Voters to weigh in on new 'arts district' in downtown Palo Alto Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Sep 25, 2012 at 7:55 am
Palo Alto voters could have a say as early as next spring on a sweeping proposal by billionaire developer John Arrillaga to build a four-tower office complex and a theater near the downtown Caltrain station -- a project that would create a new "arts and innovation district" in one of the city's most central locations. Related story:
[Web Link Four office buildings, theater planned for downtown Palo Alto]
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 2:32 AM
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:05 am
Maybe I'm being simplistic, but as others have said in related threads, this seems to be a repeat of what downtown Mountain View has, albeit closer to CalTrain. Admittedly, if I lived elsewhere on the Peninsula & knew I didn't have to deal w/weekend traffic, I'd hop on CalTrain to go see a show there.
But how come TheatreWorks can't make the MV location its permanent home?
How will or won't this "arts center" affect the new performance center at Stanford - will they be viewed as "partners in performance" or something similar?
Those involved who love the idea come across as overly interested in recapturing Palo Alto's "arty" rep, which was lost somewhere around 1982...as so many artists moved due to high cost of living.
Posted by Backwards, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:22 am
So you don't support the arts? This area is located in the direct center of all Palo Alto, and you don't want an arts and theater district downtown? Those who chose to live across the street from the train station did so accepting the the busy atmosphere and noise of downtown. Not too long ago on the other side of the condos from the train station there once lived a very "seedy" live-in drug infested motel and yet they still elected to purchase or rent their condos. But put in a nice theater and arts district for the benefit of all and it's "no." The one's who are voting no are only thinking of themselves and could care less about the community.
Do NOT let a few backwards opinions ruin it for the rest of you.
Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community, on Sep 25, 2012 at 9:29 am
asking my question again
I read in the Weekend DN that the transit hub would "shift south." Is there a link to a map/picture showing where that "south" is? The hotel parking lot? Btw, that hub was barely mentioned just at the end of the article, such is the excitement over the rest of the project.
Another thing: missing from the current configuration is any place for drivers coming in to pick up/drop off. Have any of the people involved seen Downtown Mountain View station at peak hours? Steady stream of cars coming in, going out. PA should plan for that, too.
Posted by Silly, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:07 am
Destroying a Julia Morgan building doesn't show much support for the arts.
Of course all the commuters in those big office towers won't require parking or clog up the roads. Our anti-car city will just pretend there won't be a bit of congestion. The people who already can't park near there homes will have no problems.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:16 am
As suspiciously misrepresented as this "arts center" sounds, Sommer's petition is also suspect - & poorly written. Comparing listing your view to losing your home - or your pre - is over the top. I sympathize, but expecting to maintain a mountain view while living in a downtown area is too much. Also, how many total people are effected vs how much profit & glory the project brings?
Sommer - what do you want - to he bough signatures to get a heavy hitter to side w/you so that they lower the heights or have them cancel the project to protect your view?
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:18 am
If this development qualifies as an "Arts District", then so should the Lucie Stern Community Center, Downtown Palo Alto (Bijou & Stanford Theaters), Page Mill & El Camino, and the new JCC. All of these areas should allow 10 story buildings.
And once we start this high rise development, I can predict that the ABAG and affordable housing crowd will then use this as a precedent to push for more high rise development all around Palo Alto.
Posted by Long time resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:22 am
Read carefully my friends - no one is talking about destroying the Julia Morgan building. There are plans to move and PRESERVE it. (By the way, that building didn't start out in its current location, it has already been moved -twice - since it was built.) From what I can see, these plans call for beautiful park lands, public plazas, a nice theatre, and a great solution to that unsightly transit mess. And someone else is willing to pay for it. Yipee. Meanwhile Palo Alto gets a decent modern theatre complex located NEAR restaurants and businesses, where all will benefit. Parking is ample (and hidden underground), and the whole thing will be accessible by public transportation! So naturally let's all whine about that - it's what Palo Alto does best.
Posted by Robert, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 25, 2012 at 11:45 am
A rose is a rose is a rose. This is a HUGE OFFICE COMPLEX, with quite minor accommodation for a theater. That's not an "arts complex"!!! Come on! These developers always seem to have to rely on verbal deception or enticement to get their ways. This would irrevocably transform Palo Alto infinitely more than 101 Lytton "Gateway." If this complex consisted primarily of new facilities for various arts, e.g., a new movie theater, a new chamber music hall, a new drama theater, spaces for active public engagement with the craft arts, and perhaps an arts museum and an arts library, then we'd have something that could legitimately be called an "arts complex." The amount of incremental traffic that this new office complex would bring is HUGE and would greatly negatively effect Palo Alto -- which is already suffering from ever increasing congestion.
Posted by anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm
and I believe that Arrillaga would just be providing the shell of the theatre complex - it would be up to the city or Theatreworks to complete the expensive interiors. Similar to the current "offer" of a public safety "shell" by another developer.
Void the 50' limit on this property and watch the other applications for tall buildings flow in.
Posted by jardins, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm
None of the city's 5 depictions of this proposed development shows any of the towers--their height and bulk are "nicely" hidden by trees and selected (limited) artistic viewpoints.
In real life, these towers are going to loom over pedestrians, and their sheer mass will be overwhelming--far too much volume for the building site and its context.
Downtown Palo Alto ISN'T San Jose. We don't have a context of very large and tall buildings here. This place has evolved differently, and that fact should be respected.
If the Arillaga Towers go in, they will dwarf all other buildings around them. That is BAD design--any decent architect looks at the context of the buildings s/he is designing. Arrillaga isn't an architect--he's a developer.
What need does Stanford have of yet more buildings, this time foisted upon city residents? Take a look at all the development on campus in recent years--hardly any space left between the buildings!
There are a lot of swollen ego's involved in this project--the developer's, Stanford's, the city council's . . .
Posted by Martin Sommer, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm
@pro-development, Q&A ...
> Not sure how ...
Follow the logic. One taking from another, is not right at any level.
> Yiaway Yeh, up for reelection ...
Fixed, and thank you. Just learned this at last night's council meeting.
> Are you in favor of this project of it does not go above 50 feet ...
Absolutely! Just like High Speed Rail, if its done right, it could be a real benefit to our community. I spent the last 1.5 years on the Palo Alto Rail Corridor Task Force, and highly pushed for this area to be used for public service, such as a 'town square' of sorts. During last night's council meeting, many good ideas came up like: using the bottom floor of the proposed office buildings for shopping, restaurants, cafes, etc. If done right, the area could become a day/evening/weekend hotspot for the public. There could be live music, and many of the Palo Alto restaurants could have 'annex' location. We could do the Black and White Ball in the theater garden, move our farmers market to the area, etc. The list goes on ...
Another great idea that came from the City Council, is to have community involvement in the planning process. We did this a number of times with the High Speed Rail discussion, and it was very fruitful. As a matter of fact, if we can keep the buildings under 50 feet, I could lead one of the community workshop discussions. :)
> This is all about you, isn't it ...
No, I just happen to be a very outspoken citizen, that believes: 1) don't take from others, and 2) done right, it could be great.
I also believe that elected officials should play within the rules, and not "bargain away" aspects of our culture. The 50 foot height limit, is very important to homeowners like myself to maintain our quality of life, and the value of our properties.
Posted by arts supporter, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm
To Hmmmm: TheatreWorks shares the Mountain View CPA with other home companies: Peninsula Youth Theatre and Smunin Ballet. TWs contract with MVCPA allows it to produce 5 shows at that location. MVCPA is not available as a dedicated home for TheatreWorks.
Posted by arts supporter, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm
Missy (and others) The entire presentation can be accessed through the cityofpaloalto.org site. Click on Agendas and minutes, scroll to Sept 24 and click on that. You'll see the staff's memo to the city and if you click on attachments B and C you'll find the full set of drawings (including massing concepts) that were presented to the Council last night.
This is a BIG project. Please don't give a "knee jerk" reaction; rather take the time to understand the ups and downs of the proposal. This is too important of an opportunity to just be dismissed as Mr. Moss suggested last night. It deserves a thorough evaluation and vetting. Play your part as an informed citizen: read the City Council Agendas and Packets, attend the meetings, voice your support and your concerns. Appreciate that others have different perspectives and opinions. Be respectful.
Posted by Michael, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm
Let's get this built. El Camino is going to be built out from San Mateo to San Jose. Let make our mark on El Camino and lets give Palo Alto the arrival point and theater it should have. This is an incredible opportunity and I am so excited that Palo Alto has the opportunity to develop this space in such an incredible way. In exchange for a few small office buildings, Palo Alto will receive a new transportation hub, a theater and park we WILL use not one we don't.
And for those who complain about the traffic and the height limit. Move. Yes, I said it. Move. Your home will be worth more after this is built. Your homes are worth more now that Palo Alto has become a commercial and innovative success story. Take that profit that has resulted from the aspects of Palo Alto that you clearly don't like and move elsewhere. Try Barron Park, I'm sure the traffic there is far less and I know the price per square foot is less too. You still get the same schools. Sounds like a bargain. So please, stop standing in the way of this City's evolution. Palo Alto will grow, and its either going to happen in a organized fashion or its going to be piece meal. This is an opportunity to plan for the grown (especially the mass transit changes) in a way that is well planned and thought through. Lift the height limit downtown and lets build up! Those who are against UP are typically against everything.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm
Contrary to what most think, congestion does not negatively affect value. New York is extremely congested, but it remains the priciest place to live in the world. Palo Alto home values are not dropping because more and more people are visiting the City on a daily basis. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Is congestion inconvenient? Sure. But is it bad for property values? Not necessarily. In fact, it typically occurs in areas that have tremendous value.
And I am aware that there is a 50 foot height limit in Palo Alto. But I also think that Downtown should be exempt. Just because we haven't developed the traffic solutions yet shouldn't stop us from moving forward and developing downtown. And I would like to add that this project has addressed traffic, in fact it is rethinking mass transit in a major way. Imagine if communities from all over the Peninsula now took the train to our amazing theater. Some people ride the train to Giants Stadium and many will ride the train to see performance art in downtown Palo Alto.
Don't sign the petition. I wish Arriaga or whatever his name is would just offer the Petition starter home owners top dollar for their homes and help them move elsewhere. I am sure he'd realize a profit on that land as the value and demand in this area is going nowhere but up. Palo Alto is the hottest market and its because of its downtown not inspite of it.
Posted by pro-development, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm
"Follow the logic. One taking from another, is not right at any level."
Comparing murder, a crime, with taking away your view (which is something in all honesty you are not entitled to--you happen to have it now, but it does not mean that you will always have it) is ridiculous and invalidates your claims. As someone else pointed out--expecting to have a clear unobstructed view while living downtown is a bit too much.
Or how about this--I want an arts center, by opposing it you are taking that away from me. Wrong is wrong according to you.
Posted by Ralph, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm
If you are going to take the time to comment, please have your information correct.
The Julia Morgan building is not going to be destroyed, period. It will be moved, just like it has been before. That's right, where it sits now is not it's original location. Please stop with the "building going to be destroyed" falsehoods.
John Arrillag stands to make a total of $0 on this project. Again, stop with the "Evil Developer" rhetoric. These buildings will be donated to Stanford University.
All development is not bad. Thankfully Bill Hewlett and David Packard didnt have to deal with residents. How many people have been to where this development is being proposed. This area is currently an eyesore with buses backed up and homeless encampments.
This 50' petition...please...this is not being proposed on Waverly and Addison, it is across the street for the mall. Get real, no one is trying to build Manhatten here, a few building 7-10 stories. You are acting like these are skyscrapers.
Posted by Build Big, Make Money, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm
Jean McCown, Stanford's land-lawyer developer (aka "Communications" director :-) ) is in favor of this project. Arrillaga says he will give the 4 office tower buildings to Stanford.
Surprise! Stanford is in favor!
McCown honed her trade as attorney for the 800 High Street developer and for open space private builders. So we can guess where her values are: Build Big, Make Money, The heck with parks and historic buildings.
Posted by dramarama, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm
>> the heck with parks and historic buildings
1) This plan calls for a green space and sitting areas!!
2) The Julia Morgan building is going to be moved and preserved - not destroyed!!! By the way this building -- wherever it is moved to -- would make an excellent Palo Alto History Museum. In fact, this could be moved to Stanford land and managed/cared for as a Museum in exchange for the offices they are acquiring.
Posted by arts supporter, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm
@businessdecision: in Adenda B, check out slides 8 and 16. As I heard it last night, there will be 4 lanes in the horseshoe, two in the middle for moving traffic and two on each side for pick up and drop off. There's also a bus turnaround behind the Westin. The slide with the arrows is a little confusing until you study it; SamTrans will come from the north and be able to drop off/pick up and then turn around, VTA will come from the south and be able to do the same. The architects have really thought this through.
There are also slides addressing pedestrian access, bike access, and auto access. One feature that I love is that if you walk through the University Ave underpass, a you come up there are tiered steps leading to the office buildings. That really makes the approach feel welcoming.
@dramarama: I love your idea for the Julia Morgan building! Some council members want it to be incorporated into the design, but the architecture of the new buildings isn't the same as the Julia Morgan house (both are beautiful in their styles, but they do not complement each other). I'm all for moving it and making it a home for the PA History Museum. I might propose your idea to Councilwoman Holman.
To whoever it was that posted about auto drop offs, please look at slide 11 on Addenda B; it shows four separate drop off spots, including one at the train station.
Posted by What? Kidding Right?, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm
So..what we now have is an "Arts District".
What a load of horse droppings. This is a FOR PROFIT office tower that has a small theater component. The whole "Arts District" is developer spin to get us to swallow this Goliath hunk of eyesore.
Don't be fooled by the name. This proposal is for overdeveloping the existing site for a PROFIT. Who loses here...not Arillago...but the rest of us who don't live on a mountain top in Portola Valley.
Lets start from the basics here:
This office tower will result in at least 5000 additional cars driving into Palo Alto every day. You don't believe for one minute that all of those folks working in those FOUR office TOWERS will be taking CalTrain or riding their bikes do you? What...10% at best. How will those cars get there...consider...
Sand Hill Road: Full to capacity every morning and night
Page Mill Road: Full to capacity and backed up onto 280 AM/PM
Willow Road: Get real...MP wants no part of this traffic
University: Right..packed from one end to the other AM/PM
Embarcadero: Nope...full to max AM/PM and all those school kids
Oregon Xway: Nope...full to capacity AM/PM
Middlefield Road: You gotta be kidding...parking lot AM/PM
Alma: HA...just try to get to Paly in the AM/PM good luck
El Camino...maybe...then again maybe not.
I'm not sure which PR agency Arrillaga hired to help shove this overdeveloped office pile into our town...but getting the press to always place "philanthropist" in front of Arrillaga's name and transmuting the OFFICE COMPLEX into a "Arts District" changes nothing.
This project is too big, too ugly and totally wrong for Palo Alto.
Posted by Midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm
It's back to the seventies all over again. Back then, they built our ugly city hall and that ugly high rise building on University Ave. Then, the whole council was voted out and Palo Alto citizens put a stop building such horrors in our town.
It seems that 40 years later we have forgotten that lesson and want to repeat the same mistakes with that gigantic OFFICE development. Let's be smart and let's say NO, Palo Alto.
As to Mr. Arrillaga, if he such as a great "philanthropist", maybe he can just build a theater for Theaterworks in Palo Alto and stop there.
Posted by Long time resident, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 7:31 pm
I am curious about two things:
1) How many people screaming about preserving the Julia Morgan building have set foot in it during the past year (5 years? 10?) Thought not. For gosh sakes, let this nice man move it to where it will do an organization (someone suggested the hospital's family care program) some good!
2) How many people posting comments have even read the plans, or are aware that our station currently services FIVE different bus lines PLUS CalTrain? The buses line up across El Camino waiting to come into the hub. Yes there is a lot of traffic on Alma, Middlefield, Sand Hill. Do you think it will get any lighter if we don't come up with better transit solutions, like this elegant link of train-bus-pedestrians-bikes-office buildings?
What's wrong with replacing a dirty yard with offices as someone pointed out, 6 to 10 stories are hardly skyscrapers) and public plazas? Most of you have never taken a bus or train in your life. Quit with the knee jerk reactions and take a closer look at the benefits this is offering our community.
Posted by Jane, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm
I can understand the excitement about a new theater, but why build it right next to the railroad tracks? How can they effectively cut out the whistles and the rumbling? And if Mr. Arrillaga is so rich why doesn't he donate the inside of a building as well???
Posted by Marie, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm Marie is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Palo Alto has already been required to zone for over 2000 new housing units by ABAG because of the jobs/housing imbalance in Palo Alto. Previous housing allocations have contributed to an increased population of close to 10,000 people from 2000 to 2010, after several decades of minimal increases in population. The result is overcrowded schools, increased traffic and major parking problems for homeowner, just for starters.
Until Palo Alto has solved its jobs/housing imbalance, the city should not modify any zoning that would allow increased office space. That will only result in more unrealistic ABAG allocations. There seems no way or will to resist these allocations by city staff or council. Until we are in balance, let's rezone only for additional housing, with associated retail (which brings in sales tax), preferably low and moderate income housing which ABAG is pushing. If developers aren't interested in building it, oh well. That is ABAG's problem.
Let's reclaim Palo Alto's heritage, keep the Julia Morgan building (funny thing, no one has come up with another site), and stop all rezoning to increase office space. Housing is also a great use of space near transit centers.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:42 am
Martin, “pro-development” is right about your petition being unclear and rambling. And right that you are NOT getting a great response. I am against this project and would sign it if it was better worded and so would many of my friends.
Posted by Build Big, Make Money, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 10:49 am
The project is rife with conflicts of interest. For starters, Architect Garber hired by the city is a Trustee of TheaterWorks. (Wasn't he their Chair a while back?).
Chair of the Board is the wife of former Stanford President Kennedy which will benefit enormously from this project. Other Trustees are:
Robin Kennedy, Chair of the Board • William F. Adler • Lauren Berman • Jayne Booker • Jenny Dearborn • Susan Fairbrook, Secretary • Dan Garber • Aaron Gershenberg • Anne Hambly • Judy Heyboer • Larry Horton • Lisa Jones • Julie Kaufman • Robert Kelley • Mike Kwatinetz • Gayla Lorthridge • Dick Maltzman • Don McDougall • Ray A. Rothrock • Adam Samuels • Phil Santora • Loren Saxe • Barbara Shapiro • Nancy Ginsburg Stern • Lynn Szekely-Goode • Mark Vershel • Holly Ward • Lisa Webster
Posted by All about him, a resident of the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm
It is clear to me that Martin's petition is not worth signing. The whole petition is all about him and his belief that he is entitled to an unobstructed view in perpetuity. His comparison of murder with the loss of his view is beyond ridiculous. He has gotten 36 people to sign so far--either the complaints on this forum are not indicative of th e opposition to this project or else people realize the selfish nature of the petition.
Posted by Too much Art, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm
The "arts district" is a smoke screen!!!
Ironically I was at a meeting about the future of the Cubberley complex where resident artists want the City owned 8 acres set aside for non-profit artists forever.
Now, we have Arrillga promoting El Camino Park as a site for artists. Will there be anywhere for regular Palo Altans to live after all this space is taken over by so called "artists?" Why don't the artists at Cubberley get together with Arrillga and decide which location should be the artists colony? And, by the way, we have an Art's Center in north PA and a theater at Lucie Stern as well!!!
Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community, on Sep 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm
Stanford got permission (GUP)to do a lot of construction in part because it provided transit passes to University and Hospital employees so that they wouldn't bring their cars to campus. But could these employees stand huge construction disruption at BOTH the PA Caltrain site AND the Hospital site?
Maybe not. But Stanford has a plan. Employees who go back to driving will park near 101 and come in on shuttles.
If you are one of the ones who enthusiastically took to using public transportation...
Posted by Yesterday, was well, yesterday., a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm
>> There are already long standing - and moving slowly - plans to put the PA History Museum at the old PAMF building at 300 Homer.
Plans can always change as new ideas come up. I don't see the attraction of an old PAMF building.
>>If the Arillaga Towers go in, they will dwarf all other buildings around them. That is BAD design--any decent architect looks at the context of the buildings s/he is designing. Arrillaga isn't an architect--he's a developer.
Archaic textbook definitions don't really apply anymore. Look for Macro/ Micro definitions/policies in economics for an example of that. What once worked, or came before, does not mean that it is a permanent precedent/solution for infinity. The context that is present resulted from needs of the past, however, the needs and requirements of design are changing. You state what you think bad design is, and I would argue that good design has to remain in flux with the changing needs of a society. Good design is about aesthetics as well as it is about prediction and planning. Population numbers increase and we have to account for that. Work styles change and we have to account for that. Energy costs increase and we have to account for that.
Thankfully, we are moving towards more sustainable design and a holistic approach which also takes the environment into account. Recycling this space is efficient and sustainable. Incorporating it near the transit hub – again, efficient and sustainable. Sustainable design looks towards and plans for the future. It omits waste. If built, our families and friends would have a local downtown theater to attend. If built in a centralized location like what is planned it will attract more people to TheatreWorks. I would think that younger participants would be more inclined to partake given the location and proximity to transportation. The workers in the offices may be inclined to sponsor the projects of the theater. Downtown businesses and restaurants are enhanced by business from this development.
The stock market may be rallying here and there, but it is independent of how the country is fairing economically and jobs being created are only doing so in specific areas. Some of you may take for granted, but there is a magnet here drawing prospective employers and workers towards it. Samsung just announced they are building a lab in MV - they will be hiring a few thousand workers. Lab126, another upward bound company, also will also expand into MV. I would rather the area where I lived welcomed those who want to create work. This is what being sustainable is. Making sure we can take care of those around us today and in future generations by providing opportunities. I would ask that if built, companies who work in these offices commit to creating internships – and NOT just with Stanford students.
You state the Arrillga is not an Architect, and while that may be factually true -- he is not Frank Gehry -- he does have experience in building from the concept/design phase through the construction phase. Your statement is interesting because the role of “the Architect” in the future is currently being debated as one of those jobs of the past that is fading due to the abilities of information flow in CAD. But yes, a good design process is one that has listened to the desires of the people it is being designed for. If the design is overbearing and cold then we must work with the committees. It is possible to vote on design concepts.
I do not agree with Martin Sommer’s petition. I do agree with his comment that this project has opportunities if done in the way. The farmer’s market idea is awesome. I agree with cafes or annex restaurants on first floor. Outside seating and park is awesome. Landscaping should be very well done. The project does not have to be 10 stories. It can 9, 8, whatever. But echoing someone else comment, these are not skyscrapers! The overall theme is good. I don’t think you can say that there will definitely be 5000 more cars into PA everyday. You have to lease the space first. FB and Google have shuttles serving as an example. There is carpooling and trains and walking from downtown. The ABAG housing argument, eh, there will be more housing built in PA and MP anyways. Menlo Park can develop housing in those empty lots next to the train. Communities should plan to connect together. City officials putting together General Plans should meet with their neighbors.
Posted by Midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm
Yesterday was yesterday. So true.
And this proposed project is so.... yesterday.
It is a throwback to the seventies when we built 2 monstrosities of the same sort in Palo Alto (City Hall and tall office building on University). Since then, we've had the good sense not to repeat this for close to 40 years.
Let's not go back to the seventies. Let's preserve whatever small town feel there is in Palo Alto. Let's say no to those towers.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm
> "Is Stanford a non-profit? Would these buildings be exempt
> from property tax?"
Don't be so certain. Stanford is aggressive about working the system to keep the bulk of their property tax exempt--claiming an "educational mission" for the buildings it owns. If there is a penny to be saved by applying for tax exemptions--Stanford will be at the front of the line submitting their exemption applications.
The Theater Works building will no doubt be considered tax exempt.
Don't forget that the PAUSD gets about 46% of all property tax here in Palo Alto. The City would only get about 9% (under current Prop.13/AB8 allocation).
This place is so large that it will probably need its own fire station--which would probabably fall to the tax payers to have to fund--unless someone was a better negotiator at the City than we have ever seen in the past.
So far, the dollar value of this project has not been made public. Howewever, because of Prop.13, we can predict that for every $100M of assessed value when the project "goes live", then $1M in property txes would be generated. That means that the City would only get about $100K. The PAUSD would get about $460K.
A complex this size will doubtless see calls for more "affordable housing", and probably calls for City government subsidies for these dwelling units.
Posted by Concerned, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm
I have to agree with the concerns of many Palo Alto residents about both the nature of this project and the process to date. The PR spin on this coming from all sides is deafening. But focus and it appears that this project is being fast-tracked through simply because the City Council has found someone else to pay for most of it. Euphemisms abound. "Arts District" "philanthropy" "interest of the principal."
Call this what it is: over 30 stories of office space with some pubic space and a theater around it. If that's what the people of Palo Alto want, then so be it. But I doubt it.
As one commenter pointed out, Palo Alto is already struggling to find space for enough high-density housing to "fix" the work/housing imbalance. What impact will these office buildings have on that equation? Why doesn't the proposal include work *and* housing, to create the kind of work/live environment we're all supposed to be encouraging?
And what of the arts? How does a home for Theaterworks make this an arts *district*? It doesn't.
This site has great potential, and the broad goals of developing it are sound. But this particular project sounds like a giveaway. The City Council should have a little more self-respect. I can't imagine it would be hard to find a number of developers interested in building a more appropriate and useful complex.
In the end, this is going to a referendum on the soul of the city. Do we accept that urbanization is the only way forward for Palo Alto? Or can we imagine Palo Alto's future with development that is respectful of its size and citizenry, that remains dynamic without losing its character as a suburban town? Do we want to set a precedent that developers economic interests must be met first and our city's desires second?
Whatever your opinion, now is the time to make yourself heard.
Posted by Save Palm Drive, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 5:24 am
"Call this what it is: over 30 stories of office space with some pubic space and a theater around it. If that's what the people of Palo Alto want, then so be it. But I doubt it."
I also doubt it.
For starters, I cannot understand why anyone involved with the Arts would want to be associated with this type of construction. Pop-up office complex, by any standard, is an affront to the nature, beauty, character, and history of a town, especially this one where the most famous "office" buildings are garages.
That is Art in Palo alto - garages, sky, trees. Not glorifying office space, or creating glorious high rent office space.
Besides one theater group, what other Art group will afford to rent there? Supposedly the whole reason for this building is so that Stanford can make money on it. There must be better ways to make money for Stanford than this. And there are plenty of other places to build a theater house.
Stanford may want to consider:
- These buildings will pretty much preside over Palm Drive. OK, this complex will actually tower over Palm Drive. The light in the area will change, the sense of space will change. Palm Drive will eventually become Palm Lane, or "that area in front of the office complex"
WHen you drive into Stanford, or Palo Alto, you will be greeted by four towers that may as well be in Miami. Calling it an "Arts District" will not make this artful. Everyone needs to drive around the area now, every day, and think about what it will look like, and what it will feel like with that block of concrete just above Palm Drive.
- If this is a Stanford project, it doesn't sound like a fit to the University's style. It's certainly not a fit to the town, where nobody gets an exemption to build above code. Has anyone seen newly built houses lately? The upstairs bedrooms have the oddest angles and slants, so that the top floor does not block out the neighbors's light or view. Residents do not get a pass to "build up."
- Having a theater in a building does not make the area an "Arts district." And what city in the world this day and age builds an "Arts district." when art (fine arts or performing arts) can be anywhere in a town or city. What people do is revitalize old areas sometimes, and create nicer spaces to attract more people, and business to the area.
The gate of Stanford and Palo Alto is obviously not a run down area in need of revitalization.
That a billionaire wants this office complex makes it very worrisome. $20,000 handbags come to mind. Money does not guarantee good taste, and it certainly does not guarantee good sense.
Anyway, there cannot possibly be a price for ruining the Palo Alto skyline (sky, light, trees), which by the way is the name of the town. PALO - simple stick, ALTO - that stands out in the sky.
Unless you are a tree, you have to be under the 50 foot height.
Posted by Not Stupid, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 7:52 am
We are not stupid.
Calling it an "Arts" district and then putting 4 office towers around a theater shell is clearly a diversionary tactic right out of "1984".
There is NO way that this area can take the new traffic that will undoubtedly result from this proposal. Caltrans/Bus lines will only deliver 10% of the users to the site. Having the "majority" of occupants use public transit is a pipe dream.
Previous posters have clearly articulated the inter tangled web of City employees, consultants and supervisory board members who now have a personal financial interest in this project. Its been said before...follow the money.
If Stanford needs new office space - use the "Stanford Business Park" that's why its there anyway. Run shuttles from California Ave. Caltrain.
John Arrillaga may want to gift this project to Stanford, but the "gift" is only a means for John to offset profits for tax benefit to his other endeavors. Of course Stanford is for this project...nice gift right at the center of the highest office rents in the Bay area.
I must caution the City Counsel members who knew about this project for months and have refused to take a courageous stand...prepare to loose your jobs in November.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 8:28 am
There is no reason that the Theaterworks building could not be built on the main campus. While not doubt putting these buildings next to the Caltrain station is another effort to boost ridership of this failing government transit system, there is no reason that Stanford could not allow these buildings to be built over near H.280, or elsewhere on the Campus.
There is no reason that Stanford could not build some new roads on its lands, opening up access to the main campus/business parks/shopping center from H.280—
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 9:38 am
> the GUP
The General Use Plan [GUP] should be considered a work in progress, and subject to continuing change, as need be. It should be seriously reviewed at least once a decade, and sooner, if necessary.
It's understandable that Stanford wants to keep as much of its lands as undeveloped as possible, but there is no denying that the externalities associated with their programs/projects spill over into the surrounding communities. It's also true that good modeling for these environmental/financil impacts on the surrounding communities has not been particularly well done in the past. We can, and must, do a better job in the future.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Since the theater is supposed to be the big public benefit, has anyone carefully considered its practicality? I can understand that they want it close to transit to expand their potential audience, but is it too close to transit in terms of noise?
I have been in buildings bordering the tracks where you pause the conversation while Caltrain passes. This is acceptable when it is once an hour, but what about a more frequent Caltrain? And what if High Speed Rail actually happens -- the noise from it is expected to be much greater than that from Caltrain. And more frequent.
There are limits to what sound-proofing can do before costs become exorbitant. Remember that this project would provide only the shell of the building, and that others would be responsible for these aspects.
Posted by Save Palm Drive, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm
"what about a more frequent Caltrain? And what if High Speed Rail actually happens -- the noise from it is expected to be much greater than that from Caltrain. And more frequent."
Theater with train sounds. Imagine the offices.
"There are limits to what sound-proofing can do before costs become exorbitant. Remember that this project would provide only the shell of the building, and that others would be responsible for these aspects."
Sound proofing aside, externally this office complex is aiming to be the first and last thing people see and feel about Palo Alto.
Even if it was kept under 50 feet in height, the costs to up keep such a high profile place, as large as it looks will require Stanford to spend a ton of energy on it in perpetuity, besides mucho mucho money.
Is there a billionaire out there who could just build a house for the Theater group, and we could be done with this?
Posted by anon, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm
If the sound was such an issue, then clearly, people wouldn't have wanted to live in the Arbitare or around all of the areas near the train. A good acoustical engineer can mask sound, however, yes that costs. If Arrigilla really wants this project then the acoustics of the theater could be a bargaining chip. Regarding Palm drive - the sun shines from all angles at different times of the day/year. This isn't on the scale of the financial district in SF and it is only a few buildings. There are ways to tier the buildings to offset shadows and not seem massive. Scales are movable. The costs to keep a high profile place up is not a problem for Stanford. Don't you think they thought of that already? If the theater area and urban seating space located by transportation is what people remember of Palo Alto - good. It's inviting.
Posted by FWIW, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm
Has anyone thought of re-doing that area across from the soccer field off of El Camino? Although, you'd have to walk a bit to the train. That area might make a good city center with some office space especially being across from the soccer field. The new police station and housing are suppose to be built down the road. Also there is additional mixed use office/housing being built on Park a few blocks from California Ave.
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm Douglas Moran is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
RE: Anon: "If the sound was such an issue, then clearly, people wouldn't have wanted to live in the Arbitare or around all of the areas near the train."
Because sound levels are square-of-the-distance, "next to" and "near" can be very different things.
Recognize that a large room like a theater has very different acoustic behavior and problem than a home or office.
Recognize that a home or office can be fitted to attenuate sound carrying, but that a theater has a mix of where one wants sound to propagate strongly and where one wants to deaden it (prevent echoing,...).
Having been bitten multiple times in my professional career by acoustical issues that were peripheral to what I was working on, I know enough to know how little I know, and that seat-of-the-pants assessments are often wrong.
Posted by Interesting Game, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 28, 2012 at 7:16 am
Here is an interesting game:
Read through the comment threads and pick out which ones were paid for by the project developer through his PR/Marketing campaign.
Here is another interesting game:
Ask anyone on the City Counsel if they think this project is a good idea. If they say anything other than "NO"! Post their names and email addresses here. Lets see how much money the project developers have invested in their votes. November is only a few weeks away folks-lets put pressure on those who can stop this monstrosity.
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on Sep 29, 2012 at 7:34 am
@ Crescent Park Dad. I know Paris has high rises, and the tight limits. Not just height also building design and style. The tall and more modern part of Paris is built away from the old wonderful part of this grand place.
Posted by follow the money, a resident of Menlo Park, on Sep 29, 2012 at 8:59 am
Sure - a new theater and improved intersections and "art district" sound great, follow the money on this one to figure out why the enormous office buildings "must" be that large, who benefits financially, and who will be stuck with what bills.
Supposedly Arrillaga is doing this to help the community. But who gets paid for all the design and construction?
Who gets the tax deduction for giving the buildings to Stanford?
Revenue from the buildings will flow to Stanford. That assumes Stanford won't fill them up with academic uses. A lot of demand in Silicon Valley is for professional offices and internet companies that don't pay sales tax. So what's the economic benefit to Palo Alto?
Property taxes would go up, on the buildings, assuming they aren't used for tax-exempt purposes (academic, nonprofit). Even if there are some, these grow at a much slower rate than inflation and the cost of services because of Prop 13.
How are the total costs for all the changes to intersections, transit, etc. allocated? Who would be on the hook, for how much, to complete this project?
Who will pay for the new housing that ABAG will demand Palo Alto provide? Where will it be? How will PA deal with the extra load on schools and city services?
Really - why do the buildings need to be so large? Who benefits from that? Why is their enormous size necessary? This is an office project and should be described that way.
Posted by follow the money, a resident of Menlo Park, on Oct 1, 2012 at 7:56 am
This is not an "arts district" project. It is an office highrise project that will increase demands on Palo Alto to provide more housing, and questionably provide any sales tax revenue to pay for additional loads on city services. Got it?
Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 1, 2012 at 9:22 am
Please remember that all projects that have height or density in excess of what would be allowed under the normal zoning contained within the Comprehensive plan must provide a "community benefit" proportional to the value of the extra development rights (i.e. what would it cost to purchase prime Palo Alto land to build the square footage that is being built in the sky?)
I suspect that once we get around to doing the calculations, the Community Benefit falls short of the exemptions being given to this plan. Add to that a fair proportion of infrastructure demands, and the shortfall is even greater.
Lastly, the "Community Benefit" received from the developer is a currency that belongs to the citizens, and it is up to the citizens to decide how they want to spend it -- not the developer. It is a currency the belongs to the public.
Please follow this important logic and answer the next question objectively: "If our town had $X millions of dollars to spend, what are our top priorities?"
We have a large infrastructure deficit. Many might think it would be wise to fix the street and sidewalks first. Or maybe a new Public Safety building?
Therefore, even though a new TheatreWorks home would be a wonderful gift, unless it is a top priority, it is simply a gift from the developer, and must not be quantified in the Public Benefit calculation. Remember, the Public Benefit currency belongs to the citizens, and must be spent on the top priorities as defined by a well -thought-out shared community vision.
Let's give the calculations a good integrity check first, and then we can get to the policy issues about piercing our sacred skies, or how great our desire is to have Palo Alto look and feel more like San Jose.
Timothy Gray (full-disclosure: Candidate for Palo Alto City Council)
Please see Web Link "Horse Trading" Paradise for a Parking Lot -- Stand for Transparency and Inclusiveness
Posted by Jan H., a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm
Members of my family have had business dealing with John Arrillaga [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I myself am one of the victims of arrillaga's takeover of the Stanford Equestrian Center--he who knows nothing about and admits he does not like horses!
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
seven years ago, when the equestrian center thing was going down, someone close to Bill Lane at the time said that Stanford gave Arrillaga carte Blanche not out of gratitude, but fear. I do not know how true that is, but it still sounds scary. And now he is dealing with our hometown. Scarier still.
Posted by Save Palm Drive, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm
Jan H.may have brought this up in order to highlight the deceit in calling 27 University an "arts district."
You can flag her comment for removal if its offensive, but her broader point is not news.
Since you work at Stanford, I suggest you go by the quad, and stand right smack in the middle, looking out to Palm Drive, and say goodbye to that setting. Thanks to Mr. Arillaga, Palo Alto city officials are about to bust zoning 3X over and you will see glass or concrete sticking out of the trees (almost as tall as the Hopver tower), and you may not be able to get to work because of four office buildings at Stanford's door. Until now, Palo Alto has provided Stanford with a pretty decent natural view, all trees.