Palo Alto residents to city: Build police building now | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto residents to city: Build police building now


After 17 years of fits and starts in Palo Alto's quest to build a new police headquarters, residents at a community meeting Wednesday night told the city to make it happen sooner rather than later.

About 20 people gathered at Escondido Elementary School to hear the plans that would move the police and emergency operations headquarters and fire administration from downtown to the California Avenue district near the North County Courthouse on Sherman Avenue.

The new 44,500-square-foot building and an adjacent parking structure at 250 Sherman Ave. would take over two parking lots. It would be heavily reinforced to prevent an incursion by terrorists, whether by bombs or someone ramming the building with a vehicle, said Michael Ross of consultant RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture, Inc.

Residents and local business owners mostly welcomed the headquarters' move to the California Avenue district, although some voiced concerns that increased traffic would hamper public safety. But others said they are tired of the merry-go-round of plans for the new facility that has not materialized, and they want the public safety building to be built now.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris seemed to be on many people's minds, and some residents said that in the current climate they want the city to have a protected facility that would withstand any terrorist acts. Others feared that a centralized structure would become a target.

Some residents voiced concerns that city leaders have allowed the community to remain vulnerable for so long without an adequate police and emergency operations center in the event of a major earthquake.

Assistant Public Works Director Brad Eggleston said the current public safety building at City Hall was built in 1970 and does not meet standards for remaining functional in a large quake.

Office of Emergency Services Director Kenneth Dueker and Fire Chief Eric Nickel said their departments have "multiple redundancies" so that services will continue if one segment is down, and some of the replicated services are at Moffett Field and other locales.

Some residents expressed concerns about traffic and speeding police cars, which might create additional noise with sirens, but police Capt. Patty Lum said there are only a few instances when officers must leave the station directly to address an incident. In most cases, they are already out in the field. New online systems will also soon make it possible for officers to file their reports while in their patrol cars rather than needing to return to headquarters.

Some business owners expressed concerns about parking-related issues.

"Businesses will be highly affected by the building that are up against it," said co-owner of European Cobblery Jessica Roth, adding that a strip of ground-level parking and access to the back of the buildings should be ensured for customers and store loading areas.

For safety reasons, parking is not typically put next to a public safety building, but the loading areas would be preserved, Ross said.

Many business owners and residents said the city should plan for additional parking to the 150 extra spaces in the current plans. That sentiment was echoed by several other people who don't want the city to be short-sighted and have to revisit the parking issue again later.

The City Council will review the proposal on Dec. 14.

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24 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2015 at 11:52 am

About twenty people....really? I'm not sure the majority of Palo Altans want a new police station, or at least one that measures out to 44,500 square feet. A new station won't reduce vulnerability to terrorism. It won't reduce the likelihood of an earthquake occurrence, bombings or vehicles crashing into it.

15 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Move the downtown library to the Roth building at the corner of Homer and Waverley. It's really nice Birge Clark building and the current group trying to restore it for another history museum (there is one across the street) have been floundering for ten years.

Move the police temporarily to the existing library while they build a new building on their existing site.

Then develop the existing library into micro unit apartments.

Just use your heads!

7 people like this
Posted by Moneys Worth
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

"A new station won't reduce vulnerability to terrorism. It won't reduce the likelihood of an earthquake occurrence, bombings or vehicles crashing into it."

In fact it WILL reduce the vulnerability to terrorism. That's part of the design goals. It won't reduce the likelihood of earthquakes, bombings or vehicle crashes. Those are outside the realm of control.

But the building WILL be designed to withstand those events better than the current building.

In some cases, it's possible that the length of residence is equal to the resident's IQ.

2 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Nope, absolutely not. For comparison, look the public safety buildings in Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale. Each of them are set back more than half a block from public streets.

Also, please remember that the California Avenue area is seen as major high density housing region due to the proximity of The Caltrain station. So, surrounding buildings will probably 4 or 5 stories with ground level retail. These will be taller and denser than the proposed public safety building.

One of the City's many library sites, or the Baylanss area would be much better locations that the site discussed last night.

5 people like this
Posted by Don Gillies
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 21, 2015 at 1:24 pm

One thing that makes the California Ave downtown area is the ease of parking (unlike the University Ave downtown area). I hope that the police department would be sensitive to this and find a way to move to their new location without subtracting from the business owner's livelihoods or the citizen's enjoyment and ease in visiting this quiet area. I think it would be great to have a police station that is closer to the middle of the city, and support having a police station close to the California Ave downtown.

1 person likes this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 23, 2015 at 9:15 am

Has anyone considered having two, three or 5 cities (Mt View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Stanford - not a city but reliant on a stretched County force) combined to have one police, fire and emergency services force and headquarters with the resulting reduction on the footprint of buildings and overhead and more money for expanding the numbers of officers serving the public?

Serving 200,000 makes more sense to me.

6 people like this
Posted by why
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 23, 2015 at 12:05 pm

what's the point of a new police station? what's wrong with what they already have? a police station? really? what palo alto really needs is gym space for youth- basketball, volleyball. we have NONE!! and what we do have Palo Alto High School has it all locked up for the next two years.

2 people like this
Posted by to why
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2015 at 12:12 pm

The current police headquarters is not seismically stable. It either needs to be retrofitted or replaced.

15 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Hey, obviously the majority of the city's residents are opposed to building a new Police Station. SO IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO VOICE YOUR OPINION, SHOW UP TO A CITY COUNCIL MEETING, or SEND THEM AN EMAIL/LETTER.

I don't feel like the PAPD needs any more advanced toys/gadgets

They should be able to do with what they have got. There are plenty of officers on the force already, they always have the most updated technology and new cars every year... They don't need a new building. Renovate the existing one.

Every time this topic comes up on PALOALTOONLINE there is a strong opposition to the idea. Money should be going towards more beneficial projects and causes. The Police get enough of the our money as it is.


4 people like this
Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

In speaking with long-time residents and short timers too, building an architectural show-off building is not what we need or want, especially one built in the wrong place for far too much $$$. An earthquake could take out the three major overpasses - University, Embarcadero, and San Antonio, tying up the PAPD on the other-side-of-the tracks (west side). That exit leaves Charleston and Alma (at the "old redwood tree'). New joint PAPD and PAFD offices are what we need in a centrally located area. with access to Highway 101. This should be a functional building - one that "works". But I fear that will never happen with a city that has 'visions of grandeur whether or not it has the money for it. How do the residents who will be footing the bill get a 'say-so" in this? Often a Citizens' Committee turns out to be one which also has these 'visions of grandeur" befitting Stanford U. next door.

5 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2015 at 8:42 am

Why don't they move the police out to the baylands. The police have said that response to calls does NOT come from the station, but from cars already out on patrol. There is no jail, they send the people to San Jose.

So why does it have to be downtown or around California Avenue? Use the city owned land out by the baylands.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm

> The current police headquarters is not seismically stable. It either needs to be retrofitted or replaced.

That's been the underlying theme for the new Palo Alto Public Safety Building for years, but as far as I can tell, it's NOT TRUE! There are lots of good reasons to build a new building: safety, security and facility upgrades. But according to the Palo Alto building official at the meeting, the current facility "would not be serviceable" after a major earthquake.

If the current facility were "seismically unstable" there should be an engineering report stating that's the case. But, what the City is really saying is that the existing facility was built to standards that were much less stringent than today's earthquake standards. That doesn't mean that the building is unsafe. Only an engineering analysis of the existing structure based on today's standards would be able to tell us. But, where is the engineering analysis?

"Being earthquake safe or serviceable does not mean that the structures will not suffer any damage whatsoever. An earthquake safe structure is one which will not endanger the lives and well-being of people in and around it, in the event of an earthquake. Although superficial damage will occur, the building will not collapse partially or totally. To be earthquake serviceable would mean that he structure would still be able to be used for its intended purpose, after a major earthquake." (see: Web Link)

1 person likes this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Respectfully, we can have police facilities in an area strategic to the city. Not necessarily downtown. There are plenty of real estate buildings to choose from.

It does not need to be lavish, but expansive, NoC or command center etc in a central street just like in Newport Beach. Chief Burns is a dedicated smart local police chief. I trust his judgement. They do need more space. Lease!

11 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm

The headline should have read: "City polls 20 residents about moving Police Headquarters".

I applaud the city govt trying to engage residents in civic affairs, but the mandate alleged by the story headline simply does not exist that I am aware of. From what I have read in PA Weekly, the only thing for sure is that the city is determined to move Police HQ somewhere, almost anywhere will do. A temporary relocation, and rebuilding a more appropriate structure at the current location seems completely out of the question, and a plan for what presumably would be the unusable current Police HQ once they move, has never been articulated that I am aware of. Remember, a significant reason that the Police should relocate is that the current structure is unsafe. If it's unsafe for the Police, surely it's unsafe for any other purpose, and should be demolished. What does the city propose to do with the current Police building lot after the building is demolished and removed? More questions than answers, and polls from the city do not inspire confidence that the 'solution' will be appropriately scaled to the need.

4 people like this
Posted by BS
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

The PAPD have plenty. They have the newest and latest equipment and they just keep wanting more. Its not like they spend much time at the station anyways. People need to have a vote on it. Council needs to be aware of what the majority of the people want to have their taxpayer dollars spent on. IF they go through with this, it will be a very deceptive move.

Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 14, 2016 at 8:58 pm

You all be wanting a new police station when another Dry ice bomb goes off or worse a realbomb in thr evidence room like one did back in 2000. So many whiners in PA not enough action. No wonder the quality of life has diminished. Wake up!

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