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Editorial: For now, a required 'public benefit' slips away

Original post made on Mar 29, 2013

There is plenty of blame to go around in any assessment of why Miki's Farm Fresh Market will have to close its doors next week, after less than six months as the anchor tenant of the made-over Alma Plaza site near the intersection of East Meadow Drive and Alma Street.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 29, 2013, 9:24 AM

Comments (70)

Posted by Michele, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

Greed - simple as that. Greed on the part of McNellis and the City of Palo Alto who he obviously had in his pocket. Good luck finding a grocery store to locate here in perpetuity. Why would any grocery store want to locate themselves there after Miki's failed in such a short space of time. [Portion removed.]


Posted by John, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online.]

The whole development is, yet another, blight on our town.


Posted by Gail, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:32 am

Does anyone know if any of the current PA city council members were on the 2009 council when this project was given approval? I'd like to know their names. Those people should be recalled or, at a minimum, made to explain themselves.


Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:42 am

gcoladon is a registered user.

If so many people seem to want a grocery store on that site, why was Albertson's 1997 proposal to build a new, large grocery store on that exact same site opposed?


Posted by Judith , a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:52 am

The concept of PC is dicey enough without allowing ephemeral benefits. Also, there needs to be a policy to deal with after-the-fact elimination of benefits, like Miki's closing and the building at Edgewood Plaza being demolished.
It doesn't matter if the demolished building was pretty or not, or if Miki's was viable from the beginning. They were conditions of the permit and there should be major consequences for their disappearance.


Posted by End-PC-Zoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:58 am

With a supermarket in Midtown, and Charleston Plaza, and several grocery stores at the San Antonio shopping complex--the odds that any small grocery store would survive at this site is beyond belief.

The City should have recognized that this is not the 1950s anymore--and let the site be redeveloped as housing. The City should release McNellis from any agreements about a grocery store--and let him manage the site without its interference.

This whole idea of a Planned Community zoning is a disaster. It is time to end this zoning category. The public benefits are too far and too few--the benefits to the developers clearly exceed the benefits to the public.


Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 29, 2013 at 10:58 am

gcoladon is a registered user.

@ Judith, what are some potential major consequences you have in mind?


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

I'm heartbroken at the loss of this wonderful store!

Miki's employees (all that I spoke to) tell me he's the best boss they have ever had. And I've developed friendships with so many that I will be truly sad not to have them as "neighbors."

The produce is certainly the best I've found within four walls! And the bakery & deli...pure bliss. There's not a bakery anywhere I've been that I like better.

The fact that the city wouldn't allow an expanded market was the beginning of this fiasco.

A small market can hardly manage the expenses of Palo Alto and if Miki couldn't make it with this wonderful environment and selection of products, who will even venture to try?

I'm praying for a miracle, but it will take at least that with the clowns in government who sleep (figuratively I presume) with smarmy developers.


Posted by Neil, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:20 am

Not enough people get it. They don't listen or consider prevailing viewpoints. A minority pushed for an upscale, specialty market when most people just wanted a full service, affordable grocery store. Nothing fancy, nothing special, no bells & whistles, just basic and affordable. A slightly expanded Lucky, Albertson's, or even a Trader Joe's would have succeeded in this space.


Posted by The Blame Game, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:30 am

The editor seems intent on laying the blame for this fiasco on the developer, John McNellis.

They state that after buying the center in 2005 he withstood numerous efforts by neighbors and city officials to create an upgraded neighborhood-serving retail center with a decent-sized grocery store.

It is not until the end that you find out that in 2003, Albertsons offered a plan that included an enlarged store, and rebuilding the center's retail area. What happened??? the city council did not go along. Why???? The Weekly does not tell us, but shift back to blaming McNellis

The editors skip the rest of the story--Albertsons got fed up and sold the center to McNellis with a clause limiting the size of any new store that would be built.

So isn't the City Council to blame? Do not forget the Charleston Road moratorium that was decided on by the council in the dead of night, even though it was not on the meeting agenda. That was also a nail in the coffin of Alma Plaza.


Gail--in 2009 we had Klein, Kishimoto, Barton ,Drekmeier, morton, Schmid, espinosa and yeh. And I forget who the 9th member was


Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:42 am

Wasn't it the immediate neighbors of the center that complained the most about building a larger grocery store there?


Posted by It's Pat, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:44 am

Like I said in the other 2 threads. The discussion of closing of Miki's closer, and the other thread about public benefits. McNellis is a [portion removed] developer who took advantage of Palo Alto and hard working individuals. To put money on his pocket at all costs.

I came here yesterday to vent. I may have even got testy with other commenters here.
I did so in anger and frustration. My spouse worked at Miki's and now is out of work.
We are a family that lives on a pay check to pay check basis. So Now my spouse must scramble to find work. Probably have to take the first job that come our way no mater if it's a less then desirable job. Was nice to have her working in our home town.

Palo Alto officials in charge with protecting our community need to grow some hair on their chests. They need to put the good of the many in front of the good that only benefits the select few.

Development proprosals everywhere will always have a certain amount of give and take. Your always going to have different sides bringing bargaining chips to the table. We as keepers of our town need to have in place rules and laws that must be followed. So when the description of what is meant by Public Benefits. Is put on the table. Everyone knows what can and cant be done.

Like right now McNellis should have to start paying a fine after 90 days. To the city for every month that this building sits vacant.

As of right now the city is receiving negative benefits from this now vacant building. mucking up our midtown neighborhood. [Portion removed.] We all just got slapped in the face. A vacant concrete box a stoplight and a spouse out of work.


Posted by Silly, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

Is the city going to do ANYTHING to change the ludicrous access and parking situation there? If not, any retailer is doomed to fail in the same way.

I went to Miki's twice and each time parking and access were ridiculous so even though I liked their selection of produce, I said never again.

I'm sure I'm not alone.

What a dumb dumb rule to require the developer to repeat the same mistake with another grocer in perpetuity.


Posted by End-PC-Zoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

[Portion removed due to referencing a deleted comment.]

Here's what McNellis had to say about the Alma Plaza back in 2006--

Guest Opinion: A 'convenience center' in an inconvenient spot:
Web Link

Blaming McNellis is your privilege--but you really should get your facts straight first.


Posted by Clay, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

[Portion removed due to referencing a deleted comment.] I don't believe the name-calling accomplishes anything.
I do believe the city council let us down. It feels like the retail portion of that project is destined to look like Albertsons did... closed and run down, for a long, long time.


Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I drove by when the grocery opening was announced and couldn't see any sign of a grocery store. A big bouquet of garlic and onions to the ARB. What a crazy building design right up against the sidewalk.
it's not the first time they've done that.
What Palo Alto needs is more 4 lane streets reduced to 2 lanes, right!!


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Every time I drove in, it seemed as if the housing development customers or marketing office had taken up most of the parking.
Housing was being crammed right up against the one narrow strip of
(full) parking spaces. So McNellis certainly deserves some blame.
The last time, I had intended to visit the store but gave up and just looped back out to Alma. How many hundreds of potential customers have done the same?
But, even in olden days, access to the parking lot was poor. The shopping center cried out for a "punch through" back to Meadow either directly or through the street behind Alma plaza. The "public benefit" that should have been demanded by Council should have been that he be forced to buy up one of the homes to allow a side or back access to the property.
The public benefit that should now be demanded is to convert the empty grocery store to a series of artist lofts, schools and recital centers to replace some of that is now housed in Cubberly (which can't go on as it is for too many more years).


Posted by No Surprise, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

A simple question.
When will we see accountability in our city government?
This ridiculous boondogle benefiting only McNellis. The gargantuan JCC buildings, the ugly apartment blocks crowding Alma downtown, the fiasco that is Mitchell park library, the water storage facility at El Camino Park that lacks a water barrier membrane... the list goes on.
Who is accountable?


Posted by JJ, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I believe I am correct in saying that the busy-body neighbors of the Lucky store were the ones who started this fiasco. As usual in Palo Alto, the squeaky wheels get the oil. Others of us are busy and innocently rely on the people we vote into office to take care of us. Unfortunate!


Posted by End-PC-Zoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

> Every time I drove in, it seemed as if the housing development
> customers or marketing office had taken up most of the parking.

So how were you able to determine which cars were Miki's customers, and which cars were "housing development customers or marketing office"?

All cars pretty much look the same, don't they?


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Consider a nearby successful market, Piazza's. There are at least triple the number of parking spaces at it's end of Charleston Center
Plaza. They are sometimes almost all full but the key word is "almost".
I did not do an accurate count but Miki's appeared to have approximately
40 spaces and all full. This is far fewer than Alma Plaza used to have.


Posted by Long time PA resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I hope that people have learned something from this fiasco that they can apply to the 27 University Ave proposal. We lose a lot of the quality of our town when developers use "public benifit" to get around zoning regulations.


Posted by Norbert, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

If only the Menu Tree restaurant was resurrected at this site to:
1. Add jobs for local high school students bringing back memories from long ago.
2. A good eating and affordable dining experience for locals to enjoy with an international "flair".
3. Re-introducing the "dining experience" or quality family time together at a culinary and unique establishment.


Posted by member, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by maditalian_1492, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I cannot remember who said it, but someone was quoted as saying that the parking situation at Miki's would "work itself out" somehow. How absurd. Where were the expected crowds supposed to park? Where the new homes are located?? Think those folks would stand for that? Park two blocks away and walk in? Yeah, it worked itself out alright, all right out of business.

This whole thing was a fiasco from the very beginning. It started with the neighbors who fought the original development. X store would be too big; they didn't want this or that; they did not want another street access on East Meadow. Look to the neighbors for those complaints, not McNellis. The ease that these people have in holding-up any type of construction is just wrong. Then the City steps in, project is put in limbo and the property owner is stuck for years paying property taxes on property he cannot develop. Don't blame McNellis for that.

Also, the City wanted the location at curbside, just like the Elks Club. The Elks never wanted the building sitting right on El Camino. The folks in the City have the idea that locating a building at curbside makes it more inviting to the community. What a load. A lot of people I know say it feels stifling and intimidating, not to mention just plain ugly. Now we're stuck with it.

I feel sorry for Miki and his wife, but the writing was on the (Alma Street side of the big) wall.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On why there was opposition to the 50Ksqft grocery store: It would have occupied the _entire_ site, with no other retail. This was contrary to the purpose of a neighborhood retail _center_. There subsequently was what seemed to be agreement on a roughly 30Ksqft grocery store, but Albertson's failed to follow through.

Although the City deserves much blame for failing to provide any leadership during the long interaction with Lucky/Albertson's, the company also bears considerable responsibility. They were incredibly opaque in their dealings. They would suddenly change course without any warning or explanation. And they would "disappear" from the process for long periods. However, this is understandable. At the time, grocery stores were becoming super-stores of 50-55Ksqft (some larger) as anchors in large shopping centers. L/A needed to focus on these stories to meet the competition. The small size of Alma Plaza meant that it could not meet the pattern of stores that L/A was focusing on and an company is serious financial difficulty shouldn't divert its focus from its main problem to handle a minor exceptional case.

Additional tidbit: During the hearings, the question of whether Trader Joe's might be a tenant was raised. Developer McNellis told Council that TJs would _never_ put a store between its one in Menlo Park and Mountain View. Shortly thereafter, TJs announced its store in T&C.


Posted by Not an issues, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Doug conveniently forgets the charleston road moratorium, which came along right when albertsons agreed to a 30k square foot store and the committees agreed to it. That was pushed by a noted neighborhood activist who derailed the Hyatt ( and now we have arbor real and the loss of tax revenue from a hotel.
Probably to saw the location and said no thanks. Town and country is another story, but that does not fit Doug's narrative.

Jerry-- I do not think piazzas is sorry that Mikis closed. They were against any store bigger than 20k square feet at the time ( siding with the neighbors that derailed the project and left us with alma village). They claimed it would not be fair competition. Of course now they are 24k square feet--- that was unfair to Mimi's.


Posted by sad too, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Elizabeth, I am heartbroken about the loss of Miki's as well. I was fighting tears seeing the shelves being stripped bare, the meat department shut down, and all the bulk goods for the bakery out in the shelves for purchase, and seeing all the employees who won't be working there next week. I came in on Sunday to do some incidental shopping, and was shocked utterly shocked to see the "30% off all items, we're closing down" signs, but yesterday made it all real. I wanted to go up to Miki and tell him that I was sorry we let him down, but I just couldn't do it, so if you are reading this, Miki, you deserved so much better. Miki made a dream store and it wasn't given a proper chance. How many people just drove past it and never went in, who have no idea what they missed? Regardless of all the factors and problems that worked against the store, it was a special place. The produce was high quality, with incredible variety (the mushroom section and exotic fruits, for example), and very affordable prices. The bakery is simply the best supermarket bakery I have ever encountered. This was a store that prided itself on quality and great customer service. It's just a shame it didn't last long enough to become a Palo Alto institution, which it had the makings of becoming, despite all the factors going against it. I wish I had shopped there more regularly. I have been a loyal Piazza's and Milk Pail customer for many years, but now I wish I had been a little less loyal. I wish I had gone to Miki's as often as I went to Piazzas's and the Milk Pail (once a week), rather than once every several weeks (about as often as I go to Mollie Stone's). I am kicking myself now. This place was worth saving. And now the Milk Pail is threatened. What can we all do as a community to help save it?


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Neil": " A minority pushed for an upscale, specialty market when most people just wanted a full service, affordable grocery store. Nothing fancy, nothing special, no bells & whistles, just basic and affordable. A slightly expanded Lucky, Albertsons, or even a Trader Joe's would have succeeded in this space."

I never noticed such a minority. The specialty market was forced by the deed limit in the sale from Albertsons to McNellis. Aside: there is no independent information that it was Albertson's that insisted on the limit. Given that they were building a 55Ksqft store in San Antonio Shopping Center, the differential seems larger than needed.

However, such a "minority" could conceivably exist, but that is irrelevant. For example, I heard a (single) speaker at a PTC or Council meeting advocate that Palo Alto should become like the center of Tokyo, but I would never attribute that to influencing any decision.

====
RE: "The Blame Game"
"Albertsons offered a plan that included an enlarged store, and rebuilding the center's retail area"
The opposition was to a store that took over the whole center, precluding rebuilding the other retail.

"Albertsons got fed up"
There is no independent information supporting this. Albertsons was focused on super-stores and by its very nature Alma Plaza didn't fit. Albertsons may simply have made the normal corporate decision to sell off peripheral assets.

"Do not forget the Charleston Road moratorium that was decided on by the council in the dead of night, even though it was not on the meeting agenda."
This is egregiously false. The Charleston Road moratorium was not just on the agenda, but a major item that got much public testimony. What did go wrong was that near the end of the public testimony, two individuals spoke for including Alma Plaza in the moratorium. This idea had been raised during the preliminary meetings and hearings and rejected by Staff and the vast majority of residents involved. It was seen as both irrelevant and a threat to Alma Plaza. The Council member who made the motion to add Alma Plaza to the moratorium was Bern Beecham--he had strong ties to the business community (and was registered as a Republican) which led various people to _assume_ that it was OK with them. Most of the residents who had been involved in the process were furious over Council's adding this, but Council has such poor decision-making processes (and insists on not fixing them), that absurdly bad decisions are routine.

RE: Various who portray the process as dominated by the _immediate_ neighbors:
It is hard;impossible to tell what influence who had on City staff and Council members, but recognize that there were lots of people from a much larger area involved in this process with very different opinions from those of the immediate neighbors. For example, it was a major topic in my neighborhood of Barron Park -- for many it was the closest grocery store.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

It seems very difficult to do any development project in Palo Alto. We are a range of opinionated people who live here. And our real estate is among the three most expensive areas in the nation. Developers salivate at the money that can be made here and will do anything to build the most lucrative project they can possibly manage.

No project has gone up supported by public assent. Developers are a wiley and pushy bunch. I remember a developer's retort, as his plans for a project were being disputed. "You forget, I'm all you've got!"


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

We have been devoted customers of Miki's since he opened and are upset about the closure. We became fans when he treated his employees with Thanksgiving and he following day off to be with their families.
He created a new marketing experience for Palo Alto that was partly a reminder of Liddicoats and Midtown Market. These were locally owned customer friendly markets that have been missing for a long time in Palo Alto and from when Palo Alto had a simpler pace.

Your editorial is spot on with all the errors that the city made. I wonder if Miki might be revived partly from investor money and also from small investors in the old fashioned coop idea. I hate to see him leave. But he needs to leave the location where the investor toyed with his deal with the city and took the development for the housing and ran.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I remember half the time driving by this odd little shopping center. I always the pizza place that was located in the front.


I remember working for a bakery that delivered to supermarkets, what I remember the trendy was going to be larger stores. Not all stores wanted to grow, we also have less supermarkets operators today. Talking about Fry's, PW, Brentwood and Food Fair were all good stores.


Posted by Alhonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm

The State is requiring more housing in PA so the housing part of the project is in line with the public good. The neighbors did not support the idea of a larger and more viable store and they did not support the smaller store they demanded.
PA Online should do a little research before writing "editorials" - read the web link above - it makes the writer of this "editorial" look foolish!


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE my deleted post
If one wants to understand the part of the reason things can go so badly wrong, it is the Palo Alto political & media elite's notion of "civility" that can be paraphrased "Lies are bad -- so don't you dare point them out". An earlier commenter asked "when will we see accountability...". This is a big part of the reason why we don't have it.

When I try to get people involved in local politics, they often give as their reason for declining that they couldn't take all the vitriol from places like Town Square Forums. They ask me how I put up with all the lies about me.

Part of my deleted post was a response to a lie by an earlier poster. It was an attack on another person that had been repeatedly refuted over the years, and could be done with just articles in the Weekly. The TSF decision: Keep the lie, delete the response.

Another part of the deleted response was a false claim that I was being deceptive. Of course, the TSF decision was keep the lie, delete the response.

Newspapers used to regard themselves as beacons of truth, not havens for cowardly (anonymous) liars.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Was thinking a book about a development project, details from start to finish and the history of that project.


Posted by What an issue, a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by groceryLuvPiazza's, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I don't know much about grocery stores, but I truly love Piazza's at Charleston and Middlefield, Palo Alto.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by @customer, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Let us separate closing of Miki from Palo Alto vs. developer issues. I think Miki's closing is mostly related to the business model of the store. There are already many high-end grocery shopping options in and around Palo Alto. Even Safeway offers a descent product selection for affluent residents. Miki could not make money with so much competition.

I don't think replacing the store with a down-market store (like Albertson) would be viable either. I hope Walgreen does not get the idea of moving to the location! An Asian Market or perhaps Trader Joe would possibly be able to manage profitably in that location.


Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2013 at 1:40 am

This is not a Kevin Kostner movie where he hears that if you build it .. they will come. The location of this store was great. Most likely, no marketing analysis was done to find out what the customers want from a neighborhood store - I venture to guess not $45.99/lb cheese. Philz coffee is on Alma and another one on Middlefield, both have no curb appeal, no parking, bad system of ordering/check-out and yet they are swamped with business because they have a product everyone wants. Busy Palo Altans want a well stocked self serve salad bar, and seniors love hot soup options - Miki's had neither. The hours were not realistic for a suburban neighborhood, till 8 and Sunday till 7, Whole Foods and Piazzas are open till 10 and Molly Stones till 9, 7/11 and Safeway are open all night. It is not "if you build it they will come", it is "if you lower your prices by 30% they will come" irregardless of the esthetics of the building that so many complain about or supposedly lacking parking. People came and bought out the store. They came and came and in five days most of the store was empty. Please, no more blaming the curb appeal or parking or any other irrelevant fact, particularly Palo Altan's not supporting a local business, there is no guarantee that if you build it and price your cheese $45.99/lb that I will come and spend money on it. When prices dropped, people came, they did not care about the frontage of the store, they parked, they turned onto a narrow driveway and they bought out a store in five days.


Posted by Jean d'Albret, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2013 at 11:26 am

We were at Miki's Saturday at 4:30, the shelves were pretty much picked clean, when someone came on the p.a. And announced that the store would be closing in ten minutes for security reasons. The announcement continued with the store being closed Easter, and reopening for its final day on Monday.

With the shelves nearly bare, all the expensive stuff ( wine, cheese, beer) completely gone, what could the security problem be?


Posted by "Neighbors Helping Neighbors", a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Neighbors Helping Neighbors - Provides Groceries to Gap Households
RE: MIKI's Market Employees Who Live in Palo Alto

Dear former Miki's employees, perhaps you remember our group placed food drive collection barrels @ Miki's Nov. 2012 - Jan. 15,2013. Those of you who live within Palo Alto please contact us if you need groceries. We provide one week of groceries per month. We will treat you sensitively and confidentally.
If you are now at the low income or poverty level, we can make referrals so you can get additional assistance.
MESSAGE TO OUR MORE FINANCIALLY STABLE RESIDENTS
We are so grateful to Palo Alto residents who dropped off superior quality foods in our barrels @ Miki's during the food drive. We now have an on-going
"Monthly Food Collection" program. Fresh, canned & packaged foods maybe dropped off @ Midtown Center parking lot next to Wells Fargo ATM. Come first Saturday of the month, 4/06, 5/04, 6/01, 7/06 and 8/3.

Please help us help these Miki's employees who are our neighbors. And our other 'gap households'. Checks and grocery store cards accepted.

Contact, NeighborsHelpingNeighbors@gmail.com
Phone 650-283-9910

Very Concerned, let's be part of the solution for our neighbors,
Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Mo.Food Collection Program Chair
P.S. "Its Pat" in Midtown - Please contact us right aways. We do not want to see your famly going without.


Posted by Jean d'Albret, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Thank you, neighbors helping neighbors, for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Not just for reaching out to Miki's employees, but to any neighbor in need. It is financially stress- full living here when you are not well -to-do. Putting your children's education first is something that most people who live here just do not understand. the sacrifice it requires, I mean.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]





Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2013 at 8:06 am

SteveU is a registered user.

I wanted a 'Family Market', located in a 'Family area'.

What we got was an 'Upscale Grocery', located in a 'Family Apartment Area', with insufficient parking to support any that came further than walking distance.

Who is to blame?
City Planners that permit non-realistic parking provisions?
Landlords that have eyes on businesses that have potential to pay high rents?
Customers that refuse to ONLY walk or bike to shopping sites?

I never once went to Miki's. Everything said, screamed 'out of my budget range'.
OTOH We regularly used the Lucky/Albertsons, saving grocery trip OUT OF AREA, for the harder to get (because of limited space)items.
Now, OUT OF AREA stores get most of our business since the Midtown Safeway suffers the same problem that plagued Lucky's: 'Too Small' and they are just a few blocks further.

I feel sorry for Miki, he got caught up in this fiasco.



Posted by Jean d'Albret, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 8:38 am

Miki may be the one most needing "neighbors helping neighbors" now. He blew his life savings on the venture, and he is in his sixties. How can he possibly make that money back again? He is now unemployed, too.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

With the lack of retail traffic to Alma Plaza, any venture which requires high volume of sales to break even is doomed. Maybe it can front an e-Commerce site but it won't break even based onsite sales.


Posted by "Neighbors Helping Neighbors", a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2013 at 10:39 am

Dear Friends, lest we forget that conditions in our economy is causing our middle income neighbors to fail. These are not just small business owners, employees, vendors, etc. They are our neighbors and friends who through no fault of their own are taking a direct decent into low income and poverty. NHN SERVES THOSE NEIGHBORS WHO HAVE NOT YET REACHED LOW INCOME.
If you pay market rents or mortgage there are no 'safety net' programs for them. And we make referrals for those who may qualify for other programs.
Each month since Oct. 2012 our team of volunteers scrambles too provide one week of groceries to our current list of 'neighbors in need'. March 3rd was the first month we fell far short of that goal. Let Miki's be our wake up call that we must put a priority on helping our "gap households" with the most basic necessitiy, FOOD.

      A program outline and "wish list" of foods will be passed out this Saturday, 4/06. We need folks to provide food items or money gifts.
    
                                               Select one of these dates,
Please understand that we only meet on first Saturday of the month,  02/02, 03/02, 04/06, 05/04, 6/01, 7/06 & 8/03

   Then select a shift (time) for each date  you are available,

FOOD SORTERS, shift 10 AM - 11 AM, during this shift, we will sort food by type.

FOOD BAGGERs, shift 11 AM - NOON, during this shift, we will put foods in grocery bags to be ready for our neighbors from our "gap households" to pick up. We will also label and prepare extra "wish list" foods to be delivered to a local food closet.

Grocery Bag Give-A-Ways NOON - 1 PM, Sorters & Baggers, will give filled bags of groceries to neighbors who have be asked to pick up their food.

DRIVERs' shift 12:30 PM - 1 PM. At about 12:30 pm, we will load up extra foods to be delivered to local food closet.

                                         "FOOD DROP OFF LOCATION"
Volunteers will gather in the parkking lot @
MIDTOWN CENTER Next to Wells Fargo ATM
                                                2700 Midtown Court
Plenty of parking or ride bikes (bike racks available).

      We must know who will volunteer and for what role, date and time. Also, please provide your cell phone number. CONTACT US @ NeighborsHelpingNeighbors@gmail.com Phone 650-283-9910


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2013 at 10:45 am

Haven't time to read all the above, but for those complaining of too little parking...did you try the underground parking? It's there, you know.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

Whoever on the City Council or Planning commission voted to approve the layout of that gross, cheek-by-jowl-to-the-street Alma Plaza development, with Miki's Market in it, should be fired, stripped of any professional credential s/he may have, and be investigated for any possible corruption benefits s/he may have received in return for approving that monstrosity. It is appalling that such a development could have been approved in Palo Alto. The way Miki's was situated on the property and the few available parking spaces it had FOREDOOMED it to failure from the get-go. There should be an in-depth, transparent INVESTIGATION of how this FIASCO came to be. But guess what? Planning committee approvals of such fiascos have become routine in Palo Alto, as the rise of the new "Lytton Gateway" is in the process of showing. The city is being progressively degraded by insatiable, greedy developers and their lapdogs, aka official City of Palo Alto decision-makers. When is the last time that a lousy, unneeded, harmful development that offered to add to the "tax coffers" was turned down on the grounds of preserving the quality of life in Palo Alto? I can't remember one.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

I went to Mikis several times.

I did not see any underground parking until last week. How should I know where to find underground parking without any signage.

There were no signs about parking, about the fact that Mikis was a grocery store or even how to enter the parking lot since the first entrance was an exit only.

If Mikis was seriously hoping to succeed, then there needed to be some more signs. From what I read, it was not Mikis responsibility to put up signs, but signs would have made a huge difference.


Posted by To Robert, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm

City Councils members and Planning Commission members are not professionals. They are not paid. City Council members are elected volunteers. Planning & Transportation Commission members are also members of the public who are appointed by City Council, our elected representatives.

"Fire them?" Professionals? I think you need a lesson in Local Government Civics 101.

These community VOLUNTEERS are supported by a paid, professional staff. The power of staff has grown as fewer and fewer citizens engage with public process--because many members of the public seem to be ignorant of the role citizens are required play in democratic government. There are other types of more centralized government--but they generally make worse decisions.

If you don't like what is going on, the process allows you to make a difference. Educate yourself and get involved. Stop whining in forums like this one. Instead, work with your elected representatives in an informed and more productive way BEFORE decisions are made.

If you still don't like the results, you have an opportunity to remove Council reps from office at the next election. However, before you get all huffy about the work they do, I suggest you inform yourself a little better.


Posted by Interesting topic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@To Robert made the best comment. I agree it behooves everyone to become educated about how cities: representatives & staff, work.

It's far too easy to comment, not basing it on fact. I'm curious to know what Judith suggests regarding consequences now. Someone asked earlier, and it went unanswered.

While it's hard to follow this thread with the Weekly staff deletions of comments, allegations/responses, I think the 2009 City Council was:

1-Peter Drekmeir - mayor
2-Pat Burt
3-Sid Espinosa
4-Yoriko Kishimoto
5-Larry Klein
6-Yiaway Yeh
7-Greg Schmidt
8-John Barton
9-Jack Morton


Posted by Judith , a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Hello! I'm glad I went back to see if anyone was interested in my comment. Here are some suggestions for "consequences":
1. Fines, big ones. Money is what developers understand best.
2. Banishment for a fixed amount of time - 2 to 5 years, no projects in Palo Alto.
3. If we had a list of real public benefits, we could make the developer provide a different one, or more.

I bet some of you creative people could think of more.


Posted by Judith , a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm

@Robert - As a 12 year member of the ARB (and please don't vilify me in this forum!) I can tell you that corruption is not an issue in Palo Alto that I ever saw. @to Robert is correct: All the qualification required to be a Planning Commissioner is to be a resident of Palo Alto. By state law, every municipality is required to have a Planning Commission and I don't think you are allowed to limit the membership by requiring skill or background.

At least 3 members of the ARB are required to be architects or similar licensed professionals. We have had general contractors on the Board in the past and they have proved very helpful. No member of the general public has ever applied that I can remember. These positions are not financially beneficial to the members. Architects who work for developers do not apply - they would have to recuse themselves from too many meetings to be useful.


Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Based on the size of the location, I bet it would make a great site for a liquor store.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

There is very little corruption in politics because the _legal_ definition of corruption is so narrow and difficult to prove that a politician has to be arrogant and/or stupid to be corrupt.

A more practical definition of corruption is when decisions are made against established policy, facts and/or logic to benefit influential individuals or groups.

For example, the zoning change for Alma Plaza violated the Comprehensive Plan and gave the developer a massive profit: the estimates in my Weekly Guest Opinion "Alma Plaza is a $12 million giveaway by our City Council" (20 June 2007, Web Link) were later shown to be several million low.

During Council considerations that are legally quasi-judicial -- Council members analogous to judges -- I have seen then-Council members (illegally) leave the dais to privately consult with the developer and then return to advocate a position. And no one objects, not even the then-City Attorney who is supposed to police such violations.

Look at the Council's refusal to reappoint Susan Feinberg to the Planning Commission. She had established herself as an expert on the issues, a keen analyst of the tradeoffs and an effective voice for the concerns and priorities of typical residents. Her replacement was an attorney who specialized in large real estate interests and whose resume showed that his civic interests focused on San Francisco and Israel and no discernible involvement in Palo Alto.

Where I grew up, the pervasive municipal corruption was know as "country club cronyism" -- no direct pay-offs or promises of favors, but membership in the group put one in position for subsequent benefits. Members of the group simply were biased to make decisions that favored other members. During the Alma Plaza debate, one Council member justified giving the benefits to developer McNellis by saying that the Council members all knew him as a good person from various boards they served on with him.


Posted by Deelish, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm

What about Century Market moving there? April Fool!

Seriously, though, if the soon-to-be-demolished Milk Pail moves there, it would be their death knell.

Nothing in that spot would do well, except maybe a small Asian Market.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

So, judith, since Mikis failed because of a lack of support from the citizens of palo alto, you would banish the developer for 2-5 years?
And since you are a member of the ARB, maybe you can explain why alma village looks the way it does. You approved it right? Did you also approve the cheesecake factory on university?
And I fail to understand, why some posters claim that lies are being told about them , but do not hesitate to make claims about former council members without any proof.


Posted by not a resident, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Some thoughts: Why an Asian market? How could it be any more profitable than Miki's, which got free rent? It certainly couldn't compete with Ranch 99.

Yes, the neighbors complained & ranted loudly about Lucky/Albertson's expanding. The PA papers had constant letters from neighbors protesting noise from the delivery trucks which would come in at night if the store got bigger. Even the tenants in the apartments next door complained, not just those in the rear. Those weren't the people who were likely to meaningfully support any specialty market & they'd have been better off with a chain market offering brand variety.

Palo Altans appear to want it all - services, good prices, variety, and no traffic increase yet the town continues to approve higher density residential infill housing in place of what is razed to make way for "growth", especially in moderately priced housing. Those residents can't afford to shop solely at Mollie Stone, Whole Food, Schaub, etc, & really want a regular supermarket without driving from North Palo Alto to Mountain View.

Hello! How can you "ban" McNellis or any other developer? All one has to do is re-incorporate under a different name. Some have filed for new corporations using spouses or offspring as presidents/chairmen. (It's been done often here, especially after a bankruptcy.)

Planners who demand commercial buildings have virtually no front setbacks from streets should consider making the adjacent driveways much wider than the one at AP. Visibility is not good approaching that driveway from the south. It's either risk hitting a car or person while making a fast right turn into a driveway where I couldn't see around the building or risk getting rear-ended by the cars behind me on Alma. Would PA have liability if a terrible accident occurred?

Also, why does one upthread poster refer to Lucky/Albertson's as "downmarket"? What about Safeway, Key, Nob Hill, etc? Has the entitlement concept among PA residents penetrated so widely?

Yes, Miki's was busy during it's closing sale. Bottom feeders were scavenging sale bargains while bemoaning the store closure. Did you love it that much when it was open? An experienced grocer might be expected to know his costs & required margins in order to conduct business in a rent-free location.


Posted by End-PC-Zoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2013 at 9:36 pm


Consequences for Alma Plaza Developer...

Someone claiming to be on the ARB has posted the following consequences for the developer ..

> 1. Fines, big ones. Money is what developers understand best.

> 2. Banishment for a fixed amount of time - 2 to 5 years,
> no projects in Palo Alto.

> 3. If we had a list of real public benefits, we
> could make the developer provide a different one, or more.

While this list seems more of a flight of fancy that not .. perhaps the poster could explain:

1) Are any of these consequences legal?
2) What exactly did the Developer do to justify these consequences?
3) Did he break any laws in the processes?
4) Did he break any binding agreements with the City in the process?
5) What City Department should be responsible for initiating "charges" against the Developer?
6) Should the Developer's previous history be considered by the various PA Boards/Commissions to unilaterally dismiss/reject projects by this Developer, or any of his subsidiaries?

Looking forward to your thoughts.


Posted by End-PC-Zoning, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2013 at 10:07 am

> Where I grew up, the pervasive municipal corruption was know
> as "country club cronyism" -- no direct pay-offs or promises of
> favors, but membership in the group put one in position for
> subsequent benefits. Members of the group simply were biased to
> make decisions that favored other members.

This sort of behavior on the part of City Councils is probably typical of most.

> During the Alma Plaza debate, one Council member justified
> giving the benefits to developer McNellis by saying that the
> Council members all knew him as a good person from
> various boards they served on with him.

Which is another reason that we should end PC-Zoning. While this sort of Council reasoning/action is probably not illegal—it is clearly disheartening, and demonstrates why "democracies" slowly erode, and fail.

By the way, the Council used this same logic to award former City Manager Benest a $50K/year pay increase, because his wife had died during the previous year, and he himself had fallen victim to cancer. The Council seemed to feel "sorry" for him and awarded this huge pay increase to a man who had been on leave for much of that year.

Yet—these actions/issues never seem to find their way into succeeding Council elections for incumbents to justify, or challengers to promise that such practices should cease.

Who wants to bet that this Miki's fiasco will OT be an issue in any upcoming Council elections.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

For historical reference:
"Guest Opinion: Alma Plaza represents a larger issue in Palo Alto — strip mall or neighborhood shops?" by Doug Moran, PA Weekly Wednesday, June 7, 2006 (Web Link)


Posted by Sad about Miki's, a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2013 at 8:44 pm

This is an interesting thread. Helpful to have read Doug Moran's opinion piece from 2006. Odd, not one person commented on it at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.

Judith's perspective is helpful. I think most people act in good faith, even developers, but change is difficult, and outcomes vary.

While I don't think anyone sets out to defraud, council members may be unqualified to make important, long-lasting decisions. It is out of their area of expertise, and they depend on staff for recommendations.

Right now, I'm out of the area, and checked PA Online, having heard about council endorsing same sex marriage. I thought it was an April Fools Day joke.

In a way, it is because they can't define what a public benefit is, and they can't back projects that become winners for the community, and so Jim Keene redirects their attention to a national hot-button issue that is polarizing the nation. If we don't laugh, we'll cry.
About Miki's. About the process. About our leaders.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Sad about Miki's" on no comments on my 2006 GuestOp: I suspect that the comments got detached from the article during a reorg of the web site somewhere in the intervening years. There definitely were comments at the time. Plus I see another GuestOp of mine from a little later now also has no attached comments.


Posted by historian, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I'm glad to see reference to The Cheesecake Factory on University. We are now marking the 10-year anniversary of that decision by the ARB with full staff support. That was the sign of trouble to come
in PA.


Posted by "Neighbors Helping Neighbors", a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:08 am

RE: Email Address Correction

Dear Friends, Neighbors & former Miki's Employees,
Our correct email is NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com
Please contact us if you need food assistance.

For those more financially secure residents, please bring fresh or canned
foods or money gifts (store gift cards welcome) tomorrow, Sat. 4/06.
MIDTOWN CENTER, parking lot next to Wells Fargo ATM. 2700 Midtown Court.
We meet on first Saturday of the month (Mar-Aug). Volunteer opportunities available.
All ages welcome.
Let's all be part of the solution, NHN Core Team


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