http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/index.php?i=3&t=19547


Town Square

Downtown's growing pains

Original post made on Nov 23, 2012

The rest of America may still be shaking off the economic hangover from the Great Recession, but downtown Palo Alto is fully awake. And yet the area's recent and expected growth is also prompting serious head scratching and heated disagreement in City Hall these days.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 23, 2012, 10:38 AM

Comments

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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2012 at 11:20 am

The biggest problem with downtown Palo Alto is all the cars clogging the streets. They cause air pollution, noise pollution, and constant danger to pedestrians. Is there some way to get the cars off of University Avenue? Maybe put big parking lots near each end of the street and let people walk the rest of the way, or drive on Lyton and Hamilton? That would be so much nicer.


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Posted by Matt L
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm

The city needs to work on ways to get around without cars. The city needs to provide carrots and sticks for car alternatives.

One suggestion: turn the neighborhood streets into 2 hour + residential parking areas with the business core remaining as is so shoppers continue to come. The neighborhoods are parking lots for downtown offices, and without charging a truer cost of parking employees will continue to drive to downtown.

The bike lanes are insufficient and not normalizing cycling. People park in bike lanes on University between 101 and Middlefield, or swerve into them to pass turning cars. There is no good bike connection between the bike lanes at University at Middlefield and Lytton at Cowper. Cars park halfway into the bike lanes on Lytton too - and police will not tow cars parked in bike lanes. Cycling isn't safe enough in the downtown corridor to become more normalized and a better alternative.

Downtown Palo Alto is a great, walkable downtown and I agree that it's the best downtown on the Peninsula. But we need to remember that cars serve people and that walkability is more important than drivability.


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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I've been saying it for years: Downtown Palo Alto is the best downtown in the Bay Area. The only ones that come close are those of San Mateo and Mountain View. (Berkeley has a large downtown area but it's ridden with vagrants, nomadic youths, and trash. SF and Oakland don't really have "downtown" areas. San Jose's is a joke for a city of it's size.)

I'm one who particularly appreciates the human scale of Palo Alto. I love our parks, quiet streets, and believe that Downtown Palo Alto is not as walkable as it used to be. I wouldn't mind if University were turned into a pedestrian/cycling corridor. (Lytton Avenue seems severely underutilized.)

That said, I personally don't see any problems with the Arrillaga project. It will serve an eye-catching gateway to the downtown area and provide a walkable corridor between Downtown Palo Alto and Stanford Shopping Center. The towers have their own parking lot and are right next to public transit. If University ever gets turned into a pedestrian corridor, the Arrillaga plaza would be a great entryway to Downtown. It would be a great barrier from the bustle of El Camino. (I just hope that the first floor of the towers are reserved for shopping and dining. An observation deck/restaurant on the roof would be nice.)

Of all places in the city, this is the one place where a large project makes sense. Downtown/PA Caltrain is where visitors to the city stop by and many visit both Downtown and Stanford Shopping Center. We also need to keep up with the times and our reputation for the cutting-edge; we're the birthplace of Silicon Valley after all!

ALSO, something needs to be done about Peter Cao from Stanford. He keeps spamming the PA Online as of late.


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Posted by Lee
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 23, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Hey Matt, I too am concerned with bicycle safety downtown. The Bryant Street bike boulevard is peaceful, safe and efficient for biking midtown to downtown. Could a similar boulevard that limits car maneuverability be created off University from Alma to Middlefield? And I don't mean adding more traffic circles or bike lanes.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Nov 24, 2012 at 8:36 am

University Avenue traffic problems aren't because of a vibrant downtown, it's those cutting through to 101.


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Posted by I drive
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

"But we need to remember that cars serve people and that walkability is more important than drivability."
for our downtown viabilty drivability is moreimportant. Go ahead and ban cars downtown--kill downtown Palo Alto.
The city and it's residents do not know what they want--they wantbusiness, vibrant shopping areas, visitors spending money etc. but they do not want "traffic". Well tough luck--you want one, you have to have the other. Stop whining and enjoythe fact that people want to come to Palo Alto. Some people in town are never satisfied.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

@ I drive. I agree with you, to change to less of a car centered world in Palo Alto. We would have to change 50 plus years of thinking, living, working and city planning. Riding some bikes will not help but it is a start.


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Posted by Data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Gennady Sheyner,

This was an interesting look at Downtown's growing pains. It needs a Part 2 because the article leads one to believe that the source of growth and buzz in Downtown Palo Alto is due to a growing downtown workforce, and unrelated to its residents.

Manager Kennee calls residents "real people" and I'm glad he wants to preserve our ability to chat up our favorite barber and have access to our chewing tobacco, but important data is missing.

Purchasing power of Palo Alto residents has changed since Palo Alto's founding days. Michael Alcheck marvels "it's unbelievable thing that there's six or seven yogurt shops," incorrectly offering the explanation "That offering exists because of the density we have here for the workforce."

In case Alchek hasn't noticed, almost as busy as the yogurt shops these days is Lulu Lemon, and calling the Apple Store "the other side" of Palo Alto, when a resident of Palo Alto founded the company, does not tell the Downtown story very well.

Along with the economic prosperity of Palo Alto residents which has fundamentally impacted downtown, I would include in Part 2 the thriving youth community in Palo Alto. From Stanford to all the Palo Alto schools. Downtown needs to continue to be a safe place for this important part of our community.




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Posted by Matt L
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

To "I Drive",

I am not arguing we ban cars downtown. I'm arguing that safety and enjoyment of downtown is an important priority.

If we put drivability 100% above walkability, we lose a downtown worth visiting.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2012 at 5:08 am

Anything that destroys the feel and view of the area the way Mtn View is doing at San Antonio Center we should fight. Every time I drive by San Antonio and El Camino now, I think, If I were the kind of person who wrote hate mail.... Who let this happen? We shouldn't let it happen to downtown.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2012 at 5:28 am

For those of us former Palo Alto residents of multiple decades ago, that have since left the Bay Area, all that's left are fond memories of the city in which we enjoyed growing-up in. University Avenue was indeed a wonderland with independent stores of every description and two grand theaters offering top-notch films. My most challenging experience while learning to drive was parallel parking there. Oh well, time to move on and not stand in the way of progress, whatever that may bring.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2012 at 10:12 am

Nothing wrong with San Antonio Cetre and what they are doing. Like every shopping center, strip mall or mall they get old, outdated or shoppers leave for new places. Back in the 80'a something needed to be done, also better here then Downtown P.A. Or M.V.


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2012 at 6:27 am

Downtown PA is dirty, full of traffic and homeless people. We never go there. Much prefer Menlo Park or Los Altos.


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Posted by Martin Sommer
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

Please sign my petition: Web Link

Thanks,
Martin


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Posted by Tyler Hanley
online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

The following comment was moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by try visiting Castro in MV, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Nov. 24, 2012, at 7:51 p.m.:

Mr Keene should get out more. A simple visit to Castro Street in Mountain View on any weekend night -- indeed, any night -- will demonstrate substantively what the best downtown on the Peninsula looks like. The MV theater for the Performing Arts is only one reason for MV's downtown vitality. Yes, I don't want the skyscrapers in PA which MV has. And yes, MV is a bigger town, with more sales revenues from large, internationally-iconic companies. Nonetheless, Castro St should be the goal, in terms of independent shops (not just mostly restaurants) which residents want to visit, again and again.

{a PA resident}


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Posted by don't sign
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

Wow, Martin, 140 signatures in 2-3 months.
Maybe you should revise your petition--the election is over and your comparisons of the potential loss of a view (which was never guaranteed to you) with the taking of a life/home/livelyhood are beyond ridiculous.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2012 at 11:39 am

Both Downtowns are different, shopping patterns were different. While PA has Stanford at the end of University Ave, Castro At had the Navy. Both place have lost retail to the shopping centers that also took with them the shoppers. I remember in the late 70s the empty feeling of Castro St. Both grew different, needs both a strong local base, stores and services but places for companies to grow.


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Posted by Stop it now, please.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

Views of the foothills provide a backdrop that makes our city truly beautiful. Mr. Areillaga's megalomanic pretended philanthropy is an excuse to build a towering monument to himself. The towers will obscure those magnificent views which make our downtown so beautiful.

This is no "gateway" design. It will create an 11-story wall between downtown and the natural backdrop we are blessed to enjoy. The project shows extreme disregard for environmental context. Coucnil, please put a stop to it now! Don't waste another nickle on this until something reasonable is on the table.


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Posted by walkable downtown
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

One way to mitigate University Ave traffic would be to follow the lead of Boulder Colorado, where 30 years ago they made their downtown main street into a pedestrian zone and made the street on either side (here lytton and hamilton into one way streets (this makes a bypass where the lights can be timed to keep traffic moving). Result is the most dynamic and exciting downtown that I am aware. This puts the parking in garages on the edges, makes the mainstreet (university) into a park with walkers, outdoor eating, etc.


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Posted by Theater fan
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

@Walkable downtown: THANK YOU. My daughter is a sophomore at CU Boulder, and walking Pearl Street is one of my great joys when visiting. My husband and I often comment that Palo Alto should try something similar. We should consider closing University Avenue to cars, repaving the street with brick, re-landscaping with large planters and sculpture throughout, and allowing the restaurants to serve further out onto the plaza. It would make Palo Alto a much more livable and walkable place. Pearl Street is jammed every night with pedestrians, shoppers and diners. It is a lively place for street performers, too.
Oh, I can hear the naysayers already: "vagrants" "homeless" "dirty" "crowded". It's easy to say no. Saying yes is much more challenging and complicated. For those of you praising Castro Street in Mountain View and downtown Redwood City and San Mateo, just think what a difference this would make for our Palo Alto. A positive difference!


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Turning University Ave into a Pedestrian mall would be good. Grass, benches and outdoor seating under the lights with the stars. University Ave is not Castro St not would I expected to be. University Ave needs to be Palo Alto.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

We should be taking the example of Castro Street for California Avenue.

@Garrett from another community -- what's wrong with San Antonio center is not that they tore down the old, which I applaud, it's that they decided to build the new so ugly/tall that sunlight and views of the hills are completely gone, and to build right out to the street so that traversing El Camino is now the way of an urban tunnel. It may not affect your quality of life, but it does mine, and many other people's who like me, spend so much time in this neck of the woods. That's why there is thing thing called zoning, because there will always be people like you who think your making a few extra dollars is more important than negatively impacting everyone else's quality of life.

Which is why, again, if I were inclined to send hate mail, the Mtn View city counsel and planning would be recipients. I can't say what I'm thinking here, I will be censored.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Also applaud the "walkable University" idea.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 26, 2012 at 7:54 pm

But stars in the sky visible from University Avenue? You can't be Sirius.


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Posted by Yogi
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Nobody wants to go downtown anymore -- it's too crowded


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I have lived in places where views of mountains, oceans, landmarks are blocked by other buildings, trees, houses or whatever was there. We live in Urban Area, if you want a view of the hills, mountains. We should remove 75 percent of buildings, trees, fences anything that can block the view


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Posted by w. dean
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Again, in the interest of full disclosure I'm a former mid-towner.

Boy, count your blessings!

Palo Alto has fewer "problems" than most cities of 60,000 in America (compare to similar sized cities in Northern Ohio or even closer by---Nevada (Henderson and North Las Vegas).

An excellent read that details Palo Alto's superior position economically is "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray (NO, not the one that attended Cubberley in the mid-60's!).

Murray correctly lists 94301 as one of the nation's "Super Zip Codes" (along with Belmont, Mass. the centerpiece of the study and coincidentally the home of M. Romney.

The parking and other assorted minor problems Palo Alto survives are ones most similar sized cities in America would die for.


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Posted by no coincidence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

w. dean

It may be fair to say that Palo Altans count their blessings every day. We're facing an issue where developers are pushing to count the cash and power that goes with owning in a "Super Zip Code."

Residents are constrained to stay within building codes, bring in a ton of value to the city with tax dollars, property taxes, retail, and supporting the schools which add to the super zip code value. Developers are not as profitable. The innovation from private people out of a garage have resulted in more innovation and growth than any downtown development.

So, I don't think Palo Alto is a nice place by coincidence, but by design. The 50 foot height limit, and a slow growth approach has been a success, and no case has been made to change this.

Growing pains will need to be dealt with very carefully, to resist the extremely cheap proposals from developers. Developers should instead expect to pay an extremely high price for a super zip code, no special deals.

Or they should go to Henderson and North Las Vegas for the deals.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

@walkable one of the secrets of Boulder's success is that the money from parking also goes to pay for shuttles and transit passes and carpool programs. As of 2008, only 54% of employees drove to work, down from 61% in 1990. Palo Alto could do something similar, which would help relieve the pressure on traffic and parking.


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Posted by Carol K
a resident of University South
on Nov 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

I keep hearing John Arrillaga referred to as a "philanthropist". If he really were one, he would forget about the highly profitable office towers and instead buy the Varsity, restore and remodel it as a theater, and donate it to the City.

Philanthropist? Naaah. Just another rich guy with piles of money and an insatiable appetite for more.


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Posted by needless attacks on Arrillaga
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

"I keep hearing John Arrillaga referred to as a "philanthropist". If he really were one, he would forget about the highly profitable office towers and instead buy the Varsity, restore and remodel it as a theater, and donate it to the City.
Philanthropist? Naaah. Just another rich guy with piles of money and an insatiable appetite for more"

Comments from Carol K, like the one above really serve no useful purpose--disagree if you want with his plans--but do not attack the genrosity of this man

Web Link
"Arrillaga gives $100 million to Stanford in largest single gift ever from individual"
"A longtime Stanford supporter, Arrillaga has funded and overseen the construction of several campus buildings: the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, the Arrillaga Family Sports Center and the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, which is named in memory of his late wife."

What have you done for the world, Carol K.?


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Posted by no coincidence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm

needless,

I don't agree with Carol when she maligns the guy personally, but the 27 University project should receive all the criticism it deserves. Very objectively, you could even say that the 100 million to Stanford could be somehow related to the 27 University project?

Anyway, you really think it's ok to elevate Mr. A to super human status because of his 100 million donation to Stanford, and ask Carol and the rest of us mortals to bow down in submission?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2012 at 12:42 am

@Yogi, think about what you saying here, "Nobody wants to go downtown anymore -- it's too crowded."


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 10:52 am

It's "generosity" when you've got so much more than you could possibly spend? Giving gives you a chance to run a bunch of things, throw your weight around. Sometimes the end result is a thing that Stanford, after a handful of years, won't want any more, and your gift gets submerged under some more recent givers gift.


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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

It's "generosity" when you've got so much more than you could possibly spend? Giving gives you a chance to run a bunch of things, throw your weight around. Sometimes the end result is a thing that Stanford, after a handful of years, won't want any more, and your gift gets submerged under some more recent giver's gift.

correction


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Also remember University Ave greater downtown Palo Alto still is sought after address for offices, retail and a place to live. Regardless of 27 University or any of the gateway buildings. The only problem is keeping the rates so small retail businesses can open, grow and remain.


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Posted by Matt L
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Mr.Recycle:

"Yogi" was riffing on Yogi Berra's famous quote "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - he knew exactly what he was saying.