don't know our city and our neighborhoods. I've lived in Mayfield for 30 years and I am so frustrated with the idea that Cal Ave should be kept closed to traffic.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2023 at 5:35 pm

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I rarely go to University Ave.. why? because there is nothing there.

I don't like to eat out but love the Stanford Theater and Bell's Books.....what else is there?

No expensive murals or more lights will attract me.

What will are great stores and a friendly, clean atmosphere like Los Altos. I tried to make that point in the recent City survey..all it wanted was for me to support tax payer funded streetscape improvements.... won't work. But cleaning the streets, which was not mentioned, would.

Footwear, after 27 years on Univ. Ave left after an exorbitant rental hike. How is the City to combat this greed?

Agree completely with the waste of money on outside consultants. Why not hire someone trusted in the community? So many know so much but it seems the City is afraid to listen to residents.

Posted by Midtown Citizen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 16, 2023 at 6:10 pm

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"The consultants suggested that Palo Alto should limit the retail-protection law to areas where retail is actually viable." Isn't this an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If all you have downtown are buildings filled with tech companies, the only retail that is going to be viable is restaurants. Those businesses bring in tax revenue for the city and profits for the landlords, but at the expense of a viable neighborhood to the citizens.

"The other school of thought sees Palo Alto's retail problems as primarily a product of landlords' greed and the city's apathy." Aaah; there you go. I really can't blame landlords for their greed; they are in this for profit, not for community building. But the city could offer incentives that encourage landlords to favor traditional retail over just office space and restaurants. What is really needed downtown and throughout the city (which extends all the way to San Antonio, btw) is a Planning Commission that is actually planning: determining what make Palo Alto a great place to live and shepherding development in that direction, rather than just rolling over to every big developer that wants to replace Bell's Books with the next

Posted by Denise
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2023 at 8:39 pm

Denise is a registered user.

Lamenting about businesses struggling in a "Business District" where the main street is closed is beyond comprehension. The businesses are begging for the street to be open. A business needs exposure-it has a lot less exposure when people in cars can't see it. As someone else stated Downtown Los Altos seems to get it. The streets are OPEN and the restaurants still have the parking spaces in front of their stores. No, we don't need offices on the ground floor-we need retail. Los Altos' retails stores are full and doing well. OPEN the street! It simple but it is the solution!

Posted by NTB2
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2023 at 10:40 pm

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Fry’s had many items not just electronics. Like bed pillows, Legos, small tools and dog grooming products. But now have to travel to MV or RWC to get essentials. I kind of take issue w the above remark about Mid-town Safeway V Piazza’s. Firstly, our Safeway offers a more equitable living wage to its clerks. the manager there — a woman — is awesome, always so friendly and professional and not snooty. Secondly. Safeway offers lower prices and accepts Cal-Fresh EBT (formerly food stamps) and has a Coin Star. Plus a near full service kiosk, WesternUnion, USPS stamps, bill pay etc . Piazza’s offers what? High end groceries for cash or credit card paying customers only. [Portion removed.] Rick’s is wonderful long time local biz. Yet for how much longer? With housing coming in Piazza could expand its store for a more economically diverse population. Again. Piazza’s Grocery serves one type of clientele — a loyal wealthier, Green Meadow folk. It’s be interesting g to know just how many of their clerks can afford a rental near by their place of work. Palo Alto does not have a one stop shopping center. It’s a series of trips to many stores over the course of a day or servers to get our essential household stalked with the basics.

Posted by Chris K
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 17, 2023 at 8:32 am

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Maybe this is exactly backwards... If hybrid work is killing retail because people are working from home, the way to improve retail is to let people live closer to it. Build more housing near the "dying" retail areas and see what happens.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2023 at 11:55 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Consultants - Looking at the PACC meetings the members are continually surprised by what the consultants are leaving out of their presentations - or the presentations have little to do with the topic on the table. How do we end up with consultants? Do we look for then or do they look for us and pitch some idea. Are they someone's
Any and every agreement has a Statement of Work (SOW) - what the job is - and list of deliverables. Also a termination clause if they are not performing in accordance with the SOW.

I am assuming that the City Manager and City lawyer prepare the contracts and review for accuracy before putting up for a vote by the PACC members. The PACC members need to review to verify that what the consultant is selling is what we need or want. No Surprises when they present their findings.

In this situation we would do better with a council of business owners who meet regularly to instruct each other, help each other, as each success in the city builds other successes. They understand the current problems the city is facing.

It is insulting when the city goes outside to say what we need. The consultants missed every opportunity and did not deliver. They need to go.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2023 at 12:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Yup. Totally backward.

While I agree with Rita that "I rarely go to University Ave.. why? because there is nothing there" I do like to eat out and we regularly meet friends for lunches and dinners each month. Rarely do we end up on University Ave, preferring Cal Ave, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Redwood City and even restaurants south of 85.

A friend recently recommended a clothes shop with branches in PA and Menlo Park and I'm going to the one in Menlo Park. Why? Because I can more easily take care of multiple errands there with convenient parking, a variety of retailers and restaurants and clean streets.

MP and Los Altos still have clothes shop whereas PA keeps losing theirs -- J Foss, Footwear Etc. and others. MP's got 2 books stores whereas PA now only has Bell's. They have a variety of retail including shoe shops which PA recently lost specifically because of huge rent increases (Footwear Etc.) I can park in the bank lot whereas PA BofA made parking difficult by placing boulders in their former parking AND discouraging potential shoppers from parking in their garage for too long -- so no time for lunch or shopping.

It's easier and faster to shop the MP Trader Joe's than the closer one at Town & Country with all the Embarcadero traffic jams -- that's before years of Casti construction make Embarcadero even worse.

The MP merchants like Bistro Vida have invested in their community by sponsoring night markets (Weds) much like Los Altos has done on with its Thursday afternoon/evening market. Markets like that -- unlike the proposed silly streetscapes -- actually attract potential shoppers.

And neither have downtown first floor gyms where people are sweating full view of passing pedestrians. But PA DOES have lots of offices and "fake retail" like Institute For The Future that replaced REAL retailers.

Anyone want a dozen multi-client studies and a pound of PowerPoints? Didn't think so.

Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 17, 2023 at 1:45 pm

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Can we stop with all of the excuses about there being no demand for local retail? Yes, there is competition from online retailers. But, look at downtown Los Altos, Burlingame, Menlo Park, and others nearby. Neither Los Altos nor Menlo Park seem to be depending on drawing people from other cities (i.e., to be a ‘destination’ shopping place). Instead, they draw plenty of locals (and non-locals like me) by focusing on what local people shop for. Yes, there are restaurants and coffee shops, but there are also shoe stores (downtown PA Footwear, Inc. just closed and told people to visit them in Los Altos), athletic good shops, drug stores, clothing shops, etc. On Cal Ave. even the Starbucks just closed.

A prime problem in PA are the landlords who would prefer to keep their locations closed down rather than set a lower rental rate. They bought these properties long ago, and easily use any losses to offset taxes elsewhere. They prefer whining and expecting the City to save them.

While the City cannot save businesses — nor should it — the City has failed to manage the basic infrastructure to support businesses that are trying to stay. Keeping the streets clean (and realizing that making Cal Ave a pedestrian eatery would result in a lot more garbage), and providing good signage to let people know what is there and where to find parking (not everyone rides a bike).

Look at Cal Ave. That street has been closed for almost three years. The entrance to Cal Ave from El Camino Real is still marked by ugly orange barriers that provide absolutely no information other than the street is closed. A block down at the intersection of El Camino Real and Cambridge, there is a sign that simply says “detour”. That sounds like a way to go around something rather than an invitation to find parking and stay. Not much has been done to regulate the size and appearance of the parklets, much less to compensation the City for use of is property.

Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 17, 2023 at 1:47 pm

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Stop with the nonsense. The City and the property owners are going to have to work together and each provide support. Property owners need to find penalties for keeping their storefronts empty for too long — a nuisance fee. The City needs to pay attention to some basics. Let’s make this a nicer place to be — and not just at dinner time.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 17, 2023 at 3:34 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Palo Alto's problems are unique because it -- unlike Menlo Park and Los Altos -- let past and present city officials and politicians put all or most of its economic eggs in the business basket, pushing policies that allowed commuters to overrun residents 5:1 and depended heavily on hotel taxes.

Their DODO agenda (Developer Owned Developer Operated) didn't work too well when the economy crashed, when a huge number of layoffs happened, when business travel tanked, when the state's huge surplus became a huge deficit...

Past pro-growth City Councils did everything possible to kill the ballot initiative to cap office growth because that might have hurt their campaign contributions while shifting the tax burdens from businesses to residents

Who could have predicted that California could have a boom / bush economy?? Or that there were lessons to be learned from the 2000 Dot.Bomb and sub-prime mortgage crashes??

Certainly not staff, their consultants and the DODO politicians.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2023 at 6:19 pm

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I talked to a friend in Fremont - he is in Kiwanis. Then drive up to Redwood City - they have all of the city organizations that support business listed on a sign on ECR as you enter the city proper. Where is our sign of city organizations which are the business people of PA and the region? What organizations do we have that are business related Of people who own businesses in PA?
We need to have an organized business group that helps each other and the city be successful. These people help each other and help the citied they live in.
Have we scared them away with our business tax experiment?

Posted by Blake Templeton
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2023 at 9:45 am

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"Where is our sign of city organizations which are the business people of PA and the region?"


You are residing in the past when civic organizations such as the Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary flourished.

Their demise is the result of a generational shift in mindset that began decades ago. Those clubs were primarily comprised of 'the greatest generation' members (our parents age), most of whom have passed on.

Even the Elk's Club is struggling to find younger members and if it hadn't been for their lucrative property sale awhile back, they too would be gone.

We cannot go back in time, only forward.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2023 at 9:38 pm

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Building housing affordable to people who (1) work at the retail stores and restaurants we are losing, and who (2) live walking distance to the depressed retail areas is a proven effective path towards revitalization as well.

Here in Old Palo Alto, there is an ever-increasing number of "ghost homes" -- homes that are being left empty for the purpose of a financial investment rather than for housing. On some blocks in my neighborhood, the number of ghost homes appears to be reaching 50% in summer time, given that many of the wealthiest home owners own multiple homes, including a summer home.

Numerous other cities address this problem by enforcing existing zoning codes where enforcement does not currently exist in Palo Alto. For example, when a building is zoned for R-1 or R-anything, it legally must be used for residential purposes, and leaving them empty is not a residential purpose. Other cities either enforce existing zoning codes with generally impose daily penalties such as Palo Alto's statutory penalty of $500/day for each zoning code violation. I personally like that idea, because utilizing the buildings we already have available to us is a far less-expensive, less-impactful, more sustainable and less disruptive approach to fulfilling our housing requirements than is building new construction, which can cause much disruption, and sometimes environmental challenges, to communities, especially if done quickly in ways that evade CEQA.

Other cities have enacted vacancy taxes, which is also a good approach, but if you ask me, enforcing existing laws on the books is usually easier than trying to pass new taxes (speaking the obvious).

Unfortunately Palo Alto does none of those things. Instead it throws up its hands and says "Too Hard" without looking around at what other cities are doing, and speaking to individuals at neighboring areas that are keeping their retail areas vibrant. One great example is right down the street BTW: Mountain View's Castro Street.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2023 at 2:58 am

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This eventuality was so predictable, how could the City not have planned for this? (I know why, but I hope others will think about it.)

First of all, the loss of businesses is not because of online shopping. Los Altos downtown is fine. Why? Because they didn't let it get taken over by startups. We had too many commuters coming into Palo Alto. They pushed out the businesses that served residents and created so much traffic (and idiotic calls to make it impossible to get anywhere by car) that people living here stopped going to the retail areas anyway. On what planet was it not foreseeable that this was going to happen? If not from a pandemic, from an earthquake etc? I think I even posted something before the pandemic mentioning one cause as "pandemic".

We still need local retail. We should see this hiatus as an opportunity to have downtowns with retail again, partly because they are community centers in a way, partly because having in-person retail is actually better for the environment (because people typically don't just buy one thing like they do online), and because it provides sales tax and employment.

The way we can do this as a City--the only way--is for the City to buy up the land under the retail areas, by eminent domain if necessary, or as properties become available with a first right of refusal law. If the City owns the property, this will make having retail here economical into the future. In exchange for reduced rents, the City can leverage businesses to offer benefits and pay higher wages for traditionally lower paying jobs, thus improving people's housing affordability and economic circumstances. This benefit will only get more valuable as time passes.

The City should stick to its guns on requirements to keep ground floor retail, and it should set limits on vacancy duration. Now is the chance to restore our retail areas--the City should plan for the future, too.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 19, 2023 at 10:12 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Applause for Silver Lining's post above.

Also if brick and mortar retail is so dead, why are Stanford Shopping Center and Town & Country always so crowded and why are their parking lot always full?

As the old expression goes: Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?

Also irritating are the repeated quotes from Larissa Ortiz, managing director at Streetsense, saying what Palo Alto can and cannot do when she's so pathetically uninformed about local issues.

Who empowered and/or elected her to make decisions for PA??

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2023 at 11:00 am

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Growing up in West LA Saturday morning was going to the local theater - kids only - - cartoons for a start, then a serial like the Green Hornet, then a full movie like Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein - or Flicka. Then going home a stop at the Orange Julius for a drink and french fries. All kids having a great time in one place together. And Mom and Pop got some alone time for a couple of hours.

WE have as theater at CHS with lots of parking that would be perfect for this. Yes - you need a clean-up crew for the popcorn on the floor. When I look at the TV presentations a lot are the ancient movies. The kids will be entertained - have a group experience, and get to be Big Kids at the movies. I think we all grew up with experience being in a large group of kids and focusing on mutual enjoyment.

Talking about closing entertainment for offices they want to convert the theater in the buildings at ECR and Oregon. Make it into offices. what are they missing here? If you build the Fry's site you have a new group of people who want some entertainment and can walk across ECR to see a movie.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2023 at 1:59 pm

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Why is Midtown so poorly treated compared to other retail areas? South Palo Alto seems to be all but ignored by CC. I do remember one CC say that he is no longer able to get his daily coffee from Philz.

Is that it?

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 19, 2023 at 5:59 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Maybe the problem with the midtown shopping center is that I believe it is on private property. And if so, when does Palo Alto spend tax dollars on private property? Since new owners purchased part, if not all, of the midtown shopping center property a few years ago it appears they have little interest in investing in the long term viability of a thriving neighborhood shopping center. Instead waiting until such time as Sacramento and a more sympathetic Palo Alto council will enable the property to be redeveloped for more profitable uses. Meanwhile sitting on a large and valuable piece of Palo Alto real estate providing an income stream with minimal outgoing expense. I seem to remember when the the property changed hands there was some mention of plans to build apartments on part of the property.

Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2023 at 9:53 am

marc665 is a registered user.

Given this story in today's WSJ:

A Bright Spot in Commercial Real Estate: Retail Shops
New store openings remain strong, overcoming inflation and interest-rate challenges

Maybe the city should stop hiring the boutique consultants and hire someone that can actually bring retail into the city and only gets paid if new retail happens.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 22, 2023 at 10:35 am

Online Name is a registered user.

And today from the BBC, Web Link

"Getir delivery firm cuts more than a tenth of workforce

Getir, the instant grocery delivery app that flourished during the pandemic, says it is cutting more than a tenth of its workforce.

The Turkish firm, which has 23,000 staff in markets such as the UK and Germany, said the 2,500 cuts would improve "operational efficiency".

It follows a regulatory crackdown in some countries, as well as rising competition from supermarkets.

The firm has quit Italy, Spain, France and Portugal in the last few months

In July, the firm and its subsidiary Gorillas shut down in France and cut 1,300 jobs after officials reclassified dark stores as warehouses.

Its rival Flink from Germany also pulled out of the country.

***There had been complaints about noise at dark stores, while city planners said the model threatened to drain life from the public space and create a society of homebound consumers.****

The deputy mayor of Paris also accused Getir and others of "predatory capitalistic behaviour"."

Surely StreetSense is exploring similar predatory actions by the the various delivery firms specifically blamed for restaurant closures.

Surely consultant$, $taff and lobbyist$ pushing to drain life from PA's public space and create a society of PIMBYs (Prisoner in My Back Yard) by changing our zoning to destroy even more retailers will address these concerns in Phases 2-39 of their pricey studies.

Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2023 at 10:28 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I know everyone is complaining about the sorry state of retail in Palo Alto, but we should take pride in the fact that we dominate the Peninsula in the number of rug stores per capita. Sure, some people would prefer shops that are popular and useful like a bookstore or like Hyperspace in Los Altos, which attracts kids and families. Not for me! For me, it's all about rug stores - preferably like the ones we have - with few customers, and no obvious way to stay in business.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2023 at 9:10 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Gee Blake - In the current buy-on-line system People order up what ever they want and use someone else's email as that is the "identifier" in a system like Amazon. Gee - hoping some other person will end up paying for what every they want. I quit Amazon because of that and receive notifications every day of people trying to buy something on my previous account. They are out of luck because the credit card for that account is no longer active. I get a new number whenever crazy people have nothing better to do then create scams.

I just updated my RCI Travel Club membership and they assigned me an identifier which I have already received a fake purchase on.

What ever was a good idea has been taken over by people who have no interest in a "city' and it's well being and are consumed by their "Urban Planning" schemes. Had one in the SFC today concerning bridge tolls and the Weiner. The Weiner is from New Jersey so his brain is already compromised by his childhood and young adult New Jersey mind set. And how about SPUR? Is that guy from the east coast?

What you fail to recognize is that the people who own businesses in a city like PA have a vested interest in the success of the city. The "Urban Planners" have no vested interest and are just out making a buck on other people's hard work and investments. And the On-Line business model is imploding on itself.

Posted by Steve O
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 23, 2023 at 1:59 pm

Steve O is a registered user.

All just a bunch of useless words.
The city and the council will stop at nothing to ruin California Ave.The city should be embarrassed at the lack of transparency with the merchants on California Ave. Vote them out

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