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51,000 sq ft grocery store coming to Menlo Park

Original post made by shopper, Midtown, on Jul 16, 2009

What gives with all the tiny supermarkets (less than 20,000 square feet) in Palo Alto. Small stores have terrible selections, especially for fresh foods and ethnic foods. Now I see that Menlo Park is planning a 51,000 square foot on El Camino. Why can't Palo Alto have stores like this? Do I need to drive to Menlo Park to do my shopping?
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Comments (24)

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 8:33 am

Because our city council got into the business of protecting JJ&F, which is a smaller store in PA. Any large grocery stores would be a threat to JJ&F, so rather than allowing free market economics decide which stores make it or not, the city has followed this 20K sq foot limit for years.
Also, I am sure, there is the issue of neighbors objecting to any large stores near them (too much traffic, delivery trucks etc). But that has not stopped the city from continuing to trumpet their "walkable neighborhoods" mantra, which includes a grocery store close by everyone/

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Posted by local shopper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

Piazza's is a terrific Palo Alto supermarket. It has a lovely selection, including an especially good produce section, all in a reasonable-sized store. Personally, I can't stand the ginormous superstores.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

Sounds like this store may be very close to the new Safeway in MP.

Piazzas, and other small PA grocery stores does what they do quite well, I personally love their cheese selection. But, please do not say they have a great selection. They have a very limited selection, not all brands are available, some staples not represented at all, although they do have some hard to find elsewhere items. For those who think that any one of our grocery stores has a full selection I would ask if they are over the age of 65 or have never changed their eating habits and tastes over the years.

Palo Alto residents have tastes from all areas of the globe and want to be able to purchase as much as possible locally and in one store.
Teas, wines, cheeses, olive oil, meats, canned goods, hot bread, pastries, pastas, packaged goods, imported specialties, are often available at one of the many stores around town or just outside, but not in one place. Is it not true and fair to say that a community so diverse and desirous of high quality can't be accommodated with a single stop grocery store in our own town?

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Posted by athran
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2009 at 9:37 am

Whole Foods in PA is one of their smallest in the nation, and is very close to a new and highly successful location. Wonder when their lease comes up.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

And yet the same council refused to protect the neighborhood stores like the one on Forest, zoning a popular walk-in store out of business.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2009 at 11:11 am

And what parcel of land in Palo Alto do you think is large enough to handle a 51,000 sf supermarket and attendant parking?

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

OP--The parcel does not need to be that big--look at the Whole Foods in Mountain View--they put almost all the parking underground.
We do not have a large, full service grocery store in PA because of the council's protection of JJ&F in College Terrace (provingonce again that whatever CT wants, it gets).
Anyway, there really is no point to even argue the matter since I doubt any supermarket chain would want to go through the Palo Alto Process in order to build here--no chain plans to spend 10 years discussing, modifiying and trying to please everyone in order to open a business in a city.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2009 at 11:35 am


I'm familiar with the MV Safeway, and I don't see where something like that would go in PA--let alone the Safeway in Menlo Park.

We do have a large supermarket with parking at Andronico's.

We also have Mollie Stone's, Safeway, Whole Foods and Piazza's. We're about to get Trader Joe's.

So, I don't buy that we're being denied supermarkets in Palo Alto.

I've lived here long enough that I remember when Edgewood had a Lucky's. It was definitely the cheapest supermarket in Palo Alto.

In fact, it was kind of a dive and people complained about it (too many of *those* shoppers from East Palo Alto.)

We don't have a huge economy supermarket in Palo Alto not because of the city council but because it's pretty clear that people don't, in fact, want what having one of those supermarkets in Palo Alto entails.

So we have a range of supermarkets in the various PA neighborhoods and two supersize ones just over city limits.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 12:08 pm

OP--I agree, I think that people may not want it, but hard to say for sure since our council, as usual, has not provided any leadership on this matter. We had a chance at Alma Plaza for a decent size grocery, but a small group of people (hard to say if they represented any majority) held it up until the company pulled out.
As you say, we have a number of small grocery stores in town--none of them are full service (in what I consider to be full service). I personally prefer a large grocery, that is why I shop in MV.
The question is what will happen with Alma and Edgewood Plazas and how long will they sit derelict or almost derelict

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2009 at 12:31 pm


Which two markets in Palo Alto do you consider supersize?

I have been to Andronico's once and it was far from what I considered to be full service. On the day I was there I found it hard to park because Crate & Barrel had taken up more space than usual for some reason I forget and I was way at the back somuchso that I got lost trying to find my way home, ending up at Stanford Hospital by mistake, then getting onto Sand Hill Road, not able to turn into Alma, and taking much longer to get home than I should. That alone has made me think that I won't go to Andronico's again.

My experience aside, I do not think it meets the needs of most Palo Altans.

I think a huge grocery store could be built at Edgewood, Alma, in the proposed development at either Cal Ave (near Frys but not taking the place of Frys) or at SanAntonio/Charleston where Western Marine used to be. All these locations would be suitable because they are accessible to arteries or highways, near housing, and could accommodate parking underground with perhaps a better system than WholeFoods in Los Altos which I find to be a difficult entrance/exit.

I moved to the Bay Area from the East Coast and one of the first things I noticed was how poor the supermarkets here were compared to the East Coast and also Europe. Gradually over time, better markets have evolved, but they are still not up to scratch compared to what I have seen in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.

Palo Alto could be a leader in this area, instead of the poor relation. We will always need food, and online grocery shopping is never going to take the place of going out and buying what you want to take home to prepare for dinner.

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Read the lead article about this 51K foot store. It is being proposed by Sand Hill Properties, the same developer that has Edgewood Plaza tied up for several years and there is still no word on what Sand Hill plans to do there Menlo Park BEWARE.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Wasn't this one of the issues holding up Edgewood Plaza:

Web Link

Does anyone know what happened with this issue?

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Piazza's could double in size and you'd still have plenty of parking. Yes I like Piazza's but it's too expensive so I go to Safeway in Mountain View.

Piazza's has so little room for produce they have to put it outside where it gets stolen. Meanwhile the cops park a cruiser right in front of the produce in an attempt to stop theft.

In fact I feel sorry to Piassa's they'd love to expand and put their produce inside but they can't do that with only 20,000 sq. ft.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm


Piazza's does not, in fact, have room to double in size. Which is one of the reasons that there are signs all over the Charleston Center parking lot warning that non-customers will be towed.

My experience with Piazza's is that its prices are reasonably competitive, but it sells higher-ticket items that I simply don't find at the Midtown Safeway.

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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

OP--dosen't every shopping center parking lot have those same warning signs? But you are right Piazza's could not double in size--that would be unfair to JJ&F--no free market exonomics in PA, just micromanaging and appeasemnet of certain neighborhoods.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 17, 2009 at 2:27 am


Please consider giving Andronico's another try. It has a great and varied selection (wonderful wine aisle and produce section) and superb customer service. Shopping there is truly a pleasant experience. The only time I've had trouble parking was during the few days before Christmas when cars spilled over from the shopping center.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 17, 2009 at 8:32 am

Ohlone Parent says: "there are signs all over the Charleston Center parking lot warning that non-customers will be towed." Those non-customers are Foothill students and others who use the Cubberley Community Center and yes the Charleston Shopping Center wants them out of their parking area. It has nothing to do with whether the parking lot is full or not.

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Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2009 at 9:18 am

The headline on this forum is misleading. According to the story, the developer is proposing the market as one of three possible alternatives: "...a 51,000 square-foot supermarket; 59,000 square-feet of non-medical office space; or a smaller grocery store with a mix of retail, restaurants and a fitness center in the unused space."

The story also mentioned that a previous proposal to build a Whole Foods store there failed because the MP city council wouldn't go along with a zoning change.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a new grocery store there.

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Posted by Mama
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

I mix my shopping with Safeway/Milk Pail. Milk Pail for produce, then go across the street to Safeway, which is overpriced but convenient. Can't beat the freshness and prices of Milk Pail.

I buy basic foods from WalMart - can't beat those prices.

I really like Whole Foods, Los Altos, but it is so overpriced and my husband hasn't hit that start-up jackpot yet.

Piazza's has the friendliest employees and great produce but their selection of other groceries is limited and overpriced, although some things (can of soup, for example) are cheaper than Safeway.

I don't care for Mollie Stone's. Too small and produce didn't look fresh nor did the store seem clean.

Andronico's has snooty customers.

Safeway, Menlo Park, is huge, but perhaps too huge.

Who the heck shops at JJ&F? Plus, there's hardly any parking.

Edgewood Plaza was going to build a Fresh & Easy, grocery store from Britain. What happened there?

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Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:04 am

JJF is probably popular with people who live within walking distance. If you have to drive, you may as well drive to a better store.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

Don't think there's any crossover between Piazza's and JJF. JJF is a very local grocery store. If you don't live in College Terrace you're not shopping there.

Piazza's gets pretty full during the busy times--so, no, you really can't do a large expansion there unless the other tenants left.

What it comes down to is that Palo Alto has numerous smaller grocery stores--and Andronico's, which is 29,000 square feet--so, no, you can't really claim that the city doesn't allow larger grocery stores. We have one in about the only lot I can think of that can actually handle a larger supermarket--well, the Fry's location could, but I'd like to keep Fry's.

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Posted by Real Name
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I don't think we'd be having this conversation if the Safeway were better:

-Produce. The quality is mediocre at best and the selection not great.
-Fish. Wouldn't eat what Safeway sells if you gave it to me for free
-Meat. Same.
-Prices. Higher that at the Safeway in MV.

Personally, I go to Costco for whatever I can, and Piazza's for meat, fish, produce. (Though some of Costco's produce has gotten very good. Even organic.)

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Posted by A Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I go to Piazza's because it's easy to park, the staff is great, the choice is pretty good and the prices aren't outlandish. There are a lot of reasons I don't go to Safeway and other large chains, mainly because 1. Obnoxious and sometimes offensive newspapers and magazines at the checkout 2. Staff who are trained to look at the name on your debit card and loudly call you by your first name, even though they don't know you. When they started doing that, I stopped going.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 18, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Whole Foods Los Altos is actually cheaper than Piazza's, I've found. I paid over $4.00 for a stalk of organic celery at Piazza's. The same organic stalk at Whole Foods was about $.80 cheaper.

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