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Palo Alto to beef up sidewalk requirements

Original post made on Apr 16, 2013

In discussing Palo Alto's sidewalk dilemma, Councilwoman Karen Holman borrowed a line from writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who famously said that "architecture is frozen music." Recent developments, she said, suggest that Palo Alto is "out of tune."


Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 7:39 AM

Comments (19)

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:29 am

A related topic dealing with sidewalks:

The many wonderful trees we have in Palo Alto have roots that continue to grow. I have to be careful, especially after dusk, how I walk around my neighborhood or back and forth from downtown.

So many sidewalks that are uneven due to tree roots pushing them up, this way and that. Very unsafe.


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Posted by She's in over her head
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:42 am

Love the quotations:

"architecture is frozen music."
"Palo Alto is "out of tune," "
" its buildings "have been underachieving.""
"he called "New Uglyism," "
"Sidewalks, she said, "are places where things happen.""

The weekly loves these meaningless little quotes--I wonder if the speakers practice them ahead of time so they will see their names in print in the Weekly

Holman as usual is in over her head and is clueless. The council has been underachieving--they still have not addressed our infrastructure issues, they have not addressed the Byxbee Park issue, they have not addressed countless important issues, instead they waste their time on bag bans, smoking bans and sidewalk width.
What about the point that Paul raises above--seems that all they care about is trees, not the fact that their are problems associated with trees.

Address the city's real problems, Karen and stop trying to get your name in the paper


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:51 am

As discussed in this previous topic:

Web Link

I agree that New Urbanism is being misapplied. Street trees and wide sidewalks (on the building side, not the street side of the trees)
are perfectly in tune New Urbanism correctly applied.

The "New Uglyism", as Bob Moss has it, is a separate issue. Postmodern architecture is a failure stylistically. I would hate for Palo Alto to become one of those cities (there are some) that dictates architectural sameness in the building code. But, I would rather have a mediocre but unobtrusive Mission Revival building than another obtrusive example of Postmodern Uglyism.


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Posted by End-New-Urbanism-In-Palo-Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

> "People who talk about losing Miki's don't just talk about Miki's > going out of business, they talk abut what an ugly, oppressive
> building it is,"

Most people have no idea what "architecture" is all about. If this building had 20-foot setbacks, with a grass and shrubbery in that zone--they probably would have a different opinion of the building.

Once the idea of a large shopping center was given up--the architects were left with trying to shoehorn in as much "office"/retail space as they could--with no room for the "aesthetics" that most of us have come to expect.

The site should have been given over to housing.

This saga also points out how primitize the planning tools utilized by the Palo Alto Planning Department are. There is no reason that this site could not have been modeled with digital techniques. Sadly, no one at the Planning Department has a clue about what can be done with technology.


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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2013 at 9:51 am

I agree that some new buildings around town are exceptionally ugly, but pedestrian safety is a completely different and more important issue. Narrow sidewalks with poor sightlines at driveways and intersections are exceptionally dangerous to pedestrians. Many of these new complexes don't even have any sidewalks from the main buildings through the parking lots to the street. Narrow sidewalks are also very problematic for wheelchair and baby stroller users. Please make pedestrian safety a top priority in any new building regulations.


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Posted by Green Bean
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:13 am

Hooray! Bravo! for wider sidewalks and more trees. Think European boulevards...A lot does happen on the sidewalk. It is an open, sociable
place to be. Don't we want to encourage pedestrians and make everyday errands as pleasant as possible? Yes.


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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

I would like to see some standards for commercial restaurants putting tables and chairs out on sidewalks. There is one I am thinking of that has a table with chairs on three sides, a large planter, and trash containers effectively blocking the sidewalk. Nobody bussed the tables so the tables were covered with dishes and crumpled napkins.


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

I am so glad that I am not the only one to be appalled at how little setback there is with the Alma buildings and some newer ones on El Camino. It is so sad that these buildings were ever allowed to be built so close to the streets and with so little attention to the aesthetics from the viewpoint of the street. I suppose it is way too expensive to have a re-do. We, as a community, missed the chance of beginning a beautiful revamping of these areas by alligning buildings in such a way as to encourage strolling and appreciation of beauty and civic socialization. Let's make sure we reverse the "ugly and unfriendly" trend in building!


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Posted by j99
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

Stop worrying about sidewalks and worry about the rampany street crime and downtown robberies in Palo Alto. Downtown Palo Alto is getting like downtown Oakland these days and soon residents will need guns to go to a restaurant at night (if they can find a parking place) in Downtown Palo Alto.
Grow up and work on real problems.


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Posted by Jerryl
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I am a little tired of hearing about so-called Planned Community
zoning. A planned community is just that--an entire town or village planned from the outset as a unified whole. Reston Virginia is an example of a planned community. It is NOT a zoning excuse to allow a high density building with inadequate parking and setbacks to be plopped into an already existing community.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Sorry to say it, but the emphasis on biking to school and all of those so called (bike) "safe routes" are actually a problem to pedestrians. There are quite a few sidewalks that are used extensively by kids going to school and unfortunately I've yet to see any safety instruction given to kids on how they need to behave when they ride around and near pedestrians.

Many kids ride too fast, too close, too poorly and think that saying "excuse me" (or "beep-beep" or "Hey!", etc.) when approaching from behind means the same as "get out of my way". It doesn't. If pedestrians have to move to the side every time they are approached from the rear by a scooter or bike, they'd never get anywhere!

It makes sense that little kids only think of themselves and it makes sense that parents tell them to ride on the sidewalk, but in many areas it's an accident waiting to happen.

I certainly hope that part of this conversation considers this issue. We need clear "keep right/keep left and passing rules, general rules of the road and clear signage about what those expectations are posted around town. As a pedestrian with a tiny dog, even on a very short leash, it's scary out there.


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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

The city really needs to widen and repair the bike lanes so that the kids feel comfortable bicycling on the streets instead of on the sidewalks. So many kids are biking these days that the existing infrastructure is overloaded. Also car drivers, please give the kids some space, especially near intersections. Too often, you see kids making crazy maneuvers to get out of the way of cars.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Anon - Bikes shouldn't be on the sidewalk to begin with.

Pedestrian - car drivers need to give kids riding their bikes some space, but even more importantly, kids need to ride single file (or at least stay in the bike lane when there is one), they need to stop at stop signs (I'd be happy if they just slowed down and looked for cars) and they need to keep their cell phones in their backpacks or pockets, not in their hands while biking.


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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

To the editor:

Please do not use the phrase, "to beef up."
It makes it sound like an abattoir around here. Or at least stockyards. Ick.


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Posted by look at her record
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm

@ She's in over her head:

"Holman as usual is in over her head and is clueless."

I disagree. Karen Holman is one of the few common-sense members of the city council, and also she's not aligned with any of the developers.

Look at her record of thoughtful comments and votes on a number of issues: the bike bridge, the golf course, the Animal Services, the Arrillaga monstrosity near the train station, the present issue . . .

To my mind, she does her homework and she will be missed when her term is up.


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Posted by I like sidewalks
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:25 pm

@ She's in over her head:
This would be an amusing if it weren't motivated by bile.
Especially when comparing her to a couple of other councilmembers who really don't understand anything complicated.
If the council is underachieving, look at the power brokers there.
Holman was Chair of the Planning Commission for years, understands zoning and the comprehensive plan and can be expected to support a liveable city for us, the residents.
ah, maybe that last item is where you have a problem.


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Posted by End-New-Urbanism-In-Palo-Alto
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

> Holman was Chair of the Planning Commission for years,
> understands zoning and the comprehensive plan and can be
> expected to support a liveable city for us, the residents.

So, by this logic--she is one of the key individuals reponsible for the mess that Palo Alto is quickly becoming.

Agree with those who think Holman is in over her head. She may be a big support of downtown Palo Alto--but she certainly has show little evidence of understanding the issues associated with the astute, and appropriate management, of a $30+B municipal corporation--which is what Palo Alto has become.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Re Holman and the bike bridge. Check out her comments here :
Web Link

She wants a design contest and claims that the bridge should be how people think of palo. Did you toads story about the cost for the golf course plan? Money is no object for her when it comes to nonessential services. Animal services should be contracted out.
So far, she has zero accomplishments on dealing with the city's infrastructure backlog. And BTW, mayor Scharf, we are a third of the way through your term and what have you accomplished from your grandiose speech last month?

Holman is as out of touch and clueless as she was when she tried to push through her historic home property grab a decade ago. Obviously she learned nothing from having her knuckles rapped by the voters then.


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Posted by sister madly
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm

blech. bob moss has made it his life's mission to complain about any "growth" in palo alto. he sits in his 1980's era prop 13 protected tax rate home and eschews any attempts to allow those of us who grew up here (in the 70s, 80s and 90s) any chance at staying. his decades of complaints make me wonder why the heck he stays here if he hates it so much.


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