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Commission seeks more police-building options

Original post made on Aug 23, 2007

Barely restraining themselves from opining on the need for a new police headquarters, Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission members -- tasked with commenting on a draft environmental report Wednesday -- said there might be more than two building configurations worth examining.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 23, 2007, 7:38 AM

Comments (23)

Posted by No bonds
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2007 at 9:00 am

Note this important point in the story:

"With near unanimity, present and past city officials leaders say the city needs a seismically safe, adequately sized and up-to-date police/public safety facility. Cost estimates are currently in the $50 million range as the city races against inflation in the cost of building materials."

Then note the following comments which show that this project has fallen into the PA process black hole:

1) Commissioner Samir Tuma asked why the report doesn't consider using the entire 1.5-acres with no underground parking.

2) It should also consider a variety of other iterations of the design, Commissioner Arthur Keller said. Commissioner Paula Sandas also expressed interest in other design alternatives.

3) Peter Lockhart, a landscape designer based on Olive Avenue, called the potential destruction of the tree "a travesty.
"It speaks to me in many ways, some very quietly. I think there must be some way to preserve and protect this tree," Lockhart said. He later said he had not known the tree was not robust. (Nothing like pontificating on saving atree without knowing the facts)

4) Neighbor Kirsten Flynn also argued for preserving the tree, noting it would absorb pollutants and noise, and ensuring Park Boulevard remains safe for bicycles and pedestrians.

5)Margarita Avenue-resident Deborah Trilling said she would prefer a shorter building and said a bike path between the Ventura neighborhood and California Avenue is "essential."

Clearly this is just the tip of the iceberg--the Planning and Transportation commission will chew on this for years to come and everyone in PA will have to putin their two cents as well.

Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 23, 2007 at 9:14 am

No bonds,

First, I enthusiastically support the public safety building, but I agree with your comments about last evening's meeting.

I can understand wanting to see additional design alternatives, but let's not get too obsessive about that.

The City Council NEEDS to put a milestone deadline on Planning Commission discussion of this issue, and be done with it.

We cannot have a commission, which is purely advisory, holding up development of this project, which is so badly needed in our community.

I was disappointed that the Commission's leadership didn't ask to cap discussion by a certain date, knowing full well that their is a compelling need to get this thing finished in a way that it can be unbderstood by citizens before going to vote on a bond.

Posted by Bouncer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 23, 2007 at 10:33 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Alyssa
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 23, 2007 at 12:28 pm

I don't know why the Planning Commission is spending so much time on the details of the Police Station in the first place since:

1. As far as can be determined there is only one potential source of money to build this project - a bond issue

2. This bond issue requires a vote by the public.

3. The outcome of any such vote is far from certain.

Posted by Bouncer, Caught
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2007 at 12:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bouncer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 23, 2007 at 3:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by No bonds
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2007 at 3:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Cut the tree down if it saves money -- or even if it doesn't, I'd like to provoke the tree nuts into a frenzy.

Posted by Winky
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 23, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Howard, where would you be without trees?

Here's a hint: you'd be working really hard to breathe.

Posted by Bondless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2007 at 7:34 am

Message to Editor - it is a "Public Safety Building" not a Police Building. Other facilities including the Dispatch Center will be located there, as well as the Police.

Commissioner Samir Tuma obviously doesn't know much about police work. Leave the police cars parked outside to be trashed and vandalized by cop haters!! Also, leaving a police car outside in the sun with a police dog in it - I wouldn't do that to my own pet!! An underground parking facility is needed to transfer those arrested from a car to a holding cell. It is such a waste of time when Commissioners ask dumb questions.

As for the tree, trees have finite lives. Valley Oaks are not a rare species. Cut it down and plant a tree somewhere where it won't be in the way.

I hope all the P & T Commissioners have had a tour of the old police building so they can get a feel for what will be needed 20 - 30 years out, because we have to build something big enough to last for at lease 20 years.

Will a bond measure pass for a new Public Safety Building? Probably not. I'm interested to hear what the City's plan "B" is because the present building does not comply with State mandated regulations, and they could start levying fines against the City if we don't get an upgrade.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2007 at 8:58 am

Bondless (or anyone else),

Do you have specific examples of State regulations for existing public safety buildings the current Police HQ doesn't meet?

I read the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report, and it seems to mix up the question of what's legal to build today with what's legal to use if it's already built.

It's pretty clear you couldn't build the existing building under today's rules. But I'm curious if anyone can cite rules that require us to retire today's building.

I think a lot of us are puzzled by the politics. If a new building is mandated by State Law, then we do it bond or no bond. If it's not mandated by State Law and the bond advocates say it is, we'll have a credibility problem with voters.

Posted by gg
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 24, 2007 at 12:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Merle
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2007 at 10:05 am

Cut down the tree, build a decent non-abestos laden building with holding cells that actually follow the law. If you did not know, police cars are currently parked in the civic center parking lot. Many have been vandalized along with officer's personnal cars. Officers risk their lives enough when working and we can not even give them secure personal parking to prevent an off dut ambush? think a little...

Posted by more security
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2007 at 11:49 am

In the meantime why not make the garage more secure now? what's the big deal about that? so their "personnal cars" are protected.

Posted by Bondless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2007 at 6:43 am

Security, Police Officers' cars are not parked at City Hall there isn't room. Samir Tuma should know this so that decent secure underground parking in the new Public Safety Building is available for our Officers.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2007 at 10:18 am


Do you have any official statistics showing a targeted vandalism problem for Officer's cars vs everyone else? Many people who park downtown in the parking garages and many people who park in the neighborhoods have had trouble with car vandalism.

Let's keep the rationale for the new building grounded in verifiable statistics and codes.

Posted by Looking forward
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 27, 2007 at 10:47 am

I'm looking forward to watching the library commission tonight on Channel 26 and finally get to see what MikeWinky looks like!

Posted by Bondless
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 6:13 am

"Verifiable statistics and codes" is not going to attract prospective recruits to our police department. Providing a weight room and good exercise facilities along with underground parking for Officers' personal vehicles are among the perks neighboring Cities provide their Officers. Palo Alto must compete for the same pool of recruits, the more perks you provide the easier it is to attract good recruits.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 7:54 am


It will be hard to pass any bond with anecdotes. Perhaps someone from the City can step in and tell us how many recruits we have lost in the last five years to a neighboring City citing the facility, weight room or parking as a top three reason.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2007 at 8:43 am

I am not against the perks for our police force. We definitely want them to be attracted to working in our city and to be able to keep fit and safe. Vandalism for police leaving their cars at work is the same for anyone else leaving their cars at work, it shouldn't be happening. Either a weight room or membership at a gym is almost a necessity for police officers as we need them to be fit. However, I do question some of the other conveniences that they may be getting which are much more frills above what other professionals require. An older facility is not necessarily a bad place to have to work. Many of us do not work in the most modern buildings around and do our jobs well. It is the equipment that is there which is more important than the building itself that we should be concerned about.

Posted by Answer
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2007 at 6:17 pm

I spent some time recently with a representative from Palo Alto PD. He showed the building from an insiders view. When I went inside I couldn’t believe this was the PALO ALTO police station. For some reason (I guess just my assumptions) I envisioned it being modern with a lot of state of the art equipment. He showed me their locker room which was incredible. I think most kids at high schools have bigger lockers and after I saw how much stuff he crammed in his locker, I understood why they need more space. He said that a lot of their officers work on specialty units within the department and therefore have a lot of extra stuff. I was boggled by the amount of gear they have. Next he showed that all the police cars are stored behind two big gates. Knowing what I know about seismic stability, I suggested to him that in the event of an earthquake, the gates may become compressed in to the walls and they won’t be able to get the police cars out. He smiled at me and said he was unfortunately well aware of that. He said that the building suffered some big cracks in the 1989 quake. I asked him what the plan was if the gates became stuck and he said there isn’t one. They just had to hope for a new building before the big one hits. I walked through the halls and literally stepped over chunk of a wall that fell out on to the floor. He said that during the rainy season their briefing room leaks. He said that at the beginning of his shift they start with a briefing. I asked him what they did when water was leaking in that room. He answered, “Cancel briefing.” They do park their personal cars in unsecured parking but he was hesitant to say where. This poor guy has to worry about telling me where he parks so that he isn’t attacked as he tried to go home or his car isn’t vandalized. These guys have a tough job.

I can go on and on about the interesting things I saw there. That building is a joke and I think we may have to cut down a tree or two to build them a new one. I like trees and they are vital to life, but we don’t have a lot of space in town, and our police force is too important to let a tree get in the way. Go down there and ask for a tour. It will give you an interesting view in to this debate.

Posted by bruce
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2007 at 10:22 pm


For seismic safety refer to California Codes, Essential Services Building Act. The following is an extract from the Health and Safety Code Chapter 2, section 16007, "Essential services building means any building be used... as an emergency operations center... or emergency dispatch center." (The proposed PSB qualifies)

16009 (1) "...local agency...comply locally adopted editions of the model codes, as defined in Section 18916...contained in Part 1 of Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations and the regulations in Part 2." (with some exceptions).

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2007 at 6:16 pm


I completely agree a new building housing dispatch functions must meet the Cal Codes you cite. These Codes apply to new construction and neither mandate nor fund upgrades to existing buildings.

The Codes that apply to hospitals, in contrast, do require existing hospital buildings to be retired in the next few years if they don't meet the latest seismic codes.

My point: we won't pass a bond with misleading claims about the legal status of the current building. We won't pass a bond with unverified claims about recruiting and retention. The argument for a new building is the old one is worn out and obsolete.

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