City blames Gunn start time for Arastradero traffic
Original post made
by Parents need to know this, Green Acres,
on Jul 24, 2013
A July 10, 2013, memo by City staff regarding the Maybell rezoning places the bulk of the blame for Arastradero traffic problems as "due to the change in start time for Gunn High School from 7:55 a.m. to 8:25 a.m. beginning in August, 2011."
The memo also blames an increase in enrollment at Barron Park and Juana Briones Elementary. (Which is strange since BP Elementary traffic has no bearing on Arastradero and Maybell traffic as the school is on the other side of Barron Park, and JB may have actually had a small decrease in students in that time period, contrary to staff report.) The City memo went on to say "The striping of Arastradero Road may have contributed to a lesser degree [than Gunn start times and elementary school enrollments]."
The staff report makes no account of the traffic problems on Arastradero at intervals in the afternoon when the schools let out at very different times.
So, they don't think the Arastradero Road restriping had anything to do with the traffic problems of the last few years, and they fail to mention any of the other major development in the area, especially along El Camino (but then, their traffic study failed to use current data, so it's difficult to say - see the independent analysis of the City's traffic report Web Link
The solution to the traffic problem on Maybell, City Council has decided, is to paint some new stripes on Maybell and a few other cosmetic "safety improvements", and to direct City staff "to work with the School District on staggering start times, expanding the School Pool Program and to market the Safe Routes to School program."
**Maybell underwent a six-figure safety improvement already in the last few years but is of substandard width and still has traffic signs knocked to the ground about once a month,
**the school start times were changed after significant study for the students' wellbeing and it was believed would actually improve traffic on Arastradero at the time, Web Link
**Safe Routes to School are already heavily marketed, with around 40% of high school students commuting to school by bike or foot.
The neighbors opposing the new development, which was rezoned by the City to bring 12 densely packed tall houses and a 60-unit, nearly 50-foot tall complex with only 47 parking spots for residents, visitors, and employees, to a property in a residential neighborhood across from Juana Briones Park that currently has only 4 ranch houses and an orchard with about 100 trees (to be torn down) - neighbors point out that traffic for the new development can only go out onto Maybell and Arastradero, and City policy is to accord heightened scrutiny to developments on school commute routes, which was not done. The City traffic study failed to even study the impacts on the student bicyclists and pedestrians at all.
What about it parents?
Do you believe the City staff vision here, that the Gunn start time is mainly to blame for all the traffic problems on Arastradero and Maybell, that the students don't really need the later start time, and moving the start time back to earlier again will solve the traffic problems to such an extent that the area can take a large high-density development that puts all of its traffic onto Maybell and Arastradero?
Or do you believe, as neighbors do, that the infrastructure is already overburdened, and schoolchildren and their families deserved an honest traffic and safety review, and fair consideration of alternatives for that location depending on the results? Particularly since, as the memo says, the City has the option of "purchasing the site itself" and turning it into a low-traffic use such as a community orchard, or placing deed restrictions on it for future developers? And since the transportation element of the general plan puts safety as the highest consideration for all development? And that infrastructure should serve the interests of the residents, especially the children, not the other way around, and careful decisions made for the well-being of our children should take priority and should not be casually reversed for political convenience?
If you have any comments about this situation for the City Council, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are supportive of neighbors' efforts to put the PC rezoning (which allows development of that parcel to such a massive scale) to Palo Alto voters, you still have two days left to sign the petition for a referendum. (The earlier referendum regarded the inclusion of the rezoning in the comprehensive plan, this one regards the actual rezoning.)
P.S. FYI, Neighbors find the rest of the memo grossly one-sided in the same way as their blaming the daily traffic problems on Arastradero on Gunn morning start times, by a staff that has taken the role of advocacy for the project rather than objective reviewer. See recent Weekly stories/editorial, e.g. Web Link
"[... in the case of the staff report on the recently approved Maybell senior housing project, only policies that supported the project were cited"]
Posted by Parents need to know about this
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm
@ Jerry Underdahl,
Yes, an all private developer would want to maximize profit. That does not mean the most number of units you can pack on a piece of land, because they make the most money on desirable properties with more than 2,000 sq ft, whether townhouses or duplexes. It's why they like to violate height restrictions. If you have to live with height restrictions under the zoning rules, that means no one in their right mind is going to build that many units of such small size that they wouldn't do well.
But again, the City has the ability and the right in this case to temporarily take over the property, study the safety issue, and place whatever deed restrictions on the property it wishes, subdividing, etc., to ensure the worst case scenario never happens. Given their clear belief that such building is a problem, they have a duty to do so if the current deal falls through. (As it may well do, as City staff report says zoning only takes effect 31 days after the 2nd reading - apart from any referenda - which is long after PAHC's deadline for their July 3 funding application. They turned it in, but it's a competitive situation and they are asking for millions - it wouldn't be right for them to misrepresent that they had the zoning in place, which is a basic application requirement. I think they get penalized in future applications if they are found to have misrepresented anything.)
"About the orchard preservation concept, I'd love to see it happen. I'd be willing to pledge $100/yr. towards a realizable plan that would keep the four single-family homes on Maybell and a rejuvenated orchard on the rest of the property. I've appreciated that view for close to 40 years and would like to see it maintained. But I'm skeptical about the feasibility."
Thank you for saying that! The four single-family homes on Maybell are what make the community orchard possibility feasible, because selling them would make back more than enough to repay any of the other lien-holders on the loans. If the City wanted to, the community orchard could be an irreplaceable asset, one of the things it could do with (a small fraction of) the Stanford funds.
And let's face it, finding a piece of historic orchard land across from an existing park, facing the hills, with 100 established trees, near so many schools, so centrally located in a neighborhood -- THAT can't just be had anywhere else.
Add to that the possibility that the Julia Morgan building could be put there, at someone else's expense no less - where it would be put to its historic use and cherished, not shuttled aside somewhere. Even without the Julia Morgan, the location across from the existing park makes for some amazing possibilities.
We neighbors get castigated for saying so, but that location really isn't a great place for seniors because there is no adjacency to services seniors need, and PAHC didn't even originally decide to make it a senior complex, it was only decided after they realized a multi-generational was probably not politically feasible because of the schools. Nearer downtown, with Avenidas, amazing transit, medical, etc etc. is so much better. We should all be clamoring to make City Council increase in lieu fees so it can be possible to put an affordable senior complex closer to downtown instead. Councilman Schmid pointed out that there was some development where the affordable senior units were on the top floors, and when someone said, 'oh, you mean those seniors are going to get those great views?' they took it all off and paid the in lieu fees instead! (Wish I knew which development he meant...)
And putting a development at Maybell means tearing out the trees.
There are people in the neighborhood today who have spearheaded projects very similar, who would be willing to see it to reality if that became an option. City Council keeps making disingenuous statements about how if we want one, we need to come up with the money. But fundraising for something like that will not happen while the zoning is in such controversy and donors face the same controversy and accusations as the neighbors are now enduring. The City would have to proactively decide on that option and allow neighbors a chance to help make it happen. They would.
If the deal fell through, though, a community orchard would be a healing option, a great asset, a way for the City to actually shield PAHC from any negative financial consequences if the deal fell through and the site really won't do well on resale because of the safety issues now disclosed, and a way to develop that location with no additional traffic, etc. It would also be a way for the politicians to save their political necks, as this side of town votes and they are angry.
There are lots of too-high-density projects going in on this side of town especially, but that one is getting all the pushback because it really, truly is a bad location for it because of the infrastructure/traffic/safety problems inherent in the circumstances and location. But it couldn't be more perfect as a community orchard.