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Palo Alto growth brings traffic angst to Los Altos Hills

Original post made on Mar 21, 2014

Spurred by a popular outcry over planned traffic signals at the busy interchange of Interstate 280 and Page Mill Road, Los Altos Hills officials on Thursday challenged the logic behind the proposal and vowed to bring residents' concerns to Caltrans, which is spearheading the project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 21, 2014, 8:07 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by cow tunnel, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

How about improving bicycle and pedestrian safety along this route by finally opening up that trail between Page Mill Road and the Arastradero Preserve that Stanford promised us more than a decade ago?


Posted by Johnson, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 21, 2014 at 11:39 am

So much whining, so much NIMBY.

The roads are for everyone's use and don't only belong to the Los Altos Hills or Palo Alto residents. While their needs must also be considered, a balance needs to be struck between the needs of residents, commuters and others.

Traffic engineers are a pretty smart lot -- much smarter than we often give them credit for. Remember when people complained about metering lights and Caltrans turned them off and the backups got MUCH worse?

People need to take the time to understand the tradeoffs, rather than use a NIMBY reaction.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

Was Joni Mitchell being NIMBY when she wrote Big Yellow Taxi?


Posted by Hills resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

This is another NIMBY in action, i do not see how this will effect Los Alto Hills it isat the edge of town and it will improve the traffic backup at the I280 exits to Page Mill. The petition claims this signal light will lower the property values which I cannot imagine how that will take place.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm

With all the growth that has taken place, how many residents have enjoyed the prosperity and the benefits of growth?

I too am getting tired of Big Yellow Taxi, which in some cases paradise has already been lost.

See examples.
El Camino Real.
Large suburban tracts of homes.
Strip malls and tilt up buildings.

Of couse the 280 freeway.


Posted by Resident LAH, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

The necessary infrastructure to support Palo Alto's and Stanford's Massive Growth Agenda does not exist. Period.

Most of the residents of Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto still have no idea of the scary growth and massive expansion that is about to occur in Palo Alto and on 4,000 acres of Stanford Land.

There are approximately 12 active policemen in Palo Alto on duty at one time. Think about this. Think about a population growth of a hundred thousand new commuters and residents and more. It is naive to think that only "nice" people will arrive. An overwhelming percentage of PA residents are seniors. 50% are now renters. Can you see this picture?

A severe drought is occurring. The water districts have said that PA water supply is at capacity. Water supplies in Palo Alto in case of first response natural disasters i.e. earthquakes, gas explosions and fires is cited as inadequate. This is why PA is running around and digging emergency wells all over the place. While Palo Alto and Stanford is planning added masses of people, Los Altos Hills residents are being forewarned about impeding water consumption penalties, low water reserves and conservation enforcements.

Wonder why PA residents are going bonkers over record electrical increases ?

How about school capacity of which LAH residents already contribute a disproportionately high percentage of tax revenues to support ?

How about road infrastructure, emergency medical response, sewer and treatment capacity?

This only covers the regular everyday stuff.

How about safety planning, emergency communication, evacuation support and emergency evacuation capabilities ?

This is all linked to irresponsible and dangerous growth.

Residents of PA and LAH at both ends of the Page Mill Corridor are joining forces. NBC News published a TV interview this week. Many papers are reporting. More will come.

When responsibility is restored, when residents can worry about preserving trees instead of mass transit issues, public safety, rising crime, inadequate schools and massive expansion, then we will have solved this intersection and the many problems to come.

In the meantime, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto residents have formed websites and started community papers like www.pagemill280.org www.pasz.nationbuilder.com and www.paloaltoville.com and will continue to collect petitions.

It's unusual when residents come together to change the direction of their town. It's unheard of for residents of 2 cities to come together. This only occurs if something very serious has or will occur…something that disturbs their environment, their right to enjoy life, their overall well-being and that of their families.

We cannot allow Caltrans or ourselves to further facilitate Palo Alto's or Stanford's massive irresponsible growth.

The Page Mill Corridor cannot support Palo Alto's and Stanford's development agendas. Sure, we can propose flyovers, road expansions etc at this end, but the Oregon Expwy/Page Mill Corridor has an overall limiting infrastructure including the huge concrete underpasses at Alma.

Increased throughput on the Page Mill/Oregon Expwy Corridor from 101 to 280 cannot be substantiated. Even if it could, how much more traffic can 280 and 101 handle? Remember when the local rush hour back-up on southbound 280 occurred just before the 85? You don't have to think hard. That was just a year ago. Now southbound 280 at rush hour is crawling and standing still at Page Mill Road. A signal light is a band-aid facade that will enable PALO ALTO and Stanford to gain approvals for additional high-density projects along this corridor.

You only need to pick up any local Palo Alto paper to see the city's motivation…city employee pensions in jeopardy, 6.8% city employee union compensation increases, record utility hikes, unheard of record hotel room tax initiatives, state water utility modification denials. The PA Planning Department cannot grow fast enough to facilitate more capital. This is poor fiscal responsibility solved by irresponsible growth !

The current estimate of new commuters based on only current approvals of Palo Alto's "High-density Development Plan" and the initial phase of Stanford's "Compact Urban Development Plan" is 60,000 new office and residential commuters. This number will continue to rise as the development plans of Palo Alto and Stanford continue to unfold.

Call us anything you want...nimbys...rural advocates...environmentalists...when you see the spike of irresponsible development that is afoot...you will understand the concern. This issue will effect everyone, residents of PA and LAH, commuters, cyclists, pedestrians, children in schools, everyone.

This is divisive politics at it's best.


Informed and Concerned Resident of LAH


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Other day took a trip to the Sacramento Valley, once was orchards now are housing units. People.watering their lawns, washing cars, water running down the street and swimming pool trucks.

Houses sitting miles away from stores, jobs or anything that is mass, public or shuttle based transit. The area is becoming less rural and more suburban with bay area commuters.

Water comes from the same source, food producing.rural counties are becoming suburbs for your.workers.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I am betting that 280 pre-dates the residency dates of most of the complainers on the two threads.

Nice rambling speech - but the reality is that a traffic signal has been need at that intersection for decades.

I agree that there many concerns about future growth. However the traffic signal will do nothing except make the intersection much safer than it is now.


Posted by Tim Buck II, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

"The water districts have said that PA water supply is at capacity."

A few PA city council meetings back, responding to concerned citizens, the honorable Pat Burt took this issue head on. He observed that people don't start using water only after they come here; they were using water where they came from, therefore no additional water needed.

Got that, NIMBYs? No problem.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

I agree the traffic light is needed, road improvement for all those who use the road or not. People need to slow down or be polite but then again we live in rush rush rush world.

Go ahead put up the traffic light.


Posted by Water Management Consultant, a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Regarding water consumption. One of the highest percentage groups of growth in the Bay area are residents from outside the Bay area.


Posted by John, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

 "I've seen the plans that Palo Alto and others have and the development is scary that's happening in Palo Alto. 

To Los Altos Hills residents: welcome to the night mare of our world!


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 21, 2014 at 10:47 pm

You know, this debate brings up the issue that we have all been on the receiving end of regional planning that we've had no power and say over, but we have no commensurate protection like the comprehensive plan (such as it is).

The state actually mandates certain elements for different cities' comprehensive plans, like safety elements, housing elements, traffic circulation, etc. Those mandated elements can be rolled in different ways, but they're required to be there. If PA was like most cities or even most charter cities, the comprehensive plan would actually be more protection, but anyway, it occurs to me that we don't have an equivalent comprehensive plan at the state level that provides similar balance against the development interests having their way with us. Like the equivalent of zoning codes at the state level, safety rules that protect us at the state level, etc.

So these unfunded mandates from the state don't just affect our own cities, they affect all of us as a region, and we have no equivalent comprehensive plan.

Anyone who thinks we need to turn this area into Hong Kong needs to take a drive through Nevada, or in any other direction across this country, where some spillover tech/jobs/urban renewal would actually be a good thing. We shouldn't be trying to pack all the jobs and population in this place, because if we let it get to the point that we ruin it, people WILL find the next best place and leave us with the urban blight.

We need to join forces... To our friends in Los Altos, contact PASZ! (www.paloaltoville.com -- I speak as a citizen, not for any group when I say that)


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

@LAH,
You all actually have some recourse to sue the state because this overbuilding without a thought to the infrastructure affects some of the areas that the state mandates a higher level of safety consideration, and for which exceptions can be made to a variety of other requirements.... It's not just traffic safety and circulation, it's also fire safety, etc...

Does anyone from PASZ have a video of that meeting last night? i heard about it, would like to see it myself. Sounds like our Los Altos Hills neighbors would be glad to see it, too....


Posted by LAH to PA Concerned Residents, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 22, 2014 at 2:51 am

Dear PA Neighbors,

We have been in touch with PASZ. We tried to make it to PASZ meeting but ours ended late. We are with you 110%. It appears that the public outcry here has prompted the clear support of the Town Council.

We are confident that the joined forces will put an end to this irresponsible development.

We will fill in PASZ and PaloAltoville asap.

Informed and Concerned Resident of LAH




Posted by Lawyer Lotto Intersection, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:10 am

The agencies have all declared the area unsafe, so now if they do not build the light, they are WIDE open to lawsuits when someone is hurt of killed.

Now that it has been publicly stated as dangerous for the record, if they do not act, its lawsuit city for every accident that happens there going fwd.

Lawyer to CalTrans/LAH/PA: It was determined by yourself that it was a dangerous area and needed a signal, but then you decided not to put one in and my client was killed.

I'd say that first one will be about 10M for wrongful death, and subsequent awards for every accident that occurs there in the future. Its now a lawyer hole with bait set, patiently waiting for the first accident.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

Why take the chance on unsafe roads, improvements are needed for the safety of all users. Enforcement is great but those traffic cops can't just sit at every.school zone controlled or not controlled intersection, problem speed area or dangerous section of road. Day and Night.

Sending development somewhere else is called "leapfrog development" which The Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, and any land conservation group is against. Some of the biggest people against leap frog sprawl are from right here.


Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2014 at 8:35 am

Once they put 280 in you were doomed. Put the lights in and stop killing people.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

Per the state agency accident report, there have been no "qualifying" accidents or even "qualifying" fender benders for 6 years westbound and 12 years eastbound.

Statistical compared to other intersections over the last 5 years, the accident rating is the lowest rating (least accident rating attainable)compared to most other intersections with or without lights.

Intersections with lights statiscally have more accidents.











Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2014 at 11:46 am

"We shouldn't be trying to pack all the jobs and population in this place"

Great, I assume you'll be the first to move out? Or does this only apply to other people...


Posted by Getting Smart, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Love to hear the lawyers weighing in. I guess I'm getting to be a cynic, but it always seems to boil down to threats, loopholes, and liabilities defined and broadcast by Big Money Interests to obscure what's really going on. But I'm a child of the 60s and still keeping the faith that we can push the lawyers and politicians aside and take back our city from the developers if we inform ourselves, organize, and making a grass roots stand against over development. It appears we're being systematically diverted from the big picture by pieces of the puzzle thrown out randomly to divide and obfuscate. Controversies re the light, the bridges, individual developements, all serve to isolate and divide. Time to take it to the street, folks ... or at least the organizing websites and the voting booth.


Posted by Donald, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The irony is that almost every person that is whining about traffic owns a car and drives it yet it is someone else besides them that is the problem. The "quality of life" that the old folks complain they might lose is actually higher in cities according to most studies. We cannot welcome the new innovators that will keep our area healthy if there is no place for them to go. This anti-everything mentality is an attack on young people, driving up housing prices to insane levels. I hope that in the future opposition to things like Measure D tell the story like it is. Old people vote, young people don't but if that changed they might want to protect themselves against the numerous negative consequences of the status quo.


Posted by Getting Smart, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Donald: we're not whining about traffic, many of us are just concerned about the consequences of unchecked development without regard for the existing community or infrastructure. Perhaps we just have different definition of "healthy." "Move fast and break things" doesn't make for a very good place to raise your kids.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 22, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I can still remember the oldest man in Palo Alto, who moved here in a covered wagon (may he rest in peace) and bought his house when it was Mayfield, saying, "And people told me I was CRAZY to spend $5,000 on a house!)

This place has ALWAYS been insanely expensive. It's been that way ever since i've lived here. What's new - or, rather, coming around again -- is developers getting away with destroying the place by egging on the false hope that things will be different if we just let them have their way with us.

I think we need to distill this development discussion to the City Council: How many of them who live further than walking distance are taking alternative transportation, and if not, why not? Boston's subway system was literally like traveling inside a dark toilet until Michael Dukakis traveled to work on the T, that's when it got all the great improvements.

The disruptive technologies will happen in transportation and energy in the next few years.

@Garrett,
Now you're just making things up hoping people won't look into it. You're talking sprawl, I'm talking urban renewal. And leapfrog development seems to be a very different concept than you portray it: From Wikipedia (though you are welcome to provide a better reference if you think it wrong):

"More recently the concept of leapfrogging is being used in the context of sustainable development for developing countries as a theory of development which may accelerate development by skipping inferior, less efficient, more expensive or more polluting technologies and industries and move directly to more advanced ones. It is proposed that through leapfrogging developing countries can avoid environmentally harmful stages of development and do not need to follow the polluting development trajectory of industrialized countries.[2] The adoption of solar energy technologies in developing countries are examples of where countries do not repeat the mistakes of highly industrialized countries in creating an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, but "jump" directly into the Solar Age.[3]"

The Sierra Club seems to think of it also as urban sprawl - where a developer jumps over open space to create another development around one urban center. I'm talking about the fact that the United States is an enormous place with many cities that are ripe for urban renewal. Everyone doesn't have to live here. And FYI, yes, I do plan to live somewhere else eventually, I can't afford to get old here.


Posted by easong, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I commute down Page Mill Rd though the intersection at 280 most mornings and afternoons. If they put a traffic signal there it will take me multiple signal cycles to get through the intersection as traffic will back up dozens deep. I will likely adjust my commute through the residential streets of Los Altos Hills in order to avoid the signal. That, I'm sure, is an unintended consequence of making this a more efficient intersection for people exiting 280. I'm not sure this is good for Los Altos Hills residents.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 12:00 am

"I'm talking about the fact that the United States is an enormous place with many cities that are ripe for urban renewal. Everyone doesn't have to live here."

Well, I think most people would agree that those decisions should be left up to individuals, not dictated by someone online. Unless of course, you're comfortable letting others tell you where to live?


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2014 at 8:55 am

The pro growth loves to to use the mantra:"The benefits and prosperity of growth". The revenues of growth aren't even sufficient to repair the infrastructure that more traffic is causing. Overdevelopment is diminishing our quality of life through congested traffic, noise, pollution, overcrowding and additional pressure on diminishing resources like water. The mantra of "The benefits and prosperity of growth" is as fictional as the Unicorn.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 9:24 am

OK, leap frogging development means other things, read the article. I was talking about leap frogging of urban sprawl the outward growth of any metro area. Buy cheap land next to highway, build, sell and repeat.

I knew a term that I heard over and over again that kind of became the battle car of urban sprawl. No new San Jose's.

Original sprawl was centered on rail lines, being close to jobs and services. Centralized planning and controlled sprawl insteas uncontrolled sprawl growing miles from any major jobs or services.

Freeways, colleges, water infrastructure, airports, transit and public services can't even keep up. See. Highway 84, BART, water storage, CSU, Caltrain. All need major improvements with major capital.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 9:50 am

Save the Bay, Sierra Club, Land Trust of any County, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenbelt Alliance and any anti growth NIMBY group fight any kind of development, transportation project or afforable housing makes it hard to live, drive or even work here.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 23, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Garrett,
You are invoking something that doesn't even apply, to continue to beat the overdevelopment drum. The United States of America is a huge place, with many areas that would benefit from both the jobs and the urban renewal. We should not be allowing the turning of our area into dense blight in order to pack all the jobs and all the people here. We are not Hong Kong Isand and it is not necessary, desirable, or sustainable. If things are too expensive here, Fesno may benefit from spillover jobs and people going there, too (as I hear is already happening). People aren't commuting from Fresno, Fresno gets renewal. (Or what about Detroit?) We all do better, and our nation is stronger for it. Both cities are better for it. We shouldn't be trying to figure out how to pack all the high tech jobs of the nation into the same space. It's just a giveaway to developers, who dont pay the real costs. Enough.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Greenacres, there are many good reasons why companies choose to locate here, and I can't understand why you feel like you are in a position to dictate to them whether or not they can't. Clearly you don't like being told where you can live or do business, as evidenced by the fact that, despite your concerns about urban renewal, you haven't moved to Fresno or Detroit.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Most the lands were waged against well planned development that was near or catered to the workers of San Francisco.

I knew a architect who worked on a lttle known master planned community, Marincello.

Thousands and thousands of single family homes were planned for San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma to house young families with children, close to job centers via freeways.

Point Reyes.

All of these battles were fought in the good new of open space, new terms created. Infill, transit centered development, urban limit lines, bay and hillside restrictions.

This is why some people are drawn here, others are willing to see more dense development, or ride public transit.

Or the top of San Bruno Mountain removed for thousands of homes and the dirt used for a Manhattan sized bay fill project.

700 homes planned above a bay area city that were so rightly stopped.


Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Detroit Metro area thrives, not so much Detroit. But Detroit is finding out about urban pioneers, the so called beach has turned a rundown part of downtown Detroit into something different, they are fighting to turn the tables against the state of decay that has plauged the city for years.


Posted by Greenacres, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 23, 2014 at 7:35 pm

>I can't understand why you feel like you are in a position to dictate to them whether or not they can't.

Where have I suggested anyone be dictated to? But as a resident and a citizen, along with all other residents and citizens, I do have a say - it's called "democracy" whether you like it or not.

If companies and developers want to come here, there are things like zoning rules that protect the rights, property values, safety, etc., of people and companies who are already here. Developers who want to cash in on those companies wanting to come here should not be able to violate all of those rules to make a fast buck at the expense of the long-term health of the area.

We are also being dictated to for new housing based on jobs located here, in case you hadn't noticed. And those housing units don't pay for themselves in the services they cost. So why do you feel it's okay for developers and companies who want to come here to dictate that those of us who live here now should pay more and more?

Rather than giving away zoning so developers can make a fast buck, the market should be allowed to work and companies who want to come here when it's already so crowded should have to pay for the actual cost. Why should residents subsidize more when it's not benefitting the city or them?

If that means companies don't want to come here anymore because the calculation works out to move jobs elsewhere, that's how well-functioning marketplaces work. We shouldn't be artificially trying to pack more and more and more in one place. Again, this is not Hong Kong Island. There is no shortage of land. It actually makes our nation stronger if we have more than one center of tech like this.

This is a big nation. Densifying this area is a choice, not a need or a right. If some want that choice, they should pay for it. When it becomes a choice between sunlight, water, open space, and quality of life, those who live here have rights, too, and they're in the codes. We do have a right to see those maintained.

(As for you telling me to move to Fresno or Detroit, I believe I have already stated that I don't think I can afford to get old here.)


Posted by First Responder, a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 10:21 pm

The El Camino Corridor Grand Boulevard Compact Urban Initiative is not only over-developing, it is dangerous. The plan promotes aggressive development through a conversion to mass transit because the road infrastructure cannot support the growth.

Not only is Silicon Valley fire and earthquake prone, but it is a major technology hub which rates among the nation's top terriorists targets. So let's just see how many people can be stuffed between a bay full of water to the east and mountain passes to the west. Then let's see how limited safety personnel will successfully evacuate this high dense over-population through arteries that can't support traffic on a normal work day.

People suggesting that over-developing is not an issue need to think twice.


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