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Civic Center Infrastructure Project

Original post made by Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 15, 2007

There's a meeting tomorrow at City Hall for construction managers - but wonder if anyone was aware there's a $5.9M upgrade project planned for City Hall. Check out Web Link

for scope. Would be really great to get a comprehensive list of all these projects published somewhere.

Comments (14)

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Posted by Forgotten South PA
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2007 at 2:40 pm

Another North Palo Alto project our City is pouring money into. Our tax dollars both North and South have just created Heritage Park, renovated the Birge Clark Building which was the former Palo Alto Medical Center, rebuilt the Children's Library and created the Homer underpass. Now they want another $5.9 Million for an upgrade of City Hall.

For all the money they've poured into North Palo Alto projects, they could have rebuilt the Mitchell Park Library without the Community Center.

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Posted by Never heard of it
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Looking at the pdf, you have to page through to page 21 before you get an inkling of what they are talking about. 20 pages of administrative and legal huffing and puffing. No wonder everything authorized by our Public Works department costs about twice what one might expect.
Note to Forgotten, poor baby, if you want to move City Hall to your part of town, no one will stop you. Go for it.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 15, 2007 at 6:21 pm

People, it's a multi-level building; it needs upkeep. Relax.

"Pay me now, or pay me later"

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2007 at 8:44 pm

I have no problem with maintenance for a City building so long as we have a published schedule of priorities. Is this project part of the $100M to $200M infrastructure lists that have bounced around?

Does anyone else think the Staff might be funding internal projects silently - then politicizing public-facing projects like libraries? Better yet, let's put a Civic Center HVAC and electrical update up for a standalone yes/no vote!

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Posted by another resident/shopper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2007 at 10:23 pm

We need a new city hall!!! I doubt that the present one is "Green". It's old, ineffent and in a lousy location. Sell it to fund various other projects. It shouldn't have a big garage under it, open to whatever---. The police section will be abandoned eventually. They are spending millions on the little planning/building dept building across the street (Hamilton) just on rent. I think the rent is about $500/sq ft for a few years rent. Amazing..

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a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 2:30 am

I vote "YES" for the city hall project.

You must have forgotten, we have to attract tourists.

While we are at it - please add the following:
1. Solar Panels for the city hall. We are PA, we have to be ahead of the rest.
2. Glass elevators overlooking Univ. Ave. Tourists will love it - going up - going down - going up - going down.
3. A Dome, most city halls have it. PA does not.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 16, 2007 at 7:35 am

City Hall should not even be located Downtown. As a South Palo Alto resident I think it should be relocated to the geographical center of the City somewhere near Oregon Expressway, along with the new Public Safety Building.

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:34 am

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Hi -- A check with history archives will show that in 1966 there was a bitter community fight over whether to keep the City Hall at what is now the Art Center at Newell and Embarcadero Roads or move it downtown. A majority of voters favored moving it back downtown, where earlier City Halls had been located.

The battle created a split in the then-"residentialist" ranks of slow-growth or no-growth advocates. Some nearby neighbors of the Newell/Embarcadero City Hall still recalled an even earlier bitter fight to keep city officials from moving City Hall into a residential area circa 1952. That battle resulted in the City Council incumbents being dumped at the next election.

The 1966 split (led in part by the late AP reporter Leif Erickson) weakened the "residentialist" ranks (then led by hardliner Dick Stock and his United Palo Altans group) and at least in part resulted in a serious defeat in a bitter "all-council" (part recall, part regular) election in 1967. More moderate residentialists regained power in the early 1970s and the push and pull over growth has continued ever since.

Quite a bit of retrofitting and strengthening work was done on the current City Hall just before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The work *may* have saved part or all of it from collapse. City officials took down the massive arcade around the Civic Center Plaza following the 1989 quake.

Just some perspective. In terms of relocating City Hall, be careful what you wish for. It's really easy in Palo Alto to get entangled in old issues. ;-)>


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 8:55 am

One Council policy that is ripe for re-examination is the one deeming that maintenance of existing facilities comes from existing dollars, while facility improvements (i.e., library and public safety) must come from new sources of income. New revenue sources could be a composite of new sales tax revenue, new TOT revenue in combination with any bond or parcel tax measures that would be borne direct by the voters.

As Anonymous suggests, perhaps we should review whether the $5.9 million in question (existing dollars) would be better allocated to public safety and library improvements. And it may be that the kinds of City Hall improvements that are proposed should come from new revenue sources.

Please let's do have a conversation on this policy and its application in the current environment, where the cost of construction rises on the order of 15% per year, driven by global demand for building materials among other factors.

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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:05 am

Why don't we just do a land swap with the County? Move the North County courthouse to the current City Hall location and move the police and city hall folks to the current county courthouse building? It would save the city a lot of money by not having to build a new safety building. The city services could be centrally located in town. If the County folks don't have enough room in City Hall then consider moving the Planning department out of the old Great Western Building into the old county building too. The County would have a lot of underground parking and some holding cells too.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2007 at 10:23 am

Karen White is correct. It is so typical of this town to proceed on multiple fronts and in different manners on related issues that should properly be part of the same conversation.

This is analogous to the problem identified by the City Auditor in the Street Maintenance Report where hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted each year because there is no coordination (or even, apparently any communication) between the city department responsible for paving streets and the many departments who can open them up without notifying anyone.

If we spent our available money more judiciously and wisely, we could probably afford many of the infrastructure projects being discussed in town without bond issues anywhere near the size city leaders are suggesting.

It is impossible to discount the idea that much of the waste we're seeing comes because (as Anonymous suggests), City Hall spends money they already have for the goodies they want, leaving no money for politically popular projects that they hope to fund by fleecing us for bond money.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Karen, Anna,

When the private sector (consumers and private business) expands or repairs infrastructure, the normal mode of operation is to *borrow* for those improvements. Private companies issue bonds, or borrow with leveraged paper. Consumers leverage their homes, or use credit cards. Why? Because they nees reserve cash for emergencies, and other things that come up in the course of running a business,, household, etc.

I submit that municipalities are no different.

No matter the specific part of infrastructure in question, what is blatantly absent from almost every argument made in this forum by those those who find fault with current infrastructure repair policy is that the critics never speak to the *benefits* that the infrastructure beingn built - or repaired - will bring ito community.

Instead, we see one harangue after another (many well wrought, in prose), that only speaks to the *cost* of the repair (or rebuild). This makes for incomplete and insufficient criticism, without balance.

The fragmentary assumptions that back up these critical harangues make the latter even more inconceivable as general operation principles.

Of COURSE our city is going out after bond money to fix what's broken. Why shouldn't it.

We will be hearing from the same usual suspects if we went into the reserve to fix something (like City Hall) and then suddenly found ourselves unable to meet an emergency that reserves are put aside for.

Then, they'd be saying things like "why didn't they anticipate this or that?". THus, the Catch 22 public officials find themselves in, from the perspective of most of those who say they know better about the fine operational details of government. They don't.

That said, government doesn't always get it right. That said, we must learn to be wise enough to know the difference between pure, egregious incompetence (our city website is one example - where it's clear that there has been no public *benefit*, relative to the cost), and things like City Hall repairs that must be done, because the services that emanate from that structure (really the people that populate the structure) are the very underpinning of the overall bevy of services that Palo Altans enjoy on a daily basis.

We need more big picture thinking around here, without the partial-assumption-analysis that leaves benefits out of the picture.

Like I said before," it's a multi-level building that needs repair. Relax! Pay me now, or pay me later"

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Posted by bruce
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2007 at 3:41 pm

One thing that is often missing from these dialogs is the concept of priorities. Unfortunately our Council does not create a list assigning priorities to the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for new buildings, maintenance of existing buildings, and repair of our streets. I would expect everyone would weigh in on which project should come first, second, etc., but the result would be healthier than taking them up piecemeal as we do now.

Jay, Controversy 35 and 40 years ago about the location of City Hall may not apply to discussions about today's needs. New factors have risen which make many past decisions moot. The past provides old information; the present demands a fresh review with new information.

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Posted by Yes it would have to be FIREMAN
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Now was it not the mid to late 80's when the CITY spent a whole lot of money to up grade City HALL, It was not built correct and the stairs,windows, whole list of thing had to be up grade to make them safe. This was at at a cost of millions of dollars?? There also has been other up grades I think.
If something is not up to standard the answer is to sell it?
This sounds like a used car lot to me. Oh yes this is a 300 Homer it is in great shape, Owned by a little old person who only drove it on Sundays..
Let me guess in the new one some offices would have a hot tub,spa and lots of mirrors for some to look at the selfs and think how great they are. Then when the public asks a question,,,, turn the mirror 180o. Pre plumbed smoke also... Would that be warm and cold running smoke??

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

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