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California Avenue redesign evolves; opposition remains
Original post made
on Jul 12, 2012
Wider sidewalks, new plazas and a scattering of benches, trees and other streetscape amenities are the latest components in Palo Alto's ambitious and controversial proposal to transform California Avenue into a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare. ==B Related story:==
City hopes to break ground on California Avenue in fall 2013]
California Avenue redesign stalled by lawsuits]
VIDEO: Changes coming to California Avenue]
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 10:09 PM
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Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm
To C. M. Long - I'm glad you are enjoying the Farmer's Market. It was a big hit, from Day One. The Streetscape was designed to *incorporate* the market, not to reduce or eliminate it. The idea of the Streetscape was to address pedestrian safety making the street more walker-friendly, 24/7, including at the market.
Two lanes was the plan since 2006, when the design "in concept", was finished. I'll include details for you below since you're new, and you do not know the story. The Weekly knows what I'm sharing, but they're not reporting it. I agree w/ Doug Moran's comment where he suggested they research and wrote, "Hint, hint, hint…"
I think when someone asks a question as you did, it should be answered, so this post is just to you, and anyone else that's interested. It's OLD news to many.
BTW, the Market was brought to the community by two citizen volunteers:
Sanford Forte, who lived in Evergreen & was a CAADA director then (California Avenue Area Development Association, an organization that represented district businesses from 1957-2010) found the producer and got the ball rolling with the city and CAADA, seeing that the market was held on Sunday, an otherwise sleepy time for California Ave, as most businesses were closed. There was always strong objection by a few merchants about closing the street at any day or time of the year. Sunday was a good fit for most.
The other volunteer responsible for the market is me, another CAADA director then. When Sanford and the market producer hit roadblocks threatening the market from being held (bureaucracy, red tape & high city fees), I stepped in & ironed it out, negotiating with the city and the producer.
While that was long ago, the public has no idea the market almost did not take place. It was NOT like the city-funded City Hall market. We had to jump through hoops. Thankfully, everything was negotiated successfully, after much work. Everyone loves the market, and I'm glad you do too.
Details on "The Streetscape":
The Project was first discussed in the fall of 2004, and from 2005-2009, in earnest. The street was always to be repaved, and other STANDARD work done, planned for years, such as utility work & tree replacement. The Streetscape was an enhancement of what would have been standard maintenance to a street that had gone years without attention.
The city was *always* aware of the weekly activities happening on the street, as well as seasonal activities, like the annual Children's Trick or Treat event on Halloween, and the Jewish To Life! Street Festival (held for 10 years, from 2001-2010).
The City was *always* intending to work around everything, preserving the activities that were there. So the market should be *enhanced* by the 2-lane configuration, as it was designed with that in mind.
For some reason, Weekly reporters overlook HOW the Streetscape came about, reporting the city came up with this idea just two years ago, and the city is not keeping merchants in the loop, trying to push 2 lanes on everyone. That is NOT true.
The 2-lane design was brought to the whole CAADA board as the recommended plan from a self-appointed, 2-person "CAADA Streetscape Committee" (Terry Shuchat, chairman/Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop, member, both CAADA Board members) that WANTED to design the street, by themselves. Early on, another Board member worked with them, but he left prior to the "Concept Plan" being brought to the CAADA Board and to council in 2006.
Before the "Streetscape Committee" took over, I planned a charette for everyone to attend (merchants, residents, city, and anyone interested) to weigh in their opinions.
It was to be led by Architects Judith Wasserman and Tony Carasco. But I cancelled it, when Terry and Feeta (multi-property owners) *insisted* on designing the Concept Plan themselves, in collaboration with the City.
Terry, Feeta and the City visited other business communities. They did a great deal of work, thinking about how to create a safer and prettier street for everyone.
They worked hard in 2005 creating a "Concept Plan" with the city (a public/private collaboration) reporting back to the CAADA Board (and the City Manager's office, Frank Benest, then) regularly. What they created was unanimously accepted by the whole CAADA Board. TERRY AND FEETA DID AN EXCELLENT JOB.
After it was finalized, including the lane reduction, the design just sat there from 2006-2009, until the last of the utility work was done. Work was to begin Sept. 2009, starting with the tree replacement. The ONLY thing *not* ironed out until July 2009 was HOW the trees were to be replaced: a clear-cut, or a phased approach.
Terry, Feeta, another director, Margot, all voted to clear-cut, and that was the city's recommendation. Only I objected to a clear-cut, for two reasons:
1) I had vague memories of a clear-cut disaster of 30 years ago, and was reminded of it by a CAADA Businessman that remembered it vividly (but he never came to CAADA meetings). At meetings, other directors told me I was wrong. When I asked them to speak with the member that voiced concerns to me, they chose not to.
2) Sanford Forte, who was no longer on the CAADA Board at the time, had been *passionate* about phasing. I felt a need to respect his 'voice', as he often spoke for the opinion of many people. But I was out-voted. The vote to clear-cut prevailed, and trees were cut on Sept. 14th 2009 (if memory serves).
Days before the trees were cut down (Sept. 9th, 2009) Public Works asked me to "notify everyone" about the commencement of the Streetcape. Up until that time, I had only kept 80+ ground floor retail merchants in the loop. (Many disregarded emails. What they do with information after I send it is out of my hands. There were complaints that I was "too detailed" like now! - they chose not to read it.)
On Sept. 10th, I notified the whole city: press releases, residents… What I did not know then, was that 6 weeks before, on July 31, 2009, when I was told by PW that everyone within 500 feet was to be notified properly, by the city, it never happened.
Some merchants got a hand-delivered city post card, just before work began, and "everyone" got an email, from me. Since commencement of work came as a surprise to most residents and to those CAADA businesses that had not been getting updates, (mostly offices) the "The Project" was halted. Everything was second-guessed, including the street work (the second half of Phase One.)
The Weekly reports that the Streetscape has only been discussed for "two years". But this project, *including the 2-lane configuration*, has been waiting to be *implemented*, since Thanksgiving 2009. Prior to that, there was THREE years of discussion going back to the 2006 "Concept Plan" (also see City of Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan, California Avenue Stakeholder's finalized meeting in 2009 - residents as far as Barron Park were there, as well as anyone else interested. Doug Moran attended, per the finalized meeting notes. Terry Shuchat represented CAADA. You can see the 2 lane configuration was discussed repeatedly.)
Two lanes was NEVER the result of grant money, although, in order to get the grant money, two lanes are, from what I was told, required. The successful grant is the FOURTH try for outside money. Three earlier grants were not approved 2 large, 1 small.
In mid 2009, Public Works brought the "Concept Plan" (part of the "Comprehensive Plan") to Council. But when trees were cut, council was "surprised" about the trees.
Yet the San Jose Mercury reporter in Palo Alto asked a good question then, writing: "How can there be tree replacement if the old trees are not removed?" Pointing out that council WAS aware of "tree replacement". Her question was never answered.
It WAS Public Work's recommendation at the July CAADA meeting to clear cut, and staff describes the scope of jobs to council. All of that is documented in city records. (But it is NOT in "The Executive Summary" of the Project, if I remember correctly.)
One important factor that would have eliminated the issue of the tree clear cut surprise to (almost) everyone, and the halting of the project is that city council assigns representatives to attend meetings, like the ones CAADA held from 1957-2010. These people are "liaisons" that are to report back to other council members.
In the twenty years I served as President, a liaison was in attendance at most, if not all, CAADA meetings, beginning with Councilwoman Ellen Fletcher, 20+ years ago. Other council liaisons to CAADA were Vic Ojakian, Jim Burch, among others; all came to every CAADA meeting, right up to Yoriko Kishimoto.
But during the time the CAADA Streetscape was being designed, neither of the two council liasions to CAADA attended meetings. So they were not able to report back to council. Those four years were of critical importance, 2006-2007 & 2008-2009. Designated council reps have to *request* the assignment. The fountain was an issue in 2008; the Streetscape in 2009.
It's a matter of city record, if you want to know who they are. It's not my intention to cast stones. But their absence was discussed by directors at CAADA meetings (before and after the tree clear-cut), and the Economic Development official at that time came to almost all our meetings she was in Planning, could do nothing about it. Public Works attended most CAADA meetings in the latter half of 2008 & through 2009, so one would think the council and other departments WERE being informed.
We should learn from our mistakes, and the public has a right to know having answers to questions, such as the one you asked about what impact, if any, two lanes would have on the Farmer's Market.
Had the process been handled correctly, the Streetscape (including the two lanes) would have been completed, by Thanksgiving 2009, and the benches, bike racks, etc. finished in early 2010. Instead, for three years, everything has been on hold. It's sad for Market-goers, such as you, C. M., to have to walk on streets that are cracked and filled with potholes, and bad for merchants, for whom this process seems endless. Many merchants do want 2 lanes, by the way. They just want the work to be done with as little impact to them as possible. While it was mentioned that 55 businesses oppose the lane configuration, I had over 250 businesses recorded in the business directory that I produced in 1994, and there must be over 500 businesses, if all the office buildings are included. Further, the residents would benefit, by having the street completed.
On this Phase of the Project, and since 2009, the City has done an excellent job of being collaborative and transparent, and getting the grant is amazing! The street will look terrific!