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Making Palo Alto attractive to tourists

Original post made by Diana Diamond on Oct 10, 2007

What makes a town attractive to tourists? A lot more than just declaring our city a tourist town.

City council members want Palo Alto to become a tourist destination. But other than standing there and saying, "You al' come," not much is being done. (Granted, the city has a www.destinationPaloAlto.com web site, but I don't usually carry a laptop around when I am being a tourist.)

Why are tourists attracted to places? For one thing, lovely downtowns. Think Carmel or Sausalito or Kennebunkport ME. Second, a nice mix of stores, including restaurants. (Our University Avenue is doing pretty well in that category.) Third, a tourist-friendly feel — directional signs, public restrooms, sufficient parking space and brochures listing stores by categories.

Palo Alto's downtown is looking ragged around the edges, and needs a bit of beautification and a lot more signage.

I recently came back from the Northeast, and I was impressed with what some of the small towns were doing to showcase themselves.

Woodstock, VT was a lovely tourist spot (see photo). A nice collection of apparel shops, art galleries, restaurants with hand-written menus on chalk boards, and most of all, pots of blooming chrysanthemums decking their downtown. In front of every store was a planter box, nine inches wide, filled with blooming chrysanthemums in shades of red, gold, yellow and white. Pots of chrysanthemums sat atop the railings of a small bridge crossing a creek that ran through the downtown.

I was told the village provided the flower planters and that the local garden club plants the flowers and maintains them. A nice partnership.

In Lake Placid NY, there were two pots of chrysanthemums hanging over each and every parking meter. People were smelling the flowers before putting in their quarters for an hour's worth of parking. Sugar maples in brilliant yellows, oranges and flaming reds lined the city streets.

Another town had small banners hanging from lampposts — dark green backgrounds with gold letters proclaiming, "Welcome to our town." Classy.

We visited Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College, and five miles away were signs directing us to the downtown and the college. The closer we got, the more signs we saw. We reached the center without a single wrong turn.

How many signs are there in Palo Alto directing people to Stanford University? The university has some on their property along Sand Hill Road. But entering from the east, the only sign is on 101 at the Embarcadero Road exit. Once on Embarcadero, there's nary a sign pointing to the university nor are there any along El Camino except at University Avenue.

If we want to increase the number of tourists to our fair city, let's try to do more to make sure they can get here and that their stay here an attractive one.

Comments (39)

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Much as I love to disagree with Diana, she's got this one right. Frankly, I think the entire region could use better signage.


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:07 pm

Ah, this brings to mind one of my first trips to Palo Alto. I was supposed to go to Stanford, and was told it was on El Camino. To make a long story short, I drove here, there, and everywhere, and ended up taking El Camino all the way to San Jose. I know I'm not so unusual judging by how many people stop in Greenacres, headed South, wondering how to get to Stanford.

I think one thing that would help would be to decide what kind of tourist we are aiming for. Are we interested in art lovers like those who go to Mendocino (probably not)? I think we should consider what kind of tourism would also make Palo Alto a nicer place for the people who live here. How about this? Why don't we put some money into making a regional writers research library that is the envy of California....


Posted by Concerned Family, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Diana,

I agree with your article, and having recently returned from the East Coast, I saw what you are talking about. In fact, some people in those Northern cities rely heavily on their short tourist season as their primary income for the entire year.

There are pro's and con's. They love the money from tourists, but residents without businesses hate the tourists and the traffic.

Are you running this story because the City and some members running for council are considering building large hotels here, or is this just coincidental?

I am not an expert, but this is what I have learned from going to a few of the informal meetings held for candidates running for City Council...

Some members running for City Council would like to build large new expensive hotels in Palo Alto because they hope to collect more tax.

The new hotels would be allowed to build above and beyond the allowed zoning ordinances. This is frightening, considering that we are running out of space here.

One member anticipated collecting $30 a night from a $300 hotel room.

There are less expensive places to stay nearby, and our out of town guests always stay there. The hotel I am thinking of also happens to be very family and pet friendly. It is not a tall mammoth size building either.

There may be parcel tax exemptions on new hotel buildings. I am not certain of the laws. If anyone reading this knows exactly what the laws are, please post them and correct me.
I learned this from going to several of the candidates informal meetings.

If hotels are a priority, I think it would nice if the city extended some of these special privileges to existing hotels which may need some incentive to spruce themselves up. Since they are already taking up precious land space, why not?

We are running out of space here, and our residents need this space for our own amenities, supermarkets, a possible new police station.

I would like to save any remaining parcels of land left in Palo Alto for at least one new supermarket meets the needs of all our community members. These markets do sell taxable items too.

People are getting tired of wasting gas and time driving to Mountain View and Menlo Park for groceries.

The senior citizens who live in Palo Alto that have limited driving permits are legally unable to drive to outlying cities.

I see that there is now a thread on hotels. . . hmm.

I think I will add a portion of this post over there.


Posted by Missing sign !!, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:30 am

I suggest we put a sign on 101 - "Tourist turn here"


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:46 am

The worst places for lack of signs is at the two Caltrain stations. Passengers get off the trains looking for Stanford and there is nothing. No maps on boards, no street or direction signs. If someone knows about the Marguerite they can possibly find it, but that is even doubtful. The bus stops don't have any signs telling where the buses go.

How can someone not familiar with Stanford or Palo Alto find their way once they get off a train, let alone off a freeway.


Posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger
on Oct 11, 2007 at 11:18 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Concerned Family -

You wrote: "Are you running this story because the City and some members running for council are considering building large hotels here, or is this just coincidental?."

I wrote the blog after I read a story in last Friday's PA Weekly (www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=6580) on "City evluates pilot tourist program."

A council subcommittee has talked about trying to fill up existing hotels over the weekends.

I was also prompted to write this blog because of my trip back East, as I mentioned, where many villages seem more tourist friendly than Palo Alto.

Thanks for asking!

Diana


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:11 am

What would you do on a weekend visit to PA? If you come for the Stanford game you might visit the... farmers' market?

If there's no game, what would bring you here for a weekend? Hiking the dish? You can't visit Foothill Park. Baylands is a bunch of dusty trails that often smell bad: ok if you are patient and like birds. No art. No music (unless something going at Lively Arts, but same shows will be at Berkeley). Little architecture. Gamble Garden has nice specimen plants, but is hardly a destination. Our bookstores are nice to have, but not special. SF and Berkeley have more and better restaurants. What unique attractions do we have beyond the Stanford Movie Theater and Frys? We could print celebrity maps like Bel Air - sorry; bad idea! For comparison, when was the last time you visited Lafayette or Marin?

Tourists will come when we create something for them to see and do. They will come for the Tour of California prolog stage. They would come if we had facilities to serious cultural festivals. They would come for a destination restaurant like French Laundry. We have a lot of assets we could create attractions with. Palo Alto is a nice place to live, a center for technology finance, and even a place the South Bay visits for dinner. So improved signage will help visitors, but... tourists?


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 7:52 pm

If you have not seen it, pick up a copy of the "Destination Palo Alto" brochure. The only tourist-worthy photos are of Stanford. Other photos include homes, our city hall, and unidentified buildings/restaurants.

I'm puzzled by two large photos of an artist painting. Have we become a famous artists' colony?

A map highlights Stanford, Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford Hospital, downtown, midtown and California Ave.

There's mention of the HP garage, but no picture. "At night Palo Alto is a regional draw for its cultural events, top-rated restaurants and nightlife." Mention is also made of Palo Alto providing its own utilities.

"Trees are revered," "education is a core value," "median household income is more than twice the national figure."

I don't know who wrote/produced this brochure, but it seems more likely to appeal to someone planning to move here than to tourists.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 8:36 pm

You can segment the visitor traffic into three categories:

1) Business - these would be the visitors who have a need to visit one of the companies in Palo Alto, Mt View & Menlo Park. Stanford University, all those companies in the Stanford Industrial Park, Shoreline, Stanford Hospital, etc. generate quite a bit of business for Palo Alto Hotels. This also includes the rental of conference rooms by companies to hold company meetings & offsites.

2) Trade Shows - probably not a big business because Palo Alto lacks any sort of convention center. Trade associations like to rotate to different locales. There are many trade associations not large enough for a Las Vegas, San Jose or San Francisco. The development of some center would help to boost hotel occupancy.

3) Tourist - other than visiting relatives, or visiting Stanford, I don't see Palo Alto as a destination spot for out of towners, given San Francisco's proximity.

I think if the council wants to generate more tax revenue, they should 1) determine what the vacancy rates are, 2) project what would happen if they do the new hotel developments, 3) determine how to zone/develop some sort of small convention center.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Tourist destinations tend to be extraordinary places. Palo Alto is a pleasant but ordinary town in a geographically unspectacular setting. It will never be a tourist destination as it now exists, flowers and signs notwithstanding. There's not enough there here.


Posted by Tourist Guide, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 10:48 am

I have had international visitors to stay - what do I show them? Well, first I take them on a drive over to Big Basin and show off the wonderful grove of redwood trees, visit a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains and show off the magnificent views of the Bay.

Next day, I take them over to Stanford, show them the Rodin Garden and the Cantor Art Center, take them up Hoover Tower and walk them round the campus. Third day I take them over to Sunset Magazine in Menlo Park.

Please note none of the above are in Palo Alto but there's plenty to show visitors thanks to our neighbors!


Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 4:25 pm

I am definitely aware of area visitors "visiting" Stanford Shopping Center. And I thought some report indicated a lot of their business comes from out of area people (parents of Stanford students??)


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Tourisy Guide, you could

1) Take them to the Stanford Theatre

2) Take them for a stroll, downtown

3) Take them for a walk through Professorville; it's quite nice

4) Show them the internaltionally famous murals on California Ave. (they're in Japanese tourist guides). Enjoy a repast while you're there, at one of Cal Ave's many fine restaurants.

5) Take them to any one of a number of small Palo Alto churches.

6) Take them to the Museum of American Heritage, on Homer St.

7) Take them to the newly renovated Children's Library, the first-ever Children's library in the united States.

8) Take them to Lucie Stern, to enjoy an opera, play, ballet, or other entertainment.

9) Take them to Stanford Mall

10) Take them to the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center

11) Take them to the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

12) Take them to the Lawn Bolwing Assn. green, next to Ganble Garden

13) Take them to the Steve Jobs or HP Garages, respectively.

14) Take them to the Duck Pond

there's more, including numerous interesting walks, and many little nooks and crannies. Palo Alto matches up well against any city on the Peninsula for toutist attractions


Posted by Angie, a resident of Southgate
on Oct 13, 2007 at 9:30 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Mike,

If "my friends" took me all those places and there are places like San Francisco, Carmel, Napa just a hour or two away. I would shoot them!


Posted by Native Girl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2007 at 12:52 am

Thanks Mike!

BTW - You are one of my favorite posters to the Town Square Forum.

I would also like to add Gamble Gardens to your list.

We also have some neat old historic homes tucked away here and there.

If a resident has a visitor (not a tourist though) we are allowed to take them to Foothills Park. If not, a tourist could drive around the Palo Alto Hills area, and visit the San Andreas fault line to show them the fence that moved and the fissures. People who come from states that do not experience earthquakes are usually interested in our occasional rockin' and rollin' terrain. After that, they can take a long but scenic drive towards the coast.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

There are several posters to this forum that are perpetual complainers and inflamers no matter what the issue is.

Sometimes I feel like asking them why they continue to live here?
They find fault in everything from our city government, services, our historic structures, and even our trees.
I always wonder why they continue to live here if they are so unhappy.

I love Palo Alto and I love California!

I am a descendent of Claus Spreckels, and my ancestors survived the 1906 earthquake (although our home burned). On the other side, my family owned a large farm in Oakland (100 years ago). The house is still there, but the land was subdivided long ago. It is a nice older neighborhood (with our family home wedged between many newer homes, which are all old now of course.

So. . . Thanks for the list!

The remark from Angie against Ms. Diamond was unnecessary and should be removed.


Posted by Native Girl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2007 at 12:59 am

Mike,

Whoops! I see you did mention Gamble Gardens.

Any secret tranquil spots should be kept as such - a secret.


Posted by Tourist Guide, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Mike, there's a site you missed - Charleston slough. I was out there this morning. I saw: herons, egrets, pelicans, and a magnificent male pheasant and his mate. There were many, many ducks, sandpipers and avocets. Most magnificent of all the "V" shaped formations of Canada geese stopping off as they migrate south for the Winter.

This is without a double a unique site to show visitors.




Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Out-of-town visitors like an aerial tour of the Bay. Charter one down at Palo Alto Airport. It is much more expansive (and exciting) than some of the suggestions listed above. Helps the airport, too!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2007 at 3:42 pm

Another site not mentioned, donkey park (I can't remember its proper name) in Barron Park. My kids were thrilled when they met the donkey which was used for the character in the Shrek movie.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2007 at 3:46 pm

We have out of towners visit and I do like taking them to places like Monterey, but usually they like to do things nearer to homebase too. What they do seem to enjoy is going to San Francisco on Caltrain and would enjoy doing more if the transport was better. Not all visitors visiting family here rent cars and believe me, I know that we get a lot of visitors who visit family here and want to be a little independent of their hosts.

It is possible to take out of towners out for a couple of day trips at weekends, but not possible to entertain them like that all the time. A little balance between the touristy spots they have had of and the not so well known local interest is a great thing.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 15, 2007 at 11:13 am

I was just in Boulder, CO again, and the Pearl St. mall, formerly a major thouroughfare, lends itself well to attracting tourists. You have performers, kiosks, etc. when the weather is nice there, and Palo Alto has many more weeks of great weather than does Boulder.

This ties in with the concept and recent experiment of shutting down University Ave. for a period of time--a weekend, earlier this summer, for example.

I think Diana is pointing out a very important matter--which is that we really are not presenting effectively various Palo Alto assets that would be attractive to visitors. Several city council candidates talk about "economic development" as part of their campaign. As a grizzled marketing veteran, I am yet to hear much about a robust revenue strategy that includes some specific, concrete steps that can generate more revenues to the City from visitors and tourists, by encouraging more spending from those already visiting, and appropriately attracting additional visitors who are looking for a place to do some enjoyable things, many of which are cited in previous postings.

As Diana and other posters on this thread point out, there are many effective approaches well under way in other towns around the country, we need to learn from those best practices and apply those that make sense to Palo Alto. That will take some leadership from City Council members, I will be interested to see if anyone in office for the next couple of years takes on the mantle of pushing this.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 15, 2007 at 11:40 am

Our current mayor will certainly not take a leadership role in this--it does not involve climate change.
Anyway, I am sure she also sees the effort to bring in more tourists into Palo Alto as creating "too much traffic"--the mantra she has lived by and preached for years.


Posted by KC Marcinik, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm

The suggestions of existing attractions are all good, but as for improvements to add . . . surely we can do better than upgrading the street furniture. Several years ago (8/30/96), the Weekly ran an article on "What This Town Needs is a Good . . .). Our proposal was for some celebration of the industry that has made Palo Alto known around the world. Now is a great time to re-visit the concept, with the re-development underway at Palo Alto's South entrance:

"At 844 E. Charleston Road, a small '50s-style office building near the intersection of East Charleston and San Antonio roads, a small bronze plaque commemorates the development of the first commercially practicable integrated circuit, or silicon chip.
Greenmeadow Architects proposes that Palo Alto acknowledge its own significance with Ground Zero, a mixed-use development commemorating the historic center of the information revolution. Phase 1, at 844 E. Charleston itself, would be a tall, highly visible monument to mark the site and relieve the banality of Palo Alto's "South Gate." At the same time, the current building would be preserved as a reception building for a new Technology Demonstration Center.

Phase 2 would distinguish the site with a Tech Dome and restore other existing small-scale gems of '50s California modernism. New infill buildings in the same aesthetic of expressive, honest structure would be added to vitalize the site. Environmentally-friendly materials and building-integrated photovoltaics would showcase the cutting edge of construction technology.

Ground Zero could provide "garage space" for software start-ups, live-work lofts and retail space. Fry's could relocate here with a contextual tie-in.

Ground Zero would be an attraction to millions of people around the world whose lives have been changed by integrated circuit technology and are at a loss about where to find Silicon Valley when they come for a visit."


Posted by Resident, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 16, 2007 at 7:42 am

KC Marcinik, a great idea lets build it in Greenmeadow not near my neighborhood, thank you.


Posted by Mr. BBQ, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:17 am

Mr. BBQ is a registered user.

A casino would bring tourists, plus increase our tax revenue. We could put the casino out in the Bay Lands or Stanford shopping center. Just think of the number of tourists it would bring in. We wouldn't even need to pretty up our town to attract people, it's a no brainer!
Lets go for it!


Posted by Protect Las Vegas Casino Rights, a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Mr. BBQ, are smokin' the smoke, or smokin' the ribs?


Posted by Adam, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 16, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Paul. You usually make a lot of sense. Bern Beecham headed up two separate council supported committees to look for ways to increase revenue. I never saw a report from either one, but you might e-mail him and 1. ask him how he organized the efforts, and 2. what results he got from the "robust revenue strategies" the committee employed.

So we don't have to wait for "anyone in office the next couple of years" to take up the idea. It's been done!


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Adam,

I have met with Bern about this a couple of times one on one, he deserves kudos for his efforts, and I am afraid we do not have as much to show for that work as the city needs. Car dealerships was an important part of what was investigated, and we still need to figure that one out. But there is more to it than one or two "silver bullets."

My own opinion is that this is not a task force or special project thing, this is an on-going effort that includes some of our elected officials, people working for the city whose job it is to work on revenue generating initiatives, and others in the community building on a revenue friendly platform provided in part from city resources and services.

We read in this forum people's ideas about having an elected Mayor, a smaller city council, etc. I must admit I have a difficult time knowing what kind of council/mayor structure would be best for Palo Alto right now, but I do have a pretty strong opinion that we need more people in leadership postions who either formally or informally concentrate their efforts on bringing more revenue into Palo Alto. That does not require a charter amendment or anything else, it requires people with the right skill set and the right mind set to take such challenges on.

I mean no disrespect to anyone presently running for City Council, but "economic development" is too ethereal for me, there are many concrete things than can be done fairly easily, and some others that require some tenacity, time and spine if they are going to happen. Of late, this area has not received anywhere near sufficient focus, and Bern's was a lonely crusade all too often.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm

Bern Beecham's retail initiative was a good start, but the committee didn't have enough retail inputs. The first committe came out recommending that "signage" (lack of) was our biggest retail improvement we could make. Really. Really?

The second of that committee didn't have a single large retailer on it.

Nevertheless, it was an honest effort that was, for a change, a refreshing attempt to "get real" about making business easier to do in Palo Alto. My hat is off to Council member Beecham for starting it.



Posted by NoWhining, a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Palo Alto has an ordinary urban design coupled with a very, very large number of nondescript expensive shacks in a flat nothing-to-it setting made even more unattractive by its lack of transportation (How would a tourist ever get to see Roosvelt Circle without a car? Or, well, never mind...) No increase in the number of downtown minor niceties will make it a tourist destination ( it would take a miracle-Lourdes anyone?: there is nothing to do (except what you can do anywhere else with nothing to do and nothing to see) that you cannot find in many other similarly uninspiringly designed American towns. There is no regular great cultural come-ons, no exciting events, indeed PA is plain Jane as they come. The tiny town of Lake Placid that Diane liked so much ( itself on Mirror Lake, a mixture of fake alpine design with a faux motel motif and moldy B&Bs ) on the other hand, is right smack in the middle of the lake region of the Adirondacks High Peaks ( yes, Diana I've climbed ALL the high peaks), a stone's throw from Whiteface, a few miles from Lake Champlain (110 miles long) and its wonderful historic towns; Dartmouth, in the middle of a very pretty nowhere Hanover, wonderful setting for weekend visits in any season ( Cross country skiing, river activities, antiquing, etc ); Kennebunkport on a spectacular ocean setting and great lobster. PA is a rather inappropriate and ill-suited comparison with these towns. For there is something out of the ordinary to do in these locations, appealing "ethnic" local architecture, and a most out-of-this-world apple pie at the Noon Mark diner in Keene Valley. But unless Diamond had visited only in the summer she wouldn't know that most of those towns revert to their insularity in the non-summer months. The tourist summer, mostly July and august crowd is their bread and butter...except for dartmouth (the university is their main support). Please don't even mention Ithaca
( on Cayuga lake)...or that great "shore" of Princeton. (route 1)- nobody ever goes to Princeton as a tourist.....for the same reason that unless PA moves there will be no tourism here. Palo Alto is nothing like the Carmels or Woodstocks of the America and it cannot be made into a tourist destination with or without San Francisco or even San Jose... But better signage, better welcome for all, less, much less parochialism ? YES!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Diana

Rather than making Palo Alto attractive to tourists, how about making it attractive to the residents and those who have to visit here for Stanford, family or work related reasons.

I think it would be great if we local residents were able to spend time enjoying Palo Alto and spending our shopping and entertainment dollars in Palo Alto instead of our neighboring cities.

We have talked at length about shopping and the homeless in this forum, but there are other aspects to doing things in Palo Alto rather than elsewhere.

For example, the things my kids like to do, Laserquest, the movies, sky high sports, bowling, ice skating to name but a few. Laserquest is in Mountain View. The movies that they go to are in Mountain View.
The bowling alley is sold and will soon close. Sky high sports, the trampolining place, is in Santa Clara. For teens, there is very little for them to do which involves spending money (not that I think they should always be spending money, but you get my point).

When we go out to eat as a family, it tends to be at a fast food restaurant in Mountain View, Fresh Choice in Mountain View, or other family friendly restaurants in Mountain View. We have tried Bucca di Beppos, but unless you make a reservation a week in advance, there is no point.

When we go out for evening meals with friends, it tends to be Mountain View or further afield, because we don't like the parking or the homeless in Palo Alto. Granted, my husband thinks the only parking he will go to is outside, but I certainly wouldn't like to walk downtown on my own in the late evening and pass the homeless, etc. etc.

So, when it comes to attracting tourists, I would rather see an effort put on to attract Palo Altans to spend leisure money in our own town without having to go further afield. Same as any of our shopping needs, who does it in Palo Alto?


Posted by george, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm

naive girl:

your comments about those who complained our community should just leave Palo Alto is absurd. Shouldn't you consider "divorce" if you complain about your spouse(if you have one)?


Posted by try the great food on California Ave, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2007 at 10:38 pm

Resident who doesn't like downtown restaurants (parking/homeless) -- I agree with you about downtown places to eat, but why go to Mountain View when we have more than 20 restaurant choices on or near California Avenue?

We often take out of town guests to one of our favorite places to eat in Palo Alto's "second downtown". There's everything from really cheap to expensive, many family friendly, most family run or at least not chains. None have that downtown pretentiousness and there are many genuine local gems like Cafe Pro Bono or Bodeguita del Medio. Best falafel, gyros and baklava in town at Mediterranean Wraps, genuine mole at Palo Alto Sol, a great bakery, and even a genuine beer joint (Antonio's Nut House). And if you are a Sunday brunch fan, you will have a hard time choosing among all the special places (especially now with the new farmer's market breakfast/lunch options).

Also, parking is almost never a problem on the streets immediately adjacent to Calif Ave, reservations are rarely needed and I have never ever been solicited by a homeless person.


Posted by couldn't make this up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Hmm, with all the City Council and City Manager interest in promoting visitors (or at least, enticing them to spend money in sales tax and transient occupancy tax generators within city boundaries), wouldn't we expect to find lots of great information on our wonderful new city website, which has a whole "themepod" devoted to "Visiting Palo Alto"??

How interesting: the "Visitors" icon on the home page features a front shot of Stanford's Memorial Church. But wait -- on the front page of the visitor's section, NONE of the topics one can click on even mentions Stanford University! Or Silicon Valley historic spots, or restaurants, or shopping areas, or even links to the huckster hype on Destination Palo Alto.

Apparently the "emperor has no clothes on" marketing geniuses behind this civic embarrassment believe that the top 3 Visitor's News items are (I am not making this up!):
Parks and Facilities List and Map
West Bay Opera
Golf Course Reservations and Tee Times

Check it out, it is unbelievable:
Web Link

My favorite ROTFL example: The first screen of text you see when you click on "Attractions" is, I kid you not:
"Why should you visit? The trails! The galleries! The restaurants! That's just for starters."

But if you actually look at the text below that opening, it's all about our homespun city facilities, unlikely to be of interest to visitors other than Grandma:

"Junior Museum and Zoo Home Page
The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is a kid's place to think, create and play.
( visit the junior museum and zoo home page )

Palo Alto Golf Course
A recently renovated 18-hole course, open seven days a week
( visit the municipal golf course home page )

Recreation in Palo Alto
Palo Alto has an array of recreational amenities unusual for its size, including a Junior Museum and Zoo, a Children's Theatre, and 53 tennis courts. . . "

For the record, there's no information at all on galleries and restaurants on this page, and I guarantee that only the most devoted trail seeker would sift through the inane news details and unreadable small print links to find the trail information (no Web 2.0 here, it's all lame downloads).

Who approved this content for the Visitor's section, and what were they smoking?


Posted by the city website has no clothes, or helpful information, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 19, 2007 at 12:26 am

try doing a search for "tourist attractions"
Web Link

try doing a search for "historic attractions"
Web Link

try doing a search for "Palo Alto Downtown"
Web Link

the first two return...nada...

the third returns links about various Coulcil members, and among all the non-relevant stuff there is a link to a list of things, and a map of parking, which is linked to at the _bottom_ of the list of parking lots page (btw, none of the parking lot locations are hot linked)

looks like a middle-school project cobbled together by six kids over a weekend


Posted by NoWhining, a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2007 at 7:03 am

vsitors and tourists are different breeds. A visitor is someone who is occasionally in town for unrelated reasons to its possible attractions. For those it does matter that the town's business and minor attractions be listed. For example, If I spend a day or an afternoon in PA with a child while delivering another child to college those are the kinds of information needed to keep myself and the child entertained for a little while- it makes for a pleasant afternoon (never mind the homeless, eastern seaboard people are used to seeing them around and so do visitors from other countrys- the homeless remind us of the pitfalls of life, be a little charitable).

But tourists? a tourist is a person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure and out-of-the-ordinary sightseeing of some kind ( for example, the pyramids Egypt, the Mona Lisa in Paris, the Taj Mahal in India , San Francisco Golden Gate Park, the Getty Museum in LA, Cape May in NJ, The Boston Modern Museum of Art, , the Barnes in Lower Merion, Burlington, VT and the Shelburn Museum, The High Peaks region Of the Adirondack Mountains, The Shenandoah valley in Virginia, Chicago architecture, the Lake Tahoe area and so on). A tourist expressly and purposefully travels to see a place and its extraordinary, not found in other places, attractions. To mention the very insignificant "atractions" of PA in the same breath as "tourists" is illogical-nothing in PA is worthy of a visit in and by itself. Diane's suggestion is as laughable as inconsequential. Make the town pleasant and welcoming for its residents and visitors; If PA thinks of ways to better itself so that its residents find living in it an increasingly attractive proposition it will also by osmosis make the town better for visitors. But nobody visits Lake Placid, Philadelphia's old city or Burlington Vermont to have a cup of coffee in a sidewalk caffe and look at the flowers in lamposts: they visit to see the setting or the major attractions. Likewise nobody will visit PA for itself if there are millions of flowers on lamposts and out-of-context victorian benches everywhere. PA has simply NOTHING worth a visit as a tourist unless one considers self-importance, whisful thinking, common-place, lack of proportion, philistine attitudes to the level of sightseeing attractions. If not, just make PA a great place for everybody. And put those flower baskets on the lamposts: they are pleasant for the residents to look at.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2007 at 1:43 pm

"Destination Palo Alto" is the slogan conceived by Chamber of Commerce which has not done much to attract tourists except it has been well received by the homeless and transients flocking to Palo Alto as their destination.

Let's not waste our time and dance to this bureaucratic tone. Palo Alto was not born yesterday and our property value is among the highest in the nation. The problem of our city is not the revenue,
but mis-managed revenue. Any newly generated revenue ends up being consumed by the bureaucrates, city council has to confront the core issue of downsizing the number of inefficient, over-paid city employees whose payrolls have consumed 85% of our budget. Daily News reported a more than 1/3 of city employees earn over 100K a year,not to mention their big fat pension. Anyone can file a public records request to confirm this report.


Posted by PA booster, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2007 at 12:37 am

At the risk - um, I mean, certainty - of bringing out all the uber-pessimists and those who love to misquote studies they haven't even read, I'd like to propose that we move to make a separate system of bike paths (in a way that is safe for avid bikers and families) so that Palo Alto is completely accessible by bike, including from town to Foothills.

We have the best weather in the world. Make PA a place that can be explored by bike, and you improve it for residents and visitors. The bike paths to Los Altos and behind Gunn HS essentially go nowhere but are heavily used for a reason. Imagine what we would have around town if the paths actually went somewhere, everywhere...

I'm sorry, but in the land of Volvos, a few bike lanes that disappear at unexpected times on major roads just will never cut it.

Unfortunately, this is one of those things where people can't get past the CAN'Ts to use their imaginations and even try to come up with ideas. But, I think it's worth (heaven forbid) imagining the possibilities because getting people out of their cars and generating city/community centers that attract foot traffic is always great for business and tourism.


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