Big school projects to take shape | May 20, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 20, 2011

Big school projects to take shape

Summer groundbreaking for two-story buildings, gym, media center at Gunn, Paly

by Chris Kenrick

Some of the biggest yields from a 2008 Palo Alto school-bond election will take shape soon as construction begins on $77.6 million worth of projects at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

This story contains 717 words.

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Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by PaltoAltoTreeWatch, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Can anyone tell me who authorized the removal of a 50 year old Redwood at Gunn? I know school board approved it, but which arborists signed
off on this, and what other tree removals are they signing off on?

I hear redwoods are coming out at JLS as well. Where is Dave Dockter and Canopy - no where to be found - because these trees are not Oaks.
A disgrace in my opinion.

The war on trees in Palo Alto continues - all of this development is coming at the cost of trees - because there are architects with zero creativity that don't know what it means to build an atrium around a tree. These folks need to do some serious learning and learn to think out of the box.

I don't hold out much hope - more fake green coming your way.

Posted by LoriL, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

"all of this development is coming at the cost of trees"

Come on now...there are plenty of trees in Palo Alto. In fact, too many in my opinion. To sacrifice a few trees to better our schools is not such a bad thing.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2011 at 10:11 am

I am only familiar with the Paly plans - but from experience I'm pretty confident that if you look at Gunn's plan (can be found on PAUSD web site), the landscape plan documents trees slated for removal and trees slated to be planted.

In at least Paly's case, there will be a net addition of trees once everything is complete. I would guess that you can expect the same for Gunn. There have been many (announced in the Weekly among other places) public meetings on the landscape designs for all campuses. I have not attended but have read the minutes and reviewed the plans online.

The end result will be fine.

Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 23, 2011 at 10:26 am

As far as I know, the city government has very little, if any, control over what happens at school sites. The city does not issue permits for school construction, the Dept of the State Architect does that. So, it's not clear to me that Dave Dockter or anyone else at City Hall can do anything about trees on school property, oaks or anything else.

Posted by Crabby, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

$76 million for new school projects after all those school projects last year??

How big's Palo Alto budget shortfall again??

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

@ Crabby: do your homework before popping off. The construction is funded by the 2008 bond. That money is specifically targeted for construction and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Get a clue, dude.

Posted by Gunn Class of '67, a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Gunn Class of '67 is a registered user.

Hello Crescent Park Dad!
As you correctly state, school bond monies cannot be diverted. The unfortunate reality is how frivolously those taxpayer funds are spent; necessitating additional bonds due to poor supervision by school district. Learned hard way as board member of 501(c)(3) supplementing another local school district. Stunning.
Why school district project managers predictably & routinely allow runaway contractor charges & change orders seems contradictory for public servants serving local communities. Bidding process awards same contractors working numerous local school districts; check out contract price/change orders/estimates on PA schools:
Web Link

Posted by Marielena G-M, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm

How about spending the moneys on more counselors, and new effective anti-bullying programs that really work for all schools to improve the social and emotionally health of our students, so ALL students can enjoy get an education and be alive at the time they are supposed to graduate?

Posted by Interesting, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

@Gunn Class of '67 - were you suggesting that there was waste, runaway charges & change orders in the Palo Alto building projects? Or just that there might be because there are in others? I followed the link you provided and looked at some of the projects - hard to tell much there, at least for the untrained eye.

My understanding is that the district is required to take the low bid and there are many bidder these days. And that change orders above 5% or maybe 10% cumulative of the original project cost require school board approval, which has not yet been requested for any project yet.

I would appreciate hearing more info if you can share.

Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Tree watcher,

Coincidentally, the Board of Education is scheduled to discuss possible adoption of a "tree policy" tomorrow night: Web Link

The item is scheduled to be discussed, but not voted on, at Tuesday's meeting.

Posted by North End Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm

There are many things you could find fault with the Palo Alto school district for, but bond oversight isn't one of them. I've been following the construction and they get amazing values and seem to hold their contractors' feet to the fire. Question what buildings get priority? Sure. But not the management.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Part of the oversight process is that there is citizens committee that audits the budget plan and outcome. Most of the members, if not all, have either professional building/development and/or financial management experience.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2011 at 8:15 am

Marielena G-M -the bond money can not legally be used for staff. PiE donations can (and are) used for counselors at the middle and high school level. Donate to PiE (you can specify that you want it used at the secondary level).

Posted by pa resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2011 at 11:36 am

Tree Watcher,
Both Paly and Gunn are getting multi-story structures in order to minimize the footprint of the new construction, at a significant cost. Between 15-25% of the cost of the first $20million building at Gunn will be just the EXTRA to make it twostory, not to mention the extra costs maintaining it (including the probability of having to air condition it). That's at least $3million and almost certainly more on one building being spent saving trees. (Of course, the only reason to expand Gunn is to put all the extra enrollment on those campuses rather than Cubberley, so there's a trade off there, though the district never analyzed that option so I don't know the cost breakdown.)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on May 26, 2011 at 11:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The construction is funded by the 2008 bond. That money is specifically targeted for construction and cannot be used for any other purpose."

Where will they get the money to OPERATE these new facilities?

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